If nonchalance were an art form, the Growlers would be a bunch of Old Masters. "When we started we sucked," explained frontman Brooks Neilsen to JellyBlog. "We called ourselves the Growlers cause we were shitty, and 'growler' is a term for taking a shit." Neilsen & Co. might thrive on self-deprecation, but there's more going on here than scatology. The Growlers exude slackerdom: the languid, throbbing tempos (imagine garagey psych with a reggae infusion), Neilsen's '70s-porn-star mustache and a bandwide love for surfing. But this is deep-feeling music with a well-considered aesthetic.
The band's latest single, "Gay Thoughts," sums up this paradox perfectly. The video is all kitsch, with Neilsen dressed in campy cowboy attire and the band performing against a cheap cable-access-style backdrop. "I try to stop all these gay thoughts and feelings," drones Neilsen in his '70s-Dylan-y whine. "I don't know where they come from." The song's bluntness is disarming but surprisingly poignant, a fine illustration of the way the Growlers can creep up on you.
The band began in 2006, when Neilsen and guitarist Matt Taylor, buddies from the Orange County city of Dana Point, devised a creative action plan. "Matt and I started writing songs and we had a simple idea in mind," Neilsen told JellyBlog. "Let's move to Long Beach, make music and try to get away from people." That last part is key: The hard-touring Growlers have linked up with like-minded acts (Chicago psych weirdos the Entrance Band, for one), but the band clearly answers to its own muse, favoring old-school film stock for its videos and analog equipment for its recordings. Like a beach-town burnout turned sage, Neilsen ties the band's jangly creations together with his offbeat ruminations on morality, family, love and friendship. So far this formula has yielded healthy buzz (Bill Murray himself graced one of the band’s SXSW shows), a slew of EPs and two full-lengths, including 2010's Hot Tropics. Pretty impressive for a band named after a bowel movement.
Long Beach, CA
Brooks Nielson, Scott Montoya, Matt Taylor, Brian “don’t surf” Stewart, Kyle Straka