One of the guitar bands making an impact early in 2012 is Howler, who have drawn comparisons with The Strokes in their approach to rock music. Not only that, they were discovered and signed on the spot by Rough Trade head honcho Geoff Travis.
America Give Up is their first album, but as we spoke on the phone to singer Jordan Gatesmith we explored the fact that their 19-year-old front man has already been in several bands, and seems to know an awful lot of pop music history…
musicOMH: How is Minneapolis today?
Jordan Gatesmith: Today is the first day it’s snowed, and it’s really weird. We’ve been back here for a little while now, a month and a half or so, but soon we’ll be out on the road again.
OMH: Is ‘America Give Up’ everything you hoped the Howler debut album would be?
Jordan: I’m very proud of what we’ve made, yes. I’ve been in – count them – one thousand bands! Well, not really – but it became a natural progression to move from the music I was making before with Total Babe to this. I was experimenting then but the songs for Howler were so exciting for me, and it became a pressing issue getting them finished.
OMH: Was it easy to pick your band mates when you were forming the band?
Jordan: I started off by picking my friend but that turned out to be the worst idea ever! So in the end I decided the best way of doing it was to find the best people I could find around the city. After some line-up changes I found the right people.
OMH: You have said previously that you listened to a lot of jazz music in your teens. How did that shape the music you make now?
Jordan: Yeah, I did – not as much anymore but I was a big fan then. My first album was Miles Davis‘ A Kind Of Blue, but then I really got in to Charles Mingus and the hard bop stuff. That’s what set me up to be a music fan. Now I’m a huge rock fan, obviously, but not exclusively so.
OMH: What can we read into the title of America Give Up?
Jordan: Originally it was intended to be sarcastic, a huge sort of ‘in joke’ within the band. One of the things we have always said to each other is ‘give up’, which we say if someone is trying too hard to be something. It’s a kind of acceptance thing, so in this case it was a message to America to give up, to stick up a finger to it. Now we feel kind of bad about it!
OMH: You recently did a UK tour with the Vaccines. What would you say you learned from that?
Jordan: It really did teach us a load, touring with them – those guys are crazy motherfuckers! It was like all those things you hear in stories about rock tours totally coming true. The first time we were out on the road we had champagne in the room, crazy stalker fans, the whole works. I had no fucking idea what I’d got myself in to! It was so much fun; we caused so much trouble and had a blast.
OMH: Is that how you’d like things to go when you’re headlining?
Jordan: Yeah, absolutely – bring it on!
OMH: Is it right that Johnny Marr gave you a glowing endorsement recently?
Jordan: Yeah, that was really nice. It freaked me out actually. We don’t sound anything like The Smiths but they are one of my favourite bands, so to get some nice words from him like that is great. I freaked out like a little girl!
OMH: What are your plans for the coming year?
Jordan: It’s a crazy schedule, but it’s nothing but good times so we have no complaints. We have a lot of touring to do, some ridiculous stuff. We’re going to the UK, then Europe, then over to Japan, and then we fly back here for 12 hours. Then we’re off to Brazil, then I guess we’re doing festivals! So it’s nothing but touring, but if there’s some down time we’ll be checking into studios and getting the next EP done. I’m writing for two projects at the moment, and the other one has been concentrating on more of a shoegaze-y sound, with some elements of Rolling Stones too. Actually I’m thinking of calling that EP America I’m Sorry, as part of our apology!
OMH: Is it a constant adrenalin rush playing your brand of rock ‘n’ roll?
Jordan: It is, yeah – usually, but maybe not so much playing in Kentucky to five people. Actually the attention we’ve had in the US has been growing recently, things are starting to happen. Even in Minneapolis it’s started to pick up, they didn’t know who we were to start with but now we’re getting a lot more exposure.
Howler’s album America Give Up, featuring the single Back Of Your Neck, is out now through Rough Trade. The band begin a UK tour in Bristol’s Louisiana on 23 January 2012. More information and music at howlerband.com. Questions were posed by Ben Hogwood.