Q&A: The Growlers' Brooks Nielsen Talks Getting Drunk, Being Weird and Bill Murray
The Growlers aren't your average band. Sure, that statement might be sort of cliche, but take the time to listen to these guys and you'll be convinced they're far from traditional. Blending elements of surf rock with psychedelic pop and intriguing lyrics, they're part of the recent re-emergence of no-holds bared, garage-pop influenced bands such as The Fresh and Onlys, Sonny & The Sunsets, Girls, and Thee Oh Sees. Unlike those bands though, The Growlers have more of an experimental approach to making their finely-crafted tunes.Think of their music as sort of a journey through a mind-bending cultural experience.
Hell, even Bill Murray loves their music and their quest to find the perfect drunken mind-state.
Up on the Sun caught up with The Growlers member Brooks Nielsen during a well-earned break from drinking, touring, and making music. We chatted about the group's weird ways and their show at The Rhythm Room tonight.
UOTS: How'd the band get started?
Brooks: We were just really into music, and it got to a point where friends pick up guitars, and Matt was playing guitar and I was singing along to him, and it was like "let's try and start a band." A friend of ours was having a party and was like, "you guys have a band?" and we were like "no, we'll start one." We just put together some members, wrote some songs real quick, and we were like "ah, this is fucking great! Let's move up to Long Beach and try to make more songs." We just had a lot of fun with it and kept going. Pretty simple.
UOTS: Did you have a sound in mind when starting the band?
Brooks: Not really 'cause there are soo many different types of music that we like. So we're just trying one at a time, doing our own little attempt to do something similar, and at the time we were kinda like into psychedelic and surf music, but it quickly changes.
UOTS: So how would you describe your sound now? Would you say you're a pyschedelic garage-rock band?
Brooks: I wouldn't say we're garage at all. I mean a lot of our recordings are, because it's what we have, what we put forward. We bought old machines, but it's all a learning process. I enjoy stuff that sounds garage but we're not a garage band. We just make pretty music. Our sound changes a lot, I'm calming down a lot singing, because when you first start singing, you kinda want to do a lot. So I've just kinda calmed it down, just not doing too much. I guess everyone's kind of simplifying.
UOTS: How'd you guys come up with the name "The Growlers?"
Brooks: Ahh, the Growlers. We were initially called "The Heebie-Geebies," but we decided we needed a better name. It's just kind of fun to think of a name, so we kept doing that for a while, just screwing around. Matt was taking a shit, and we've always called that "taking a growler," so he's like "let's call ourselves 'The Growlers' 'cause we're shitty and it's funny." So yea, we called ourselves The Growlers. [Laughter]
UOTS: Describe your creative process.
Brooks: Well, everyone's always being a weirdo in the band, so it's kinda like "what'd you do today?" and it's like "oh, I made a song." Then it's like "well, let me hear it." So, a lot of it is individual because everyone's gotta try and make some money to stay afloat while we're not on tour, and everyone does their day-to-day and then they come back, and then we sit and collaborate. It's pretty simple. The guys are just always trying to make songs; funny ones, serious ones. For me, I just read a lot. I listen to AM radio a lot. There's always stuff popping in my head.
UOTS: What comes first, the music or the lyrics?
Brooks: Mostly the music. They pump out soo much damn music, that it's just like, I've got 30 songs waiting on me that I've got to listen and write to. So much of it is that way. I enjoy it that way because then it's more interesting for me. I just kind of hear the song and then an idea pops in just from whatever vibe that song is giving, and it's like "Oh, cool," and it's more of a challenge too.
UOTS: "Something Something Jr." is a personal favorite. Describe the inspiration behind that song.
Brooks: Oh, I've got kind of a tough, funny, shit-talking dad. He's always been the guy that's like, "what are you, a pussy?," "you're the mailman's kid" and shit like that, and that always stuck with me. Like, "I wonder if I'm the mailman's kid." So, I just kind of thought about the topic, and I just wrote a song about the confusion of that, and not knowing where you're from. And at that point, I just got really weird with it, and so it's just a fun one, because it's like "what the fuck is going on?" Pretty weird song.
UOTS: Speaking of getting weird, there's a YouTube video of one of your SXSW shows last year, and Bill Murray was present (& dancing) in the crowd? Tell me about that? Did you get to meet him?
Brooks: I saw him dancing and floating around. Just really cool. A lot of people were approaching him, but I never approach people like that. I just let them be. I've got no desire to meet him. I find him hilarious in his movies, but I didn't really give a shit to meet him, so that was about it. We saw him again when we went to another show, saw him again at another spot we were hanging out at, some of the other guys talked to him but yeah I just kind of watched him be Bill Murray. it was pretty classic.
UOTS: Any pre-show rituals?
Brooks: I really enjoy getting drunk. But after a while I just realized that, I might be wild and shitty and they (the fans) might like that, but we don't sound as good when we're drunk, so we've got to keep trying to find that balance. I was talking to one of the guys in the band about it, and I said, "man, we need to get less drunk when we play." And he said "we just need to get really good at playing drunk" [Laughs]... Just a perfect amount of drunk and the show goes great. But, I don't get stage fright or nervous or anything like that anymore no matter what. That doesn't matter to me anymore, we're here to entertain and make people happy, and that's it.
You can catch The Growlers at The Rhythm Room tonight.