Howler: TAS In Session
The explosive debut album from Howler, the cheekily-named America Give Up which was released in January on Rough Trade Records, has earned the Minneapolis quintet enthusiastic feedback both Stateside and in the UK.
Howler — lead guitarist and singer Jordan Gatesmith, drummer Brent Mayes, guitarist Ian Nygaard, keyboardist Max Petrek and bassist France Camp — kick off a North American tour on March 9 in Appleton, Wisconsin, but last month, the guys visited The Alternate Side for a kinetic live set. Check out the session on TAS on 91.5 WNYE tomorrow, March 2, at 11 a.m. EST and streaming on The Alternate Side.
Below, watch exclusive performance videos of tracks like "Back Of Your Neck" and read highlights from their interview.
Eric Holland: The title is America Give Up. Potentially controversial title. Please explain it.
Jordan Gatesmith: It’s supposed to be a mock stadium rock album. Almost a Born in the USA kind of thing, but with no political value. Messing around with western ideals.
Eric: Like giving up in the foreign wars?
Jordan: Sure. We could go there if you want.
Eric: But I looked in the liner notes and you say “give up” almost like a thank you to a bunch of people.
Jordan: That too. Ian: We really didn’t think that one out too well. It can be “thank you.” It can be “give up.”
Eric: I read that you recorded the album last summer and then you decided it wasn’t trashy enough. That really appealed to me because that’s one of my favorite adjectives to describe a rock record.
Eric: Yeah, did that come out of your mouth, Jordan?
Jordan: Yeah, I think so.
Eric: When you say “trashy,” what does that mean to you?
Jordan: Really dirty guitars. We did everything politely at first and then we [thought] to do everything raw, to get a more interesting and trashy sound. It’s more loose now.
Eric: Trashy in the way of Exile On Main Street or the Stooges? Or hootenanny kind of trashy?
Jordan: All of the above. We’ll take it all.
Eric: On the fourth track on the record, “America,” you’ve got [the lyric] “I want to scrape my knees” which sounds like you’re getting down and dirty lyrically as well as sonically. Please talk about that song.
Max Petrek: I don’t really know how to explain it well, but it’s not really about America, but escapsim and being just who you are and being okay with that. I wouldn’t call it trashy, but accepting whatever you have.
Eric: So you fellow are from Minneapolis. Did you meet in high school?
Jordan: No. We met in Minneapolis playing in different bands around town, we knew each other’s faces.
Eric: So even though a couple of you are still teenagers, you’ve already been on a couple of labels. Now you’re on Rough Trade. How did they discover you?
Jordan: It was lucky. We were playing a show in Minneapolis and there was a writer for Pitchfork and NME at the show. He really liked us, didn’t really talk to us, grabbed our EP and sent it to Geoff Travis at Rough Trade. Geoff really liked it and the next week emailed us and [said], “This writer sent me your music, I really like it and I want to sign you.”
Eric: You were a Top Three “Band To Watch” in the NME last year. Was that important?
Jordan: That was weird. NME is not something we get around here too often. Eric: Have you been [to the UK] to tour yet? Jordan: We have. We supported The Vaccines on their big UK tour.
Eric: Well, you’ve got some common ground with The Vaccines, with the short, punchy songs. Also common touchstones with The Strokes.
Eric: Do you think music is too serious right now, the state of rock?
Jordan: Yeah, it’s pretty brainy right now. Which isn’t bad, I think, but rock and roll has gotten very intellectual, almost high-brow.
Eric: Do you see yourself as an antidote? You certainly are refreshing.
Jordan: We try not to take it seriously at all.
Eric: A lot of the bedroom stuff that you hear is so painfully introspective. This is more party music.
Jordan: It’s kind of funny. All the music starts in this weird, almost bedroom atmosphere, though. Just a laptop and Garageband. But then it gets thrown to these guys and all hell breaks loose.