Interview: The Growlers ride the wave
The Growlers are firmly atop the crest of the Californian surf-garage wave, and with the recent release of “Chinese Fountain”, their third full-length album, they’re continuing to ride it out. The shaggy-haired troupe are about to embark on a sweeping tour of Australia which will see them cruise up the coast for the next month. Chloe Mayne speaks to vocalist Brooks Nielson as they hit the highway:
Hey Brooks! Where are you right now?
On the road… in Australia. Going to a soundcheck. We’re playing Newcastle tonight.
If you could step back and tap yourself on the shoulder twelve months ago, how would you describe 2014?
It was a hell of a year. A lot of crazy things happened. It was stressful, but we conquered it. We got out two records and kinda weaved through all the bullshit. We did more travelling than we’d done yet. It would have to be the most stressful, fun year we’ve had. With the most hardships.
I guess one of the biggest things that happened for you guys this year was the release of Chinese Fountain. How would you describe the album’s conception?
There was a whole lot to it. We keep doing these records that take two weeks, no time, and that’s what we talked about. We toured extensively, and in between you get the call that you’ve got to make a record. We made Chinese Fountain in one month from scratch.
I’ve listened to Chinese Fountain a bunch, and to me there’s something a bit different about it compared with previous records, the mood almost seems melancholy. Would you agree?
[laughs] I would agree, but I think that our stuff always is. People come to live shows and they meet us and we’re pretty cheery, and our lifestyle, we’re always partying – it comes across as a wilder thing than it is, as far as the music goes. Then they actually sit down and listen and they’re like “wait a minute, these guys kinda wrote… grown up stuff?”. I think maybe we don’t know how to market ourselves properly, and people get a little confused.
Even the song titles – ‘Black Memories’, that’s a sad one, and then there’s ‘Magnificent Sadness’…
Yeah! There’s definitely some of that there [laughs]. You get older, and there’s these things around you all the time, and I just write about it.
I guess, in the same vein, the lyrics to ‘Dull Boy’ seem to be a social commentary of sorts; it’s about kids stuck in a small town, drinking their lives away and wishing for something better. What’s the story behind that one?
I think I’ve done it a couple of times now; moved away from Orange County up to LA, and before that it was… “Oh, I’ve just gotta get away”, moving from one town to the one next door. Then I’ve gotta get out of that place and move to the actual city. It got too small again, so I ran away again. So I was just talking about that in ‘Dull Boy’. I mean, no matter where I’m at I’m gonna do some unhealthy thing, like drink too much. I’ll have issues no matter where I am, but it just feels a little more dead-end when you’re in these small towns.
How would you describe your home town?
Nothing for children, other than the obvious things, you know, if your parents have money and put you into sports or different programs, but I don’t know how much I really care about any of that. All there really was was surfing. Beyond that, I think there was the prom, and there weren’t any record stores or anything cool for young people. They weren’t giving out any liquor licenses, so there were just one or two watering holes. It was really lacking. Beautiful spot, amazing history, great beaches, but… You want to get the fuck out of there.
So you’re living in LA now? I’m really curious, because I’ve met a few bands from there this year, such as Allah-Las and Foxygen, who both had pretty different things to say about the place. Allah-Las made it sound like the most amazing place in the world.
Yeah, they love it [laughs]. And I think it is a little bit, too. First of all, it’s different for us because we’re gone so much. We’re only there five months of the year, maybe, so every time we come home there’s not enough time. We get home, and we’ve gotta go. So I’m a little biased. My girl’s always been in LA and I’ve always been in Orange County, so in that sense it’s great. It has so much to offer depending on how deep you want to get into it. It’s very spread out. It’s dramatically different; you can go from the West Side where you’re surfing and then into the city, where there’s all the nightlife and some of the best music in the world. There’s a bit of everybody there. I’m in Downtown, so I just tend to hang out in the Mexican neighbourhoods, I really love it.
You guys are going to be playing a bunch of shows in Australia, and you were here just last year. What are your impressions of the place?
It feels very Southern California. I know it’s our band and our fans but we never really get to venture out to much because, you know, it’s touring and we’ve gotta be playing every night or else we’ll never be home. But it feels very Californian; Californian boys and girls, and people have a lot of fun. They’re a lot more loose than the Europeans. And it’s really pretty. A lot of tanned, happy people – we click with that right away.
If you’re in Aus, you can see The Growlers at the following venues this month:
Thursday, 8th January 2015 – The Small Ballroom, Newcastle
Friday, 9th January 2015 – The Roller Den, Sydney
Saturday, 10th January 2015 – Mona Vale Hotel, Mona Vale
Sunday, 11th January 2015 – Anita’s Theatre, Wollongong
Wednesday, 14th January 2015 – Corner Hotel, Melbourne
Thursday, 15th January 2015 – Karova Lounge, Ballarat
Friday, 16th January 2015 – Barwon Club, Geelong
Wednesday, 21st January 2015 – The Great Northern, Byron Bay
Thursday, 22nd January 2015- Cooly Hotel, Coolangatta
Friday, 23rd January 2015 – The Triffid, Brisbane
Sunday, 25th January 2015 – Sol Bar, Maroochydore
For more upcoming Growlers live dates, including US shows go here.
Interview by Chloe Mayne.