Time is a funny thing. It separates, conjoins, distances and overlaps our respective paths in life. In the short term, it can drag out, toy with our emotions. We’re human, after all: we are naturally drawn to the fast and most efficient means to an end. But every so often, time, especially long expanses of it, is nothing if not a test of destiny. Christian Stone and Annalee Fery know this better than most. The two musicians that comprise LA-based rock outfit Howls have known each other for over a decade. Over the years, they’ve casually worked on music with one another in various settings and circumstances. They’ve always respected each other’s talents. But only in the past few years they finally act on an impulse both had known to be true for far too long: these two were meant to create meaningful art with one another.
Theirs takes its form as Howls, an expertly crafted debut album stuffed with noise-rock riffs, acoustic meditations and snaking synth squiggles conceived in the past four years following Stone and Fery making their partnership official. Putting together the album — recorded primarily at Fery’s converted garage studio in Eagle Rock, California — saw the twosome, as Stone says, “chasing down ideas wherever they led. The attitude was not so much, ‘we’re going to do this style of music,’ but more ‘let’s just get in there and make music that we love and see what happens.’”
The two musicians first came into each other’s orbit in the early 2000’s. Stone played in a band with Fery’s then-boyfriend. Even back then, when he’d go see Fery perform, he remembers being completely enamored with her silky smooth vocals. “I was completely mesmerized by her talent,” he says. As fate would have it, the two briefly joined forces later as members of the indie-rock outfit Monsters Are Waiting. However when Stone bowed out, the two went their separate ways. Still, both always strongly believed their talents would eventually realign. So, in 2010, when Stone began working on what he thought would be a solo album, he recruited Fery to assist. Their musical chemistry instantaneously took hold. “It just became really obvious that I shouldn’t be doing a solo project,” he says. “No, I should be doing a project with Anna.”
“To me it always felt like such a good match,” Fery says of her and Christian at long last forming the Howls. “I always thought that we wrote really nice-sounding melodies together.” Adds Stone: “There’s something magical that happens when our voices come together.” The pair thrives off each other’s respective skills: in Fery, Stone finds a lyrical muse, a master of affirming his poetic palate. “I’ll write lyrics and sing them and be like ‘I’m not sure about that one lyric. It might sound cheesy or I might have some apprehension.’ And then she’ll sing on it. And when we sing together it just takes away all of my doubt.” Stone, by contrast, gives Fery the tender, pretty voice to compliment her mid-register. “I like harmonies,” she explains. “I think it’s nice to do that layering effect.”
Piecing together the Howls’ album, for both artists, was almost healing. “Writing music has always been my Prozac,” Stone admits. “It gives your brain a chance to stop reflecting over something you’re suffering from.” Fery concurs: “I think it’s definitely therapeutic for me. Especially after putting some kind of melody over your writing, it gives the words some kind of action.”
The Howls, still firing on all creative cylinders after the release of their debut, are raring and ready to take the next step. Hard at work on their second act, the duo are preparing their follow up album, including the release of their newest single, “White Noise.”
“This song is about any and all kids who are hurting and somehow forced into situations that are never suitable for kids,” Frey replies, when speaking of their latest single. “ I think everyone should always be aware of this and learn to help by not looking the other way. Having kids myself has taught me as well to care for every lost and hurting child. If I could save them all I would.”
The single “White Noise” stands as a turning point for Howls, breaking away from many of their standard methods of production, as well as the choice to include outside producer Jonathan Siebels. “This song started out as an idea at rehearsal and became a staple of our live show as a guitar-based thing. We tried recording it this way but we weren’t happy with the results at all. So we decided, as an experiment, to bring in [Jon],” says Stone. “He stripped away all the ‘traditional’ instrumentation and really focused on synths and programmed drums instead. Suddenly the song made sense!”
With “White Noise” under way and the rest of their anticipated second album not far behind, the thrill of creation is the driving force for the members of Howls. “It’s about putting out a piece of art that I can be proud of and I can share without reservation and look back on without regret,” Stone concludes.
“I have to stay creative,” Fery says. “Something dies in me if I don’t.”