It’s been a good year to be a SoCal band. During the past 12 months, it seems some of our favorite acts have gone from area sensations to full-blown indie rock stars. Take, for example, L.A.’s Fitz & The Tantrums, Best Coast, and Local Natives. Or Long Beach’s The Growlers, who’ve both championed the scene and expanded upon their super psychedelic soundscapes with the recently released sophomore effort for Everloving Records, Are You In or Out?.
Since forming in 2006, the band (made up of frontman Brooks Nielson, bassist/vocalist Scott Montoya, guitarist/vocalist Matt Taylor, and drummer Brian Stewart) has let its freak flag fly and has come away as one of Southern California’s most recognizable and genre-bending live acts. On Are You In, Nielson continues to stretch his Jim Morrison-meets-Art Neville warble and ultimately comes away as the record’s standout performer. Instrumentally, Taylor and Montoya hold down the winding, surf-infused licks with ease. Sometimes (“Barnacle Beat”) we get hyper-speed picking and noodling, but most often, Are You In is marked by its laid-back, decidedly California-born style. The surf tones are ever-present here, and tonal shout-outs to The Meters (“Wandering Eyes”) and The Ventures (“Tijuana”) are subtle but noteworthy. For “Heehaw Stomp,” drums and cymbals crash haphazardly, then return to their pointed, quietly driving place at the back of the mix without missing a beat.
Still, what truly sets The Growlers apart is their live performance, which has fluctuated between straightforward rock show and peculiar opium-induced circus, depending on the venue. And seeing as how they’ve already played Muddy Waters Café, the now-defunct Jensen’s Mainstage, and SOhO (twice), it stands to reason that Tuesday’s show at Velvet Jones will cast the band in yet another whole new light.
The Growlers play Velvet Jones (423 State St.) on Tuesday, December 28, at 8 p.m. with Grand Elegance and Birdfeeder. Call 965-8676 or visit clubmercy.com for tickets.