Words by Sean Moeller, Illustration by Johnnie Cluney, Recording engineered by Mike Gentry
Steve Schiltz, the lead singer and songwriter of the Brooklyn band Hurricane Bells, abides by the construction of the dark night. It's the concept of the real thing (one finds a way to happen every day, like it or leave it) that holds him in his place, that gives him the sparks needed to get into the spaces that he prefers to get into. He approaches winter's cold the same way as he does dark nights and we nearly pass out when he combines the two, because nothing's darker or colder than a dark and cold night. It's when things get unbearable if you're in the wrong place or environment, or snug and encapsulating if you're in the right place. We can feel people taking very cautionary steps in Hurricane Bells songs, trying with all their might not to make some disastrously faulty steps as they move through these things that he's built with such soft hands and a bit of a seasonal sway in his delicate, but tough/experienced melodies. You can hear and feel people padding around, quietly and carefully - partly not to disturb anything that might be out there in the dark, not to awaken any sleeping giants, not to rile up the beehive - but also just to not fall on their faces in the midst of all kinds of unknowable obstacles or people who might be out roaming the blackness as well, bumbling through the night times - searching or avoiding whatever they might be searching for or avoiding. There is caution and purpose in everything Schiltz sings and plays, casting his characters as those experiencing their surroundings intimately, surveying them and then giving what they can give back to them. That could be a shrug or a shiver or a cloud of frozen air. It could be a startled shriek. It could be stony silence. He sings about accidents waiting to happen and on "The Waiting Song, he connects thoughts by singing, "Everything, everything is going right/The room is warm/Morning light/Tell me who could, tell me who could ask for more/The sun is up/It's all I'm waiting for," detailing a night that became a morning, with forgetfulness and the intoxicating company of a great person letting them see the darkness expire, giving way to something that's burned away and the chirping of morning birds. He's a writer who likes to explore the tenseness that forms when personal boundaries are being reached, when other people who are the exact opposite of being strangers suddenly start to feel like they are, as if they've begun to take on some of the characteristics of that brisk, cold wind. The darkness has a deepness to it that folks tend to get lost in and it's down there, in the basement of all that, where Schiltz makes himself at home.