Not even a studio fire can upset the mood of Brooks Nielsen. The Growlers frontman talks candidly to Benny Doyle about new music, drunken revelry gone wrong and being strange.

The tide has barely drifted away from Gilded Pleasures, the 2013 mini-album from California surf/psych crew The Growlers, but already frontman Brooks Nielsen is talking up new tunes, admitting that before the northern summer rolls into life, the prolific act will be dropping yet another record to add to their ever-growing catalogue.

“It’s just a natural thing – you go out on the road and play the same songs, you get home and you want to make more,” he reasons. “You’re a slave to the calendar, you’ve got to be ahead of the schedule in order to get a record out, [but] we constantly want to be putting as much music as we can out – it’s fun to make records. The only way we really work is to have deadlines, otherwise we just kinda fuck off.”

Formed in 2006, the Costa Mesa institution offer an absorbing and attractive musical snapshot of their Californian home. The Growlers sound like a hot afternoon; they feel like the salt in your hair. Their wonky and weird songs practically demand that you pile into a beat-up ride and disappear south of the border. However, the making of this new album hasn’t come without its drama, which according to Nielsen is a bit of a theme.

“A dipshit friend threw a firework into our space and lit our studio on fire, just being a drunk, which we do all the time, but that one just happened to… he didn’t notice and it lit our merchandise on fire and it lit the whole studio on fire, which got out of control really quick,” he explains.

“The last record and this record we’ve had problems right before we made it. Last record we got evicted from our warehouse, so we had to put everything in storage, make the record, and then leave on tour, and the same thing happened this time, our house just burned down so whatever’s left I’ve got to put in storage, then we’re going to make this record and cruise over to Australia and forget about it.”

If you haven’t picked up by now, Nielsen is a pretty easygoing character. But don’t be fooled – The Growlers are the real deal. This is a band that has played Rock In Rio and Coachella, and one that has drawn love from the likes of The Flaming Lips’ Wayne Coyne and The Black Keys’ Dan Auerbach. They even called on Auerbach to produce last year’s Hung At Heart, only for them to scrap the sessions to oversee proceedings once more.

Their ‘beach goth’ sound is entirely their own and they’ll spread those vibes here for the very first time, channelling the camaraderie and community that they’ve helped stimulate at their yearly October parties on the sands of southern Cali.

“From the beginning it was always about throwing our own little warehouse parties, finding abandoned spaces and different places and doing underage shows with everyone getting drunk and people being total weirdos,” smiles Nielsen. “The industry kind of forces you to do the opposite and just play venues and bars and festivals, and it’s kind of our one time once a year where we can do what we’ve always done which is throw a weird little custom show where we control everything in it.

“[At the start], we weren’t [even] sure about being a band really, it was just a fun thing to do,” he continues. “But the more songs we wrote the more apparent it came to us like, ‘Maybe we should be a band?’ And until you’re really getting in trouble for [acting out] it’s just fun. But the lifestyle changed y’know – when we had to work 40 hours a week and be in a band it was difficult; at night time we were getting loose and making music, and then the next day [we were having to] put on a uniform and go to work. But as it changed to us not having to go back to the normal nine-to-five, it enabled us to never have to be straight anymore, we could just be weird full-time.”

And the band are all out encouraging their Aussie brethren of misfits to get weird with them, although most of Nielsen’s warped threads have been reduced to ash. However, he’s hoping to find some new gear to rock out in while Down Under, so get a wig on, grab your dad’s robe and party like it’s Halloween. “People tend to get more loose when they’re pretending to be something else,” the vocalist shrugs, “so it works out to our benefit.”

Benny Doyle

Originally published at

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