What ever happened, to my Rock ‘n’ Roll?
That’s the question that sprang to mind when I read a post from The Howlers on twitter back in August. The band spoke openly and honestly about missed opportunities due to low streaming figures and a lack of online personality.
The music industry seems hell bent on pushing artists to do ‘Content’ to gain followers and work that algorithm to their advantage. PR firms make big money in boosting streams, gaining likes across socials and getting coverage in the sea of music publications out there. Standing out in the current climate is difficult, you have the twitter cheerleaders that tell you every band are brilliant and the bands doing it ‘On Their Own’ via their parent’s cheque books it is both damaging and frustrating in equal measures.
So, can you just do it your way? The Howlers plan to regardless. Where do a good honest old-fashioned rock ‘n’ roll band stand in today’s music industry. The band have released music with indie label These Bloody Thieves and community label Blood Records, but in recent times are pure DIY as is their latest EP which drops 30th September 2022.
As we stand here in Birmingham’s much-loved venue The Sunflower Lounge, perhaps we can look at the local scene for some answers to both being DIY and authentic in your approach. Two of the best bands Birmingham has produced in recent years are undoubtably Hoopla Blue and Chartreuse. These stand out in the local scene by being themselves, whilst both are supported by labels in this case local label FOMA and Communion. It is the part of not compromising, being authentic in their approach and not rushing to be part of the tired local scene that impresses the most. Bands take note.
Back to tonight and first up is local band The Masses. Branded as a Melodic Rock, the set starts with promise, lead singer Ed Woolams has a soulful and at times sweet voice. The band play through songs such as ‘Think for Yourself‘ and ‘Inside My Head.’ Their Spotify bio promises a loud and powerful sound, it is half right. They’re loud, the drums are hard hitting, but it overpowers the music drowning the vocals. To paraphrase the band Pottery, “Don’t play those fucking drums for me.”
Next up are Flake. Now Flake may be named after the delightful added chocolate bonus to an ice cream or maybe inspired by Albert Niemann’s 1859 experiment. Who knows, but whether you expected a sugary rush, or a dopamine hitting high you are left disappointed. There are elements that are ok, as with The Masses it’s the vocals that impress the most. Moments of the set give flashbacks to early Two Door Cinema Club, but it leads nowhere, and we are once again looking at our watch, the floor or the door and not the stage.
Now to The Howlers, those East London Cowboys. Playing a mix of “Golden Oldies” and tracks of their forthcoming EP ‘Further Down The Line.’
They run through their set at good speed. Quick pauses between songs for hellos, plugging merch and thanking everyone for being out on a school night, “Although it’s been a long time since you lot were at school” quips front man Adam Young.
The Howlers sound has matured since they came onto the scene in 2019, it is still that mix of garage rock n roll straight out of the desert, but now with added pop and soul. There is a confidence in the performance, not cocksure swagger, but the real confidence of a band that know this is what they are meant to being doing and have stopped giving a fuck who’s listening. New single ‘The Boy I Was Before’ is instantly catchy, as influenced by Motown as it is classic Rock ‘n’ Roll.
Tracks such as ‘Lost Without You‘ and ‘I Don’t Love You All The Time‘ sound like established anthems not songs a year on from their release. The set is very much reflective of this version of The Howlers, one of experience, disillusioned by the industry and destined to create their own path. The band are explosive yet tight, are together yet free, the audience hanging off every note.
Whatever happened to my Rock ‘n’ Roll, it’s here The Howlers were looking after it for us all along.