There's no doubt that the Hootenanny festival at Oak Canyon Ranch is synonymous with summer in Orange County. And the Growlers', psychedelic beach bum sound definitely revels in the warmth of the sun. But few people would've imagined they'd see the South County bohemian buzz band on stage at OC's premier rockabilly soiree. Credit their growing popularity a la Coachella or the Hoot's increasingly eclectic lineups, but recruiting this motley band of surf rockers for a time-honored greaser fest that may actually work out swimmingly.
Frontman Brooks Nielsen spoke to us briefly before the band hits the stage to talk about the Hoot and their new record, which is still waiting to come out.
Speaking on the phone from his home in Costa Mesa, Nielsen says the band actually has both psychedelic and psychobilly roots.
“It's definitely an influence on us, being from Orange County,” Nielsen said. “We grew up in Dana Point and San Juan Capistrano where a lot of the kids who got into the greaser culture and never really changed after that–a lot of the psychobilly punk and all that. And it's gonna be a fun, hard drinking crowd.”
It's an interesting transition from the last time the band played a festival at Oak Canyon Ranch at the same spot, where they played the EDM/indie rock-driven Pacific Festival last year alongside headliners Snoop Dogg, Cut Copy and Steve Aoki. This year, Nielsen says he is looking forward to playing a different fest with a very different set of headliners-Rancid and The Reverend Horton Heat.
While the band has certainly been festival-tested this year, Nielsen says, releasing up their recently-finished new record is biggest challenge they've faced so far. Even during their Coachella stint, the band spent their time going back and forth to their recording studio between both weekends just to work on the record, produced by Dan Auerbach of the Black Keys.
“It's been killing me,” Nielsen says. It's taking way too long. It's nice to be finished with it finally, but that doesn't mean it's coming out tomorrow. Hopefully we get it out by October.”
Considering the band's typical style of recording and releasing music on their own schedule at their own studio, the wait to release the album and trimming it down is especially frustrating.
“We record a lot of music, we have the opportunity to record a lot in our studio, but the industry isn't set up to release music that quickly,” Nielsen says. “The industry calls for short, edible albums for people with short attention spans. We get slowed down by having to grow up and be professional. But this record is gonna have 15 songs on it, so by today's standards it's a longer album.” The band plans to release a brand new 7-inch next month before heading back out on tour.
Fortunately, when it comes to the live show, the band is anything but shy about playing the new songs-which Nielsen says will definitely make an appearance at Hootenanny in addition to undulating, echo-drenched crowd pleasers like “Acid Rain” and “Gay Thoughts.”
One thing we are looking forward to is seeing how the hard-ass Hootenanny crowd reacts to the Growlers' stage show. Judging by Nielsen's history of performing in dresses and the occasionally using dildos as stage props (check out the video below from this year's Coachella performance starting at 3:35), this will probably one of the more interesting sets of the day.