Following the release of their most recent ‘Further Down The Line’ and ‘Live At Metropolis’ EPs – I had the chance to sit down and catch up with The Howlers lead singer and guitarist – Adam Young – about an array of topics including the EP recording process, artwork choices and what we can expect from the band in 2023.
For those who are unaware of you as a band, can you give us a few lines about The Howlers, who you are, how you came to be etc?
We’re just three working class lads who have stumbled into a career in music, we all sort of met while studying in London, Guus (bassist) and I where on the same course and Tom was performing with another band at the time, so we all knew each other through the East London scene. Guus and I wanted to start a band for a while before it all came together, we were sort of that band that wasn’t a band, always at gigs watching bands, taking it all in. We’ve grown a lot since those fresh faced and bushy tailed days of naivety, longing for a career in music and being all the better for it.
What’s the origins of the bands name?
The band name came from a boozer on Hoxton Street called The Howl at The Moon; we were living at the time on the neighbouring Geffrye Estate and after a few beers we sort of stumbled on it. The pub has had a few famous bands like Arctic Monkeys and The Verve use it for videos which we didn’t know at the time but it kind of fell into place like that.
Do you tend to work collaboratively as a band when writing the songs or work alone and bring it back to the table to piece together?
I write the songs and take them to the people we work with to create the demo’s before giving them to the boys as the bare bones to add their bits. Changes are made throughout the process of a song and it can sometimes be difficult when you have an idea for a song and then it begins to change. We spent ten days in the studio straight recently with Black Honey, who we write with, from 9am – 11pm and things can get super intense in a good way. Chris from the band is a like an older brother to me and constantly challenges me to do better, as a band we are really appreciative towards Chris and the others and find the songwriting process with them a breeze as we are very similar.
How do you continue to nurture your own creativity? Where do you draw your main influences from?
I think I’ve got some pretty clear influences when you listen to the music. Creativity can be really hard for me and comes in waves, there was a period of time with the material for the new album where I just wrote, what I believe to be, the best 6 tracks back to back everyday. A lot of the demo’s are done over very long (9 hour) Zoom calls, Chris (Black Honey) and I sometimes during the process put ourselves on mute, I go away do things and come back and we record. I take a lot influence from artists that I respect and hearing their feedback. I like a lot of soul, afrobeat, anything that Dan Auerbach has done in his life like The Arcs and a lot of influence from things that have been done in yesteryear. A lot of our drum inspiration comes from hip-hop too. I don’t look at life and draw influences or pick a topic, its more from a subconscious place of how it just comes out but, as we know, all the best art comes from pain. You can hear the differences from our first EP of a time where the world was changing to where the second EP was written where we’d had a little bit of success coupled with some major life events personally, theres a pain there which turned into better song writing.
Following the ‘Further Down the Line & Live at Metropolis Studio’ EP releases, are there any plans on the horizon to work towards a full album?
Hopefully towards the end of 2023 – we have recorded 15 new songs over 10 days which nearly killed me vocally! It was a crazy experience getting to be super weird, super crazy but l loved every moment of it. We’ve got a title for the album and its all new songs we just have to sort the finer details of it all.
Personally I’ve really been enjoying ‘When The Flowers Bloom Again’ – what’s the story behind the track?
That track, so there’s a track by Leon Bridges & Khruangbin called Texas Sun, I love that song and thought how can I do my own version of that, I just reinvented it in my own way by keeping it simple and not overcomplicating it. It’s one of those tracks that if we play it in the set, someone at the end of the gig says that the track in the middle was amazing and I’ve never got my head around it as I think we have better material. Further Down The Line (FDTL) and Flowers Bloom Again come hand in hand, I think FDLT is the best tune I’ve written but Flowers developed in the studio. (RL: Why do you think Further Down The Line is the best tune you’ve written?) ‘Because its awesome thats why, it’s a track, when we wrote and recorded, Chris and I were like ‘Fuck!’ That was the track that when he brought his partner to a show she turned round and slapped him and said ‘that’s mint!’
With ‘Flowers’ in the studio we got really delicate with it, we had so much faith in the engineer we work with, he is just a sonic wizard and get sounds out of things and we’re like how did you do that?! Harpaal at Metropolis is awesome, the first time we met him he had just casually been working on the engineering for the Taylor Hawkins Tribute concert but couldn’t actually say at the time. Whilst we were recording our record the Foo Fighters were also using Metropolis studios in the day time meaning we had to record our stuff at around 11pm and had to be gone by the time they came back the next day, which was such a cool experience!
You have used a few images from Brian Cannon’s Northern Soul Photography project for the recent releases – how did that come about? What drew you to use these images?
I wanted to get the roots back to our music again and grew up listening to Northern Soul and going to the Dockyard Club down here (in Southsea). I saw the Northern Soul shot online, saw they were Brian’s and was like fuck I want them but they are going to be expensive. I fired Brian an email and we hit a price, which to be fair I was really pleased with it and it wasn’t as expensive as I thought, which was good because we’re skint! Haha! I was really happy with the shot we used and really should know more about the person within the shot. I have a mate who is huge Oasis fan and he was made up with us being able to use an original image of Brian’s on our record.
How did the images tie in with the sound of the new record?
The record came out of an A&R session that we did with RCA & Sony, the A&R was different to most A&R guys in that he stayed for the whole four hour rehearsal session and listened to every song we had and gave us a half hour analysis per track. He said that my voice was more suited to soul and that I should just start writing songs that complement that style. The two then came together and I wanted to record a Northern Soul style music video which didn’t happen but we had to get the reference in there somewhere so chose to go with the artwork.
(Adam and I begin to talk around the band lineup and the changes that surrounded that). Adam goes on to explain ‘that the band didn’t exist at the beginning of 2022 and that a long call with a close band confident took place to bring them back up to carry on. ‘Our friend was adamant that we were not done as a band and offered the services of their drummer in order to get the EP recorded’ which transpired to be Black Honey’s drummer Alex. ‘Tom (The Howlers current drummer) was there whilst we recorded at the beginning of March 2022 and then we played our first shows together as band just shortly after; we had know Tom for years but he had only joined two weeks prior to the EP being recorded’.
There’s this ongoing conversation about phones at gigs and we have seen some artists who have asked fans to hand them in at their gigs – Arctic Monkeys and Jack White being two that spring to mind – what’s your thoughts on this and do you think returning to days of old would create a better atmosphere at gigs?
I don’t really have too much of an opinion on it although its difficult as you want everyone to be enjoying the music. You can interpret phones as people wanting to record that moment as they love it or because they want to show off on social media, 9/10 times it’s the later. If you put yourself on a stage its hard to say whether people can record you or not but I love it if people enjoyed the moment more. Recently a band we know did the opposite and requested for fans to get their phones out for a moment to light up a venue to have a moment together and then after that you didn’t really see too many further occasions where people had their phones out again, which was pretty clever. When you do see the lights of phones that can sometimes bring some pressure but then we’re not a band that moves a lot or a band to mosh to, whereas if you are a post-punk band then it surely goes against everything you stand for, but really just do what you want at the end of the day.
Perhaps it’s an age thing but talking during the gig when the band are playing drives me mad at times – how aware are you of it when on stage and how’d you deal with it without telling everyone to shut up?
You can definitely hear it when you’re on stage in between songs but not during songs as you focussed on playing and you’ve got an amp 10 ft from your head. Acoustic numbers can be a little difficult when people are talking but that’s fine, I’ve had a few friends ask others to be quiet at times as they see it as being rude and ruining it for others. I’d never call it out as an artist though as we still get paid regardless and you also never know what people are going through as well, smaller venues that are under capacity can sometimes make people feel a little self conscious too so its never cool to call it out in my opinion.
What’s your favourite album of 2022?
Erm…good question to be fair. I’m not really sure to be fair. There’s nothing too much that I have been excited for although Kurt Vile and Jack White put out some good records. Next year there is one particular album that I am anticipating which is from The Arcs called ‘Electrophonic Chronic’ (released 27/01/23) which is bunch of on the road demo’s fleshed out to create this latest album. They have been drip feeding it out and sonically I’m like ‘wow’.
What’s the best piece of advice that you have received so far in the industry?
To be honest, anyone who says they know what they’re doing in the music industry is a liar, so just be yourself and be nice to everyone it’s not failed us yet.
What can we expect to see from The Howlers in 2023?
They’ll be the new album and we doing an Independent Venue Week date early in the year. (Russ: Will you playing down in Portsmouth?) I keep getting asked this but not sure yet but probably when we do the record tour later in the year but they’ll be a lot more support gigs next year though. Next year will be all about the album release! (Russ: sounds like you have enough material for a B side album, whatever they are nowadays?!) I love a B side album and would push this but then realised how expense the whole process can be! To be fair some of these tunes can be put on album two which may or may not be played live in 2023!
I just to say a huge thanks again to Adam for sitting down and taking the time to speak with us. You ancatch The Holwers out on tour at the end of the month and throughout February – dates and ticket links can be found here.