Aural Reports

Making Strange Waves: The Growlers mix surf rock, gypsy, folk, reggae--and green consciousness

Brooks Nielsen and his band the Growlers don't need no stinking record company.

How did the Growlers get going?

I was in a reggae band. A friend asked me if that band could play her party. I told her we'd broken up. I asked Matt [Taylor] if he wanted to start a band by the next weekend for the party. He said, yeah. We actually wrote four songs in three days. We decided to keep going. Three weeks later, we moved from San Clemente to Long Beach, into a creepy old house, and we started the band from there. Then there were a couple of drive-bys, so we moved down to Westminster to another creepy old house. We all lived together, and it recently got foreclosed, so we're all homeless as of right now. We're in the process of moving down to Costa Mesa. We also have our own studio we built in Westminster. It happened to be at the same time our house foreclosed that we got caught making music. We weren't allowed to. So we're relocating studios to Costa Mesa.

Does the band live together for a reason?

Definitely; it helps the band. It's easier to make sure everyone's around. I don't have to track them down. With everyone living together, I come home, and Matt has written a song on guitar with our organ player, or our organ player wrote something with our bass player, Scott [Montoya]. Since we're together all the time, we're always writing together. And our studio is a two-minute walk away, so we're always making music. It's been beneficial because no one is experienced musically. Miles [Patterson] we brought in to play organ, and he'd never played organ before. We wanted him to play because he was a cool guy.

Your sound seems like a pretty even blend of surf music, roots music and rock.

The reason for that is because there's no one songwriter. Everyone has a piece. When it's brought to the table, it goes from a country song to a surf song. We all have our common interests. Miles has a gypsy style, Matt's into surf, and I'm into folk and reggae. It's all over the board.

Are you guys surfers?

Yeah. We all grew up on the beaches of south Orange County. That's actually how I met Miles. He was hitchhiking to the beach, and I picked him up.

Do you play with other surfer bands?

Yeah. We met the Japanese Motors. Their front man is Alex Knost, the pro longboarder. We met him through music, but we have the same things in common. We've been on surf trips together and hung out. So we've planned a two-month tour across America and tied them in on it. We're going to be doing that in March, in a school bus running on vegetable oil. The way we're doing that is we're not signing to a record label. It's a choice we made because we have a different plan for doing things. We wondered how we'd tour across America without a label to pay for it, so we decided to make a package and gather up clothing-company sponsors. And things are looking good.

Is there a reason why you're not trying to get signed with a record company like a lot of bands would?

They don't have a lot of money to invest in small bands. Basically, we can do everything they'd offer us. Right now, their main offer would be, "We'll record your album; we'll put it out and distribute it." But we already recorded our album a hell of a lot better than some producer's going to. And now we have the option to do whatever we want with it. We plan to go with Internet distribution and pushing it through touring.

Your mix of surf and other music seems like it would go over well in Orange County. How about elsewhere?

When you start getting out of Orange County, you start realizing that Orange County's not a very liked scene when it comes to the hip communities. Once they hear our music, we get a good reaction. But we like being from Orange County. And we love being tied to the surf community because it's a bunch of great people trying to do the same thing we're doing—trying to do it themselves.

THE GROWLERS PLAY AT DETROIT BAR, 843 W. 19TH ST., COSTA MESA, (949) 642-0600; WWW.DETROITBAR.COM . EVERY MON., 9 P.M. THROUGH AUG. 27. FREE; VISIT WWW.MYSPACE.COM/LBCGROWLERS FOR MORE INFORMATION ON THE BAND.

 
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