Amidst the madness, I managed to catch super fun Minneapolis band Howler (@howler_band) at Mercury Lounge on Wednesday night. Their debut album, America Give Up, released on Rough Trade in January, has been occupying some serious time on my Spotify during stressful work hours. I simply fell in love with the band’s ability to create enjoyable, rhythmic songs that play well in the background. I knew, though, that seeing the band in a live setting would force me to pay a bit more attention to the nuances and subtleties in their music, rather than taking a passive listening role. In the end, I was surprised at how well the boys were able to translate their unique sound aesthetic directly to the stage.
Rather than creating distinct instrumental lines, Howler permeates the room with an energetic wall of sound through which you can occasionally glimpse influences of 1960s surf rock, 1980s punk vocal abandon, and 1990s alternative snark. I recall brief lightbulb moments I experienced during the night: “Does this sound like Smashing Pumpkins or am I crazy?” or “Jordan Gatesmith sounds a little like Billy Idol right now.” For the most part, though, I was just swept away and in tune with the pillowy wash of Howler‘s songs. They need a bigger show, and they’ll get one soon if they continue to deliver on the promise that America Give Up proposes. Gatesmith made a comment in the middle of Howler‘s set about how he wished that all of us were at either Kraftwerk or Pulp that night. At that point, however, I really didn’t mind missing either.
Following in the footsteps of The Smiths, The Strokes and The Libertines, Minneapolis, MN’s Howler were discovered by the impeccably eared Geoff Travis, founder of the legendary indie label Rough Trade. Like so many of their labelmates before them, Howler experienced a bit of a media frenzy thanks to interest from the UK press, which hailed them as one of the best new bands of last year. Their debut album, America Give Up, saw a release back in January and received the kiss of life from the NME, which declared it “effortlessly brilliant.”
On their first visit to Toronto, The Wedge spoke with frontman Jordan Gatesmith about how they were signed, the influence of Minnesota’s musical history, and just what that album title means.