Sun-soaked soundscapes and Twentieth-century nostalgia with The Howlers
Listening to The Howlers feels like standing on the sun-soaked pavement and drinking a cold beer. Warm, slightly gritty, and absolutely welcome. The East London Desert rock trio have an edged-up retro sensibility. If they were a film, they’d be Once Upon a Time in Hollywood. They’re late twentieth-century alt-rockers in new, updated clothes.
The music of The Howlers speaks to coming-of-age rebellion and unapologetic authenticity, of leather jackets, the fresh feeling of discovering a new sound, and the tenacious drive to deliver feel-good, rugged music to the masses.
With a mix of heady riffs, movement-inspiring drums and the kind of vocals that would catch your attention at a festival, the sound of The Howlers is a paradox. On a first listen, The Howlers immediately feel like returning to an old favourite record. For very new pieces of music, the tracks resonate with sonic echoes that’ll get you listening – and replaying again and again.
It’s difficult to overstate the specific feeling of The British summer in their music. But don’t mistake heat for sunniness; The Howlers have an unruly edge that gives them an undoubted rock’n’roll tone.
Since their debut single ‘La Dolce Vita’ released in 2019, The Howlers have found themselves growing into a celebrated act on the up-and-coming indie scene.
They’ve received roaring praise from BBC Radio 1 and Clash Magazine for their commanding sound, and with the release of their new single ‘Nothing to Lose,’ they’re (quite rightly) out on the prowl for more.
Alongside the new single, The Howlers have announced an upcoming EP, ‘Further Down the Line.’ With the EP mastered by Felix Davis (Lana Del Rey, Easy Life) and a cover graced with the works of legendary photographer Brian Cannon, The Howlers are cementing themselves onto the scene with an album that oozes the essence of an accomplished band heading for high things. The Howlers are a band who aren’t afraid to grind – and they’ve been working hard to get themselves known for their signature sound and uncompromising presence.
The band embrace the feeling of their teenage years – Adam speaks about the kind of cultural landscapes available to us as teenagers that act as an ‘oasis of creativity.’ He touches on the role of places like a youth soul club in Wigan, and the Wedgewood Rooms in Portsmouth, locations that inform the preferences, styles, and specific feelings that come to be the beating heart of artistic construction.
I spoke with Adam Young (vocalist and guitarist) about musical nostalgia, artistic growth and the kind of music venues that steal a musician’s heart.
Hello! Welcome to IAMUR, it’s wonderful to have you. Please can you introduce yourselves and tell us about the genesis of The Howlers?
Adam: So we are Adam, Guus & Tom. Myself (Adam) and Guus met and started the band whilst at uni in London and ended up living together for a number of years around the city, we had a couple different drummers to begin with, and initially I actually touched in with tom in 2019 to see if he wanted the gig but he was swamped with his band at the time, but with all things, life seems to find a way of creating obstacles people can’t see past so after the pandemic we were looking for a new drummer someone who was as committed as we were, we had lots on the back burner after our last tour and by chance Tom’s last band had just called it a day, so I got back in touch with him in early Feb, a swift half at the Hawley Arms later, and we just hit the ground running with a show in early March and here we are.
Who are your musical influences? Who do you see as your peers?
Adam: As a band we’ve always been quite different in our musical tastes. I like to picture it as a Venn diagram. There’s areas where we cross over musically and others we don’t but ultimately we all have things we bring to the table that contribute to how it ends up coming out of the speakers and that’s really important. There’s obviously clear influences such as Dan Auerbach or Zepp or Edwin Starr but also new emerging artists such as Black Honey, The Pale White and Fur who we admire musically for their art but ultimately there’s not a lot out there that makes us sit up and listen.
If you had to choose one film, one TV show and one album to illustrate the essence of The Howlers, what would they be?
Adam: Film: Once Upon a Time in Hollywood. TV: Mortimer & Whitehouse: Gone Fishing (*We don’t even like fishing but the programme is pretty wholesome). Album: The Arcs – Yours, Dreamily
How would you track the evolution of your sound from your debut single ‘La Dolce Vita’ to the new track, ‘Nothing to Lose’?
Guus: Simply put… growth. Let’s be honest, our early works are not that great, band members at the time had strong opinions and a stubborn nature when it came to songwriting, in most cases much to the detriment of Adam’s initial song writing.
Adam: I found my identity as a songwriter really late last year, I was fortunate to be pushed into A&R sessions with writers I really respected and after a steep learning curve something just clicked.
I love the textured, almost crunchy feedback that opens ‘Nothing to Lose.’ The single has a very specific warm, grainy feel that immediately inspires movement. Can you describe your vision for the single in one sentence?
Adam: We wanted to create something that was representative of us, channelling those nostalgic influences into something fresh and modern that is instantly recognisable.
You’ve been described as having a ‘west-coast sun-soaked sound’ and are firmly positioned as a desert rock trio. The video for your new single ‘Nothing to Lose’ really plays into that imagery –with the warm oranges and reds and dark shadows, there’s a very visual, summery yet gritty element to your sound. How does catching such a specific feeling play into the overall atmosphere and writing process of your music?
Guus: We all know music is so subjective, for instance Adam really does not understand The Beatles thing it’s just not his bag and he really can’t stand Macca, which to some people is like slapping their sainted mother, but that’s his take, so with that in mind you know you can’t win over everyone with your music, you can only hope you will but the world doesn’t work like that, so when you write a track and visualise it you have to be real with what you are doing otherwise you haven’t a hope in hell of people seeing it or hearing it and thinking, yea i get what there trying to say.
Brian Cannon (Oasis, The Verve) worked on the artwork for ‘Nothing to Lose’. The dance hall-style black and white imagery paired with the bold typography is suggestive of late-twentieth-century rock, but with a distinctly contemporary twist. How does this reflect the soundscape of The Howlers?
Adam: That’s a very accurate analysis of who we are as a band, I’ve got this saying, you can’t reinvent the wheel, all you can do is add a few more spokes, and that’s the basis of it, when I saw those shots Brian took back in 2012 of a youth soul club in Wigan, they spoke to me about my youth about where I cut my teeth as a teenager, with music and fashion and there’s no point in hiding that fact, as we said before you can only convey what is real and hope people connect with it like you do.
You sell your music on vinyl and cassette tape as well as via streaming services. There’s a strong sense of retro sensibility and nostalgia that emanates from your sound. How important is the physical music object to you? What does it mean to make the music of The Howlers material as well as sonic?
Adam: It’s very important to us, a tangible manifestation of something you created is the closure on the whole emotional process of creating art, I think music fans understand that as well, that when they’re holding that record they now own a part of that process.
You’re playing the Wedgewood Rooms stage at Icebreaker Festival on July 9th. You have mentioned on Twitter how important the venue is to singer-songwriter, Adam. How does it feel to be playing the venue in its 30th year?
Adam: I grew up in Portsmouth, for those who aren’t familiar with the city, it has changed alot in my lifetime alone. Growing up it was run down, beat up a city that was forgotten mainly, its deeply working class not always to its credit, believe me growing up and striving to be different in a city like that you have to grow a thick skin quick, and the one oasis of creativity we really had was The Wedgewood Rooms. It’s a special venue, you get venues like it in London sure, there a dime a dozen in the capital all with their own scenes but we love playing The Wedge it has a proper feel to it, behind the jet black walls and floors there’s a spit and sawdust crew that love music first and foremost, whenever we go back there we’re greeted like old friends something you don’t really get in London unless your in the clique. It’s something Guus has been striving for at The Victoria in Dalston since he started running that as well, that’s like our home away from home.
Who are you listening to lately, and who do you think we should be looking out for?
Adam: To be honest, we don’t really go in for new breaking artists, it may sound silly but there’s a lot of samey rubbish out there that gets attention for everything but their musical ability, when did the music stop mattering? There’s a great artist Guus introduced me to recently in the tour van, ‘Tre Burt’ has a really brilliant fresh take on genres gone by, but I will say music is better enjoyed discovered of your own back than being told to listen to this or that. Sure that’s the shortcut but there’s no better feeling than discovering an artist you never knew existed and falling in love with their unique playing or sound.
What can we expect next from The Howlers?
Adam: New songs, better songs, more shows, more merch, what more do you want from a band!
Readers can find out more about The Howlers on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Bandcamp, Tik Tok and all the major music streaming platforms. Information and tickets for their forthcoming shows can be found here.