London-based three-piece The Howlers are known for their hard-hitting tracks and boisterous anthems, with their work gracing BBC Radio 1 on release and receiving substantial national praise. Lily Martin catches up with lead singer-songwriter Adam to find out more about their upcoming tour, the difficulties they’ve faced and what motivates them.
This is a staggering achievement for an East London trio that first got together in 2018, is still in the infancy of their careers and has faced some substantial setbacks. Nevertheless, the passion they present for their work is significant and is reflected in both their interaction on and off stage. Self-described as ‘Desert Rock’, conjuring up images of leather-clad, cigarette-chomping outlaws, they’re softer in person than they look- but their music is anything but frayed around the edges.
Their released music feeds from the sound of The Wytches and feels very much like a tribute to the great bands coming out of the punk and protest rock genre at the moment. Nevertheless, it is evident that they are invested in the messages their music conveys, with each track further distinguishing them from their peers in the form of Manchester-based The Blinders and Cabbage. Their image is similar, but their motivations are very different, and there’s a sense that they are a product of a growing movement in this generation of music-lovers and writers towards a driven, more political, more engaged form of work.
It’s clear they aren’t trapped in the bubble of the industry either. Their music is dynamic and engaging and empowered; its distinctive bass and snappy lyricism allows The Howlers to distinguish their work from their counterparts in the industry. Their process is driven less by poeticism and more by personal emotion and experience and this is reflected in the passion they convey, especially in new track ‘Badlands’.
Despite the more modern approach taken by up and coming bands like The Howlers to recording, writing and funding, it is indisputable that they remain attached to the roots of the genre.
“My favourite venue is The Wedgewood Rooms in Portsmouth,” says lead singer-songwriter Adam. “Everything about the venue is old school, nothing is new, everything barely works but still works well.”
With the profound challenges faced by the industry at the moment, how the scene adapts and develops in the aftermath of lockdown is significant in ensuring the survival of not only livelihoods but the momentum of a cultural shift that has been emerging in recent years. This has dragged up serious questions about how the industry treats itself and the people within it, and whether things need to change in the future.
“I think subconsciously the industry knows it has alienated the faith of artists scratching out a place for themselves, there are so many great bands that just don’t get the opportunities they deserve,” says Adam. This can’t be helped by the uncertain future faced in the music industry at the moment, with many venues and artists facing significant financial difficulties. “Mentally our health has taken a knock as a result of not being able to perform. But we have each other.”
Personally, they’ve had to tackle serious hurdles in getting their music out to their fans and the wider public. Not all responses to their work have been supportive and this has had a serious impact on the way they now approach writing, publicising and the gigs they book.
“We have definitely trusted people through our own naivety and belief that everyone means well,” explains Adam, “Misunderstanding the basis for our music’s origins has caused a lot of upset and bad times for us.”
“They say there is no art without pain. For a while, I personally lost faith in the power of people and how closed minded everyone appeared to be. For a while, it definitely closed a hell of a lot of doors as we shut them to protect ourselves.”
“The only thing that is gradually turning the tide on that is our determination and our own belief in what we do, people are too quick to judge and attack what they don’t understand, but we never hold it against anyone.”
With an exciting U.K coming up at the end of 2020, The Howlers have plenty to look forward to says Adam, “Our biggest hometown show at The Lexington at the end of this year is a real moment for us!”
The prospect of touring frequently brings up aspirations for support slots, and this one is no different for Adam.
“I’d most like to support Black Honey, they’d be a great pairing for us, but The Black Keys, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club would be a couple from the bucket list.”
When asked about three bands that I should check out, they were keen to put forward their suggestions.
“Heaters, check out ‘Levitate High’, as well as Guantanamo Baywatch with ‘Barbacoa’ and Dead Ghosts, ‘When It Comes To You'”.
The Howlers are a determined, talented and multifaceted trio who have faced substantial challenges in the short time they have been formed. However their work shows significant promise, and their live performance demonstrates their potential to make real waves in the wider scene, much as it has done in the venues of London and the South. Distinguishing themselves in the public eye from their counterparts is no easy hurdle, but it is clear they have learnt from their past experiences and are eager to prove themselves to a wider audience.
And what are they most proud of?
“I think how we have come along as people and grown together, the band itself has been such a cathartic experience and it has really saved us from some real dark times being able to have this outlet, we are very lucky. But having all three of our singles land on Radio 1 in ten months was a pretty great moment.”
The Howlers take on a rescheduled U.K tour this September, playing Glasgow’s Broadcast (12/09), Manchester’s Gullivers (17/09), Birmingham’s The Victoria (18/09), Bristol’s Rough Trade (19/09), Portsmouth’s The Loft (24/09) and Brighton’s Latest Music Bar 925/09). Tickets can be purchased here.
Lily Martin is a SPA-nominated freelance journalist with an interest in up-and-coming artists in the indie, rock, punk and folk genres as well as the socio-political dynamics of the music industry. She can be found on Instagram here.