Howler will be appearing this Saturday, 4.14 at the Smiling Moose. The Minneapolis residents are touring behind last years LP America Give Up on Rough Trade Records. The group has been called the 'grunge Strokes' by the English Press where they have had overnight success. Consistently selling out 500 capacity venues in the UK, the band hasn't received that similar response here in the US. However, they are slowly amassing buzz as they tour the nation for a third time. We were able to speak with lead Jordan Gatesmith before he was to take the stage in Boston. We spoke about his meteoric rise in the UK, his 'controversial' comments about the Minneapolis scene and his love of Cherries Diner here in Pgh.
How’s the tour been so far?
It’s been up and down and basically really long. Overall it has been better than previous tours with more people attending. We have been on tour for over a month now and we have 9 days left.
You have received overnight success in the UK. How has it been in the US?
In the US we have had to grow a little bit. In the UK, we just got back from our first headlining tour. We have been playing to sold out crowds of 300-500 at midsized venues. This is our third US tour and there has been an increase in bodies showing up. There actually have been some good turnouts out west and now in the east. In the US it has been increasing.
You toured with the Vaccines. How did that go?
That was our first UK tour opening for them. It was insane. Going from the US to that experience of playing for 5k people was just bizarre. We were thrown into something that the Vaccines had earned, but we really hadn’t yet. It was just wild; every rock n roll stereotype was thrown in my face in the first week. They were great guys; I was expecting them to say ‘fuck off’ and leave us alone, but we actually became good friends with them.
You were next door neighbors with Karl Mueller (Soul Asylum) before he passed in 2005. I read afterwards that you became close with his wife Mary Beth who had an influence on your music.
When I was 13 I remember people telling me ‘Oh, your neighbor is a rock star’ which I thought was crazy thing. When Karl passed I would help Mary Beth by walking her dogs or mowing the lawn. Mary Beth would introduce me to characters from the 80’s Minneapolis scene. I got a lot of the history from her while she also gave me records to listen. She definitely steered me to the right direction.
You made some 'controversial' comments about the Minneapolis scene which received a lot of backlash. Were your comments just taken out of context?
I was 19 at the time and I gave my honest opinion on something. The entire (Minneapolis) scene flipped their shit over what I said. It made me wonder ‘Does my opinion really matter that much that people have to freak out like that?’ I think I am allowed to have an opinion and wasn’t sure why everyone lost their minds over it. The weirdest thing about it was that every Minneapolis news publication had a picture with me with crazy headlines like ‘Hometown Hate’. These publications weren’t slamming me but were over analyzing what I said. They were expounding on ‘How will this affect the scene?’ That actually made me happy. I am at a point where people are over analysing (my comments).
You were signed to a 4 record deal with Rough Trade Records at such a young age. Do you feel a lot of pressure to produce? And how have you been able to deal with the business side of things?
There is definitely pressure, but we have been lucky enough to have an army of publishers, book agents, management that make sure everything goes smoothly. At the end of the day all we have to worry about is playing a show and making music. We are not that artificial where those things matter to us right now.
What was the concept to America Give Up?
We wanted to make a punk rock record, something you could shake your fist to. We wanted to be a statement but also more sarcastic. It had to be funny. It’s Born In the USA by Bruce Springsteen, but just much more sarcastic and hilarious.
How does the songwriting process work now since your first album you wrote before the band formed?
We are all on the same page with the next record on how we want it to sound and what direction we want to be going. For the most part it will be my direction where I will scope out the songs by myself. But that doesn’t mean there won’t be any collaboration. I can definitely bring it to the guys at any point and they can offer any advice and help. To that extent there will be some collaboration but it will come from me first.
What are your upcoming goals?
I have a week and a half off before the next tour. My goal is just to relax and not leave my room and drink a bottles of Makers Mark while listening to the records I got on tour.
Anything you would like to say to Pittsburgh?
Oh shit Pittsburgh. I love Pittsburgh. We always go to Cherries Diner which is run by this really nice lady. We always get Cherries bomb pancakes and coffee. I am so psyched.