Storm Franklin
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Storm Franklin

Official Artist Website

Storm Franklin is a striking new musical collaboration between producer Ben Hillier (Blur/Depeche Mode) and musician Juanita Stein (Howling Bells/solo), which came together in the autumn of 2021 at Hiller’s Agricultural Audio Studios in Lewes. The pair had first met the previous year, while working together on Juanita’s critically acclaimed third solo album, Snapshot. That record saw them delve into realms of luscious psychedelia and indie pop, a genesis that has no doubt served as a starting point for much of Storm Franklin’s evocative sound.

Feeling creatively inspired, Hillier and Stein decided to head back into the studio with their only clear objective being to build the songs together this time. It was apparent early on in proceedings that, actually, musically they were headed in an entirely different direction to anything either of them had worked on previously. A cold contrast drives the pulse of Storm Franklin’s music, and Juanita’s sweeping melodies and lyrics, steeped in heartache, create an inspired soundtrack with Ben’s trademark striking production and adventurous rhythms.

What materialised were songs that exist somewhere between the French pop nostalgia of AIR and the brashness of 80s’ bands such as Tears For Fears and The Cars. Ideas, lyrics, counter-melodies and synthesisers were colliding inside the studio, while outside those walls, there was a palpable sense of panic that had started to set in. With post-pandemic anxiety looming and the fear of a new war escalating, it was impossible not to feel the strangeness of it all. This was set against a significant storm brewing in the South of England at the time, named Storm Franklin. Gale force winds, flying debris and fallen trees accompanied each drive back and forth from the studio, and so it felt like the perfect band name to encapsulate the moment.

You can hear this sense of urgency and eeriness on tracks Push The Panic and The Last Time, a dizzying ode to dark synth pop. Lead single, Hush Now, was one of the first tracks to piece itself together, a culmination of a simple guitar melody and infectious bass line, which swiftly revealed itself as a euphoric pop anthem exploring grief and demanding silence. Musically, this set the tone for what was to come. Lyrically, the songs of Storm Franklin grapple with the stark contrast of life’s many ups and downs. Life, death, fear, anxiety, war and equality of the sexes, as is explored on the feminist cry of Why Do I Have to Choose.

Playing all the instruments themselves, and having the time to really explore those ideas and sounds over the course of a year, made for a much greater degree of autonomy, and this definitely shaped the sound of the record. Being a brand new band meant there were were no wrong ideas, there was no touchstone upon which to draw from. No idea was off the table, and with engineer Dan Crook on board, ideas were recorded thick and fast, frenzied and inspired. A beautiful commotion.

Says Stein of the recording sessions, “Working with Ben in this capacity has been truly enlightening. Having come from a band background and then moved on to solo albums, which rely heavily on having the bulk of the songs already completed, I’ve really enjoyed this particular way of collaborating in the studio. Trusting that you’ll produce magic out of thin air takes some real faith and instinct. Luckily, we’d worked together previously on Snapshot, so the foundations were already there. I knew we were capable of producing something truly great together.” For Hillier, Storm Franklin is the first time he has stepped out from behind the producer’s desk for an artist project in his own right, and the first time he has bared his voice, which turned out to be the perfect counterfoil to Stein’s already well known tones.