|(L-R) Scott Montoya, Matt Taylor, Brooks Neilsen, Anthony Perry, Kyle Straka|
Down to the Newport peninsula, just off of 56th St., I have no trouble finding a parking spot now that the crowds are gone and there are mere days left in the summertime season. Lead singer of local band the Growlers, Brooks Neilsen, is just about to join drummer, Scott Montoya, in the water for a quick session. They only have three days to mellow out in between tours, but amidst the constant list of band-related things to take care of, the boys detach from a decent swell to tell me about their newest full-length release, Hung at Heart.
How was Coachella 2012?
Brooks Neilsen: (Laughing hysterically) It was good.
Scott Montoya: It was hot.
Neilsen: I felt like it was the first time that we played like a big stage at a festival.
How was the sound? Those systems are some of the biggest in the country, did it feel like that?
Montoya: Not really.
Neilsen: It’s all the same shit. We got a little overly nervous and then we got out there, and it’s the same shit. I think the only thing we were thinking about was how hot it was. It worked out. It’s hard to get people into it when it’s fuckin’ 115 degrees in the sun.
There wasn’t any covering on the stage you played?
Montoya: (Shakes his head no.)
Neilsen: There were some people misting other people with mister guns, so I think that helped a little. It was 4:20pm and they were all stoned. All in all it was good.
And you played both weekends of Coachella?
Montoya: First weekend wasn’t as hot.
Neilsen: First weekend was nice. We went in, played, and went home. Second week we kind of stuck around for the shenanigans. Scott had fun.
Montoya: I had a lot of fun.
You always have fun.
Montoya: I was so hot I thought I was going to overheat and pass out.
Neilsen: I pretty much did.
Montoya: I didn’t know whether to play faster to get it over with, or play slower and conserve my energy. I was thinking that the whole time, trying to get to the end. I just wanted it to be over, it was horrible.
Neilsen: I drank too much and overheated and fell off of the stage.
You fell off of the stage?
Neilsen: It was like 10 feet tall.
I’m glad to see you survived. That’s what the medics and security are for, right?
Neilsen: Yeah, I fell on security.
Montoya: Then we went back to a trailer and met a guy that played saxophone. There was this trailer next to the stage that was really air-conditioned—it ruled—and met a guy that was emotionally scarred by ‘Careless Whisper’ on the saxophone for some reason. It was really funny.
You just played FYF Fest also? Was that a little more bearable?
Montoya: No, it was just as fuckin’ stressful.
Neilsen: Well, we got to do whatever the fuck we wanted there on the stage, and decorate the stage and do weird shit with projections and whatnot, which was rad. In the end, it looked really cool and great, but they wouldn’t approve anything that we were doing. It was like, ‘Nah, you can’t do that, no nipple tassels, no fireworks, none of your own lighting…’
Montoya: No goat.
Neilsen: We were going to bring a goat on stage. We also faked Warren’s (of The Abigails) death.
Yeah, didn’t OC Weekly spread it around?
Neilsen: Yeah, I think they fell for it a little bit. It was a good, big, tasteless joke.
Montoya: It could have gone over better…
Neilsen: Fuck you Scott.
Montoya: It went over great!
Neilsen: He didn’t like my delivery, he thought I did it too emotional. I kind of bummed everyone out.
Montoya: It was really believable.
Neilsen: I’m really good at that shit. I got them to believe Warren (Thomas) died.
Montoya: There were a few people that started crying.
Neilsen: And Warren was backstage and was supposed to come out and be like, ‘Hey.’ (Laughing) He just, he didn’t come out…
So that inspired the press release?
Neilsen: Yeah, they called him like, ‘Are you dead?’ He was like, ‘No, I just passed out for three days. Sometimes you get a little tired, and I was a little tuckered.’
Montoya: It was fun.
Neilsen: It was good, the whole time there was crazy shit.
Montoya: We had a lot going on and it was a lot to manage, especially when there were people getting pretty drunk.
Neilsen: It was in the midst of so many things—moving our fucking warehouse out, and we were about to hit the road for a tour—so it was a lot of shit.
The Growler lair is gone?
Montoya: Lease is up.
Neilsen: The warehouse is gone, everything’s in storage, and we are road-dogs. We’re looking for a warehouse when we get back.
Will it be local?
Neilsen: Costa Mesa or Long Beach. I just found some great spots in Long Beach, so my broker is hitting them up right now so I can go look at them tomorrow morning before we take off. It’s going to be bigger, badder, weirder, cleaner.
Cleaner? You say that now…
Neilsen: I threw away half of that warehouse in the dumpster.
Were you still a little emotionally attached to that stuff? I know how you like to hoard...
Neilsen: Yeah, but I’m finally over it. It felt good to throw that shit away.
Neilsen: Baby steps, ‘k. And buying less things on the road. I’m getting better.
Let’s talk tours. You just got back from a tour…how long were you out and where did you stop?
Neilsen: Almost two weeks. West Coaster… Yeah we went to Portland, Seattle, Vancouver, Eugene, Arcata, Humboldt, Chico, San Luis Obispo, San Francisco. Wow, I think that’s everything.
And you’re back on the road for another tour in two days?
Neilsen: That one is for three or four weeks. I’ll get back the 16th or 17th, then we play October 19th and 20th at Observatory. This tour’s gonna be really good. This one is like perfect time of year and they are all spots that we’ve been building. We’ve been touring for a little while now, so we don’t have to show up to any empty venues anymore.
It just takes time to develop your crowd, right?
Neilsen: This last one was great. It was Guantanamo Baywatch and Cosmonauts, who are great people, who party. This time we jump on with Florida Kilos, a touring band, likes to drink Tequila and have fun. It’s gonna be great.
You look kinda tired when you say that…
Neilsen: (Laughs) I know, when I’m home right now I get to just surf and chill…
And recharge your batteries?
Montoya: Touring is tiring.
Neilsen: This tends to happen in between each tour, just at least three days at home to surf and be back. You only need to be home for a short amount of time to get bored, like, ‘Alright, I’m ready to go back on the road.’
Let’s talk about the new album, Hung At Heart. You write a ton of music all the time, but how did you choose for this collection?
Neilsen: I don’t want to go through all the bullshit, but the album has been somewhat cursed.
Montoya: It’s a nightmare.
Neilsen: It’s been a fucking nightmare. I mean, it’s too easy—we wrote the songs, the songs were good, we recorded the songs, should be over with. But the record didn’t sound that good, we threw it away, we re-recorded it. It took forever, shopped it out, people act like they want to do something, then they give shitty offers, so finally we said, ‘Fuck it,’ and put it out on Everloving (Records). It was supposed to come out in October.
You guys started the recording process with Dan Auerbach?
Neilsen: Started with Dan.
Too bluesy or what?
Neilsen: You know what, we went in there with very little time. We had written the songs rough-draft and didn’t have time to actually write them into songs. Then we were touring, we changed drummers…
Montoya: We just got back from Brazil too.
Neilsen: Just got back from Brazil, went straight over there, jumped in and recorded 18 songs in ten days.
Montoya: They weren’t even done being written.
Neilsen: So we had to get there in the morning, hung over, write ‘em, record as much as we could everyday, and then party with Dan at night. We got home, and the record was taking a long time to be mixed. We originally wanted it to be tape, it wasn’t.
Montoya: Dan just came out with an album too, so he was really busy touring around.
Neilsen: He was busy and we had taken so long that we had been playing the music live. We had changed the songs a bit and they sounded better and were better written, so we’re like, ‘Fuck this, let’s go record the record over, on tape, down the street. We have the songs better written, we’ll take our time and do them right—‘cause it was taking a while anyway—and it came out better.
You never mention Mike McHugh?
Montoya: Yeah, Mike helped. Mike did the recording.
Montoya: Mike helped us record.
Has he recorded everything for you guys through the years?
Neilsen: No, we just did a 7” with him before that.
Scott, how much of the catalogue have you recorded?
Montoya: I did the earlier stuff.
Neilsen: All the earlier stuff.
Montoya: Up until Gay Thoughts.
Neilsen: This time we wanted to go into the studio, but since it didn’t work with Dan, we still wanted to go into a professional studio. We wanted to do it on tape, so we did it with Mike, and Mike’s the man, but it was taking a while. But we did it, we finished it, and the record is supposed to come out November, but they fucked up on production of the vinyl so we missed deadline, so now it’s going to be out in January. We already have everything set up and people jonesing, so for the fans, we’re doing like a limited tape on Burger Records that’s all the rough-drafts from the record and some extra songs that haven’t been recorded. So we’re going to have double, and that’s just more stuff that’s cool. And the CD and the tape for Hung at Heart will be out in January. October for the Observatory shows with Burger are going to have this tape and we’ll do a listening party for the Hung at Heart album.
What types of songs are we to expect? Same feel as before?
Neilsen: (Sarcastically) Nope, we went all dance music—it’s like cross-trance and I have the sound-effect on my voice like Cher… It’s a little of the same Growlers. We kind of picked some happier stuff, and some weirder style songs, kind of funkier. But it’s got everything, some reggae-sounding stuff.
Montoya: It’s cleaner though, the recordings are better, for sure. Mike’s really good.
Neilsen: Better vocals, more in front, just more legible, and we’re stoked on it. But, after a month of songs, we wanted to hear something new and make something new, and it’s been too fucking long. This thing needs to be out there so we can go make a new record and move the fuck on.
Baby steps… So eventually you’re planning on releasing cassette, vinyl, CD, and digital versions of the album?
Neilsen: It all got pushed back. I gotta change it right now ‘cause all these people think we’re releasing all that at the show. We’re still gonna offer a limited cassette tape with Burger that’s gonna be the demo-songs from and some other unreleased songs on there. It’s going to be that cassette tape, but we’re also gonna do, you buy two days, you get to go to the listening party, you get t-shirts, CDs—all this different shit.
Montoya: A listening to the new record, not the demos. We’re having a listening party…
Neilsen: In January. Yeah it got pushed back. That was going to be the whole deal, but, what can I do? We thought, at least give them something, ‘cause I was thinking, fuck, we gotta pull out the record and bum everyone out. It’s mostly close fans that are going, so I think they’re going to enjoy the demo songs—our close friends and my chick do. They like that shit more.
There’s a character about demos…
Montoya: It’s way more raw.
Neilsen: And there’s imperfections and things that you get attached to. I like when you can hear someone coughing or something.
That’s how the 7” felt to me. It wasn’t perfect, but you listen and you get accustomed and then you love it.
Neilsen: I don’t know if we’re gonna do SXSW yet.
Montoya: South By is exhausting.
Neilsen: We enjoy it, but I don’t know how much these festivals do for you. I mean, they go and they see you, and it’s like they’re burned out. If they saw you for five minutes, they keep it in their head that they saw you, and then you’re back there in a month and they’re over even showing up. I don’t know, it’s weird. People are all over-stimulated. You see a hundred bands and it’s like, ‘Uhhggg.’ And we do the same thing, we go and we just party.
Montoya: By the end we’re fucked.
Neilsen: We might do it again this year, but we’re definitely going to tour heavy starting in January. We’ll tour for five or six weeks, come back for a little bit.
Check out what the Growlers are up to these days here.