Music Features

M3F Performers The Growlers Didn't Always Like Playing Festivals

The Growlers are grateful to be playing festivals now.
The Growlers are grateful to be playing festivals now. Taylor Bonin
The Growlers have an attitude: mostly grateful, sprinkled with an edgy determination.

Singer and co-founder Brooks Nielsen, who formed the band in the mid-2000s with guitarist Matt Taylor, says that the band is just happy to be doing things on their terms. Not that they ever handed off the reins. This is the kind of resolve that comes 15 years after the Southern California rockers went from forming for a party to becoming a full-time touring and recording operation.

"I think that I’ve always tried to protect us,” Nielsen says. “I have pushed away a lot of opportunities because they just seemed unnatural. We never want anything to feel contrived. Outside influences are what really screw people over. After a point, we finally worked with a bigger guy, one we trusted, and that didn’t end well. That was a lesson learned the hard way. It made us decide to do it all on our own again. Now we are our own label.”

Beach Goth Records and Tapes is that label, and the term "beach goth" itself is often used to describe the band’s sound. It includes a surfy style that pays homage to their oceanic roots. It’s threaded with a driving keyboard, steady and robust beats, and guitar sounds that traverse the folk and psychedelic musical landscapes.

The music is persistent without swinging a heavy hammer. The emotion in Nielsen’s voice adds the grit.

Though they’re in Phoenix this weekend for a festival — they'll play the annual three-day music fest M3F this Saturday, March 7, at Margaret T. Hance Park — those giant shows with “big, big lineups” were, at one point, not a band favorite. That dislike was another opportunity for them to take matters into their own hands.

“At one point, we wanted something that felt like the parties we had in our warehouse in the earlier days. We’d burn all the CDs and sell them and create our own little world,” says Nielsen.

They created the Beach Goth festival in 2012 and were in charge of their atmosphere, bringing together an eclectic blend of musicians, from punk to folk to hip-hop. Their attitude about hopping on the festival circuit these days is different.

“Now, it’s kind of a break to play a festival,"says Nielsen. "It’s fun to go up and play for an hour and just be together. Over the years, we’ve become grateful. We’re happy to be still standing and continuing to grow."

The band are currently touring in support of their 2019 release, Natural Affair, and they’ll be playing plenty of tunes from that record, along with tracks from their previous albums. The band is into focusing on the present and isn’t concerning themselves with the next recording while they’re on this tour.

“Maybe when we’re done touring, I’ll tuck away in the mountains for a bit and write some music," Nielsen explains.

Nielsen and crew are content to ride on their collective good vibes. “We all really love each other and get along great,” he says. “We’re excited to tour. Some of the material is still pretty new to us, and for the fans, we are gonna be pulling out some old stuff. So, it’s just going to be a party.”

The Growlers are scheduled to perform at 8 p.m. on Saturday, March 7, at M3F. Tickets start at $80 and are available via the M3F site.
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Amy Young is an arts and culture writer who also spends time curating arts-related exhibits and events, and playing drums in local bands French Girls and Sturdy Ladies.
Contact: Amy Young