Death Bells Talk “stabby guitars,” Touring the World, and Getting Concise (TONIGHT at JB’s w/ Blackwater Holylight)

TONIGHT, Johnny Brenda’s — our favorite “mini rock n’ roll ballroom” — is hosting a killer double-headlining bill of a doomier and gloomier variety than normally finds itself at...

TONIGHT, Johnny Brenda’s — our favorite “mini rock n’ roll ballroom” — is hosting a killer double-headlining bill of a doomier and gloomier variety than normally finds itself at the city’s premiere hipster haven.  Closing out the evening will be ultra-heavy Portland psych rockers Blackwater Holylight (Who we first met last May, prior to their last show at the venue.), whose third and most recent LP, Silence/Motion, dropped in 2021.  And getting things started (after openers, Sonja, who are definitely worth checking out) are Death Bells, the Los Angeles-based/Australia born-and-bred post-punk duo, comprised of Will Canning and Remy Veselis, who are currently touring their Take My Spirit Now EP, which dropped this summer and follows-up their own third full-length, Between Here & Everywhere, which hit shelves last summer.  Just yesterday I got a chance to chat with Will and Remy about Death Bells’ latest sounds, and what you can expect of their live show.

Izzy Cihak: You released the Take My Spirit Now EP this summer.  How do you feel like the EP compares to previous releases, both in terms of sound and just the experience of making it?

Remy Veselis: For me, Take My Spirit Now is a blend of some older influences and new sonic experiments.  A lot of the drums on this EP were chopped and manipulated in ways we haven’t done before, along with stripped-back tracks.  Overall, I think Take My Spirit Now came at an important point for the band as we figure out what’s next, and it was refreshing to not jump into recording another full-length right away.

Will Canning: In terms of actually recording the EP, we handled a lot of the pre-production ourselves.  For example, manipulating drum loops or arranging guitars and vocals exactly how we wanted them.  This process very clearly laid out how we wanted the release to sound, which turned out to be quite different from the last couple of records.

Izzy: Have you had any particular favorite reactions to the new songs?  I know most artists seem to get more excited about reactions from fans or live audiences than anything they may read about their music from critics.

Remy: As I get older, I’m beginning to appreciate more how people move to our music, and “Heaven is Your Company” has been a track that has gotten people dancing more than most of our songs.

Will: A lot of people seem taken with “Locked In,” which was demoed and subsequently recorded pretty hastily.  It wasn’t a single, but is doing really well.  Sometimes people’s favorite will take you by surprise.

Izzy: “Heaven is Your Company” is actually your most recent single, so I’m curious how that particular track came about?

Will: I had the initial bassline for this track recorded on my cell phone for ages, but couldn’t figure out where it should go or what sounds would mesh well with it.  One night we sat down and threw it into Ableton and gradually built on top of that bassline with feedback and some stabby guitars.  When we eventually recorded everything properly, we changed very little.  The lyrics are for my girlfriend who I love dearly.

Izzy: You also have a really cool video for the single.  How did you come about the concept behind the video?

Will: Jeremy Stith (of Fury) was kind enough to help us out with this video.  I had really loved the music video for “Birds of Paradise” and wanted to work with Jeremy for ages afterward.  He lives out in the Mojave desert and is on freak time; he just interpreted the song in his own way and we’re stoked with how it came out.

Izzy: You’ve been with Dais Records for a while now, which is a really cool label.  How is it working with them and being a part of that family?

Remy: Dais have been excellent.  Ryan and Gibby take care of their artists as much as possible, and I feel very lucky to be a footnote in the label’s extensive history.  Before joining the band I was a fan of Gibby’s music, so that connection also makes our relationship with them a little deeper than what I have experienced in the past.

Izzy: Do you have any particular favorite labelmates, whether artists that you’ve gotten close with, or just artists whose work you really love?

Remy: Cold Showers was a band I really liked before we joined the label, so they will always have a special place in my heart.  Adam from Choir Boy gave us a tour of Salt Lake City the first time we played there, which was also memorable and helped forge a friendship with the band.

Will: We met a host of different people from Dais bands pretty quickly when we landed in LA.  It truly is a big family and I feel very lucky to consider many of our labelmates close friends.

Izzy: I was a big fan of your Live From Bombay album, which I know was kind of how you found a way to play songs from New Signs of Life, despite COVID making traditional live performances essentially impossible.  But you have done a good amount of touring since then.  What have been some of the highlights of playing live in these past few years?

Remy: Touring Europe was one of the only goals I set out for myself when I started to take music more seriously, so ticking that off was really special.  Last year we also flew over one of my childhood friends, Hugo Costin, to play bass in the band, and showing him what my life is like in the US, compared to our upbringing, was great fun.

Will: Live From Bombay was really special.  After the long nothing of COVID it was amazing to bring friends together and just jam in the desert.  As far as touring goes, our first trip to Europe last year will stick with me forever.  So many amazing cities, receptive crowds, and sweet/helpful people all around.

Izzy: All of your East Coast dates are with Blackwater Holylight, who are also so great.  What are your thoughts on the band?  Are you excited to be on the road with them?

Remy: We have a bunch of mutual friends with Blackwater Holylight, and I always love playing mixed bill shows.  They are lovely people, so we’re looking forward to seeing them off before their long Europe tour that directly follows their dates with us.

Izzy: Finally, what can be expected of the live experience on these upcoming dates, in terms of setlist, any kind of production you might have, or just the general feel of the evening?

Remy: The setlist for the tour features a nice balance of songs from Take My Spirit Now and our previous releases.  We’ve been lucky enough for my friend Ray (Snail Mail, Prude, Aunt Katrina) to join us on bass, so there will be a new face on stage.  We prefer short and sweet performances, so the set will be concise and (hopefully) leave you wanting more.

Will: We’re halfway through these East Coast dates now.  Someone last night in Cambridge told us our set was too short.  All killer no filler, baby.

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During the day Izzy Cihak teaches transgression, subversion, and revolution at Temple University. At night he haunts Philthy's best venues to cover worthwhile acts for Philthy Mag. Morrissey is everything to him and, in their own heads, all of his friends see themselves as Zooey Deschanel.