By Jon Milton. Links to videos in blue.
The Howlers announced themselves to the world earlier this year with one of the standout tunes of 2019, La Dolce Vita. For those of you who are unfamiliar with the song, La Dolce Vita is like a turbo charged Miserlou from Pulp Fiction, an all-conquering, bona fide indie anthem that pelts along at breakneck speed. The bands second single Matador is out today and it’s another surf guitar beast, firmly cementing their reputation as one of the bands to watch out for right now.
The sheer energy and power that they’ve captured on these two singles is appropriately matched by their live performances, singer/guitarist Adam Young whirling around the stage like a dervish, flanked by bassist Guus and all action drummer Cam. The band are based in East London, met at University, and decided to start making music together in 2018 over a few pints at the Howl at the Moon pub in Hoxton, which is where they came up with their name.
I met up with the band at gig at London’s Werkhaus in September, where they supported Strange Cages, and asked lead singer Adam about the new single, and what it was like to be in a band at this early stage of their career.
What’s Matador about?
As a band we want to fly the flag for the youth in a different way. Matador is a natural progression from the themes we set with La Dolce Vita: whereas the majority of people out there struggling to understand their self-identity and would rather mask or hide their true self in favour of appearing favourable to their peers, a Matador is someone whose task is to kill the bull.
As a symbol, this represents fighting the fears that can define you. We don’t believe in anything as imperfections, you are you and that’s all that matters. One of the lines in the song ‘I don’t know where I’m gunna go now, I’ve tried to sell my soul to the only one I know’ is literally about the regret that comes from not being true to yourself.
La Dolce Vita was very well received by Radio and media, would you like it to be ‘same again’ for Matador or to gain broader coverage if possible, and if so where?
Well of course, we would like to see it everywhere being as invasive as possible in peoples’ lives as we feel the tracks message is important to understand, but we will see only time will tell how well it is received
You use that ‘surf guitar’ sound again on Matador – would you describe that as your trademark sound?
Of course - that’s the sound we have natural fallen into and began to attempt to master and adapt for ourselves. Who else is doing that - no-one…
Your live show is very energetic – is that hard to maintain when you’re playing support or if the audience is unresponsive?
Not really. That’s who we are on stage, and we will always get up there and maintain our performance. Of course, we have supported a few bands in the past who have had their feathers ruffled by the ferocity of our performances, but I think what people fail to understand is it’s not personal that we get up there and perform that way, that’s our band and we won’t dull down how we perform to make their band look good.
Of course some crowds are less responsive than others, but all that matters to us is we get up there and have fun, and if 1 or 2 people dig it then it’s a job well done.
Who has been the biggest influence on you as a band?
People. We live in a city that is defined by multi everything, beliefs, Faiths, Orientations, Cultures, social class. If anything we are a reflection of that, and the flaws in our society that we witness daily.
In a band you expose your flaws to each other and the people watching you on stage via the medium of song, but that’s what inspires us
If we were having this conversation in three years’ time, and the intervening three years had been the best you could have hoped for, what would have happened in that three year period?
I hope we have another conversation in 3 months’ time!!! But for us all we care about is people get what we are about. Some of our best shows have been the smallest ones, or early days in a city we have never been to where the room is 1/3 full. To most bands that doesn’t seem logical but to connect with people across the country in a place you’re not from - why wouldn’t that be the best thing to happen? In 3 years’ time if we are still doing then we would be happy”
Desert Rockers by night, how do you pay the bills by day?
In the words of Richard Ashcroft we are all still ‘Slaves to the money’. You can find us tending to the socially accepted alcoholism of London’s socialites and suits.
If each member of the band had to choose 5 albums only each to take to a desert island, which albums would they be?
That’s a difficult question. I can’t answer for the Cam or Guus, but for me I think it would be in no particular order:
But I could easily put ‘Live in San Francisco’, Thee Oh Sees & ‘Heartbreaker’, Ryan Adams on that list.
Which other emerging bands should I keep my eye out for?
Saint Agnes, The Cosmics, Strange Cages, The C33’s are all great bands but we have played with some amazing bands, there’s a lot of talent out there
What’s the plan for the next 6 months?
Release more tunes, play more gigs, buy more jackets - what else could you want from a band?
When’s the album out?
People keep asking us this very question and the truth is we haven’t a Scooby. We are writing some of the best material we have every written right now, and I’m sitting on about 20 something demos - who knows, one day when the time is right.
At the time of writing, Matador has already started to get Radio 1 airplay via Jack Saunders and extensive critical acclaim, so Adam’s desire for the single to be as invasive as possible has started on the right foot. This isn't entirely unsurprising, as Matador is another immense single with a really big sound to it. The band have a maturity and swagger about them, and an air of confidence that says 'we know we're good', which says to me that if they maintain this momentum, 2020 could be a very big year for them.
The Howlers are supporting the Himalayas at the Wedgewood Rooms in Portsmouth on November 12th and they have a headline gig at the Waiting Room in Stoke Newington on November 16th which is free entry. Their Spotify playlist is also worth having a listen to.