THE GROWLERS: I GET MAD, I GET HOT, I GET PISSED
The Growlers come from where the surf (and the staph) hit the sand and release music like they’re paid by the minute: 25 songs wrapped up in their Greatest Hits—sort of their debut album?—and another 46 splattered across 8 volumes of their Couples EP-single-mini-album series, each of which came with a raucous release show of its own. They have just signed to Everloving and speak now from a room full of smoke and babies. This interview by Vanessa Gonzalez.
If you had unlimited money, what would your ultimate party be?
Matt Taylor (guitar): The ultimate party? All the money in the world? I dunno. A wall made of snacks. Buffalos with alien faces on—alien masks and suckling tits. A fake wave pool made of beer. Macaulay Culkin Home Alone.
Brooks Nielsen (vocals): And have that guy from House Party there with that fucking flat afro.
Warren Thomas said that you guys showed up to his compilation release show in a limo.
MT: No! That was our friends. I wish I was in the limo. I didn’t get the call till later. I went in there though. The guy thought I was in the limo before so I was drinking rum with the driver.
With the driver?
MT: The driver was smashed!
BN: That was Alex and Nolan from the Japanese Motors.
MT: It was Nolan’s birthday.
BN: Alex got him a limo.
What about your party at the Standard after you opened for the Japanese Motors?
BN: I didn’t go to that. Did you go?
MT: I didn’t go to that either.
I totally thought that was your deal.
MT: Did you go?
No, I just heard there was a Growlers party at the Standard. I was thinking, ‘Damn, the Growlers are getting so decadent!’
BN: No, that’s the Motors—they go OFF!
MT: Yeah, Japanese Motors ARE going off! Holy shit, we should’ve signed to Vice. We went to the Gold Room and got free tacos. Cat tacos and beer and tequila.
Is the Vice level of decadence something you want to attain?
MT: You know what, if I had a chance to get in that limo I would’ve, and if I didn’t have to work the next day I would’ve gone to the Standard. I would’ve put on some high heels and gone.
High heels? Where’d that come from?
MT: I don’t know. We were just looking at New York Dolls photos. High heel roller blades and glitter g-strings.
You guys have a song called ‘Tijuana.’ I take it you’ve been.
BN: Oh man…yeah, I have good Tijuana stories, but what happens in Tijuana…
MT: I’ve never done the crazy shit. I’ve never been to the donkey show or the bull fight or like a cock fight. I’ve just gotten drunk and gone to the nasty part of town where there’s all the strip clubs.
BN: Well I’ve been down to the Caguila. That’s where the whores are. That’s their zone. They all sit along the street and you can go by and kind of just pick one out and just kind of look at them weird and be like, ‘Is that a dude?’ But the donkey show is not a myth. That shit is the real deal where they flip a donkey upside down on its back and then the girls sit on the donkey dick, and that’s the show.
But you’ve only LOOKED for this?
BN: I’ve looked for it, yeah, and they’re like, ‘It’s over here, over there’ and I never found it. After a while you kind of give up/
MT: What are you doing?
BN: I’m a freak. It hurts my heart.
You guys mention scabs a lot. What’s that all about?
BN: Scabs are part like—when I get stoned, I turn into a scab. I start going, ‘Fuck, gotta get my shit together’ and start acting old.
There was that hotline you guys had for a while—949 something SKABS.
MT: That was just the coolest number we could get. KEG-BOYS was taken.
You mention it again on Couples 8—on the first track.
BN: Oh, ‘Hashimah Weed’—‘Fresh little girls make my thoughts bad. Make a young man feel like an old scab.’ We play shows and there’s like hot sixteen-year-old girls running around, and they look at you funny and you’re just like, ‘Get away from me. I can’t do that. I’m an old scab.’
MT: If I was ten years younger. Seriously though.
What is that song about? What is the chorus saying?
MT: ‘Yuhashama Weed Yuhashama.’
BN: Yeah, which means several different things. But it’s kind of one of those things you’d rather not say and let people keep coming up to us all drunk at shows and say, ‘Are you saying huffin’ my weed?’
MT: That’s a cover song though and it’s from this African band, so we don’t know what they’re saying. It’s just like ‘Shima Humah Heroin Shima Ha’
BN: Probably they’re talking about some revolutionary amazing thing and then we just made it up and butchered it. It sounds like they’re saying ‘I never want to do heroin.’ But it’s just their language. It’s weird—I don’t know what the hell they’re speaking either. We found it on a DJ compilation CD.
What are you saying in the part about your father being whiskers?
BN: Oh, ‘My mother was my whiskers, my father was my claws, and my grandpa was a chupacabra.’ I don’t know—it’s kind of in the way it is. Your mom’s the one that’s always like, looking out for you, and kind of gives you your whiskers, I guess. And my father was the asshole that told me to sock em’ back. And my grandpa was a barber, but chupacabra sounded better.
Who are authors and lyricists that you like?
BN: Shel Silverstein. Who else do I like? I like Bob Marley a lot, and any type of old folk and country because I like the storytelling. I like Jonathan Richman songs a lot—his song-writing has got an element of humor to it. He’s not a complete serious poet dude because that shit gets old real quick. It just seems like—I guess from my perspective—I start to think too much and think, ‘Dude, this sucks,’ and I have to write ‘tits’ or something.
MT: Back to reality.
What inspired the song ‘Killed My Woman’?
BN: That’s just one of those storytelling things. I’m just consistently having to write songs and I don’t always have something to say. It’s one of those things where you’re like, ‘I can’t put a pinpoint on it and say I was influenced by this.’ But I was definitely influenced by storytelling, Johnny Cash and all that type of vibe. I mean—I really wanted to kill this chick, but I didn’t have to because she just really wanted to kill herself and I was just kind of like, ‘Get me out of here.’ So I just wrote it like a fictional thing about maybe what I wanted to do. But I wouldn’t. Because murder is bad. Evil.
What about ‘Wet Dreams?’ ‘She’s always comin’ in my head and there’s a devil in our bed.’ Did that get you in trouble?
BN: Men are different than women, and a lot of people don’t like to say that but it’s damn true. We look at a chick’s legs or something and we go crazy—or boobs or whatever. It’s like we’re all battling ourselves. We have girlfriends that we love and like, but at the same time…
Hot sixteen year olds looking at you funny.
BN: It’s like an extreme version of that. Just kind of an idea.
What prompted you to write the song ‘Even Assholes Change’?
BN: I was a bit of an asshole when I was younger. I guess it was just growing up on the beach with a bunch of people there and you get kind of local and stupid—just hating anyone who was from the inland. And before that, just from school. Just hanging out with the wrong people and trying to be tough and stuff like that. I was just reflecting on it.
What made you change?
BN: A series of things. Weeding out the shitty people and hanging out with the good and being influenced by them and just getting older and educating myself. I don’t know what it was but there was rejection of like—I was anti-American from like school and stuff. I was like, ‘Yeah, America sucks.’ And I came to reject the whole religious type of thing and morals and values. And then I realized I don’t have to be religious to know what common sense is. It’s like a thing of wisdom—the older you get you gather more wisdom. You don’t have to be a religious freak to realize that there’s like, a space around you, and there’s a moral obligation to not be a fucking punk. It kind of came to me with starting to have some pride for my own actions. Just coming to the realization that happiness and being a good person is almost like a moral obligation. To be fucking negative or mean makes the world worse. I started reading books on weird stuff. I started looking into socialism and liberalism and then I felt like it wasn’t fair and I started looking into the other side of it. So I started looking into conservatism and stuff like that and I came across a couple rad speakers where they weren’t even talking about their political stance at all—they just had the conservative values. They were like Jewish guys—I would never have thought that I’d be listening to them, but this perspective really awakened me. Made me really start looking at myself. And I was being a punk.
Do you remember who?
BN: I think Dennis Prager did it the most for me.
The conservative talk show host?
BN: I think he has a talk show. I read a couple books of his and I dunno—there’s a bunch of different stuff. I think there was just a matter of time where I got really into the fact that…like, it was so different to be like—‘I like this country!’ Whenever someone’s like, ‘Ugh,’ and gets all crazy, I’m like, ‘Man, what the fuck you so mad about?’
What made you proud of this country?
BN: Actually realizing the history from a common sense perspective. Because I always heard it but didn’t really listen or care, and then the common sense perspective showed me that you have to look at the positive and weigh it out. And there’s just heavily more positive. The amount of liberty, and freedom, and things that have happened made me feel like, ‘Dude, this is fuckin’ rad.’ And I started hearing what people were saying and actually listening to what they were saying. Like ‘do what you feel’ and shit like that. And I’m like, ‘Do what you feel? If I did what I felt, I’d be fucking sixteen year olds, and I’d be like, being a fucking punk still and being aggressive.’ It’s like, ‘Dude, it’s not do what you feel—it’s do what’s right.’ I have to control myself.
Did psychedelics play a role in understanding that?
BN: Psychedelics played a gigantic role. To be able to…to…not be one way. I can be all over the board. Obviously, I have a sense of—I’d like to sock somebody in the face, but at the same time was really into non-violence for a while, just listening to Matt and what he had to say. Then I started to look into it, and learn about it, I was like, ‘Holy shit, dude, I wasn’t even listening when they talked about Gandi in school, but then reading about him, I was like, “This is fucking radical.”’ I’m just all over the board.
Have you heard about Timothy Leary’s prison experiments with LSD? He had tremendously positive results with maximum security prisoners.
BN: Because it’s really close to spiritual. It’s done amazing shit for me on so many levels. On a music level, too—like to be able to jam with your friends and not have any kind of judgment. It’s like, ‘Dude, we’re all fucking frying out of our minds.’ We’re not thinking, ‘Dude that song’s gay!’ or this or that. We’re just doing it and coming out with a bunch of crap afterwards. Or me just rambling a song completely freestyle gibberish and when it’s all done, listening to it and being like, ‘Dude, that’s fucking rad.’
I really like the lyrics to ‘Lemmy Sinpablo Juliano 36th.’
BN: That one is a one-hundred-percent free-syle.
What’s the significance of the title?
MT: Dude, I don’t know. We were just kind of throwing em out there. It got so ridiculous because we were naming every song on that album. I think I had just read that One Hundred Years of Solitude, and there’s like a hundred Mexican names or Colombian or something. I don’t know. It just got really random.
BN: I still can’t figure out what the hell I’m saying in a lot of it. We put like some walls up against a wall and put some mics in the middle and then we just threw glass and beer bottles because we were trying to record it. Then we just continued doing that and then banging on shit, and just drank whiskey together and just freestyled it. And sang it through a walkie-talkie. Just random.
Tell me more about the way you guys record.
BN: There’s a little bit of formula as far as like Matt writing a rhythm and showing it to me, then writing lyrics and then trying to make more from it and then whoever’s around recording. But it always changes. Our machines always break and stuff happens, so it’s usually tracking…I don’t know, it’s live, too.
MT: Doing the Couples series, we’ve gone through like a couple tape machines. I don’t know. Scott just kind of does wonders.
BN: We were trying to do as many songs as we could in a month, so we couldn’t always fit them on. We wanted to do as many as we could with Scott, our bass player, doing the recording through the tape, but it would get limited. It was like, ‘Dude, it’s taking too long.’ We’ve only got like four songs mixed. So we’d record something on like a cassette tape—or like a little digital deal or something. Just whatever we could do. I like things that sound shitty, and it’s not a matter of if it’s tape or if it’s digital. And if someone just wants to talk to you about gear it’s like—I don’t fucking care. It really doesn’t matter. It seems like as long as you have a song and you’re into it, it doesn’t matter what you record it on.
What was the concept behind the Couples series?
MT: We were kind of just sitting around for a while and then it kind of just came to us—we need to record a shit load at this studio while we have it. We were kind of just like brats sitting here, like [brat voice] ‘Hey, we got a studio!’
BN: The shows started getting old for us. I was like, kind of feeling bad for people that’d come because it was like the same shit all over—‘You guys are hearing the same ten or twelve songs.’ And so we said, ‘Let’s try and do a couple songs a month.’ And then after we did the first one with just had two songs, we were like—‘That was boring.’ It was just TWO songs. So we started to make more and more. And we don’t discriminate. It was like—anything. If anyone had a song and wanted to do something, we just went for it. So that’s why we got to do so many.
MT: For some reason we said eight—I don’t know why.
BN: It’s my favorite number. A year sounded too long, and eight just seemed doable.
MT: Those were some stressful months.
BN: But when it started to get to the end, you start to get better at doing it—‘We got a rhythm here.’ Doing the screening, the art—
MT: —setting up shows—
BN: It kind of felt like, ‘Dude, we could do this forever.’ Now it’s just like, ‘Fuck, now what?’
A triplets series?
MT: Ménage à trois. Swingers.
BN: Yeah, it all starts real goofy. ‘For each cover it’s going to be a different couple. We’ll find an awkward, like, chola couple or something and take a picture of them.’ At first it was gonna be singles, but then all those ideas started to fall because it’s nothing that we could sell. It costs money for us to do it. Like we’re gonna silk screen them and hand paint them to sell one song? You can’t sell that for more than a buck, and it definitely cost more than that to make.
Who does all the artwork?
BN: Matt does the majority of the art. He was doing art when I first met him. Back then it was more cut-out collage stuff, somewhere along the same lines. The Couples art was really cool because it was different then what he had done. It was more simple because he had to make it into silk screen. His line drawing stuff was pretty rad. And Scott does all the computer stuff, so he’s putting things together in that way.
So how did Greatest Hits get inserted into the Couples series?
BN: That was the same thing. We wanted to record a record, and we were clueless. We didn’t know anything about recording. We just heard tape was cool. We couldn’t even tell the difference though. Our record players sucked. We couldn’t tell if analog was better. And then we got this dude to record us and he was a fucking boner. And we were dorks too. It didn’t matter.
MT: It’s kind of good the record took so long to make because we kind of grew up during that time, and like, figured some shit out.
BN: So by the time they gave us the record we just threw it in the trash and just convinced each other—hey, let’s go buy a tape machine and try it ourselves. We actually wanted to do it on a karaoke machine, but we got Scott to buy a tape machine. And by that time we had already made a release date, and for some reason that was important to us. So we just rushed and made twenty-five songs all fit in the matter of a month and a half.
Had all those songs been previously recorded with the boner?
BN: No, only a handful. That’s what pissed us off the most about it.
MT: We wanted to get weird and he didn’t want to get very weird.
BN: He was trying to be like a producer or something. He’s like, ‘We’re going to do six songs.’ And we’re like, ‘No.’ So this way we got to do live random shit, a bunch of in-between stuff between songs that Matt had been making through those weeks in his room late at night.
MT: It’s kind of just like a loop. I just make loops and I just record them. And then we’ll just play them for a while to get you into a little groovy groove. And then once you start bobbin’ you pop into the next one.
Why haven’t you toured yet?
BN: It kind of took the Couples for us to be like, ‘Alright, our band’s rad.’ We were just kind of fudding for a while being like, ‘Dude, being in a band is the gayest thing on earth.’
Why did you think the band was ‘gay?’
BN: It’s just a weird thing—you’re being an entertainer. You got to go up there and entertain, and an extent, you have to follow exactly what a band does. You have to go through the whole deal: ‘Now I have to make a record, now I have to make a new one, now I have to do an interview and take a band photo, now we have to make a music video.’ When you first start, you’re kind of infatuated with the idea of it, but the more you get to know your idols, the more you get to realize that they’re a bunch of tools, too. I still kind of get that feeling still, but my friends pull me back into it. And playing live and writing songs helps too.
How long have you guys been together?
BN: Matt and I?
The true inspiration for the Couples.
MT: It’s been like four years.
And when did you start the Couples series?
MT: Beginning of last year.
BN: We were learning for a few years. It was basically Matt and I sticking together—trying to make songs and kind of moving around so we could get away from where we were and try to find people.
Is this your first band?
BN: I tried to do a reggae thing for a while but it got super Sublime and I quit.
For being a bunch of white kids from O.C., the Growlers have a pretty ethnic sound. How’d that happen?
BN: From being sick of being put into the ‘white kids of the O.C. category.’ We’re pretty whorish. We take from everything.
MT: I went through a stage where I just listened to Hungarian gypsy music. I’ll go through all sorts of stages. The deeper you get into music, the weirder shit starts getting. How the fuck did we start listening to gypsy music?
BN: It kind of comes to you, I think. You’re just always open-minded. Out of most of the music people I know, you’re just kind of a different breed. You’re always looking for something weird and new. And you’re not too stoked on just the general stuff either. And then there’s Scott, our bass player—he’s just very content to listen to KIIS FM. We move real quick through music it seems because it’s all we do. And everyone we hang out with, all we talk about is music. You notice it when you hang out with people who aren’t into music.
MT: You end up listening to a lot of local bands too. Just playing shows and stuff. Seriously, I think I’ve only heard like Grand Elegance, Japanese Motors and My Pet Saddle and Entrance Band for a while.
I have another Orange County question if you don’t mind. Ian Harrower, former Jail Weddings and Starvations drummer—
MT: I know Ian. He showed me Zydeco music. He showed us Adam Hebert and it was the weirdest shit we’d ever heard. This was years ago. We were like eighteen and on mushrooms and he’d come by and be like, ‘Hey, check this out,’ and he’d bring over his dobro. What were you saying about Ian?
He grew up in Laguna Nigel and said that he was drawn to music partly as a reaction against the OC mentality of ‘fight, fuck and get boob jobs.’
BN: That’s just the stuff that everyone else in the country likes to look at. The rest of the country is obsessed with boob jobs and the UFC. We have the skin boarding capitol, and the raddest Laguna people and just really cool surfers and skaters—a lot of music.
Scott Montoya (bass): And you have boob jobs. There is nothing wrong with boob jobs. If the worst thing about a place is the boob jobs—I mean, c’mon.
How do you think growing up at the beach has affected your aesthetic?
BN: It made me spoiled. Like if I leave I turn into a freak. I get mad, I get hot, I get pissed. The ocean is a very humbling thing. It kicks the shit out of you and it can kill you. It’s also something where I don’t need to do anything. When I grew up, my parents didn’t have to worry about me at all. They’d just give me a couple bucks to take the bus and I’m gone all day. Come back wiped out and pass out. Like even now, I don’t have to go out and get smashed on the weekend. I go and surf and I come back and I’m too tired and I pass out. So in a lot of ways it’s really good. Until I get a staph infection or drown or something. Everybody’s getting staph right now—like in their eyeballs. The ocean’s cleaner then it’s ever been. And rivers and lakes and everything. People are finally catching on to taking care of things.
MT: Where does the staph come from?
BN: It’s always been there. When I was a kid, people had it all over their hands and their wrists and necks and stuff. It just happens.
If it’s really hard to be away from the beach, how do you anticipate going on tour?
SM: Bring our boards.
MT: It’d be cool though. It’d be a different experience. Definitely look for some alien face buffalos out in Wyoming.
BN: I’d like to get into the dead part of the country. And it’ll be new. Going just a little bit inland from here, I know what it is and I know how close I am to the ocean. As far as me going into somewhere else in the country that doesn’t have waves, that’s fine. We’ll just have to bring skateboards and get drunk.
Are you guys signed yet?
MT: Yo, we just got siiiiiiiiigggggnnned. Comin’ out in September!
BN: October. We’re doing one record with Everloving. The guy’s chill—he’s a guy that we met through friends and surfing and actually I’ve never surfed with him—but basically a surf world. We head butted with him when I first met him. I was like, ‘This dude’s a butthole.’ And that’s kind of why we bonded, just being buttholes. Like: ‘Sting sucks! Yeah, fuckin’ Sting sucks!’ And we’re going to do a lot of other weird stuff with the other shit we have. But that record’s just going to be a compilation of all the recordings that we did here.
Did you get to pick the songs or did they pick?
BN: We compromised really. We didn’t get all Nazi on it. He gave a little list of what he had and it was basically the stuff that everyone that comes to our shows likes. So instead of trying to pick a bunch of weird creepy stuff we just met in the middle.
Did he pick any of the weirder tracks? Like ‘This Is What We Think France Sounds Like’?
MT: No, it has to do with publishing and shit. What is it? I dunno. It is what it is. It’s just a bunch of songs that we’ve already done so it’s not like we’re going to be like, ‘No, no, this is our new album.’ But a lot of people haven’t heard it, so it doesn’t really matter to us.
BN: It’s a good introduction.
MT: We’re coming out with a shitload of vinyl actually.
BN: Yeah, seven inches, splits, a bunch of stuff. A split with My Pet Saddle, a split with Audacity. We’re also putting out the Couples on tapes and all the Couples together so people can get a small run of that, and then we’re going to just bury all the Couples. And maybe Greatest Hits. Just bury them completely for a while.
THE GROWLERS IN RESIDENCY EVERY MONDAY IN AUGUST AT THE ECHO, 1822 SUNSET BLVD., ECHO PARK. 8:30 PM / FREE / 21+. ATTHEECHO.COM. THE GROWLERS’ GREATEST HITS IS AVAILABLE NOW FROM THE GROWLERS. VISIT THE GROWLERS AT THEGROWLERS.US OR AT MYSPACE.COM/LBCGROWLERS.