Your New Favorite Artist: The Growlers
One of my most favorite groups, The Growlers, played the High-Dive in Seattle last night. It’s cool if you missed it, I think most people did. The sound was super-shitty and did no justice to their awkward, disturbing vision of psychedelic surf-folk-trance music. But I was excited to be there watching them live and was curious to see how their show would match up with their music.
The Growlers songs are anchored by lead singer Brooks Neilson’s freaky, hypnotic voice, which sounds kinda like he’s gargling gravel while singing. It’s a singular sound and quite addictive. Their music is anchored by disturbingly catchy melodies and freaky black-light surf-guitars. (If you’ve seen the great indie film, Six-String Samurai, The Growlers sound like the Red Elvises if that group grew up not in Siberia, but in a nuclear wasteland ravaged by hungry mutant gangs. which I guess is kinda like Siberia…) And though it seems they’re gonna end up pigeon-holed as “just another indie band,” the reality is that they’re one of the most innovative folk-rock bands in the US.
Check out their scary and unsettling video, “Little Miss Jack”
The Growlers come out of Costa Mesa, in Southern California, with a sound they called “beach goth”, which is actually a pretty good description. They’re heirs to California’s 60s pysch-rock and psych-folk scene in Southern California, but they are to this historic scene what The Mighty Boosh is to Monty Python: an entirely new perspective that actually one-ups the craziness of the original. Still, the SoCal beach is infused in all of their music, sometimes explicitly in songs like “Red Tide”, “Barnacle Beat”, and “Old Dad Crusty Crab”, and perhaps this is the band that will save the sea shantey from certain oblivion. But The Growlers are like Spongebob Squarepants on meth: there’s nothing cute and cuddly about their edgy, blistering take on 21st century maritime music.
This is why you shouldn’t take The Growlers up on their offer of an after-concert house party:
(It’s probably gonna get weird)
So how was their show? I’m pleased to say it was just as awkward and twisted as their music. Brooks Nielsen opened the show by telling the audience that he’d just found out he was born in Seattle and his long-lost mom who he’d never met before was at the show tonight. He had no idea who she was until meeting her that day, but it was cool because they were good friends now. I’ve really never seen a show go from so pumped up to so awkward in such a short amount of time (about 30 seconds). And this wasn’t ironic-hipster-awkward (Zach Galifianakis), but actually awkward. I’m pretty sure he was just fucking with everyone, but that didn’t stop us from looking around furtively throughout the show to try to spot his mom. The awkwardness inherent in his stoned-out gravel voice carried on to his physical presence on stage. His show featured more crotch-grabbing than we usually get to see in the Seattle music scene, and I’m still not sure how his pants came unzipped so fast. My friend, HDZ, who came to the show with me swears that there was some serious package display, but if you’re not stressing over zipper shenanigans, then what the hell kind of rock show are you at anyway?
But stage antics aside, and let’s not even mention the terrible sound at the High Dive that made their acoustic-electric freaky-folk music sound like a bad Sublime cover band, The Growlers brought the edgy intensity and drugged-out SoCal-beach worldvision that makes their music so compelling. So check out their MySpace, listen to some tracks, definitely search YouTube for them, and discover for yourself one of the best-kept secrets around. The next time they play Seattle, The Stranger will probably have discovered them and Seattle hipsters with ironic beards will be lining up for autographs. So here’s your chance to say you found them first!