Interview: The Growlers are psyched
Getting a girl to pose nude on an hour’s notice, completing a nine-track EP in three weeks, advocating old school machoism and essentially running an orphanage from his home; soulful singer and frontman of The Growlers, Brooks Nielsen, is a behemoth of a dude. Here’s what happened when James Booker – from Sydney’s very own Doc Holliday Takes the Shotgun, totally bro-ed out with him over a wonderfully dodgy Skype connection:
Hey dude, nice to Skype meet you! So your Australian tour is coming up in March, What’s your impression of Australia? Keen to go surfing?
Yeah I’m psyched to get over man. I grew up on the beach so there’s always been an invasion of Aussies who’d come and party with us, they’re keen for us to come over.
Are there any Australian bands you like?
Yeah there’s a band I really like called The Babe Rainbow. I’ve been going down the list of bands we’re playing with and I don’t think any of them are shitty. We’re doing a tour support of Europe and I’ve liked maybe 1 in 30, but all the bands in Australia are rad!
Oh that’s Legit! So I’ve seen you guys had a gnarly tour bus in the States, are you gonna get one while you’re over here?
(laughs) Man, we talked about it but we decided we’re just gonna be roughin’ it with our band and Tomorrow’s Tulips in a van.
Do you guys have any comfort foods while on tour?
I think I mainly like home cooking. We’re out on the road so much it’s either shitty fast food or some gourmet shit. It’s nice, when I’m at home (California), to have my chick cooking for me. I mean I can cook for myself but I don’t have a kitchen at the moment so…
Oh yeah dude, I was gonna ask where you’re living at the moment?
Well, my old house burned down so I was staying at a friend’s house up in LA and then my chick’s house when we were writing for this record and now recording it.
Yeah I saw those burnt T-shirts you we’re giving away for free on Instagram, but I didn’t realise they we’re in your house, that’s fucked!
(laughs) Yeah man. We had a house in Costa Mesa with a couple garages we set up as studios and the studios burned down with a portion of the house, there was no power there so it felt like we we’re living in Detroit… but no big deal, I’m not worried about it.
You sound pretty chill about the whole thing.
What can you do when these things happen?
Man, I saw this hectic video of you guys playing at SXSW with Bill Murray rocking out to you guys, were you starstruck?
Um, yeah, not really. Like I didn’t really notice until afterwards when someone was like: “Oh mai gawd! Bill Murray’s behind the bar and shit!” and I was like: “cool… he’s just a dude though”. I mean I respect the guy, I think he’s hilarious, but I’m not gonna go out of my way to approach him. He was chasing this beautiful 25-year-old chick who was at our show, so I think that’s how he ended up there actually.
Wow, gnarly. What a player!
Yeah he was having a good time… “dancing”.
Alright, go Bill Murray. On that Ghostbusters shit.
(laughs) Yeah dude!
Tell me about the lyrics to “Dogheart II” man, from Gilded Pleasures man. It sounds like you wrote a dude anthem imploring younger guys to sleep with younger girls as much as they can, while they can?
(laughs) Yeah, it is that… yeah.
Ah… yeah. Just trying to say while you’re young, be young, because it doesn’t last that long.
I’ve noticed you have a couple of songs that mention little girls and stuff… What’s going on there dude?
Haha yeah there’s another one [“Change in your Veins”] on that record [Gilded Pleasures] that says little girls in the chorus. In that song it’s about me having lots of children, but after “Dogheart” it sounds like I’m talking about hooking up with little girls…
A lot of your lyrics seem really encouraging for dudes that are struggling to find themselves, were these songs inspired by personal experience?
Yeah, I get sick of the way we’re [dudes] treated in the media sometimes. I don’t have a TV but when I do see it I’m like “oh my god, that’s fucking insulting to my intelligence”. I miss the manly man who knows how to fix stuff and work on things and knows how to treat a woman like a lady. I was lucky enough to have an awesome dad who taught me all that stuff. Like machoism; people can talk as much shit as they want, but it’s how the world has progressed.
I wanted to ask you about the song “Something Someone Junior” off the Are You in or Out? record. I saw in an interview you said that song was about your Dad telling you he wasn’t your real father?
Oh yeah, I was just totally fucking with them in that interview. Sometimes I pick and chose whether I wanna be serious. “Something Someone Junior” is um… a bit of a story… My house has always been kind of a sanctuary for anybody. I built a spot where you can get away with making loud music any hour of the night and I tend to kind of pick up these younger kids who have nowhere to go and don’t have dads, or have shitty dads and they can come by my place any time and make music and hang out. At the time I had all these really young greaser kids coming over and just tell me all their fucked up stories and I ended up writing a song about one of my little buddies who had a really horrible dad.
Tell us about the recording process of Gilded Pleasures a bit. Did you guys record to tape?
Not quite, we recorded digitally and ran it through a four-track tape machine over and over to get the tape sound. I’m not a fan of the digital sound. When we started they [management] we’re like: “Lets get an EP for when we go back to Europe. You got three weeks,” and we we’re like “shit!” so in two weeks we wrote 14 songs and narrowed it down to the nine that made the record then got them mixed and mastered in the third week.
I gotta ask who the girl in the picture is?
Oh um, I don’t know. I remember it was like a deadline at the last minute and we we’re like ‘ok I got an idea’ I need a model and I called my sleezy friend and said I needed a chick. He was like ‘Ok I’ll get you one, when do you need her?’ and I was like ‘in an hour…” haha. But yeah, she was great she came over and modelled nude and it was awesome. I don’t remember her name.
So you said you guys were recording at the moment, tell me about that?
In the last three weeks we wrote eighteen songs and then we narrowed it down to fifteen and then we booked a studio in L.A. and we’re recording right now. We’ll be finished in two weeks and have the record out in September.
Cool! What do the songs sound like?
It’s not very far off from everything else we’re getting a bit more of a grown up sound on it. It’s tighter and more developed, its sounding good, I’m happy about it.
Are there any bands that are really popular at the moment that you just don’t understand why?
(laughs) Oh yeah but luckily I’m so far out of the loop I don’t even know their names. That’s just the way shit is going now 90% of it is either talentless or fake, but that’s not for me to decide or care about, I just worry about my own music.
Aw man, I was trying to get you to hate on someone.
(laughs) I know, I’m like “fuck I don’t even know these bands names!” The last thing I actually heard and enjoyed was the bands we’re gonna be playing with in Australia and I’m delighted because a lot of other stuff sounds pretty shit.
So what kind of show should fans expect when going to your’ shows on this tour? Will be it a ‘best of’ kinda gig or will you mainly be playing songs off Gilded Pleasures and Hung at Heart?
We might flirt with playing one of the songs from the new record we’re making now, but it’ll mainly be a combination of everything from Are You in or Out? to Gilded Pleasures.
Lastly, I know you guys fucking love to get your thrift on for shows and I’ve seen you tell fans to dress up for some gigs too. Would you want anyone to dress up for any of your Australian shows?
Yeah man, I’m in to that, I mean, its fun! Dressing up enables you to pretend to be something other than yourself for a night which is always fun. I mean… if people wanna get weird I’m all for it.
If you’re in Australia then you can check these guys out in March for their upcoming tour at the following venues:
Wednesday 5th March – Black Bear Lodge, Brisbane – Tickets.
Thursday 6th March – Coolangatta Hotel, Gold Coast – Tickets.
Friday 7th March – Oxford Art Factory, Sydney – Tickets.
Saturday 8th March – The Tote, Melbourne – Tickets.
The Growlers interview by James Booker.