Out In The Wilderness: An Interview With Adam Young From The Howlers
Rock trio The Howler's home is underneath the grey, billowy, smoked clouds of East London, yet their heart lies in the scorched, dusty beauty of the Californian desert. And on their home turf, they acknowledge the spit, sweat and swag it took for them as an unsigned act to gain status and recognition: "Exactly that...hard work and due diligence. From our past experiences, we don’t take a kicking lightly; we dust off and keep on trucking, there isn't a choice in that, we have to keep going. We believe in what we do, and our passion for it shows," Adam Young from the band acquaints me with ardour.
The formation of the three, in a musical sense, was a natural matter stemming from the intoxicating days of university. "Myself and Guus happened to be on the same course and started living together, and then I met Cam a bit later. We all clicked, both as friends and musicians; one thing we have always had comments around is how tight we are and able to read each other on stage," he recalls fondly.
It was an inherent feeling that there was no other way to describe their jam than Desert Rock which took time for some to get accustomed to. Adam explains why, "People thought, A desert rock band from London, WTF, but the reality was it made sense once you saw us live. We had very easy comparisons made from those who had not seen us on stage, so we had a point to prove. You could easily say we're a Garage Rock, Surf Rock, West Coast band, it’s all in the pot, both in our sound and how we dress. It's got the unmistakable smell of 60s / 70s Americana."
Drawing influences from countless places, they appreciate their individual preferences and combine this to form their output, taking selective elements of Afrobeat, Blues, Psych, 70s Rock and even a little Jazz. "If I had to pick an influence, I'd say we influence each other through our lives, families and hardships we have gone through especially this past year. We use our music as a cathartic tool to help our own mental health; we wouldn't be here without each other or them. I lost close family to COVID-19 and looking through their possessions and finding out things I never knew about them has really affected me and what we as a band let influence us."
Young considers their positive relationship with the industry, which is an outcome from them being hardworking and nice, giving respect and credit where due: "Our legacy has become something defined by my lost family; it's what pushed us through Covid. We locked ourselves away in a factory in North London whilst I was still grieving and wrote a tonne of new material, the best stuff we've ever penned, and that came from the emotion we all felt in the room. Cam often says I pull songs out my arse when I'm down or low, but they're nothing without the boys!"
Past singles La Dolce Vita whisked me to the room commanding Oasis heavyweight Fuckin' In The Bushes flavoured with Country and Western seasoning, and Matador held an echoed Kasabian attitude. "Thank you," our go-getter offers, "The past material represented a time in the band where we had to make a statement. Our debut single landed with huge success, and subsequently, Matador went on to soundtrack ‘Sport’. That's not a joke; it was literally on everything. I was getting phone calls about how people had heard it here and there; it was a weird time."
"The only required theme is self-identity, about understanding who you are and what you stand for. Lyrically they're not complex or even technically great songs, not in comparison to our current material, but they have a message that people connected with."
Over the coming months, The Howlers will be releasing three singles and an EP. Adam shares that his grief was in the middle of the pandemic and the Black Lives Matter movement protests, so their journey to the factory was to a chorus of chanting, sirens and people queuing in masks each day. "It was a strange experience, but the result was we became closer as people and family and wrote the best material we have ever written together. Everyone got involved in every aspect, from lyrics to structure to tearing down songs and starting again."
"I can honestly say I wouldn't have got through the shit I was going through without the boys. We put everything into these songs, taking our own poetry and feelings and performing them together." What they devised is not only a testament to the group but an ode to the hardship of love and loss in modern times. "It's an understanding of how to come to terms with falling out of love whilst at the same time also longing to be loved in kind, confronting your fears and ultimately finding your way in the world. The team we recorded it with was amazing and are part of the family."
That aforementioned creative team is a glittering list of originators, with mastering provided by Third Man Records. He concludes, "To work with Third Man has been awesome. To have people who worked on Jack White's records, to the likes of albums by Black Keys, The Kills and so much more has been mind-blowing. I still get asked how I pulled it all off and to be honest, I don't know. And speak of the devil, I've just got an email with more of our tracks- hot of the press- from them. "
An essential tradition with whoever they work with, whatever they do, is ordering a curry, having a beer run and all sitting down together as a family. "There's no other way to describe it: the people that work with us mean the world to us, and if we can demonstrate their art as much as our own then that’s more than worth it. Theo, Christoph and Marieke spent a week with us in the studio (in our Covid secure bubble of course) and for that one week, we had normality in a world of craziness."
Theo and Christoph were like Mum and Dad and worked tirelessly to help them find their path. He continues, "Our girl Marieke is one hell of a photographer and videographer, and I wanted to allow her to experiment, do things she had never done, and that’s what we did. We got hold of a vintage film role and took hours and hours of footage, that's what its all about, working together."
"I think its important to see us as much as hear us, for people to know who we are, not the faux perspective that can be portrayed, to be able to see how the records were made- the dancing, the hugs, the tears- to show that we are not just three lads who are more like brothers, but we come with our team around us."
Unfortunately, the March 2021 tour looks unlikely for now, which involves stop-offs including Brighton, Leeds and Portsmouth. We resolve our meet and greet with Adam thinking of what playing live means to him and the others: "It’s just us three and we haven't really any plans to change that. Nobody can read us like we read each other, and you can’t teach that. We’ve had comments made to us time and time again that live we are something else altogether (whatever that means). But, you know, we come off stage, have a big hug together and beat ourselves up, always striving to be better and better."
"If you enjoy watching us then we’ve done our job. We've made people cry, laugh, cringe on stage, we've even had people pay off a £100 parking ticket we got the night before. I guess what I'm trying to say is, we're nothing without everyone who comes to a show, and we appreciate that. I've given away more merch than our team would like, but hey life's too short."
"We’ve done a lot of work to get these records out, so they are coming. I imagine our tour will be postponed again, but to be honest, as long as people dig these records for what they represent, I'll be more than happy!"
Article by Beverley Knight