July 28, 1907 was a bad day for New York City, but an inspiring one for Steve Schiltz.
A lit cigar sparked a fire that engulfed Coney Island’s Steeplechase Amusement Park, reducing one of the city’s wildest destinations to ashes. But the next day hope sprung — founder George Tilyou posted a sign outside: “I have troubles today that I had not yesterday. I had troubles yesterday which I have not today.”
104 years later, the second album from Hurricane Bells springs from that same hope — literally. The opening track of Tides and Tales, called “I’ve Got A Second Chance,” begins with Schiltz singing Tilyou’s immortal words.
“I always thought that was a beautiful way to say it,” says Schiltz.
The only full member of Hurricane Bells, Schiltz first made his name as the singer/guitarist for New York’s Longwave, releasing four albums of dreamy critically-praised rock’n’roll before the band went on unofficial hiatus in late 2009. With a new clean slate, Hurricane Bells is Schiltz’s own second chance.
His debut, 2009’s Tonight Is The Ghost, touched down with a wave of good press and excited fan reactions. Alternative Press named the band a ‘Band You Need to Know in 2010’; Blurt called the songs “hazy, melodic… and nearly impossible to forget once they stick in your noggin”; “If the Killers and Devendra Banhart had a baby, and then that baby wrote skillfull acoustic pop music, the result might sound something like Hurricane Bells,” wrote Consequence of Sound. Quite the pedigree.
Unsurprisingly, it was Schiltz’ inclusion on The Twilight Saga: New Moon soundtrack that truly introduced his new project to the masses. His song “Monsters,” a Tonight Is the Ghost B-side, was chosen to give a guitar-heavy punch to the teen vampire sensation — and was unofficially Schiltz’ first album atop the Billboard 200 charts.
Now, after a 2010 EP, Down Comes the Rain, Schiltz is ready to take the next step with Hurricane Bells. Tides and Tales was written and recorded again solely by Schiltz, but this time performed with the help of a few friends: Ashen Keilyn (Scout), who’s toured with Hurricane Bells from its inception; Christian Bongers (bass) and Colin Brooks (drums), who round out the live band; Travis Harrison (drums); Justin Furstenfeld of Blue October, who plays harmonica on two tracks; and Dave Doobinin, who sings on “Let’s Go.” He calls his new 12-song set “a leap ahead sonically,” as he slaved over the recording to make each echoing drum sound, each dirty guitar stroke and each shadowy dash of reverb perfect.
Inspired by Jack White’s rule of self-imposed limitations, Schiltz wrote most of the songs in a 2-week stretch of isolation. “I didn’t have a day job, didn’t have any shows going on, didn’t see my friends,” he says. “I just wrote.”
“I tried to write on different instruments each day, for no other reason than to change it up,” Schiltz says. “If you sit with a guitar every day, sometimes you end up doing the same thing over and over. So I wrote on a ukelele, a Wurlitzer, an Omnichord — just finding new ways to write songs.”
The result is Hurricane Bells’ finest music yet: effortlessly catchy guitar pop packed with as many big hooks as beautiful, intimate moments capturing love, loss, redemption and — just like George Tilyou a century ago — second chances.