The Growlers or Riding the Crest of a Californian Wave.

The Growlers or Riding the Crest of a Californian Wave.

The Growlers or Riding the Crest of a Californian Wave.

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With 4 albums and 5 EPs released, a solid fan-base including Bill Murray, I’m amazed not many people have heard of this 5-piece band. But the ones who have are converts because listening to their music is buying the lifestyle that comes with it. If you think you’re too old to fall in love with a band, you clearly don’t know them and boy, do I envy you. Falling under the spell of the devil’s music when you’re well into your twenties must be one of the most underrated delights of human life.
With their forthcoming album Chinese Fountain (on FatCat Records) out on September 29th, it’s a good time to introduce them and come back on their short but prolific career.

The Growlers could not be cooler if they tried. Rooted in sunbathed and palm tree lined South California, their effortless surfer looks make the girls feel weak at the knees and the boys question their sexuality.
Lead guitar player, Matt Taylor, has definitely found the magic formula to come up with riffs so catchy they can induce insomnia. Brook Nielsen’ smoker’s voice is the perfect match to the lo-fi sound of tortured guitar effects. His words drool impeccably on the bluesy charming weirdness of their music.
Nielsen is covered in black ink and is a fervent thrift store snooper. His clothes mirror the band’s music: lost in time but strangely trendy.
If happiness and languish melancholy could come in a liquefied form, the Growlers would surely have the patent over it.

Their first LP Greatest sHits is an organised mess of an album and the hardest to comprehend. Think acid trip, broken glass and reverberating late 60’s guitar sounds and you’re not far from it. The 18 minutes ‘Johnson’s Gone’ is the kind of background music a self-proclaimed shaman from the Mojave Desert would use to coax someone into hypnotism.

Are You In or Out has more of a recognisable form. It still features distorted merry-go-round type music samples but the tracks are tighter. ‘Acid Rain’ is an ode to saturated colours dripping onto Nielsen’s lips “and the blues of my baby leaving turned into green”.

Their third release, Hot Tropics, continues in the same unmistakable musical vein but Nielsen has grown up and got angrier. Perhaps realising that there’s life after Orange County. The opening track ‘Graveyard’s full’ comments on the sustainability of the earth. That’s a big jump from beach life themes of surf, parties and girls.

Hung at Heart is composed of 15 compelling tracks and every single one of them is a hit. As simple as that. ‘Beach Rats’ is introduced by a seductive bass line and captures the end of the summer perfectly. The slow tempo and jumpy guitar speak for a youthful verve that is burning out. The song is about a friend that has chosen drugs in favour of the love for surfing and Nielsen croons, “Feeling free with no rules in the sea, but even fish eventually drown.”

In Not. Psych!, The Growlers make a point of being outside any music genre and continue on their multi-influenced musical journey. But if they were riding the tidal wave of their twenties, this unputdownable collection of tracks suggest that they finally accepted adulthood as an inescapable fatality. ‘Dogheart II’ could not be more explicit: “Little girls don’t last forever, enjoy them while you can, they’re made for little boys and soon you’ll be a man.”

Underneath their bright and upbeat sound hides very dark stories and internal turmoil. These contrasting qualities produce a unique band and the fact that they stick to independent labels might be why you haven’t heard from them yet.
I love that they produce their own records in a short period of time using analogue equipment. Their strength lies in being part of a tight network of friends and talented artists. Allah-Las, The Abigails and Tomorrow Tulips are part of this trip.
Taylor Bonin, their official photographer and filmmaker plays a significant part in moulding the band’s quirky image. Most of their music videos are shot on super 8 cameras and the grainy, spasmodic shots fit their irrational music like a dream.

Subsequently to their new album, The Growlers will be touring Europe once again. The Village Underground will host them on November 13th and I’ll be there hoping that wave has not crashed yet.

Words – Marine Guichard