Beach Goth Banter With Brooks Nielsen of The Growlers

Words by Audra Tracy | Photo by Taylor Bonin

Just six weeks ago, The Growlers played a sold out show at the iconic Stone Pony in Asbury Park, New Jersey. Inside, the venue was filled from wall to wall with sun-kissed, blissed-out college kids who whole-heartedly hung on every word of the night’s stacked setlist. For a band with little commercial success (so far), they managed to fill a legendary rock club to the brim on a random Wednesday night.

From humble DIY beginnings in California, The Growlers created their own scene, and their own musical genre, too. Dubbed ‘beach goth’, the band’s sound is simultaneously upbeat and dark – the kind of surf rock that could soundtrack a psychedelic séance. Now that ‘special something’ is seeping into the mainstream – and with good reason.

As The Growlers crisscross the country on their 2019 tour, front-man Brooks Nielsen checked in from the road to talk about the past, present, and future of a band that continues to evolve on its own terms.

Nielsen is the true anti-hero of this beautiful ‘beach goth’ scene he helped create. Much like Julian Casablancas of The Strokes (who produced The Growlers’ 2016 album, City Club), Nielsen has a self-proclaimed ‘casual’ approach to his live performances.

If there is a polar opposite of a ‘hype man’, Nielsen is it. You won’t see him showboating, or stage diving, or inciting a crowd into total madness. He’s a reluctant rock star that seems completely unfazed by the screaming masses pawing at his feet. And maybe that commonality is why Casablancas was so drawn to The Growlers in the first place.

“It was a beautiful moment in Growlers history”, Nielsen says of working with Casablancas. “It was cool to see him and work with him, he’s an amazing melody maker.”

The band’s history is rich, but Nielsen’s sights are fully set on the future. Some big things are happening for The Growlers this year, including their hometown ‘Beach Goth Halloween’ festival at the Hollywood Palladium, and the upcoming release of the band’s sixth studio album, Natural Affair.

“We’re just trying to get this festival set up, and get our album ready and release it into the wild”, Nielsen shares. “We recorded in seven different spaces”, he says of Natural Affair. “We generally meet up and make as many songs as possible. But it’s expensive, so we recorded in some home studios”, he adds.

The DIY rock n roll lifestyle is never easy, yet Nielsen is quick to acknowledge how far The Growlers have come since their 2009 debut. And regardless of whatever obstacles come next, he’s optimistic about where the band is headed.

‘We’re still growing, we have a lot of songs, and a strong fanbase that loves us, and now we have the luxury of help”, Nielsen asserts. “We’re able to hire employees now, when in the past we were doing everything ourselves.”

The Growlers are set to spend early 2020 touring Europe, but hopefully they’ll make their way back to boardwalks of Asbury Park again soon. There is certainly an eager audience, with open arms and hearts, waiting for them to return.

“We spent a few days in town, and were able to get some beach time while we were out there”, Nielsen says of the Jersey shore spot. “We might do an east coast Beach Goth [festival] there”, he teases. “Thinking about it.” | Natural Affair