Wait here. I’ll get the key,” says Howler’s loping frontman, Jordan Gatesmith, as he leaves NME alone momentarily in the depths of Minneapolis coffeehouse Java Jacks. We’re flanked by a disreputable-looking couch, a cobwebbed set of school lockers and a busted swivel chair. It’s safe to say that this is the part of JJ’s none of the latte-sippers upstairs see. “I hope you weren’t tempted to sit on the couch,” cracks Gatesmith, returning with keys in hand. After two clicks, the door opens wide, revealing a shockingly spacious haven.
This is the practice space Howler have called home since the band formed a year ago. There’s a pinball machine and a wall adorned with countless record sleeves, including hallowed releases from Twin Cities’ legends Hüsker Dü and The Replacements. Head back further and there’s a makeshift stage, where only eight weeks earlier the mostly teenage band, including Gatesmith, Ian Nygaard, Max Petrek and Brent Mayes, made the kind of impression that even a jet-lagged, seen-it-all A&R from Rough Trade UK couldn’t deny. A record contract was drafted up the very next day.
Admittedly it’s odd that something so simple as the band’s only recorded collection of songs to date, the rip-roaring ‘This One’s Different’ EP (out August 1), should sound so revolutionary in 2011 – but that’s mostly a testament to just how far the pendulum has swung since The Strokes released ‘Is This It’ (almost 10 years ago to the day, spookily). Fact is, you can scarcely be called a rock band now unless you display a fondness for rinky-dink Casio loops. What Howler are doing is putting pure, gutsy faith back into the power of knee-trembling, guitar-shredding pop.
As we finish up our tour, Gatesmith gushes about his latest obsessions: The Jesus And Mary Chain, shoegaze, and raucous recordings of Jay Reatard. All are strongly influencing Howler’s first full-length, which he is already well into writing. It’s a reminder that, at 19, Gatesmith still has a world of potential he’s yet to unlock.
Need To Know
For Fans Of:The Strokes, The Replacements
Buy It:‘This One’s Different’ EP (released August 1)
Belive It Or Not: The building where So-TM, Howler’s local label and recording studio, is housed was also where serial killer Andrew Cunanan committed his first murder in 1997. Cunanan’s most famous victim was fashion designer Gianni Versace.