Sometimes it's easy to set up interview time with bands. At others it's like with The Growlers.
When new record Chinese Fountain dropped in the digital glovebox a few months ago, it quickly became clear it's on another level to their previous efforts. Although I've been a fan for a few years, the production seems so much more succinct this time round. Song-by-song diversity reigns, taking their Cali psychedelic roots and layering on ska, disco and oh-so-sweet 60s pop jams to push the it into the realms of being the year's most intergalactically human record.
So when it took a couple of months of spinning on the press carousel to get a call with the band locked down, it kinda felt right that it wasn't easy. The Growlers are on the road for much of the year, and alway seem like they are forging their own, creepy, colourful path The presumption was that they were on an LSD-fuelled space bus, playing gigs and lopping off maidenheads in every town..
When I got hold of lead singer Brooks Nielsen, the band were two hours away from New York on their way to a show. The original plan was to talk about the five most important psychadelic bands from California, and given the difficulty in finding an interview window I half-expected a reticent Brooks on the other end, wrapping up our chat in five minutes before clambering up onto another flying carpet. Fortunately, the opposite was the case and even though it became clear pretty quickly we'd have to change the thrust of the piece- 'I don't really know any bands'- he was lucid, open and happy to talk about all aspects of The Growlers, their lifestyle and the rights and vagaries of the psychedelic genre that underpins what they do...
Brooks on...The Doors
They are someone I liked immediately because it was a darker take on music, compared to other music from the time, all that lame, hippy, sunshine and four guys doing harmonies. The Doors definitely had that California, psychedelic, dark vibe. I think Jim Morrison fell in love when he got here [California] with the drug culture and the art going on. Made him come alive.
...the one day BeachGoth festival they organise and curate in California
It's only 1 day this year but there's, I duno, 30 or 40 bands. About 8000 people. Theres gonna be rides there, a costume thing, there'll be a bunch of weird, bitchin' things going on around the place. Obviously we'll be doing cavity searches on the way in. For us it's a chance to do shows like we used to, which is DIY and being completely involved and curating it to the minutest detail.
...their old warehouse parties
I realised fairly early on, that you can't really have a house and make music in it because the best neighbourhoods wont have it! And so we would all live in the warehouse, build a stage, keep all your gear in there, build a control room, have our own studio. But then we'd also have these raves where people come in, and all the under age kids get wasted, and we'd get all sorts of bands and the cops would probably turn up before we even got a chance to play. But then the promoters would see that and say 'hey why don't you come and play our venue.' So it's nice to go back to that.
...taking LSD onstage
We tried it performing. But if it's just one man doing it, it doesn't really vibe. But then it's kinda hard to get five guys, like 'let's all take acid every night.' Soon enough one says 'I don't want to', then that kind kills the chain, cos when you're doing it it's like a family in that aspect. We also realised as soon as we got better that it wasn't really necessary. Just like the same with drinking. We don't have to be plastered anymore. Once we got better we realised that maybe we were talented enough to not be wasted.
...how LSD affected his life
There's something about, how once you take these drugs...it's definitely an awakening and changes your perspective on a lot of things. For me, I think I'm a very to-do list, get this done, unemotional, fucking, just workaholic type of person. If i hadn't have got into those drugs I think I would have went that route, gone very stale. They turned me into a person where I started thinking differently. Like our early stuff - when I listen to it, well I don't really listen to it, but when I have I think 'wow, i had really little imagination back then.' But they pushed me in a direction I wouldn't be in without it. Do i think it enhances the music? I don't think so at all.
...his attitude to drugs now
I've tried it all, but now that I'm at this age...it's you know, something I just stay away from because it's ruined so many of my friends lives. I tell myself I don't want to do it. Occasionally it happens, y'know? I don't have a strict rule about good or bad but my gut feeling is they are bad.
A seatbelt might not always save your life, it might cut your head off y'know? But you don't tell the general public to not wear a seatbelt because the majority of the time it's going to help. I feel the same way about drugs, y'know...as far as people losing their minds and ruining their lives. But I'm not going to tell anyone not to.
...not drinking on tour
Well, I try and I don't need it for nerves anymore, like 'oh i'm shy.' It's more like 'I can't say no to a friend.' But If you don't want to drink at all, you shouldn't go to a bar every night.
...going disco for the title track on Chinese Fountain
We were writing then took a break, and I was a bit like 'I'm gona write a hit song.' People were like 'oh are are you?' Then I came back, and it was ' it's a fucking disco jam!' It's got a kind of Stranglers vibe. It came up pretty cool.
...the prettiness of Charles Manson's music
It's trippy how he can make pretty music and still be a piece of shit. That's why you should never look for musicians for political advice, or advice on how to take care of kids.
The prosecutor that prosecuted Manson [Vincent Bugliosi] heard that record [Lie: The Love and Terror Cult] and said he really liked his music, that it confused him. This guy he hated with a vengeance and thought was a horrible person...his music was very pretty. Manson was very talented, and it was just another way of his swindling. He [Bugliosi] said that if Manson had represented himself, rather than being represented by an attorney, he would have got off free.
...getting obsessed with one record
I don't really spend that long listening to any one thing anymore. Maybe when i was younger I got really into Jamaican music for a while.
...The Grateful Dead
They were important. Then I first met Matt, the guitarist, he was like; 'you gotta get into them.' I really enjoyed the first record, but I couldn't get into the rest of it. It was just too, like, wiped out with guitar. I just pictured people dancing terribly to it. But this thing about them all living together in a house, throwing all these acid parties, and just their whole approach to music is something that's still being practised right now: trying to make a more entertaining show every night, but taking the money they make and putting it back in the band. Their approach was to not follow the industry, they knew they were special and different and that's something that's inspired us.
...differences between The Grateful Dead and The Growlers
I don't think we're talented enough to just noodle forever like they did!