Remember Howler? The garage-punk band exploded out of Minneapolis in 2012, led by their compellingly sardonic frontman Jordan Gatesmith, then just 20 years old.
Howler toured internationally and scored high-profile press clippings, but effectively disappeared after their 2014 sophomore album, World of Joy.
Turns out Gatesmith shipped off to Los Angeles. He reemerged earlier this month with Wellness, a new project with Yayo Trujillo and Hiram Sevilla. On debut single "Mostly Blue," the vintage rock 'n' roll heart of Howler remains, though the group swings with more psych-pop breeziness. You should absolutely watch the music video below -- it features the most gleeful bathroom surgery you'll see all year; the Mostly Blue EP is scheduled to drop January 24.
City Pages recently emailed with Gatesmith to get more details on the demise of Howler, launch of Wellness, and his hot takes on Trump.
City Pages: How'd you end up in L.A.? I imagine you're in a fourplex with [fellow Minnesota transplants] Tickle Torture, Caroline Smith, and Dan Wilson?
Jordan Gatesmith: Over the years touring with Howler, I met a few people in L.A. who turned out to be really great friends. It’s funny, because I remember initially being unimpressed with the city itself on my first visit, but each subsequent visit I met more and more people that I felt I had a genuine connection with. Subsequently, I came to really love the city itself. It turned out to be a “why not?” sort of decision.
And you know, I actually do run into Elliott [Kozel of Tickle Torture] and Caroline from time to time. I live right behind the Bootleg Theater -- a 7th St. Entry-esque venue -- so I have the great privilege of catching them at various shows. Dan Wilson? I sort of envision him on some beach in Malibu playing a ridiculously sandy piano. But I don’t make it to the beach very often, so I cannot verify.
CP: Miss and/or not miss anything in particular about Minneapolis?
JG: I miss so many things and so many people. Like [former Howler bandmate] Ian Nygaard. The music community full of ridiculously talented friends. Prince (RIP). KMOJ, Radio K, The Current. The CC Club, 7th St., and Triple Rock.
CP: What happened with Howler after World of Joy? If we're to believe Wikipedia, you guys have "disbanded." What have you been up to since WoJ?
JG: I haven’t been up to much since WoJ, just a whole lot of therapy and hot yoga.
But to answer the first part of your question, after our 2014 European and U.S. tour everyone just kind of split. It was a really weird and silent understanding. We were halfway through our tour cycle for the record, but ended up canceling shows/tours and brought the whole thing to a halt.
There were no fights nor arguments. I don’t have any explanation for the “disbanding” but it felt right. The words “breaking up” or “disbanding” were never even mentioned by anyone.
CP: Tell me about how Wellness came together. You wrote on FB it started "for the sake of having more fun" -- was there a deficit of fun if your life?
JG: I’m never not always not having more fun. Never.
But for real, I get the most enjoyment out of life when I’m able to write, record, perform, and share my music. Wellness is my first step back into that game.
CP: Loving the breezy vibe of the new song contrasted with the darker lyrics. The video captures it perfectly. Tell me about "Mostly Blue."
JG: A good friend of mine called me one abnormally clear L.A. summer morning and told me that he and his significant other had just broken up. He seemed pretty bummed, so I did my best to comfort him. After we said goodbye, I went immediately to my room and pulled out my acoustic guitar -- which I hardly ever touch -- and the song spilled out of me.
The song felt like a black sheep for a long time; I rejected it because my focus had been more on punk and slightly more experimental sounds, and here was this “uncle pancakes” riff (Keith Patterson of Kinda Kinky’s phrase, not mine), but the song continued to haunt me. The decision to put it out was literally a last minute one. So here we are now. Talking about said last-minute decision.
CP: Regarding Wellness, what are the inspirations, hopes, dreams, immediate realities, etc?
JG: I have this pretty wild sonic vision for Wellness, and I really want to commit myself to it. I’m very inspired by friends like Caleb Drave and Jarred Carrigan -- Ex-Minneapolitans and heads of Jungle Gym Records -- who work extremely hard on their own visions, relentlessly creating and exploring new and interesting avenues with every new release.
I’ve been writing and recording a full-length for Wellness called Mall Goth these last few months, and it has really surprised me and pushed me in directions that I find very exciting. I hope to complete it, release it, and then move on to the next album.
CP: What are the biggest lessons or bits of wisdom -- about music, the music business, life, whatever -- you've learned since blowing up seven years ago?
JG: The biggest lesson I’ve learned is to never trust my father, Jeff Gatesmith, on tour-van advice.
CP: That Trump's a real motherfucker. Care to comment?
JG: I don’t even know where to begin. We’re all just going to have to lean on each other hard these next four years. Get involved, protest, and protect one another.