The Growlers Bring Their Edgy, Mysterious Surf-Pop to Culture Room on Tuesday

Keep New Times Free
I Support
  • Local
  • Community
  • Journalism
  • logo

Support the independent voice of South Florida and help keep the future of New Times free.

As with an electric Jimi Hendrix lead or a crooned Frank Sinatra bar, as soon as a melody from the Growlers begins, fans know it's them. With a playful, full-bodied bass up-front and acidic vocals over top, the California-based indie-rock band has honed a distinct and infectious sound. Sporting a golden mane and easy swagger, frontman Brooks Nielsen leads a pack of stylish, laid-back dudes who make us want to just kick it.

Formed in Dana Point, California, in 2006, the five-piece is now based out of Costa Mesa in Orange County. Since its inception, it has earned praise from several more-established and beloved rock groups, like the Black Keys, Dr. Dog, and Devendra Banhart, whom they've toured with at various stages over the last ten years. The Growlers have produced five full-length records as well as a number of EPs, including their latest, 2014's Chinese Fountain, which they dubbed their most "grown-up" record to date.

Though several mostly underground acts — among them Mac DeMarco, Ty Segall, and La Luz — have enjoyed playing to relatively large crowds around the country, the Growlers' tones might be the most recognizable, and much of that has to do with the blade-sharp voice of Nielsen. His thoughtful, slicing lyrics and warm rasp are enhanced by the Growlers' prominent use of reverb and a soulful surf-style sound.

The Growlers' signature sound takes its cues from Nielsen's slinky vocal stylings. On their song "Love Test," for example, his voice has the character of a flickering light bulb: "Listen for fate's whisper/It will try and warn you/Telling your heart to be cautious/Of a love that's trying to harm you." In the music video for that track, Nielsen takes on the persona of a mid-'90s Johnny Depp-like character hosting a three-ring circus with a game-show microphone. Behind him, the band carries the tune with Dick Dale-esque guitar tones and a fat, Motor City-style bass. The timbre of Nielsen's voice makes a listener want to know him, believe in him, and chill with him. In short, he makes us want more.

The band owes much of its early commercial success to alternative-rock musician Marcelo Camelo, who brought the Growlers onstage in Rio de Janeiro in 2011 to a big, adoring audience. As the group grew over the years through house parties, small festivals, and then bigger festivals, its live shows grew too. Now a full-blown spectacle, it features extraordinary wigs, heavy makeup, cross-dressing, and a myriad of props. Again, in the "Love Test" video, band members dress in flamboyant tuxedos as they play under a neon sign calling to mind old Chinatown signs for chop suey.

Though much of its earlier music videos, and even its earlier performances, were lo-fi and eerie, something about the band's energy has stuck — it's part surf, part country, part pop, part mystery. Whatever their secret, the Growlers are on the road for another big national tour this year, featuring 28 cities and more than 30 dates from Las Vegas to Florida.

If you're one of those music lovers who has yet to hear the Growlers, we recommend giving "Love Test" a spin. It's a quick primer on a band with an instantly recognizable, infectious sound, led by a vocalist whose warm, cutting croon will instantly hook you and leave you willingly at its mercy.

The Growlers

7:30 p.m. Tuesday, November 3, at Culture Room, 3045 N. Federal Highway, Fort Lauderdale. Tickets cost $15 plus fees. Call 954-564-1074, or visit ticketmaster.com.

Keep New Times Broward-Palm Beach Free... Since we started New Times Broward-Palm Beach, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of South Florida, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering South Florida with no paywalls.

We use cookies to collect and analyze information on site performance and usage, and to enhance and customize content and advertisements. By clicking 'X' or continuing to use the site, you agree to allow cookies to be placed. To find out more, visit our cookies policy and our privacy policy.


Join the New Times community and help support independent local journalism in South Florida.


Join the New Times community and help support independent local journalism in South Florida.