It’s hard to believe that California’s The Growlers have been around close to fifteen years. The band with their own “beach goth” sound has gotten bigger and bigger with each passing release, while doing things on their own terms and never really coming off like they had to sell their souls or creativity to gain traction. In the middle of their current tour and ahead of a new album due later this year, we spoke to singer Brooks Nielsen about the band’s early days, their time in the industry and what we can expect from them on this tour and at the Beach Goth Festival as well.
Typically when you start an interview, no matter who it’s with, there’s tons of pleasantries and gut wrenching honesty. So it wasn’t shocking that as honest as it can get was how things started with the band’s front man when we asked how things were. “I’m hungover in the greenroom in Charlotte. Man, thirteen years? Has it been that long? Don’t say that (laughs). When we started this band, I don’t think I or we knew what we were gonna’ do or where we were gonna’ go. We never had a mid-life crisis as a band, and while Matt changes what he listens to, the changes to our sound have been a slow boil where we changed a bit with time. I still think we sound like The Growlers,” remarks the singer on the band’s sound over time.
While the band has always had their own sound, and they have controlled what that output sounds like, their third album Hung at Heart was originally to be recorded with Dan Auerbach of The Black Keys. When asked if fans would ever get to hear those recordings on an official release, Nielsen replies “I’ve heard they’re out there on the web. It wasn’t right, at the time. I was afraid of change and giving the power to someone else. It’s unfinished, those sessions. I was just immature about the process but there’s hundreds of songs that we make that go nowhere. I never like the records by the time they come out. I like our songs better when they’re demos and they’re raw. The demos are where the purity comes from.”
While the band wasn’t ready to give up control back then, they did do an album on Cult Records, owned and operated by Julian Casablancas of The Strokes/The Voidz. City Club definitely took the band’s sound to new places and showcased how far they’d come as songwriters. Their most recent album isn’t with Cult, making us wonder what happened and why the band chose to start their own label with Beach Goth Records and Tapes. “We have no clarity, we’re too cool or too busy to know why things happen. Our time there fizzled and I don’t know much on the business side of things. We do everything on our own and we wanted to put out a new record. As far as will it be easier on our own than on a label, I don’t know yet. It’s definitely easier to get stuff done. At most labels there’s too many cooks in the kitchen and everyone has their opinions on what you should do. They’re also paranoid about time and release dates where there are rules, and we don’t have all of that now. In the music industry with all of those rules, you wonder who cares about you and your music over those rules. We care all the way through and if it were up to me, I’d put out five albums a year,” says the front man.
With both releases, City Club and the demos and unused material from those sessions released as Casual Acquaintances, the leaps the band took in terms of songwriting ability is obvious from the start. The songs on both have a more focused approach and really give listeners a look at how far the band has come. We were curious what happened when that material was written that got the band to take a more focused approach, something to which the singer was happy to explain. “I think we pressured ourselves more. Matt was really excited to work with Julian (Casablancas), so he stepped up. We learned a lot from that experience, and since Julian is a natural melody maker, those songs came out stronger. For this next record, we have that built in work ethic of being committed to the songs while still being vulnerable at the same time.”
The next record contains a new song “Natural Affair” that should give fans an idea of where the next album will go. The songwriting is similar to that of their previous two releases and should also help grow the band’s fan base in the process. “We released the new song the other night, we’re still finishing the album artwork and the album mixes. We recorded in six or seven studios and it represents two years of writing between Matt and I. It’s a Growlers album, we recorded like sixty songs before getting it down to what people will hear,” remarks Nielsen.
And with that, a new song and a new album on the way we were wondering what a set from a band with a new album not yet out will mean, as well as how it will shape up the band’s annual Beach Goth Halloween Festival taking place at the Hollywood Palladium this year. “We’re talking about Beach Goth, and I don’t know if it’ll be two or three shows. I want one to be a Growlers and friends show, so we’ll see. We’ve made a lot of music, and there’s a lot to cover as far as our catalog goes. The new shows have new music as well as a lot of our older stuff. I mean, we have a new song out there. We should probably try and play it, right? (laughs), says the singer.
The entire catalog by The Growlers can be purchased in all digital music stores, it can be streamed on all platforms and it can be purchased physically directly from the band’s web store. The Growlers are on tour August 07 in Baton Rouge at Varsity Theatre, in Houston on August 08 at White Oak Music Hall, in San Antonio at Paper Tiger on August 09 and at Granada Theater in Dallas on August 10. They resume touring on August 13 at Palp Festival in Bagnes, Switzerland until November 02 in Hollywood, CA for Beach Goth Hollywood. The band’s complete tour schedule can be accessed here.
Image Credits: Photo by Taylor Bonin.