photographer/ MONET LUCKI
story /SARA WRIGLEY
California natives of the dreamy, surf-rock band, The Growlers, are notorious not only for their intoxicated, hypnotic performances—sometimes done in drag—but for their ability to completely unhinge an interviewer. Lead Singer Brooks Nielson and guitarist Matt Taylor did an NBC interview wearing a bright yellow, floral sheet with holes cut for their heads, snickering the entire time. On another generic indie blog, when asked what one of the most embarrassing memories from being on tour was, they responded, “Maybe that question you just asked.” During a radio feature, Nielson eats soup in between song verses. Masters of an across the board no-fucks mentality—except, obviously, when it comes to music—I unfortunately, was not exempt, from their general and unsubtle disdain for the media side of the music business. Nielson bit the bullet and crammed into a photo booth with me, as I muttered incessant tequila soaked apologies, before their Brooklyn Union Pool show and was dispassionate but judicious in answering my questions.
There’s something impressive in the Growlers’ ability to circumvent what most musicians feel pressured to play into, the kind of soulless self packaging that comes with countless interviews: the “demytistified greatness” to which Ty Segall, someone with a similar if not more reticent approach, refers to in his Pitchfork feature. It is part of their charm. Nielson sings a line from the Elvis song saying he feels, “Like a puppet on a string,” sometimes, but that “The little things remind you of how great all of this is.” When asked about the method to the madness of his performances, Nielson says that it’s a way of infusing a liveliness that gets lost amidst the repetition of incessant touring.
Although, on the page, the band’s aesthetic could be outlined as a stereotypically 60’s nostalgic, psychedelia, surf rock. They have an alternate approach to the hippy school bus, theirs named Lizzie with the words California Church Teen Choir painted around a large black crucifix. They’ve got the heavy drug use down, too. But there’s something completely eerie and other-wordly to their music that warrants their existence outside that overpopulated California music trope. They define it as “Surf Goth.” Call it what you will.
The band Scott Montoya, (drums) Anthony Braun Perry, (bass) Kyle Straka, (keyboards and guitar) Brooks Nielson, (vocals), and Matt Taylor (lead guitar) just released their fourth album Hung at Heart came out early this year. On a much lyrically somber note, this album has a maturation and earnestness that speaks of a tangible artistic growth. The music is still effortless, sultry, Nielson’s lyrics still inescapable. “We grew up. It’s just what happens.” He says of the band’s new direction. It seems as though their negative reception of journalists is mere protection of everything they feel to be sacred about music. Talking to Brooks Nielson now it feels more as though their early outward performance of not taking anything to seriously has faded and that the misplaced anger seems to have somewhat slipped away. “I’m gunna be making records until I’m dead. My band’s like my family.” In the end that’s all that matters.