Interview with The Howlers: ‘You can imagine it soundtracking someone riding a bike through the desert!’
by Sara Seddon at The Bucket Playlist
Earlier this month, London-based desert rock band, The Howlers, released their latest single, ‘I Don’t Love You All The Time’, a blisteringly energetic track with rumbling vocals, heavy guitars, boisterous drums and a thumping bass line. In May, they’ll bring out the follow-on track, ‘Lost Without You’.
The three-piece consists of Adam Young (vocals, guitar), Cameron Black (drums) and Guus ter Braak(bass). With influences ranging from afro beat, West Coast psych music and some of the more timeless seventies records, the East London trio have undertaken three UK-wide tours since their formation over a year ago. They met at university in London, where ter Braak and Young were on the same music business course. Their name is a reference to trying to find an affordable place to rent in London: ‘After me and Guus lived together, we moved out and couldn’t find a place we could afford,’ Young explained. ‘We used to go drinking in a pub, Howl at the Moon, in Hoxton. One day, I was standing at the sink in the toilets there and there was something on the wall about Arctic Monkey’s ‘Why’d You Only Call Me When You’re High?’ video and I thought, hang on, that photo’s here, at this sink! I asked around and it was the same pub they filmed the video in, so that’s what we ended up calling ourselves!’
In May, they’ll release the follow-on track, ‘Lost Without You’: ‘It’s the same “life is shit” title but the lyrics and melody are upbeat, it’s both more laid back and more urgent. It’s about when you don’t have the support structure you need,’ he said.
He describes their sound as ‘desert rock: ‘We’re sun-soaked California, a bit Black Keys but we’re doing it in a place where it rains a lot! We want it to be escapism. We want to give people a bit of hope.’
‘During the first lockdown, we locked ourselves away in a factory for a week, in a windowless box with no air or light’
That’s definitely something they’ve achieved. Young describes ‘I Don’t Love You All The Time’ as ‘an ode to the trials and tribulations of love and loss in modern times, an observation about understanding how to come to terms with falling out of love whilst at the same time longing to be loved in kind’. The track is also about losing loved ones to COVID: ‘During the first lockdown, we locked ourselves away in a factory for a week, in a windowless box with no air or lights. The boys helped me with my grief, I wasn’t in the right mind to engage with stuff. We had some demos and it was the first time we wrote everything together. We don’t pick a theme, anything that comes out is subconscious. The song’s saying you don’t love someone or you wish they were there for you more, or still there for you. Cam said “Why don’t we sing the riff” and I said “Man, do you know how hard that is to do?!” but we did and the song ended up being cathartic.’
As the chorus goes: ‘But I don’t think you really mind, I don’t love you all the time but there’s nothing I can do, just to get that through to you.’
They also plan to bring out an EP by the end of the year, titled ‘The Sum of our Fears’, which will include the title track, ‘I Don’t Love You All The Time’ and the upcoming singles ‘Lost Without You’ and ‘Never Enough’, the latter of which he is especially proud. ‘It’s about the fact that your healing process is never enough to stop you going through it all over again. The EP represents everything we went through emotionally, I wanted it to be something people can understand. The title track is the reactionary track we wrote because grief and anxiety hit in a weird way. The chorus goes “I’m not asking you for forgiveness”. It’s a vicious circle, you don’t want to be that person (unhappy and consumed by grief).’
‘It almost sounded very Tudor, like in Henry VIII’s banquet hall!’
The vinyl will probably look like 4 tracks but contain a hidden track. The title track, ‘The Sum Of Our Fears’, sounds ‘massive, fucking big’, according to Young, who said he hated it in the studio but now loves the finished version: ‘It almost sounded very Tudor, like in Henry VIII’s banquet hall! I said to Guus “I can’t do this track anymore”, we had all the bits but we wanted to fatten out the guitar bits, we didn’t want it to be too heavy or too folky. Our sound engineer at Echo Zoo Studios suggested trying a different amp but we’d already tried 4 or 5!’
They’re also working on what Young jokingly calls ‘a ridiculous track’ called ‘I’m an Animal’: ‘We might drop it later this year, it has a raw, rocky desert sound, it’s akin to ‘The Sum of our Fears’. You can imagine it soundtracking someone riding a bike through the desert! It’s only 2.20 minutes but it goes into it really heavy. We wanted to have fun with it, we might put bongos on the end!’ It’s a brilliant track, incredibly catchy, and after his description, I listen to it, imagining driving on the I-15 N highway from LA to Vegas.
They picked London as a base for it’s multiculturalism, although Young is actually from Portsmouth, Black is from Plymouth and ter Braak is from Haaksbergen in the Netherlands. Young admits that they ‘ripped up the rule book’ during lockdown to take their sound in a new direction: ‘We started again because it was hard to admit that what we were doing wasn’t very good. The new stuff, like the latest single, is more sincere, more emotive,’ he said.
Other recent tracks had big makeovers to become the versions we know today, such as ‘Badlands’, which came out last year. ”The one we released is very different to the one we used to play live,’ Young said. ‘The bass and drums stayed the same but I rewrote the melodies and lyrics. I didn’t like the first version much, we came out of that studio and had made something out of nothing. It’s like doing a painting but the outline had already been drawn.’
‘It’s about wrestling with mental health, sort of like a bullfight’
Another track last year, ‘Matador’, is about mental health struggles, according to Young: ‘It’s about wrestling with mental health, sort of like a bullfight but we didn’t really mean it like that. The lyrics are like “I don’t know where I’m going to go”. We’re unbelievably tight, we can read each other really well.’
Their music business course has stood them in good stead, he feels: ‘We wanted to know how to put a band together,’ he said. ‘We understood that better when we got fucked over by our previous management, it was horrible.’
Young describes Black as ‘the coolest drummer’: ‘He’s a phenomenal drummer,’ he said. ‘When I get offstage, the first thing that people say is “Your drummer’s amazing” and I’m like “Dude, did you not see what I just did up there?!”,’ he said, laughing.
If he could have written any song, he goes for Queens Of The Stone Age’s ‘Song For The Dead’, featuring Dave Grohl on drums. ‘It’s so hard hitting, the way he plays the drums. That’s pretty. Their ‘Smooth Sailing’ is another one, it’s such a sleazy song! As a musician, you’re constantly analysing music at gigs, it takes some of the enjoyment away, you want to be up there on that stage!’
He’s run into several well-known musicians over the years and tells me a funny story about Miles Kane and Alex Turner: ‘I have this one jacket that I’m very fond of and I wear it a lot to gigs,’ he said. ‘It’s a standard leather jacket but every crease is perfect, everything’s right with it, and over the years, people have come up to me and wanted to buy it off me but I wouldn’t sell it! Miles Kane wanted to buy it off me after a gig at the Red Gallery in Shoreditch (London) and laughed when I wouldn’t sell it to him. Another time, I was outside after a gig seeing Last Shadow Puppets at Ally Pally, waiting for a taxi and went to get in one when it pulled up but a bouncer guy stopped me and said it wasn’t for me. Someone puts their hand on my shoulder, I turn round, and it’s Alex Turner, who said it was for him! I started walking but I tripped and he pulled over to check I was alright – I was – and said “I like your jacket, where’s it from, is it vintage?” He asked if it was a small and thought it would fit him, said he’d like to buy it but I said it’s not for sale. Then I see that Miles Kane is in the taxi with him and I start laughing. I tell Miles that he won’t remember but he’s tried to buy this jacket from me after a gig in Brixton. He looks at it and says “Oh yeah, I do fucking remember” and then recounts the whole story to Alex!’
(Photo from left to right: Cam, Guus and Adam)
This story first appeared on: https://inthebucketplaylist.com/ on April 3th 2021