Howler frontman ready for a fight

US five-piece band Howler will head to Belongil Fields, Byron Bay, for Splendour in the Grass 2012.
US five-piece band Howler will head to Belongil Fields, Byron Bay, for Splendour in the Grass 2012. David McCrindle

THE suggestion was friendship but Howler frontman Jordan Gatesmith is intent on fisticuffs.

Talking to Gatesmith as he sits "chained to a little desk" in Rough Trade's office in London, with a "phone super-glued" to his ear, the 20-year-old is shocked when I ask him if he's heard of Bleeding Knees Club.

Though he's heard of the band, he didn't know they too have a song titled Beach Sluts.

"They do?" he says. "Serious? Really?

"So who copied who...?"

The songs are different, but both bands have been influenced by '80s punk and a '60s pop aesthetic.

With both bands on the Splendour line-up, the suggestion of friendship is lost on Gatesmith.

"Jesus...," he says jovially.

"So we have to fight to the death?

"Who do you think would win based on pictures you've seen?"

Well there are three of them now and five of you so...

"So we'd kick their arse? Cool, cool..."

Howler hasn't been around for long, but after releasing America Give Up, the band's debut album, in January, they have been touted as a band to watch in 2012.

Gatesmith was listed at No.44 in NME's coolest people list in 2011 and Howler at No.3 on their best bands list, and that was before they'd even released an album.

After impressive performances at SXSW, UK label Rough Trade were on the phone and signed the Minneapolis five-piece as fast as one of the band's punk-length songs.

Gatesmith may be young, but he's been in so many bands he can't even remember the exact number.

"No, I have no idea... it was stupid," he says.

One magazine said Gatesmith had started eight bands in two months. So what was it about Howler that stuck?

"I don't even know," he says.

"Usually when I started those bands I was always the one to take it more seriously for some reason.

"So I would always write in a different genre and then I would bring it to people who were interested in that genre.

"I don't know why because it was always me pushing the band. I think from me just trying lots of songs in different genres and so many different people so when I came across the style of Howler it just kind of stuck."

Before the success of Howler, four of the guys in the band, including Gatesmith, had never left the United States.

Heading into album No.2, the now well-travelled musos will be using their experiences to influence the follow-up LP.

"Just in the past six months we've been to Europe, Brazil and we're going through Australia soon so, yeah, it's definitely been an experience travelling the world all of sudden... it's a lot bigger than we thought it was," Gatesmith says.

"On our trip to Brazil we learnt some Brazilian music a little bit more, especially tropicalia of the late '60s. I'm really interested in that right now. So I think that will show some influence next time around."

Before then, catch Howler at Splendour in the Grass; there may be some wrestling back-stage if Gatesmith is true to his word.

Howler head to Belongil Fields, Byron Bay, for Splendour in the Grass to play on Friday, July 27.

For festival line-up and info, head to Tickets have sold out.

Topics:  music music festival splendour in the grass

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