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INTERVIEW: The Growlers’ Brooks Nielsen

Garage-psychedelic rock group The Growlers – comprised of Brooks Nielsen, Matt Taylor, Scott Montoya, Kyle Straka, and Anthony Braun Perry – is one of modern music most underrated acts. The band’s live-for-surf style has been embraced by loyal fans and rock aficionados the world over. Formed in 2006, the group’s genre-bending tones and raw enthusiasm gave birth to what they coin ‘Beach Goth’. Their music, born from their California roots, is a spirited blend of surf guitar, honky tonk, and steely rock-metal vibes. Known for manic stage performances and laid-back attitudes, they put across a profound love of music and positivity.

The band celebrated a wildly successful 2014, releasing new album Chinese Fountain. Their last Australian tour delivered sold-out shows and unforgettable parties. Currently, the group is enjoying our blistering surf conditions and scorching heat. Reaching WA for the first time, heir tour stretches across this wide, brown land and bright, golden beaches to confer with their overwhelming down-under fan base.

Music writer Tom Munday caught up with Nielsen to chat about the industry, their origins, and the thrill of music:

1. How did the band first come together?

Matt and I started the band in San Celemente, just as an excuse to party and an excuse to move away into the city and get a shot at making music. The writing became a little more serious and obvious that we might have had something.

2. The Growlers has reached immense critical and commercial acclaim, what was the moment you realised you had achieved success?

I don’t know if there are actually any milestones like that to actually count because a lot of this seems a little like smoke and mirrors – playing big stages and then eating bologna sandwiches. To us, I think we’re still a little unclear about it. I think it’s the little things like seeing the fans singing your songs and seeing the fans being fanatical more so than the radio playing you or getting into a specific festival.

3. You define your music as ‘Beach Goth’, how did you develop this particular style?

I don’t think it really sums us up, I don’t think anything really does. It’s kind of a difficult thing for bands but it’s something that’s very necessary because you’re constantly having people spread awareness of you through journalism or just talking about you. I’ve been in the surf scene so I know how much it actually does nail us, it seems a little more so in the beginning. But we’re from the beach, we do surf, and we play a lot of surfer beats and a lot of reverb on the guitars and singing dark material, singing about death, so it kind of makes sense now. It’s a fun one because it’s a bit big and interesting.

4. You have just released your new album, Chinese Fountain, what was the process behind this album’s conception?

It was everything, we were killing some more time to get even more creative. It’s really just us coming up with what we can under a deadline. We had everyone bringing whatever they have to the table trying to create something pretty out of it.

5. You originate from California, to what extent does your home life influence your music?

Our home influences everybody. Specifically, in Orange County, we were kind of in the shadow of L.A., we didn’t see a lot of it to influence us. We were alone, not really around a lot of bands. There were a few things in Long Beach that we saw like the Grand De La Gens and maybe the Crystal Limelight or something like that but we didn’t see much. We kind of had it easy down there but it’s a fun place to party to we could set up our own shows and make it that way. We were cut off from everyone, we had it all to ourselves, and we just wanted to have fun.

6. Your known for delivering highly theatrical music and live performances, how do you come up with your unique, out-there ideas?

It’s mostly just we want to have fun with it we’re not taking it too seriously. It’s definitely not a meeting we’re having like: “Hey, what should we do?”. A lot of it is just on a whim and we’re still doing ridiculous things here and there. Some shows are more straight forward and some are ridiculous. One night, we played with saran wrap around our heads and hole cut up through our mouths just because we saw Matt did it and thought it was hilarious. We do a lot of childish stuff but we give a little more time to actually pay attention to detail for some of the bigger shows we do, at home or all over.

7. You have played at some of world’s biggest music events, what are some of your tour highlights?

I don’t know, my mind is melting it’s becoming a serious problem. I can’t remember anybody’s names can’t remember any events. Just one big blur, really [laughs]. For us, we’re just lucky to be travelling. Everything about it is new to us.

8. Your currently on tour around Australia, what do you hope to get out of this experience?

We want to build something substantial to come back to. We want the type of fans that we have around the places that appreciate the fact that we are somewhat sacrificial. We spend more than half the year away from home to play with strangers. We just want more friends to party with and dance with.

9. It is certainly a tough industry to break into, and you have done a fantastic job, do you have any advice for anyone trying to get in today?

I don’t know, it’s a bit of talent and luck combining. It’s like anything else in life you just work hard at your craft and try to be legit and hold onto your integrity and that should be all.

The Growlers are playing next at:

January 17th, The Bakery

January 18th, The Dunsborough Hotel

Words by: Tom Munday