Plucked from the relative obscurity of a Ballarat high school, Howl won Triple J’s Unearthed High Competition in 2009. They’ve since played alongside Art Vs Science, British India, Bluejuice and The Scare and graced festival stages at Stereosonic, Field Day and Queenscliff. Their debut EP has created quite a stir, with every track receiving favourable airplay on radio and rave reviews.
We spoke to Michael Belsar, vocalist and guitarist for the six-piece indie rockers before their headline show at MUM’s third birthday celebrations this Friday.
Music Feeds: So we’ll start off nice and easy. Can you give us a little background on how you came up with the name Howl?
Michael Belsar: Well, before Howl we had a heap of other names. Titles never really worried us back then ’cause we weren’t all that serious. But it kind of got to a point where we realised that we need to actually become a real band, and with that said, you need a name to stick to. It took us months to try and find something ’cause everything we came up with was shit, but when we were in the library one day, back in school, a teacher who thought we were all gay told us to read this poem called ‘Howl’ by Allen Ginsberg. It’s an amazing poem and at the same time it was kind of funny that she told us to, see yeah, that’s the story.
MF: I’ve read that you guys are from Ballarat. Which member of the band has been mugged on the street the most?
MB: Fuck off <laughs>. Ballarat’s not that bad, you just have to stay away from the bad places, which are pretty common. We have been heckled a fair bit though. On Australia day my other band played at a youth festival and we got rocks and bottles thrown at us throughout our set, which ended up as a mass brawl in the crowd between our friends and them. That was pretty fucked.
MF: You guys recently did a tour with Yacht Club DJs and DZ. There HAS to be a worthwhile story from that trip.
MB: There are seriously too many to tell. In Canberra we stayed on the floor of a strip club, and when I asked to use the shower one of the ladies said, “oh sure, I’ll just have to move all my vibrators out of there”. In Sydney there was an after party at Purple Sneakers and we parked our van in an alleyway. When we went back the window was smashed and half our shit had been taken. In Adelaide we got treated like royalty and Galen got so fucked he ordered a beer naked. A lot of stuff that happened I probably can’t tell you or I’d be in a lot of trouble with the other guys.
MF: A lot of reviews I read about you guys focused on your age and the fact that you have only just got out of high school. Are you worried that you guys are more likely to burn out quicker as a band given your early success?
MB: I don’t know. It’s pretty hard to break through that high school title ’cause all that ever gets mentioned is that we won Triple J Unearthed High, and that’s all people tend to care about. The comp is great, and boosted us into a much better national status, but we aren’t just a high school band, and I suppose that’s the biggest challenge we have ahead, breaking the idea that we are a shitty, competition winning band. We’re writing and recording as much as we can, our live show is becoming a show rather than just playing songs and we’re trying to get as tight as we can. In the back of a lot of peoples minds I’m sure they think we can’t ever do it, but fuck that, we’ll take it as far as we can. As long as everyone in the band still wants to play music, I think we’ll be round for a while, whether its in the mainstream scene or out.
MF: What would Howl be doing right now if they hadn’t won Triple J Unearthed high?
MB: The same thing, we just wouldn’t be known for it yet. It’d take a hell of a lot longer for us to get known if we hadn’t have won, but we’d still be pushing ourselves and releasing songs.
Howl play Mum @ World Bar, Friday 30th April, along with many others. Click here for the full lineup.