Posted July 21, 2019 by Jeff in Tunes

The Growlers Will Be Heard

Growlers (courtesy of Big Hassle)
Growlers (courtesy of Big Hassle)

While in the midst of a 25-date summer tour, Los Angeles-based rockers the Growlers announced another 25 dates for the fall. That tour kicks off in early September and includes two-night stands in Chicago and Seattle, a five-night Florida run that includes the Sing Out Loud Festival (alongside Kacey Musgraves, Kurt Vile and Phosphorescent), and first-time appearances in Northampton, MA, Chattanooga, TN, and Lexington, KY. It will end with the annual Beach Goth Halloween shows on October 31 and November 1 at the Hollywood Palladium. The surf-y band has a follow-up to 2018’s Casual Acquaintances in the works. Singer Brooks Nielsen spoke to us via phone.

The surf-y band has a follow-up to 2018’s Casual Acquaintances in the works. Singer Brooks Nielsen spoke to us via phone.

Dana Point, California seems like an unlikely place for a band to form. What was the music scene like there when the group started in 2009?

We’re from Dana Point, but I had moved out at 18 to go to San Clemente. There weren’t any bands. There were surfers. Sports were considered lame. There were drug addicts, and kids that fought. That was pretty much it. We had partied in L.A. and we had a friend in a band called the Grand Elegance in Long Beach. [Guitarist] Matt [Taylor] was into the straightedge hardcore scene. Then, he got into drinking and drugs. I wasn’t into music at all. I got into it late. I saw it as a way to get out of there. We put some songs together, and we split up to Long Beach to get close to something that resembled a real city.

The band has such a distinctive sound. What musical influences inform your approach?

For me, I got into Jamaican history. It sounded much more real to me. There were authentic guys coming from ghettos. They were avoiding gang stuff. It made more sense to me. It revolved around dancing and cutting loose and it came from a roughneck group of guys. Those were the guys I thought were stylish. I had seen that in the blues and other types of music, but I couldn’t relate to as much because I heard white people do such bad blues for so long that I kind of wrote it off. It’s not like white people have done any better with reggae.

Where’d the term “Beach Goth” come from?

I think you pick a name and you’re stuck with it. We heard older guys talk about taking a growler when they were taking a shit. We liked that because we were kinda shitty at the time. A month later, we were like, “Is that our name?” We were stuck with it. It was an alternate name. We surfed but didn’t care at all about the surf industry. It stuck, and people need something to write about. It was just a phrase, but they took it and ran with it. Now, I’m totally okay with it. It centers on parties where anything goes. It became our mini scene because we weren’t connected to anything else. We just threw our own parties.

How’d you wind up on Everloving Records?

Through surfing. I had a genius/psychopath neighbor who was a surfboard shaper. We were both young and going for it. This guy was this purveyor of cool. He saw something growing in Costa Mesa and this under-the-radar surf scene that was less about commercialism and more about having fun. He saw us and asked us if we wanted to be serious. We didn’t, but he convinced us we should be. I took it literally and we wrote eight records in eight months. I thought, “We can do this.” We jumped on and started touring and went into debt.

That’s when shit gets real and when you know you’re a band. It’s when you jump into poverty. You get to work really hard but you don’t get paid. You just owe people money.

You started Beach Goth in 2012. What did it take to launch your own festival?

It was a lot of learning. There’s a cliché about how messed up this industry is. We learned that. The guy we thought was a friend was a rat. He tried to steal from us. He screwed us. We fought back and won. We realized no one wants to hear your story. Nobody cares. That’s how the business works. You know you’re successful if you’re getting sued. You’re not going to get any help or sympathy. We shut our mouths and suffered for a long time. It’s worth it to us. It’s our thing. We created it. We don’t take it lightly. We want people to come again next year.

How’d you hook up with [the Strokes’] Julian Casablancas for City Club?

I’m not exactly sure. We met him and played a couple of shows opening for him when he went solo, but there wasn’t a lot of communication. He talked to my wife at the bar and was like, “Are those guys making any money?” She’s like, “Absolutely not.” He said he wanted to work with us. It’s a cool collaboration. He’s somebody we were listening to when rock ’n’ roll was on the radio, which isn’t happening any more.

What made you want to draw on African rhythms?

Matt and I never talk much about anything. We never say what we should sound like. Saying what we should sound like is taboo. It’s like you’re trying too hard. There were few conversations. I asked what he wanted to sound like. He said, “Grateful Dead.” I was thinking “Johnny Cash with Iggy Pop singing.” He has punk roots. He likes popular music and for me, it’s been rootsy, raw stuff. I want rhythms that anyone can dance to. It has different tempos and that happens in Afro-funk and early reggae that I like.

What prompted the lo-fi album Casual Acquaintances?

For Hung at Heart, we wrote 60 songs. It was a 15-song record. For City Club, we wrote maybe 60. The industry isn’t set up to throw it all out there. We were sitting on a bank of stuff. I wanted to throw it out there. I don’t know how wise that is. I still have no idea how this business works. We were enjoying it. We just put them out. We were going to put out all 40 of them.

I really like “Problems III.”

That one got close to being on City Club. It almost got on the record. Julian didn’t care for it. It was a confusing situation. We didn’t know where it was. I didn’t forget it. To me, it was an anthem to me. We put it out there and now I think it was right.

Are you working on new material? How similar or different will it sound compared with past material?

The new one is produced by Matt and I. It’ll be out in about 10 seconds. I’m going to get on the phone next week and figure out how to get it out there. We’ll be leaking songs on this tour, and I will get vinyl into people’s hands as soon as I can. It’s a true Growlers record. We’re slow growers. It’s another extension of us. It’s in the realm of City Club and old Growlers, and we’re happy with it.  

Photo courtesy of Big Hassle


Jeff started writing about rock ’n’ roll some 20 years ago when he stood in the pouring rain to hitch hike his way to see R.E.M. on their Life’s Rich Pageant tour. Since that time, he's written for various daily newspapers, alt-weeklies, magazines and websites. Feel free to comment on his posts or suggest music, film and art to him at jeff@whopperjaw.net.