Since forming little over a year ago, London’s desert-rockers The Howlers have quickly identified themselves as one of the UK’s must-see live acts. We sat down for a virtual interview with vocalist Adam Young to hear about their journey so far.
Though forming so relatively recently, Adam explains that they’ve been playing music most of their lives, in various bands and cover bands. “Gus, our bass player, is from the Netherlands originally and he was in a wedding covers band from the age of fourteen. So we’ve got interesting backgrounds. We’ve not been playing music together that long but were one of the tightest bands out there, and it feels like a lifetime.”
“Last year I lost a family member to Covid 19”, he tells me, when asked about any happy moments in the previous few months. “Which isn’t the answer to that question,” he quickly adds, “but it is to answer it. So it was shit, and the way we dealt with it as a band was probably my most happiest moment, because we used music as a way to get through that. We ended up having this week of normality, and that for me was … life changing’s a bit too profound, but I look back and think, I wouldn’t change it for the world. And I know the person I lost would see that.”
Though the group have mentioned before that they don’t believe music should be political, an analysis of their lyrics reveals an abundance of political themes. “Our generation is very much politically aligned”, Adam says. “We all know who the dickheads are in power. But that doesn’t mean we have to shout about it. It seems like every band out there at the moment thinks that to be a musician, you need to buy a pair of Dr Martins and you need to be angry and shout and it’s like, I get that … but can we not give someone a bit of hope about something else? Or discuss other problems? One of the biggest things I hold onto is a band I really respect, a really political band … they base their whole career around that, and what can they do now? They can’t write a love song or they’ll alienate their whole fan base. If I can give people that three minutes of peace – that hour of escape when were on the stage – I’ve done my job.”
When asked an often polarising question about the place of image in a band’s career, Adam explains that like many artists, they think fashion and music goes hand in hand. “How we dress is very important to us,” he explains. “We’ve always been extroverted even before we were a band. I’d walk into a room wearing a neckerchief and a 70s shirt and jacket, and I’m from a working class town where everyone’s wearing Adidas or Lacoste tracksuits. I got the piss taken out of me all my life, and it’s been drilled into me to not give a shit.” He elaborates that when you play gig after gig, you realise people do want that performance – the escapism it helps provide. “It’s just what we enjoy. And I love the iconography of the 70s – the Western films and stuff, and my character on stage is exactly that. It’s almost like putting on a uniform.”
“Bowie wouldn’t have done that well if he was just wearing a nike t-shirt,” he laughs. “The geezer dressed in glittery catsuits – you can’t sing Ziggy Stardust dressed as if you’re about to go on an away day. That’s not to compare us to Bowie – that’s unbelievably egotistical.” And egotistical, the group are definitely not. I’ve been interviewing for years, now, and only after today’s casual zoom chat have I realised that The Howlers have been the first, and only, band to ask about my own day before accepting any questions about theirs. There’s no hint of an aloof arrogance at any point in response, or any sign of anything but a naturally amiable nature.
Of course, this is rare, and the group have themselves described other London artists as the “same twats in different hats”. “That’s so funny you brought up that quote,” Young says when I mention their phrasing. “When we first started we were absolutely wrongly pigeonholed into another band’s genre,” he explains. “And we’ve taken huge exception to that – it got to the point where we’d play a gig and everyone would be like, ‘oh you know this band?’ And we’d go fuck off, y’know? People would use that same metaphor about different hats – they were using it to describe us before even seeing us. I think London particularly is rife for that sort of thing, everyone just wanting to play the Windmill … it’s funny, but I don’t want to play there. It’s a shithole. We just didn’t latch on to this idea of what our goals should be.”
Interestingly, they thought their most successful track, ‘Matador’, would be a failure. “We thought it’d be shit. Honestly. We wrote it and we were like, it’s not radio worthy. Its got something like 27 words in the whole song. It’s not a song, it’s a bit of music. But we were like the soundtrack to sport for ages, which is ironic because we absolutely detest football. We coined the term Howlers FC because it’s so not us.”
We wrap up our chat with talk of the upcoming tour, coming in the spring of 2021. “If it goes ahead I’ll be very excited,” Young says. “But it probably will be postponed. We actually took our set, ripped it up and threw it out the window, and wrote a whole new set. So were just excited to play it all now.”
Undoubtedly, The Howlers have all the passion and dedication needed to make it a long, long way in their industry, and release a debut album that sky rockets itself to great heights of popularity. Keep your eyes on this 3 piece band for 2021, and check out their tracks and tour dates below.
18 – YES – Manchester
19 – Rough Trade – Bristol
20 – The Lexington – London
27 – The Rossi Bar – Brighton
01 – Edge Of The Wedge – Portsmouth
03 – The Sunflower Lounge – Birmingham
06 – Oporto – Leeds