The Howling Bells alumni divulges all on his latest single…
Joel Stein likes keeping busy. In the time since leaving his former band, the Howling Bells alumni started a brand new project and wrote, recorded and released his debut solo album as Glassmaps. Entitled Strangely Addicted, the album found life in Las Vegas, more specifically in the home of The Killers’ bassist Mark Stoermer who went on to guest on tracks including the project’s first outing ‘Summer Rain’.
Critical acclaim followed, as did a prime slot at renowned new music showcase The Great Escape and Stein supporting The Killers at both Brixton Academy and Hyde Park. Seemingly, the past twelve months have been a whirlwind, but Stein isn’t one to rest on his laurels. His latest single ‘My Head My Heart’ is a bluesy stomper, an eerie, whirring undercurrent permeating its core. It is decidedly more confident, Stein latching onto a sound and pushing it to a new extreme.
Below, he discusses how the track developed, and how the idea was sparked by a hospital waiting room…
We loved your latest single ‘My Head My Heart’! Can you tell us a little of how the track came to life?
Great to hear you love the track. Most of the track was recorded on my laptop in my room. The lead synth sound is from my phone, I re-recorded it into my laptop (except the intro) and that’s how the song began. Once I produced the track as far as I could take it on a laptop, I then went into my friends old GDR studio in Berlin and we put live drums/bass on it. It kept getting bigger. It was a hungry song.
You conceived the idea for the track whilst you were in a hospital waiting room. Can you tell us a little of what sparked the idea?
The idea was more of a feeling. The rest just found its place. That’s how most of my songs are written. The feeling of this track comes from a relationship that’s confusing and uncertain. It is funny that it all started in a hospital waiting room though, it was in the early hours of the morning so everyone was really drugged up or just didn’t care about the weird musician humming and playing synth on his iPhone.
How do you convey the sense of unease and uncertainty with the sounds you incorporate?
To be honest, I just put together what I feel fits the feeling at the time. It’s the vibe that dictates what comes next in terms of sound. There should be no limit in transporting emotion through art.
The riff that you utilise in the track gives ‘My Head My Heart’ quite an eerie undercurrent. Why do you think it works so well? What images does it conjure for you?
Perhaps it’s the uneasy and aggressive sound of the riff mixed with a hint of ambience. Perhaps you can hear the truth. It’s always enticing creating some sort of a juxtaposition in art as you can’t really predict the outcome.
There is a definite bluesy, Americana vibe to your sound. Are you a big fan of such music? What artists fascinate you?
Yeh, I’m a fan of blues, I grew up [listening] to old blues music and still love it and always will. I still really only listen to old blues artists, amongst many other genres.
Kendrick Lamar fascinates me and so does Mike Davies, John Lennon and Johnny Greenwood. Their interpretation and crystal clear vision and articulation through their art is inspiring. I also feel they transport a certain truth wich is very hard to find, especially today.
‘My Head My Heart’ is your first release following your debut album Strangely Addicted, and so far carries a more intense vibe. How do you feel the Glassmaps sound has grown in the interim?
It’s definitely evolved. I feel like the first album of many artists or bands is often different to their later releases because it is merely a stepping stone into who they will soon become. Almost like artistic puberty (hmm, puberty is an ugly word). I feel like Glassmaps has found a sound that carries more weight. We’ll see.
You were part of Howling Bells previously. Was there a shift in mentality for you as a songwriter in becoming a solo artist after being in a band? Do you prefer one over the other?
Sure, there was definitely a shift. One day you’re writing in a room with four people and the next you’re alone. I was always writing alone though but the song you take into a band is immediately transformed by its members, so a song can have many interpretations. For now, I prefer creating on my own.
Do you have any live dates in the pipeline? What is the best part of performing live for you?
No official dates as of yet; I’m working in the studio. I prefer performing – it’s cathartic. It’s a psychological release, and it’s an ego rush. Just being honest.
What else do you have planned for the rest of 2018?
Not much is planned except for finishing a potential EP that I haven’t told my label about yet… tbc!
Is there anything that you’d like to add?
Thanks for your support, and join me on my socials as new material is on its way!
Glassmaps’ ‘My Head My Heart’ is available now.