3,000 miles away from the California surf, Flaunt sat down with the Costa Mesa based psychedelic-rock band The Growlers to chat about their music, success, and the road in between. The wildly outgoing quintet -- featuring vocalist Brooks Nielsen, guitarist Matt Taylor, bassist Anthony Perry, keyboardist Kyle Straka and drummer Scott Montoya (who unfortunately was unable to join the band for this interview and photo shoot) -- started in 2006. In 2008 the band created a series of self-released albums called Couples, which grabbed the attention of many with their entrancing 1960’s Californian surf rock n’ roll sound. Shortly after the Couples series, the band released their first two albums, Are You In or Are You Out? (2009) and Hot Tropics (2010), with Los Angeles label, Everloving. Now, after releasing two 7”records, working with Dan Auerbach of The Black Keys, and gaining a following of people world-wide, they are closing their North American Tour and anticipating the release of their third album Hung at Heart.
We caught up with the band on a stoop in Brooklyn, NY, only a few hours before their show at the Music Hall of Williamsburg.
So how’s the tour going? It’s almost done right?
Brooks: Yeah. It’s pretty wicked sick.
Matt: We did west coast, a little up and down.
Kyle: Then we did the all around-er.
And it all started with FYF in LA?
Brooks: Yeah it started with FYF, we basically moved out of everywhere else. Hit the road homeless, go back and figure that one out. So that was the beginning of it, and it has been 5 weeks. And yeah it’s been really good actually, we’ve been hitting places that usually, ya know mid-west, east coast, places we haven’t really been to. Still every show has been good.
Craziest story from tour so far?
Brooks: Uhh… we don’t really have much of a memory on tour. Let me try and tell you where we were last night.
Anthony: Umm… Niagara falls?
Kyle: Anthony lost his sunglasses and then we found them, which was pretty crazy.
Matt: That was cray-cray.
Anthony: That didn’t happen…
Brooks: The van got towed.
Matt: Oh yeah!
Where did that happen?
Brooks: In Chicago. That was like the first time that we partied really hard, came back to the van and it was gone. And what else crazy happened? Just the shows. I mean The Growlers fans are fucking weirdos. They go off.
Kyle: The San Francisco show was pretty crazy.
Matt: Yeah, the San Francisco show was crazy.
Where did you guys play in San Francisco?
Matt: We played at the college, San Francisco State and the kids were trying to like ram through the barrier.
Kyle: It was like kids vs. kids.
Anthony: It was kids security vs. kids pushing.
Matt: Hot cute little girls with their faces all distorted in pain, getting smashed in the front, and then there are girls trying to push them back. But they were still hot from the neck down.
Brooks: Then there were a couple of heroes that like fought the security.
Matt: They had to get the cooks out of the kitchen to come help hold the barrier. The principle came on a microphone and we were like “Fuck school!”
I’m just kidding.
How was playing FYF? It had a great line up.
Brooks: Yeah, FYF I think was the most fun festival we have played this year.
Yeah, you guys have been all over the festivals this year.
Brooks: Yeah. It got better each time.
Matt: We didn’t know what to do at a festival.
Brooks: Yeah, we are learning.
Matt: Figuring it out.
What was the first festival you guys played?
Brooks: Well big one, Coachella. Then on to Lollapalooza, where we played a little better, a little more comfortable and then FYF, we went off. They gave us permission to kind of do what we wanted with the stage, so we got to add some antics.
So, the new album Hung at Heart? You guys must be excited for the release.
Brooks: Yeah, fuck. It took forever, but we got a release date. It’s January.
Oh, it got pushed back to January now?
Brooks: Yeah, it got pushed. Again.
Kyle: Yeah it got pushed back two years.
Soon to be released… in 2015.
Brooks: Yeah. Exactly.
Matt: We want it to be vintage when it comes out.
Brooks: We are putting out a cassette tape on Oct. 19th. Which are the demos for the Hung at Heart album. And then the Hung at Heart album will be out in January.
How was working with Dan Auerbach?
Brooks: It was cool, it was really, really fun. But we didn’t actually use that record. We threw it away and redid the record.
Brooks: Yeah, but we still love him! He’s the man actually. I mean, we partied the whole time, and worked our asses off. But it just wasn’t right, so we did it over.
We got a sneak peak listen of the song “A Million Lovers” off the new album. Sounded really great.
Brooks: Rad! Glad you liked it.
Yeah, it’s a lot more sophisticated than the older sound.
Matt: Great! We’re not regressing!
No, definitely not!
Brooks: Um, yeah, I mean we started as complete amateurs that didn’t know shit about music. Didn’t know how to play anything. So, it’s been a slow process. But that’s the fun part. We are definitely getting better and better.
Matt: Really focusing on finger placement.
Did you guys ever expect that it would turn into this?
Brooks: Uh, I don’t know.
Kyle: It was destined.
Brooks: I knew one day I’d be sitting on a stoop in New York
Anthony: Whether you were a bum, or you were playing across the street.
Brooks: Yeah, I don’t know, when we first started we were just like yeah let’s make a band, let’s go for it. I don’t think anyone was, “Oh we are gonna make it big, blah blah blah.” We didn’t even know if we were going to tour for a while. Then once we wrote a certain amount of songs, it’s like “alright, we’re a band. Yeah we should go on tour.” Then we began the talks of signing to a label, getting some help, quit our jobs and dis is the life.
How old were you guys when you started?
Brooks: 21. Late bloomers, I didn’t even really get into music until I was like 18.
And you guys all met back at home?
Matt: Yeah pretty much all went to high school together.
Kyle: We weren’t friends in high school though.
Brooks: Anthony we know from surfing and from music.
Oh sweet. So tell us what we can expect from the Hung at Heart album.
Kyle: Uh, more sophisticated songs…?
Matt: It’s a little happier than our other stuff.
Kyle: It’s beautiful man!
Brooks: There’s some happy songs, some love songs, some creepy shit. There’s everything. We got funky.
Wow, got some funky bass lines thrown in there?
Anthony: Oh, yeah! I’m funky!
Kyle: Common, common, it’s beautiful. Beautiful.
Anthony: Look at my sunglasses
They do scream, “I am funky!”
Brooks: Yeah, it’s definitely a step up from what we’ve done. We had never done an actual record in the studio, so that in itself is a change, and we tried to bring in some styles we haven’t really fucked with.
Kyle: Fucking with some styles.
Brooks: It’s kind of sexy, so…
Matt: Yeah it’s pretty sexy.
Brooks: It’s a long album. We jammed it full.
Anthony: Jammed it full!
Is it all music you guys wrote somewhat recently?
Brooks: Yeah, well it doesn’t feel like it now. But before recording it we just wrote as many songs as we could.
Matt: Yeah like two weeks before.
Kyle: I mean we had stock piles of songs but…
Brooks: We had to put together like 60 songs or so, and then narrowed it down to 18 when we went in the studio, and now it’s 15.
And can we just talk about Uncle Sam’s A Dick? How was recording that?
Kyle: Oh, that was a bender.
Matt: It was a bender.
Brooks: Yeah dude, that was. We always seem to do our, when we are recording at home, the day before it is do. And uh, no time to sleep, so yeah, we went on a bender for that one. Uncle Sam’s A Dick is a weird song that Matt wrote. I don’t think he thought we would ever use it, but I heard it and I was like this song is awesome! And it took me a while to figure out how to sing to it, and at the time I was pissed off because I got a huge ticket for cigarette littering so I went on a little rant.
We actually went over the boarder in Canada, coming home from Canada, and the cops like searched our van and he comes out and is like “Really guys really?” And we are like “What? Shit.” And he’s like “Uncle Sam’s a Dick?”
Matt: Scared us shitless, but he just saw our record.
Have you had any funny reactions while playing it live?
Brooks: I think everyone was most weird when we played it in Washington D.C. Because they’re all like “What? We love Uncle Sam! We ask him for things every year.”
Matt: Canada is funny. When we played it in Canada, because they’re like “Yeah!” They all hate America.
Brooks: Yeah, little shits. All they wanted to do was talk politics.
When did you guys play in Canada?
Kyle: Uh, a week ago or something?
Brooks: This tour we went to Vancouver and Toronto.
Anthony: And Montreal over the summer. Montreal was cool.
Matt: Yeah! Really nice people.
Brooks: Really nice people. Really hot chicks everywhere.
Anthony: A lot of weed.
Brooks: Great syrup, pretty much the best bacon. It’s more like ham.
Kyle: It’s a bit smoked.
Brooks: Crappy whiskey.
Matt: They actually have good radio up there.
Anthony: They play good tunes on the radio.
Brooks: Oh, shit! They have so much more radio than us. It’s not fair. Every click is a radio station. Every type of music, it’s really cool.
So is there anything that majorly influenced or inspired the new album?
Brooks: Um, yeah. There’s a bit of country because we spent 10 days in Nashville. That’s kinda where the name came from. This old country guy.
Kyle: This guy talking shit.
Matt: This guy, this cowboy, he’s like 80 years old and Scotts friends came over from back home, and one of the chicks ended up making out with the guy, and she’s like 25 or something, it was really weird.
But anyway, that was his quote to her; he was like “I’m hung at heart.”
Brooks: Scott bailed on us dude. I’d like to let the people of Flaunt Magazine know that Scott didn’t make this interview because he is selfish, and probably sleeping.
Matt: Or both
Brooks: Oh yeah, he’s probably lost.
Matt: He’s lost while sleeping.
Brooks: Give him the benefit of the doubt, he’s lost.
Matt: If there’s anyone that could be lost while sleeping, it’s definitely Scott.
Kyle: He’s probably standing over there, outside the venue.
[points to the Music Hall of Williamsburg]
Matt: Wondering where we are.
Have you guys played the Music Hall of Williamsburg before?
Brooks: I’ve never been in there. We’ve heard it’s cool. Everywhere we have played in New York City has been cool.
Where to next?
Brooks: Where do we play tomorrow?
Matt: We play at Clark University tomorrow, in Massachusetts.
And how are you guys traveling?
Brooks: By van. A big, wide, handicap van.
Matt: We cruise in a big white van.
Did you guys renovate the van?
Anthony: Yeah, there’s a couch in there. It used to be a pull out couch originally.
Brooks: Sexy vibes.
Matt: It’s got a cool lounge vibe.
Wow, that sounds awesome.
Kyle: Yeah, there is some pretty cool stuff in there.
It must be a pretty wild feeling. You guys have come a long way since Couples.
Brooks: Mhm, yeah. That’s what this tape we are releasing is. The home recordings, which everyone seems to like more than everything else. So it should be rad. It’s been too long for a record, they’ve been recycling old material, everything old, found on the Internet. And are like “I wanna hear that song!” And I’m like “I don’t even remember that song! Thanks for reminding me, that was a good one.”
Sorry, we don’t know it.
Anthony: We went back and actually learned a couple songs from the Couples.
Brooks: Didn’t we learn a song from somebody else that covered it on the Internet?
Matt: I looked up some kids tabs for one of our songs, because I forgot it.
And the kid was wrong! There is this one kid that makes YouTube videos covering our songs. He’ll come out with this big ax guitar in his room and he plays along with the CD player.
Brooks: It’s so good; he does everybody’s parts. He knows everything. That’s the thing; if anyone wants to screw around in this band you’re out of here! We can just get him.
Have you ever talked to him?
Brooks: Uh, I have talked to him at a show once.
Matt: I hope he sees this.
Have you guys been squeezing in time to go surfing?
Matt: Yeah! We went surfing yesterday.
Kyle: In Jersey!
Brooks: All the beautiful brown waves. They were so brown. All the rain runoff from New York City.
Anthony: I was rollerblading on my surfboard, it was pretty crazy.
Kyle: Water blading.
Anthony: Just had to one up the squirrels out there, they were learning that shit.
And it’s been 5 weeks since you’ve been in Cali?
Matt: We were home for like 3 days, but yeah, basically.
Kyle: I miss Cali man.
Are you guys driving back?
Anthony: Well, four of us are. They’re flying and we are driving. Because we are unfortunate. We pulled straws, they won.
Brooks: No, we’ve got a warehouse on lock, so I’m going to go home and sign the contract and start building it. Building a rehearsal room.
Have you guys started writing any new music while on tour?
Brooks: No, not really. A few ideas are a brewing. We’ve come up with little things here and there. Little jigs.
Aren’t we kind of like a boy band? Like we all have our different boy band character.
Brooks: I think so.
Well, what are they?
Brooks: I think Anthony is the sporty one.
Matt: I’m Justin Timberlake.
Brooks: Matt is the GQ.
Anthony: I’m the sporty one?
Brooks: Kyle is the hobo version.
Kyle: Yeah! Nice!
Brooks: And I’m the chancho.
There ya go, The Growlers 2012 boy band edition.
Brooks: Aren’t we?
Matt: Chancho ain’t that sweet.
Kyle: Ayy! Chancho ain’t that sweet!
Anthony: Just look for upcoming songs like “Chancho Ain’t That Sweet.”
[group laughs and start singing]
Well thanks for hanging out and chatting guys! Excited for the show tonight!
Brooks: Yeah! Thank you!
Written by Lili Peper