Almost every day in my house I hear my children say, “Dad! I want to listen to The Growlers! Let’s watch The Growlers videos!” I usually chuckle and my wife often rolls her eyes. What makes this LA-based psychedelic rock band so appealing to my kids? Is it their catchy surf-inspired sound? Or Brooks Nielsen’s raspy deep voice? Or their witty ironic lyrics? Whatever it is, my kids are obsessed.
The Growlers began in 2006 in the city of Dana Point, California. The band’s main members are singer Brooks Nielsen and keyboard/guitar player Kyle Straka. They have released seven albums, several EPs and a good amount of singles. Their style is a combination of surf rock, psychedelic rock, metal, New Age and lo-fi old-time rock and roll. They have created a genre they call “Beach Goth”, which to me sums up their unique style.
Now why are my kids obsessed with The Growlers? I have a few ideas. For one, the band is very approachable and at times simple, combining familiar old-time rock and roll instrumentals with lyrics about current issues, like homelessness, drugs and sexuality. This familiar rock and roll sound has been played in my house since my kids were born with bands like The Beatles and The Doors, so it makes sense this sound would appeal to them. The Growlers’ later work strays away from the surf rock sound slightly and enters into a more New Age style, with heavier synth and bass lines. I was a little sad to see this transformation but I have since accepted it and learned to love songs like Dream World and Try Hard Fool.
Another idea of why my kids are obsessed with The Growlers is Brooks Nielsen himself. He is a dynamic character, full of humor and energy and has an amazing voice. He is a master lyricist and blends humor into his songs, while keeping them relevant and poignant. The song, Gay Thoughts, for example is very funny and silly but has an important message of sexuality and society’s gender roles and norms. One of our family’s favorite songs is Someday, which is about the hope of escaping poverty and having a better life. This song is meaningful to us as we listened to it during my career transition. The lines, “when bologna turns into steak” and “tall boys turn into champagne” are examples of Brooks’ excellent ability to create metaphors. My wife actually gave me a card with lyrics from this song when I officially began my current career.
My kids love watching The Growlers’ music videos and laugh when they see Brooks dressed in drag or dancing. He is a confident man, often wielding a cigarette and a glass of whiskey in his tattooed arms. Their music videos are very entertaining and are full of trippy psychedelic images, like melting spacemen, bugs in a tiny motel and a demonized Frida walking down a hallway. Their numerous videos add to their overall image of drinking, surfing and grungy alternative rocker lifestyles. But is this the reason my kids are obsessed?
My last theory, which is the most basic, is that The Growlers are an amazingly talented and unique band that created their own genre that is unmatched anywhere else in the music industry. Kids, no matter how old, have taste and can tell what is good music. My kids, not trying to brag, must have excellent taste in music for being obsessed with one of the best bands to emerge in the last fifty years. I’m proud of my kids for loving this band as much as I do and I will never hesitate to play their music for them or let them watch their music videos. The Growlers are a classic genre-bending band that I will always hold close to my heart.
Genres: rock, psychedelic rock, surf rock, New Age, alternative rock, lo-fi rock
Favorite songs: Humdrum Blues, Someday, One Million Lovers, California, Problems III, Black Memories, Love Test, Rare Hearts, Gay Thoughts, Someday, Monotonia, Pet Shop Eyes
Score: 9/10 Almost the perfect sound, but their later work is not my favorite and leans too much towards New Age and less psychedelic rock.
Written by Adam