by Michi Heckler
Band Photo by Allan Ansell
Live Photos by Adrian Gandara
Growl, KUTX’s artist of the month, are making in noise in Austin’s local music scene and around the nation. The four-man band composed of lead vocalist and guitarist Santiago Dietche, guitarist Sam Houdek, drummer Kent Hale and bassist Jonny Lee are soon to be on tour, promoting their new album Won’t You. Check out Michi Heckler’s interview with the UT Grads to learn more about their sound.
Ovrld: Congrats on the Album release Won’t You in April, how did it go?
Santiago Dietche: It went great! We had a really fortunate turn of events before the release, we were KUTX’s artist of the month and they helped us get local promotion for the show. We released it at Cheer Up Charlie’s and had a great time.
Sam Houdek: We were also super fortunate that our friends at Austin Town Hall pressed it onto vinyl for us and did a lot of good PR for us and we were able to get on a lot of good sites and a lot more traction than we anticipated.
Jonny Lee: It felt like a birthday month.
SH: It was like we were getting the royal treatment.
Kent Hale: We didn’t really know what to expect with releasing something new, because we hadn’t done anything in a while, so it could go one of two ways, it could either reinvigorate us as a band or go into the eather and then who knows. Luckily a lot of people got behind it.
Ovrld: You’ve been making music for a while, since 2012?
SH: We were sophomores in college, and Santiago was a freshman.
Ovrld: What do you do to ensure a good show?
SH: I drink a Redbull vodka before every show.
JL: I wear black pants. Always important to wear black pants; shirts I’m flexible, but always black pants.
SD: No, I really should though. I have a lot of inconsistencies.
KH: I drink too much water. For some reason I think hydration is important, but it makes me have to pee every five minutes.
JL: It’s a good way to prevent cramps though.
SH: We often don’t even write our setlist before the show. We should make that our new ritual, deciding what we’re going to play.
Ovrld: Since you all were sophomores and freshmen when you first started making music, have you heard an evolutionary difference from then to this new album?
SD: We’ve definitely tried to mature our sound a lot, whether it was content of lyrics or song writing, but we started off with more dance, upbeat sounds and now were trying to find a little bit more of the darker, groovier stuff.
SH: I think there was a general focus on like bombast. We were booking shows in our house and playing a lot of parties and catering to the college scene, and with this release, we aren’t taking away energy and upbeat nature, but it’s less of a party vibe.
KH: I think it was really apparent with the early stuff that we were very excited about being in a band and in college, and this was a first band outside of highschool and when youre in a band in college it feels more legit for really no reason at all, youre just a couple years older, but we were just so excited and that shows. And now we have all played and play in different projects and like exploring differences there, but coming back to that same undertone.
Ovrld: Did you all meet in college?
SD: Yep, University of Texas. Kent, Sam and I went to film school together, and we knew Jonny because he was living with Kent.
JL: I met Kent freshman year in a art class.
SD: We all had a visual focus in mind, but a deeper love for music.
Ovrld: You all studied things that weren’t music.
SD: Film and Design, or writing.
KH: We weren’t good enough musicians to major in it.
SH: When applying for school, I wanted to study music, but you had to be able to read it, and I don’t think any of us knew how to do that.
JL: I sort of know “Ode to Joy” on the piano.
SD: I guess Santiago was the one mainly focused on school, and Kent was writing and I worked at the radio station, which I think helped us. We did a lot of work with KVRX and when we first started out, it was a great outlet and platform that helped legitimize ourselves.
SD: College radio stations propelled us and is no doubt one of the most important things.
Ovrld: Who does the writing typically and how does that process look?
SD: For the last record, it usually started out with bones that I would bring to the table, but we’ve all written songs before and going forward I think we’re trying to be more collaborative. I think that’s shown in the record and it took about a year to work on and another year after that, and you get a lot of different sounds. It’s got cohesive writing but the sounds of it kinda evolved a lot.
SH: Like tonight, we just came from practice and trying to work on new material and kind of did a round table and we just had a rough idea. We would riff and mess with it and mold it into a general skeleton.
Ovrld: Well, do you have an intentional sound when you sit down and create new music whether that is individually or collectively? I know for me with this album, I definitely hear beachy Pavement sound, but I didn’t know if that was a goal.
JL: I would say that is accurate. That phrasing is pretty encompassing of what our sound is or what we strive for. Pavement was an influence and the style we play or the guitars we use may give a pop sound or beachy sound.
SD: We all come from different places, but we all love that ‘90s rock and roll. We all have different outlets and we can definelty find common ground in the rock and roll, or slacker vibes.
SH: Yeah, I don’t know if it’s the rock and roll attitude as much as it is college rock, like slacker rock vibe is the foundation of what we’re making.
Ovrld: Did you grow up with this pop rock, early 2000s sound at all?
SD: We all were the classic late bloomers. I mean we all claimed we listened to cool shit…
KH: I didn’t.
SD: Jonny and I did, because we had older brothers to show them cool shit.
KH: Me and Sam did not have older brothers. I listened to some embarrassing stuff.
Ovrld: I’d love to hear it!
KH: When I was in middle school I loved the pop punk stuff like Blink 182, unabashedly.
Ovrld: Who didn’t.
KH: In high school, I got really into the bad side of hardcore like emo, screamo stuff.
SH: It’s what made you a sick fucking drummer though.
KH: Yeah, trying to play that stuff was difficult so that was one positive thing.
SH: I grew up playing in a youth group for church, so I listened to a bunch of garbage contemporary music. I listened to classic rock too but I got into church and was trapped until junior of high school and then got into indie when I started working at the college radio station. I fell in love and realized that ‘90s rock resonated with me, but I played worship songs.
Ovrld: You had a sort of come-to-Jesus meeting then.
SH: I had a come-away-from-Jesus meeting.
JL: I listened to cool shit, because of skate videos and they had great music like Sonic Youth. One of the first albums I had was a Misfits album and The Ramones followed shortly there after and both of those were in the skate videos I saw at like age seven or eight.
SH: That was your first record? We should each say what our first records were.
JL: The first one I bought was the GoldenEye soundtrack, the 007 Pierce Brosnan movie. I don’t remember what was on it, but I remember shortly after I was listening to punk music. Also, Third Eye Blind was in there too! That stuff was cool for the time.
SH: I still think they’re cool.
KH: I don’t remember, but in the sixth grade I got Dude Ranch and thought it was awesome. Earlier than that was Rubber Soul. I went from good to bad taste.
SD: My first was N*SYNC, No Strings Attached. I got it in a happy meal, but I like actively sought out that happy meal. I’ll admit I wanted it. Then I got into sadboy stuff, like Neutral Milk Hotel, my brother was really weird and got me into that stuff and that’s how I started writing songs and he’s been a constant motivation for sure.
SH: The first CD I bought was the Shrek movie soundtrack and Alien Ant Farm.
Ovrld: I think I know the answer to this one, but I’ll ask anyway. What inspired the song “Duck Sauce”?
SD: “Duck Sauce” is actually our first fully collaborative song. It was a riff that we wrote based on a Strokes song, like Room on Fire vibe. Then we opened it up and Jonny actually came up with the name “Duck Sauce”.
JL: Yeah, I came up with it because Santiago didn’t have a name for it and I think I was looking at a Chinese food menu or something. It just sounds good.
SD: I wrote the lyrics based on a mood. Reather than an actual event and it was supposed to be like meeting someone for the first time and feeling that initial “this must be the good feeling” vibe. So I was trying to have hopeful aspect and in the end, its supposed to emulate the feeling of waking up with the first time with somebody and you’re groggy but this is good.
SD: So lame.
SH: “Duck Sauce” was totally just the smallest idea that we built off of. It was just one riff that we messed with.
SD: And that is what we do now, it’s definitely the direction we are going in.
SH: It’s my favorite song to play and it came together in a really great way. Yeah, it’s a totally ambiguous title.
Ovrld: So you said you’re working on new stuff, is there an end goal or a new album coming in the future?
SD: There is definitely going to be a new record and we’re going on tour in August and we are going to have a few songs to take with us exclusively to take with us, hopefully to self release. But we’re mainly going on tour to promote Won’t You. East coast and then down the west coast. We’re playing Sound on Sound as well and Athens Pop Fest as well.
SD: We’re trying to sell our record. We have a lot to sell, please buy our record!
Ovrld: Any exciting stops?
SH: New York is going to be cool.
KH: First time doing east coast.
SH: We’ve played west coast a lot and mid west, but not east coast.
SD: I think our music will go over well in the east coast.
SH: I think we fit in more over there more than the west coast, psychedelic rock vibe. It’s beautiful over there but we’re excited for the east coast. Everything is so close over there, you can go like two hours from Philly to New York and then two hours from New York to Boston, and then an hour to Rhode Island.
JL: Keep going.
Ovrld: Where did you get the name Growl? I think it fits pretty well.
KH: I guess I came up with it, but not knowing about the Growlers or The Growl. At the time it fit what we wanted to emulate, especially we thought it would be funny to be called Growl and not have any metal sound and then we wanted to change the name for a while but then we did this weird loop around to where it fits again.
SD: At the end of the day, it was the one we didn’t hate. I mean there are horrible band names that I freaking love.
SH: It’s like, how do you name a band anymore. Everything has been used.
SD: Adding emojis.
SH: You want it to represent your sound, but you don’t want to mislead people or mean too much and after going through wanting to change the name, I think after all the name fits our sound and works.
SD: It’s easier not to change it.
SH: I mean the String Cheese Incident!
Ovrld: So what are you guys doing when you’re not rehearsing or performing or writing?
KH: Staring at a wall.
SH: I work at a brewery and I play in two other bands as well. I pour beers and brew it too and have other projects. Book shows and book at Cheer Up Charlie’s.
SD: I work at a coffee shop, so I pour a different kind of beverage. We all do the same thing. Except for Jonny, he has a real job.
JL: I do graphic design for a booking company in town. When I’m not doing that I skateboard and learn country songs and pretend that I’m an artist. That’s probably all that is worth saying.
KH: I’m a bartender, so again, pouring beverages. I play in other bands and I like books.
Ovrld: Favorite book?
KH: It’s hard to pick a favorite.
SD: Infinite Jest? Did you hear about that woman who is going to eat it over the course of a year?
Ovrld: I don’t know which is harder, reading it or eating it.
SH: Reading it for sure! Kent resonates with it because he eats his books.
KH: I’m illiterate actually.
JL: His favorite books are based on taste.
ALL: Buy our record! We have cool t-shirts!
Growl’s next show is at The ABGB on July 14th with Caroline Says.