Howling Bells ‘The Loudest Engine’ Special – Album,Gig and Interview.


‘The Loudest Engine ‘Special.

Juanita Stein-Howling Bells - The Von Pip Musical Express.

“Baby Blue” By Howling Bells.

The Album –“The Loudest Engine.”

The problem with producing a flawless debut album widely regarded by many as a genuine classic, is that there will always be those who demand that subsequent albums endlessly repeat variations on the same theme.  To adopt such a narrow-minded viewpoint means refusing to accept that for artists, exploring different musical directions is all part of the creative process.  This appears to be the reaction Australia’s finest musical exports, Howling Bells have garnered from certain areas of  an increasingly capricious musical press and as such may be forgiven for believing that producing such an immaculate debut has become something of a double-edged sword.  Their sophomore album ‘Radio Wars received a decidedly unenthusiastic critical reception with many reviewers appearing disappointed that the band hadn’t rigidly adhered to the musical template set down on album number one.

However it’s highly unlikely that a selection of ill conceived, luke-warm reviews would have changed ‘the Bells’ approach when it came to writing and recording their third album.  If you exist only to seek the approval of others than invariably you will lose your way as an artist.  Singer Juanita Stein describes the band’s latest album ‘The Loudest Engine’  as “a modern psychedelic record more folk and rock than our last two albums” which “will change people’s perspectives of the band.”   The album is a seductive, edgy and at times downright explosive affair, and sees the band come out with all guns blazing assisted by  Mark Stoermer (of The Killers) on production duties. ‘The Loudest Engine’ defiantly has a trippier vibe in comparison to  the post apocalyptic sound of “Radio Wars” or the sinister, claustrophobic goth-country of their debut, but rest assured the band haven’t been ingesting huge quantities of acid and communing with animal spirit guides whilst recording the album in the Nevada desert.  Whilst it’s an album that rocks it’s not what you’d call an out-and-out rock album, and despite some mightily impressive guitar jams it still retains that magical, ethereal quality that make Howling Bells such an intriguing and beguiling proposition. They inhabit a world were innocence and wonder are seemingly stalked by an unseen, intangible darkness.   Songs such as  “Into The Sky,”Don’t Run,” “Sioux,” “The Faith” and “Baby Blue” all serve notice that you write Howling Bells off at your peril on an album that delivers from start to finish and plays to the bands many strengths.  Juanita’s vocals veer between coquettish seduction and strident imperiousness whilst the band demonstrate just what a formidable musical unit they have become, deftly mixing light and shade with subtlety and raw power.  A great album from a wonderful band who I hope continue to make the music THEY want to make for many years to come.



The Gig.

Juanita And Joel Stein - Howling Bells - The Von Pip Musical Express

Manchester’s Academy 3 plays host to the last gig of Howling Bells mini tour to promote ‘The Loudest Engine’ and finds the band on spectacular form.  Juanita is almost impish as she somewhat coyly charms the audience and the natural camaraderie that is apparent between the band members combined with the obvious love displayed for their craft immediately translates to an enthusiastic audience. Tonight’s set list, somewhat surprisingly, contains only one song from the ‘Radio Wars’ album, the epic Orwellian ‘Cities Burning Down’ as the band instead decide to weave some choice cuts from their debut album with new material.  Live, the slow burning folk rock, torch song “Sioux” takes on mystical quality with Juanita transforming herself into some sort of ethereal high priestess, whilst the album’s title track sees Joel wigging out with some incredible guitar licks. In many ways ‘The Loudest Engine’ makes perfect sense live, giving the band plenty of scope to ‘rock out.’  The evenings entertainment is drawn to a fitting conclusion  with an encore that  includes a thunderous version of  the classic ‘Low Happening,’ and new song ‘Live On’  as once again Howling Bells  demonstrate just why they are still one of the best live acts around. Long may they continue to chime!

 Howling Bells - The Von Pip Musical Express


Howling Bells Set-list Manchester 20/09/2011

A quick word about opening act Cold Specks, the conduit through which Canadian singer songwriter Al  Spx performs. With a voice imbued with more soul than New Orleans , Al mesmerised the audience and by the end of the set had them shouting for more, which is quite a rare thing for a support band.  Ones to watch for sure 😉

 The Von Pip Musical Express

“Holland “ by Cold Specks.

Photo slide show

Vodpod videos no longer available.

Or check out the gallery HERE.

The Interview.

Howling Bells Brendan-Picchio--Answers-The-Big-Questions--The-Von-Pip-Musical-Express

Brendan Picchio wrestles with 'the big questions'

Prior to The Manchester gig, we went backstage and had a chat with Brendan Picchio, the Howling Bells bassist about the album, stadium gigs, the kindness of Chris Martin, Juanita’s impromptu Alice Cooper impression and life on the road.

VP:  Would you say the intention behind the new album was to do something very different from Radio Wars, to take another musical leap so to speak?  

BRENDAN: I guess you’d hope every album is a progression of sorts.   It was a long writing process  for ‘The Loudest Engine’ a lot of it done on the road, but rather than progress or move forward I think the predominant feeling was to make a  record that was true and honest and from the heart. After all there are only 12 notes on the music spectrum,  there have been thousands of bands from The Beatles through to the present day, and maybe there’s a feeling that everything’s been kind of done before.  I think we accomplished what we set out to achieve, at the time we were all in a very good head space, very happy, positive and emotionally connected as a band.

VP:  As a band you seem to straddle genres and I think the critics find it hard to pigeonhole you, but you’ve always managed to produce music that has a slight darkness imbued within… Juanita said this record sounds 70’s tinged and psychedelic which happened almost accidentally?

BRENDAN:  Yeah I think some of tension, musically speaking comes from Joel’s guitar playing which has certain intensity to it.  With regard to the album Juanita’s right to a degree, in terms of this album technically speaking we went for a kaleidoscope kind of sound, but it also has a raw airy feel to it. We were very inspired by The Doors documentary we’d watched just before going into the studio. I remember before recording Joel sent an email saying ‘No way am I doing this album unless we record it to tape’ and everyone’s like ‘get the fuck out of here, everything’s on digital these days’. Then the next day Mark [Stoermer–producer] said ‘Hey guys I’ve found a tape machine!’ And that was it!  We went old school and recorded to tape, we did like maybe four takes, listened, picked one, overdubs, done!  It was basically the band in the room playing takes which was really a lot of fun.

VP:  Your debut album was quite rightly universally praised, did this lead to any kind of pressure when making subsequent albums, a weight of expectation perhaps?

BRENDAN:  I didn’t feel any pressure personally as I tend not to think that way but I think maybe some of the guys in the band may have done.  Mind you when we get in the studio it’s just four people trying to make a record to the best of our ability. We generally don’t read reviews as it’s just an opinion, I mean hell, I don’t even trust my own opinion sometimes [laughs]. All I can say is we put our hearts and soul into what we do, and if someone doesn’t like out heart and soul – well…. fuck ‘em !  [laughs]. If you try to concoct some sort of idea of what people are expecting of you it’s never gonna be true and honest. It’s like being with your wife or girlfriend and trying to figure out what she wants you to say rather than what you genuinely feel.

VP: So how did Mark Stoermer from the Killers get involved in producing the album?

BRENDAN:  He’s a genuinely lovely guy; he’s here tonight, I’ll introduce you, we’ve toured with them a few times already and they are very quiet guys. Mark actually seemed initially to be the most serious. In fact the first impression you get is maybe he doesn’t want to talk to anyone, he wants to be left alone or he’s upset about something and you best stay away.  It’s strange how things happen but it turned out that Mark was the guy we got on with the best. It was funny because when we flew over to Vegas to meet Mark our flight was seriously delayed and we didn’t get in till midnight. Mark had been waiting for us at the airport arranging stuff for us, since like 10 AM !  I mean this guy could get anyone to do this for him, but there he was getting his hands dirty and doing it himself. When we arrived he was all smiles, hugging us, cracking jokes and we were like ‘Who the fuck is this guy!”  [laughs]  It was there where we really forged our relationship. He’s a fantastic human being and I loved his style of working, it was very free and natural, lots of jams happened, it was a real pleasure.

VP:  On the title track, ‘The Loudest Engine’ it took me a while  to extract the meaning from the lyrics but apparently it’s a kind of homage or love-hate song about your relationship with your tour bus! ?

BRENDAN:  We all do that too! Try and work out what the lyrics are all about [laughs] But yes it was written by Juanita about a particular bus we were on. She’s trying to describe what it means to a band on the road, kind of like the mother ship, you respect it but also resent the time you have to spend on it.

VP: So do  you find yourself going ‘stir crazy’ at times on the tour bus ?

BRENDAN: Well we haven’t toured for two years so we have crammed in all that energy and horseplay into the last five days!  It’s been nauseating 😉  You can’t move without somebody grabbing your nether regions!  But there’s a limit and we kinda know how far we can push each other!

VP : Just before the tour you did a great session for Marc Riley on the BBC, which really wet my appetite for seeing you live again.

BRENDAN: Yeah, we’ve done a few before, but he’s a really great guy, so funny, and he certainly knows his stuff. It was a lot of fun!

VP: Fun!? . . . FUN !?  But I thought the press had pinned you guys down as ‘Alt-Goth-country- doom merchants!

BRENDAN: Ha! There’s nothing gothic about us, except maybe the debut album cover, people just love labels!

VP: Ok so prior to the album’s release you went down the “Pledge” music route and released a digital EP, what was the thinking behind that?

BRENDAN: Really we felt that as we had been away so long we wanted to reconnect with our audience, I don’t really like to use the term ‘fans.’ I mean when we played London there were about fifteen people down at the front who were at our very first gig and have stuck by us. We thought this would be a nice way to involve people without going down the traditional route of through a label and would give us a chance to have some fun.

VP: So the internet/digital age is in many ways a bitter sweet pill for bands? Great to communicate with your fans but not great for sales?

BRENDAN: It can be hard for bands, yeah, because nobody is really making that much money, so you always have to think ways of doing things. With the Pledge campaign the fans were very generous and it all went back into the band fund and enabled us to fund this tour. I mean it’s not like we pocketed it and went down the pub!  So yeah it is getting harder definitely but at the end of the day we do this for the pure love of it. Love it, or get the fuck out, that’s the choice!  Every album and tour we somehow manage to do it and I certainly hope we continue pulling cards out of our sleeves to carry on doing this because we just want to make music.

VP: You’ve seen the other side of music too, the huge tours alongside The Killers and Coldplay. How does that compare to the more intimate shows. Is it nerve wracking playing to stadium sized crowds?

BRENDAN: Luckily I don’t really get nervous; walking out in front of 15 people or 50,000 people is all the same to me. Obviously you feel more distant from the crowd due to the scale; mind you I’m always interested in other bands fans reaction to us because I believe we are a good enough band to merit people’s attention. Y’know with Juanita’s voice and the way we craft the music around it, I think it’s interesting.  But really the big tours you have to take them with a pinch of salt, and personally you reach a point when the money runs out!  Let me take you through a day on a big tour:

A limo picks us up from the apartment then drives us to an air force base; you walk through security feeling like you own the joint. These flights are amazing you can do what you like really, then you land 45 minutes later where a motorcade with police outriders picks you up takes you through security to the stadium. You then eat some good food and play a show in front of 50,000 people. You fly back ……and then realise. . . . you can’t afford a cab and have to walk back to your girlfriends place! [laughs] That certainly gives you perspective, but you get to have these incredible experiences. I wouldn’t trade my band’s history and experiences for a billion dollars.

VP: Isn’t it tempting to do a bit of mad partying on tour?

BRENDAN: We used to at first, but jeez we’re getting on, we’re in our thirties now ! These days we’re pretty clean living and probably bigger foodies than drinkers. Maybe if you were on the same level as your Coldplays you might take advantage ( not that they do) , but at our level you have to be on your toes and you don’t want to let people down. I mean every time you suck live might lose you some fans and then other people in your team have to take up the slack, I think we have too much respect for what we do to let each other down. Buy hey we still get to meet crazy people and have amazing experiences!

VP: Talking of Coldplay what was that tour like, I know other Howling Bells fans that aren’t really keen on them, but it must have been a great opportunity to get your music out to an even bigger audience?

BRENDAN: Well from our point of view we were really happy and fortunate to get the chance to be involved in such a huge production, and y’know what? They are genuinely, honestly really nice guys, seriously! Like when Juanita broke her guitar on tour and the next day a brand new one arrived wrapped with a big bow, we were like ‘Fuck! A new guitar!”  But this is how they roll. They are lovely to all their crew, seriously great guys, and they work fucking hard. So y’know you really have to respect them for that!

VP: Finally Brendan, off the top of your head, what would you say is your most memorable band moment?

BRENDAN: Jeez man, this is a tough one, so many…arrrgh…. OK I think maybe when we sold out our first headline London show at ICA and we were like ‘holy crap, we sold it out ! And I remember there was no air conditioning and my shirt was stuck to me after the gig and had to be literally peeled off my back! Juanita came off stage looking like Alice Cooper as her makeup had run down her face and her hair was plastered to her forehead!

Everybody looked disgusting, but we were on such a high, which may have been in some part due to a lack of salts and dehydration induced euphoria! We nearly died that night it was so hot but it was a great gig !

Buy The new Album here

Berndan and Juanita -Howling Bells Live - The Von Pip Musical Express



The Jesus And Mary Chain Podcast - The VPME

To celebrate the re-issue of all six studio albums as deluxe editions we present a special Jesus and Mary Chain podcast. Guests include Jim Reid and the gang  as we celebrate the genius of the  greatest band in the world.

Listen below (for the technically challenged click the green button 😉 ) or on Mixcloud.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

Thanks to Jim, Douglas, John, Murray, Dave Cromwell and Honey Valentine. And of course William 🙂

Lucy Rose Interview.

Lucy Rose Von Pip MusicalExpress Interview September  2011

“Bikes” By Lucy Rose.

“Scar” By Lucy Rose.

There’s certainly been no shortage of intelligent, talented, female singer songwriters of  late.  From the egregious cauterwauling of Florence, a lady who on occasion can make Al Pachino’s worst excesses appear quite restrained and dignified, right through to the dour understated beauty of Laura Marling’s quiet introspection, the female of the species is not only deadlier than the male, they also appear to be a tad more talented too 😉

However, given the current abundance of feminine talent, how on earth do you make yourself stand out from the crowd? Do you light incense and candles and become all mystical and elfin-like perhaps? Maybe you could appear in public wearing a rump steak on your head set at a jaunty angle or why not take up an offbeat religion and drone on endlessly about Kabbalistic Karma? Or maybe, just maybe, you could keep things simple and stick to what you do best. Often the best things in life are uncomplicated and possess an uncontrived, natural purity, rather like the music of Lucy Rose.

Lucy posses a fragile yet husky smoke cracked voice and writes songs with the sort of honest straight forward sincerity that can only come from the heart (yes Cowell, that’s right, the heart, you destroyer of all things good! – Ahem. )  Filled with the eager passion and wanderlust of youth Lucy left the transcendent beauty of Warwickshire for the grimy, majestic reality of London, ostensibly to study. But she was soon beginning her musical baptism of fire, replete with scary open mic nights, busking, and encounters with local ‘characters’ on night buses, which may have been possibly more romantic to read about than actually experience. However her tenacity paid off and her undoubted talent soon began to make people take note.  She became well known at various acoustic nights and a chance meeting with Jack Steadman of Bombay Bicycle Club led to her appearing on the title track of the bands acoustic album ‘Flaws’.  Lucy has since gained an enthusiastic, dedicated; some may say besotted fan base and now regularly sells out venues weeks in advance, which is quite a rare thing for an unsigned act. Her latest single ‘Scar’ is available on itunes now.

We spoke to Lucy to discover the real person behind the talent… and it went something like this….


 VP:  Hi Lucy so how did you become interested in music and song writing.  Did you always play and sing in school, are your parents big music fans ?

LUCY: My parents have never really been that into music but they wanted me and my sisters to play an instrument at school. I started with the clarinet (classic choice) and then played in orchestra and moved onto the drum-kit. I definitely liked to play music at school but it was only when I bought my first guitar that I started to write songs.. I took the train to and from school and walked past a little guitar shop called ‘Warwick Guitars’ every morning and went in a few times until the old man in the shop persuaded me to buy a guitar. And the rest is history. 

VP:   Can you remember the very first song you wrote?

LUCY: Yeah, I remember it well. I wrote a lot of little bits in my bedroom but didn’t play it to anyone. But I kind of only realised I’d written a song was when I was downstairs and my sister was humming the melody of it. It was a very silly song though. 

VP: You moved from Warwickshire to London was this primarily to peruse music or were there other factors..?

LUCY: I didn’t particularly want to go to University at this point. I had a place at UCL but I was desperate to move to London and start playing music. I’d been wanting to do music properly for a couple of years now so when I reached 18 London just seemed like the perfect place to go. 

VP:   And you performed at open mics nights initially, any ones stand out not as being particularly intimidating affairs?

LUCY: My very first open mic I played at was booked by eARmusic by a man called Joel who is now my tour manager / sound man and also my boss. I started working for eARmusic, which was just Me, Joel, Simba and Olly who became really good friends and all helped me find my feet in London. But an open mic that stands out to me is probably at Monkey Chews. I used to play a lot of gigs there and miss the venue a lot. 

VP: How did you become good chums with Bombay Bicycle Club ?

LUCY: I knew of Bombay’s music and thought it was really good so when I saw that they were gonna be playing a gig down the road from me I went and just got chatting to them afterwards. Jack did a remix of one of my songs and then the band invited me to come and sing a few songs with them at acoustic shows. Then it just progressed from there, they asked me to sing on a song on the second album and now on the third so I’m touring with them and absolutely loving it. 

VP:   Have you enough songs that you’d be happy to  record for an album and when might that be forthcoming?

LUCY: Yeah, by now I think I’m gonna have to cut a few songs, which I know is never gonna please everyone, but I have too many. I’m just excited about starting to record them all now. 

VP:  What have been your highlights since you started singing and recording?

LUCY: Finding the people I’m playing music with now. They are all friends of mine and it makes playing and rehearsing so much fun. I’ve been playing solo for so many years now I’m so pleased that I’ve got these great musicians/friends wanting to play music with me. It makes a big difference. 

VP:  Which artists you say influenced your music and what is it about them you admire?

LUCY: I find this question really difficult because I listen to the broadest variety of music, so it’s hard to know which songs/artists have influenced my music. Of course I admire Joni Mitchell. I watched a 2 hour documentary on her a few years ago which was incredible. Her story is truly amazing. 

VP:   Now , what’s this I hear about you having your own brand of Tea?  How did that come about?

LUCY: Well…. I do love tea a lot, so much so that I decided to get a tattoo of a tea-cup on my wrist (my mum wasn’t happy!) And whenever anyone came over to my house I’d make tea but put one Earl Grey teabag in and one English Breakfast and I called it Builder Grey (genius I know). And then I was chatting to my management about it and we had nothing to sell at gigs at all, which was frustrating people so we decided to make this brand of tea and sell it. 

VP:  Pre gig rituals/Superstitions …do you have any? Now you’re playing to bigger audiences do you still get nervous prior to a gig ?

LUCY: I get nervous so bad before every gig. I honestly do think… ‘ why am I doing this to myself ‘ but a little whiskey and a group hug always helps. 

VP:    Five words to describe your music…….   ? 


LUCY: Cinematic, acoustic, not-acoustic, simple, caring.



Official Site


Large Images/ Wallpaper


Songs To Learn and Sing – Jim Reid And Jesus And Mary Chain Deluxe Albums

JAMC - Album reissues plus new Jim Reid song

“Black And Blues”  By Jim Reid.

Jim Reid of the Jesus And Mary Chain has previewed a new song on his soundcloud account and if that’s not enough to get fans of the Mary Chain excited  today also sees the first copies  of the much anticipated expanded Deluxe editions of all of the bands studio albums, starting with the seminal ‘Psychocandy‘. The deluxe expanded edition features all the non-album b-sides, as well as previously unreleased demos, rare outtakes including controversial early track “Jesus Fuck” which the pressing plant refused to manufacture at the time due to the blasphemous lyrics – Also included is a DVD featuring all the promo videos plus previously unreleased TV appearances, including their  live TV debut on the Old Grey Whistle Test,  and never before seen footage of the infamous riot at North London Polytechnic –including  interviews with all four original members, and scenes of the crowd destroying the venue!

3d Album Previews and Links to buy

Ladytron – “Gravity The Seducer” – Review / Interview.

dytron - Gravity The Seducer Album Review and Interview with Helen from the band - The Von Pip Musical Express (3)
Photo Credit – Michele Civetta.

‘Melting Ice’  By Ladytron.

 ‘Moon Place’ By Ladytron.



Brian Eno once described Ladytron as a band who posses “a full awareness of what’s happening everywhere in music which is interwoven to produce  something quite new”  they are, he went on to say, “the best of English pop music.”   And after revisiting the band’s recent career retrospective it would be rather difficult to argue with Mr Eno’s assessment. The “Best of Ladytron 00-10” served as a timely reminder as to why they have managed to stay at the forefront of  cutting edge music for over a decade,  and also why they have made a steady transition from influential cult band to national treasure.

They return with their fifth studio album ‘Gravity The Seducer’ which sculpts  a much more languid aural soundscape then the relentless, aggressive ‘hypno-tronic’ majesty  displayed on their last album, the epic Velocifero.’  In many ways this is a far more considered piece of work with swirling, symphonic flourishes embellishing the inscrutable, frost fretted dual vocals of Helen Marnie and Mira Aroyo.   This is a slightly softer, cuddlier Ladytron than we are perhaps used to, a band confident, at ease and comfortable within their own musical skin. The lush elegance of opening track  ‘White Elephant’ sets the tone for an album that doesn’t strive for huge anthemic tunes but instead constructs a miasma of sensual languidity and doomed grandeur that is both haunting and soothing.  ‘Moon Palace’ sees Ladytron at their most glacial and imperious whilst the gorgeous ‘Transparent Days’ and ‘Melting Ice’ are nothing short of sublime. ‘Gravity The Seducer’ is full of beautiful, evocative, cinematic music imbued with dark throbbing undertones and although maybe not as commercial as previous works is every bit as satisfying. Fashions and fads may come and go but Ladytron will prevail because when it comes to making mature sophisticated electronic music of both style and substance, they have few equals.

Rating 9/10.

I spoke to Helen with regard to the new album, the bands secret of longevity, and popular misconceptions about the band.


VP : Ladytron have always been at the cutting edge of music and yet never been part of any paticular scene. Is that pretty much how you’ve approached music, not really influenced by trends as such, just concentrated on producing the music you love. 

HELEN : Yep, totally. The press has tried very hard to tie us to a particular genre or scene but I think we’ve managed to come through that and prove there’s a lot more to us. We’re not really interested in trends and when it comes to songwriting we do it the only way we know how. It’s a natural process. Generally we don’t listen to current music when writing for ourselves, it just makes things confusing. You need a clear head and space to think for ideas to develop. 

VP : Your fifth album ‘Gravity the Seducer’ comes in the wake of a  greatest hits retrospective. How has the way you write and produce your albums changed over the years.  For example you have toured all over the world and an outsider may wonder when you have time to sit down and write.

HELEN : Well, up until about 2009 we literally hadn’t had a moment to sit down and write. We’d pretty much toured constantly since releasing Witching Hour. Thinking back now I’m not sure how we did it. Maybe youth helped. I can’t see us being able to handle that now. It was quite intense. From the autumn of 2009 we took a good years break. It was much needed for everyone’s sanity. In that time we gathered together tracks, wrote new ones, piled them into a pot and then decided which ones to work on for Gravity the Seducer. Generally we all write separately at home and then collaborate on tracks that require it. The writing process has always worked in the same way for us. We then take the songs into the studio where we mess around with instrumentation and layering, putting down lead vocals and harmonies. Building and building is the key. 

 VP : Every album you’ve released is different yet retains your own distinctive ‘Ladytron’ sound. Would you agree there’s a definite sweeping, more cinematic vibe this time around and was that your intention?

HELEN : Gravity the Seducer still sounds like Ladytron but perhaps just another, softer, side to Ladytron. We did want to create something a little different but you never really know what an album will sound like until you work on the tracks in the studio. The instrumentation available to us helped shape the sound, along with production techniques. The layering of vocals creates an air of lushness, and an ethereal glow. Velocifero was a much harder, more driven album and that was because of all the touring we’d done. At the time we wanted to create a more ‘live’ sound on record and Velocifero was the result. With Gravity we felt free to explore other options.

VP: What exactly does the title ‘Gravity the Seducer’ mean, who came up with it ?

HELEN : It’s a lyric from the song 90 Degrees which features on the album. It’s a lyric Danny came up with and it seemed to embody the entire album.

VP: You’ve composed music for video games, whilst Ace Of Hz was in the last Fifa game, some people take the rather fatuous  old school view that this somehow diminishes the music.  In the age of the download bands often have to look at innovative new ways to monetize their music, and the old Bill Hicks quote about selling out seems slightly irrelevant now. Even so are you careful about whom you license your music to? For example it’s about as likely for Morrissey’s music to be featured in the latest McDonalds ad campaign as it is for  Billy Bragg to compose a rousing Tory Conference sing-along. 😉 

HELEN : I really don’t think there is any such thing as selling out these days. People have to understand that in order to continue making music as a band, like anybody else, we need to make money. We have no other source of income as Ladytron is our full time job. So many bands are forced onto the road for non stop touring as it’s the only way for them to make pennies, and this is partly due to the fact that people aren’t paying to buy their records anymore. We’ve been very lucky. But most bands will not be. Of course it is not just about the money. If we’re really not into something then we won’t do it. No way. If we all agree on something then we will. It’s great to have support from games such as Fifa and The Sims. It also opens up our music to a whole different fan base. 

VP : What’s been your weirdest experience as a band?

HELEN : There’s been a few. The most recent would be flying business class from China with Emirates. We were the only ones on the plane so ended up having our own private party with all the hostesses in the bar of the A380. It was pretty surreal. They took Polaroids of us all in their hats drinking champagne. They also told us we could have anything we wanted. I didn’t want to push it though. I recommend Emirates to everyone now

VP:  You co-owned one of my favourite and most stylish  bars in Liverpool, the much missed Korova. After some licensing shenanigans it relocated  to Hope Street but never quite captured the atmosphere of the original, even less so  after it burnt down. Will it reopen and are you still involved with it?  

HELEN : Well, it was Danny & Reuben who had a hand in Korova. Not quite co-owners. It was a great bar and live venue though. Danny is working on a new bar currently in Liverpool.


VP: What are your plans for the rest of 2011 ?  Will there be more UK dates at the end of the year?

HELEN : We’re flying out to Mexico is 2 weeks for a gig and from there we will kick off our North American tour. In November we’ll be doing some South American dates then after that who knows. 

VP : What’s the secret of the bands longevity?  I assume you all still adore each other’s company  and you’ve had no huge rock n roll style spats over the years?

HELEN : Oh, we’ve had our fair share of spats, but thankfully none that have rocked the boat too badly. It’s only natural I think. When you’re on tour for such long periods of time its hard being in each other’s pockets. But, we’ve learned how to deal with it. It’s important to get your own space. Your bunk is always there if you need to hide. On our upcoming US tour there are actually going to be about 4 girls on the bus which is unheard of. I’m hoping the bus smells like roses and daisies. 

VP :  What would you say is the biggest misconception about Ladytron?

HELEN : That we’re 4 icy lesbians. 

VP: Five words to describe ‘Gravity The Seducer’ 

HELEN : Warm, otherworldly, melancholy, vast, heroic.


Official Site.

CD on Amazon (US):
LP on Amazon (US):
CD on Amazon (Euro):
LP on Amazon (Euro):
Large Pictures/Wallpapers.


Dum Dum Girls Interview And Only In Dreams Review.

Dum Dum Girls - Review and Interview Only In Dreams-The Von Pip Musical Express

Bedroom Eyes” By Dum Dum Girls.


For somebody brought up in a house filled with the music of Buddy Holly, Gene Vincent, Phil Spector, the Brill Building sound, The Ronettes and The Supremes, and who then went on to discover Blondie, The Ramones, Lush, The Jesus And Mary Chain and The Raveonettes,  Dum Dum Girls are a veritable gift from the musical gods!

Their debut album “I Will Be was a raw, adrenaline fuelled white knuckle ride through heartbreak and B-movie cool combining Ronettes style harmonies with  discordant Mary Chain guitars and garage punk.  But whereas ‘I Will Be’ was essentially the one woman  project of songwriter and front lady Dee Dee Penny (real name Kristen Gundred) ‘Only In Dreams’ sees Dum Dum Girls flourish into a formidable, fully formed, holistic musical entity.  At the risk of being accused of indulging in hyperbole it’s my opinion that in any right thinking society this album should be regarded as a genuine slice of  pop genius and as such ought to be mentioned in the same breath as canonised classics such as ‘Presenting the Fabulous Ronettes,’  Blondie’sParallel Lines’ or The Ramones ‘Leave Home.’ With Richard Gottehrer and Raveonette, Sune Rose Wagner on production duties, the album demonstrates just what an amazingly gifted songwriter Dee Dee is. This is not empty vacuous, throw away pop, for the twist is that beneath the often blissful melodies you’ll discover dark lyrics full of poetic candour imbued with genuine emotional depth and intelligence that is both profoundly beautiful and extremely moving.

Dee Dee also comes into her own as a singer of some substance. This time around her vocals are not buried deep under a tsunami of reverb as she sings every note with a seemingly new found confidence and passion that is often reminiscent of a modern day Debbie Harry or Chrissie Hynde.  Lyrically deep and melodically uplifting ‘Only In Dreams’ is a triumph for Dee Dee and her Dum Dum Girls and builds on the huge potential demonstrated on ‘I Will Be’.  Essentially the album revisits the theme of separation from loved ones on a number of occasions, whether by circumstance, geography, or ultimately, death.  It is an album that bears the stain of genuine sadness and packs a huge emotional punch, written as it was at a time when Dee Dee’s mother was terminally ill with cancer.  Yet whilst the elegiac lyrics address these difficult issues with a graceful and touching eloquence, the melodies are joyous and life affirming. In essence this is music for life and for living, about dying and death.

There’s not a single track on ‘Only In Dreams’ that comes close to being labelled ‘filler fodder.’ From the sublime foot on accelerator adrenaline rush of opener ‘Always Looking’, the prefect melody of “Bedroom Eyes” the poetic rattling girl group fuzz pop genius of “Wasted Away”  right through to the heartbreakingly gorgeous incredibly poignant album closer “Hold Your Hand,” each and every song is beautifully crafted, sincerly delivered and lovingly polished.  And for an album that is lyrically centred on the brevity of life, loneliness, loss and separation it never wallows in self pity. Of course if you aren’t the sort to take meaning from music then I guess it can also be enjoyed as a straight up, cool as fuck, rollicking rock n’ roll pop monster too!

Although the album is a different musical beast to Sarabeth Tucek’s wonderful album ‘Get Well Soon’ (which also dealt with the death of  a parent) ‘Only In Dreams’ also manages to transform the  pain of loss into something life affirmingly beautiful that resonates with honesty, tenderness, heartbreak, frustration and love. It also showcases that Dum Dum Girls are a force to be reckoned with and that Dee Dee is a songwriter of honesty, integrity and depth.  Quite simply a flawless album shot through with 24 carat pop gold. Buy it. Cherish it. Love it.

 Rating a perfect- 10/10


We had a chat to Dee Dee about the emotions involved in writing the album, taking Dad on tour and the logistical planning that goes into balancing a rock n’roll lifestyle with domestic bliss.


VP: Firstly, Congratulations on the new album! It really did blow me away, definitely one of the best albums of this year, or indeed any year.

DEE DEE :  Why thank you very much!

VP:  Was it a difficult album to write, in terms of your personal life, what was going on with your Mum. Was it a cathartic kind of process?

DEE DEE : Yeah definitely, really it was the only therapeutic outlet I had. I really don’t think I could have written about anything else, it was either that or nothing; I just had to kind of run with it. It’s a weird thing really, but I didn’t feel I had much of a choice.

VP: In terms of the overall sound on the album, the ‘He Gets Me High’ Ep earlier in the year is an obvious sonic stepping stone between ‘I Will Be’ and ‘Only In Dreams.’.  The album is also the first time you’ve recorded as a full band; did you find it difficult to relinquish control after doing almost everything yourself on the first album?

DEE DEE:  Not really, I mean the EP was a necessary step forward and I want every release to reflect some kind of progress, I really felt it was the most appropriate time to do a full band record. Also because I feel so comfortable working with Richard (Gottehrer) and our engineer Alonso it was more of a relief to concentrate on the things I do best. For example I’m terrible at recording [laughs] and I don’t know a thing about mixing even though I find them really interesting and tried to do them on my first 7”’s and first record. But I’d much rather leave it to people for whom it’s their deal, so I get to do what I do. I think I also felt because we had been touring to such extremes and that we had become such a tight group that it was a natural step to take.

I guess the last thing I was holding on to, not in any sort of protective way or worrying it would go wrong, was the singing as I used to do everything. One of the first things we did when recording the album was record backup vocals on a song called ‘In My Head’ and the minute after Jules sang her bit and I heard it unmastered and unmixed I was like “Oh Wow! I obviously should have let this go earlier.” It added another dimension and different tones to the overall sound and if anything that’s who we are live and I wanted to capture that on the record.

VP:  I’ve seen you live a couple of times now and each time there’s been a huge leap forward. Actually at the Deaf Institute in Manchester I was chatting to your Dad who you took on tour and promised a Dum Dum Girls leather jacket.  He seemed to be having a great time; did he enjoy the whole tour?

DEE DEE : [Laughing] Yeah ! He totally loved it. It’s such a bizarre lifestyle and to hear about it is one thing but to see it first hand, especially for an older fellow is another. But truthfully he was probably in better shape than we were [laughs]. It was only maybe the last week when we had a couple of really long drives that he started getting like “Oh my God, this is awful,” but in general he really took advantage of the whole experience.  It was fun and didn’t impede us in any way you might expect.  And yes he got a leather jacket!

VP : On the first album you  said Richard Gottehrer added some ‘gentle finessing’ to the overall sound, he produced the new album, alongside Sune Rose Wagner from the Ravonettes. How did Sune become involved?

DEE DEE : Well Sune did the earlier EP this year, kind of like testing the waters and we are both managed by Richard and Scott Cohen so we had met socially first.  I’d also been a massive fan of Sunes for years. I remember when I was in school in Germany around 2002 and The Raveonettes first EP was out and I just fell in love with it!  I hadn’t heard anybody do that sort of thing in quite a while and it was right up my alley, a nostalgic homage to beat America and I absolutely loved it !  So with the album I had a pretty defined idea of what I wanted in my head and Richard’s pretty much the same, but maybe in a more poppier way? So I thought it was important to have Sune on the other side, I like to refer to him as my expert in noise!  He knows how to keep things dirty and dark, kinda evil and tough y’know ?  I thought if I could toe the line somewhere in the middle we’d come up with an album that was beautiful in some parts and nasty in others, I felt like that kind of would be the perfect form.

VP :  So since you started out has the way you approach song writing changed ? Do you sit down at a predetermined time or does intense touring mean you kind of write ‘on the go’ ?

DEE DEE : It’s not really changed that much, I mean maybe I’ll be out walking and I’ll get an idea for a chorus, you know, a phrase that sounds like it has potential. It may be something I’ve been thinking about for a while, unless it’s totally random like maybe a painting I’ve seen or been inspired by a book I’ve been reading.  If it’s not something I’m able to work on at the time due to touring or other things I’ll make a note or a recording on my phone and then when I have more time I’ll take these snippets and flesh them out.


VP : On ‘Only In Dreams’ , knowing the background to writing it, the listener can understand where you’re coming from on certain songs, but one song, which is great but stood out for me as being a little different was ‘Just A Creep’ . What’s that song all about, or cant you say? 😉

DEE DEE :  [Laughing] Aha!  The wild card on the album! Yes, really it’s an example of coming up with a phrase which may have potential . . . and I’ve certainly known some creeps!  I remember coming up with the song really clearly. At the time I was visiting my Dad one weekend and listening to my ‘Girls In The Garage’ compilations and a lot of Nancy Sinatra. I was on a kind of kitschy pop vibe and I wrote the bass line for ‘Creep.’ If anything, at that point in my life I was a little bit touchy maybe? I definitely wasn’t quite myself, [laughs] so I found myself over reacting to things, without really acting out on them. I think something relatively minor had happened and I felt irritated toward a person and that was kind of in my mind when I wrote the song, I suppose after the fact it was a kind of an absurd reaction. I guess you have to have a thick skin to do what we do and I don’t really have thick enough skin.  If anything the song kind of acts as a reminder to me to disregard a lot of the hatred out there [laughs.] It has no substance and is not worth worrying about!

VP:  You’ve also mentioned that you initially suffered from stage fright when you started out, has that gotten any easier?

DEE DEE : Yeah it’s totally manageable, in fact with this band I don’t even realise I have it.  I’ve played solo shows recently which are much more terrifying!  I mean I’m nervous before a show, but it’s more like nervous energy rather than anything debilitating.  This is something I’ve always wanted to do but never thought I could as I was always so shy and self conscious. It literally took doing it just once and knowing what it felt like – y’know, the reward of being able to perform, even though at the time I was in a terrible Jefferson Airplane rip-off band [laughs]. I had to get really drunk to do it, but once I’d seen the other side, and experienced the potential for putting on a good show, well that kind of dwarfed anything else. And playing in this band now we feed off and support each other.

VP:  Without prying, is it difficult balancing your band life and personal life with both you and your husband [Dee Dee is married to Crocodiles singer Brandon Welchez] touring your bands all over the world?

DEE DEE :  Well it does take a lot of work, we are both aware of the fact that it’s not quite as simple as saying “ we should spend more time together.” In reality it means forcing our managers to have lunch [laughs] and figuring out when our records are coming out , when we’ll tour etc. It can take a lot of co-ordination, but it is do-able. This year he’s been in Berlin recording, I’ve been over here [in the UK] but we are touring together in October and he’s joining us in November. Then December will be our first real time together in our apartment in New York!  The year is finishing better than it started!

We have friends who don’t do what we do they have wives /husbands/ boyfriends/ girlfriends and arrive home from work together. They aren’t really privy to what goes on when you’re in a band, I mean it’s not actually as glamorous as you might imagine. There is a lot of time spent bored and uncomfortable in a van ! [ laughs]

VP : Well Dee Dee, lovely to talk to you,  I’m sure the album will do amazingly well and look forward to seeing you again soon on tour!

DEE DEE :  You too, we’ll see you in Manchester soon !


Official Site.



Order the album here

Large Images


Songs To Learn and Sing – Veronica Falls, Howling Bells, Zola Jesus and Dirtblonde

This week,  Veronica Falls, Howling Bells, Zola Jesus and Dirtblonde



Veronica Falls Debut Album news - Von Pip Musical Express

 Veronica Falls  release their self-titled debut album released 17th October on Bella Union and will be touring the UK with VPME faves Dum Dum Girls in November.

“Bad Feeling” By Veronica Falls.


VPME – Six Music.

Last week we returned on all our gory (sic) to Auntie Beeb‘s  Now Playing on 6 Music Show hosted by Tom Robinson which is broadcast between 7-9pm every Friday. The overall direction of the radio show is dictated by the listeners who are encouraged to discuss, throughout the week, what’s been happening in the digital world of music via the BBC website  and social media channels such as Facebook and Twitter .  The audio may have disappeared from the BBC’s I-Player but fear not,  you can listen again below as we play The Good Natured, Prince Edward Island and Dum Dum Girls.


Howling Bells

The Bells new album “The Loudest Engine” is released on September 12th 2011 and is being streamed on their facebook page . It’s an album which Juanita describes as “a modern psychedelic record.The first (album)was about that great initial leap, the second was us exploring different waters. This one is us, all having met at one place, at one time. I think this record will change people’s perspectives of the band.”  Catch ‘em on tour, they really are fantastic live.










Zola Jesus New Single and Album - The Von Pip Musical Express 2011

Zola Jesus makes a welcome return with the release of a new single, Seekir (Oct 3rd, Souterrain Transmissions) and UK dates this November.  The single and tour follow the release of her  new album, Conatus, on September 26th .

‘Seekir’ By Zola Jesus



Dirtblonde Von Pip Musical Express

Pic By Sakura

Liverpool noise terrorists  Ivan Hell (guitar) and Lula Blue (vocals, bass) or Dirtblonde to you and I,  return with a new song ,’In Furs.’ It’s the first track to be made available online from Dirtblonde’s forthcoming ‘Token Rose’ E.P. which will be released on digital and CD formats on 6th October.

The E.P. is a taster for the band’s 2nd album, ‘Hours’, which will come out in the new year.

‘Furs’ By Dirtblonde.