Growwing Pains - Interview
From the Detroit Area, Growwing Pains are starting to make waves with their garage-rock sound. In November 2013 they released their debut album 17 Songs About The Same Girl, then released some demos and singles through SoundCloud, and are soon headed down to SXSW, touring along the way. Their music takes me away to a cramped north-London bar, leather jacket on, pint in hand, rocking out and dancing with everyone in attendance. It's refreshing.
Last week we were able to sit down with Growwing Pains after they played at the Michigan League with a handful of other Michigan-based bands. Check out what they had to say to us, and make sure to keep a keen eye on this awesome young band.
MTTM: Great show guys, thanks for having us. Can we do a quick introduction before we start? Maybe a quick fun fact too?
Jake: Like MTV Next?
MTTM: (laughing) yeah, just like that
Jake: I’m Jake, I play drums, and up until last night I had never heard the song Smoke on the Water before.
Zak: I’m Zack, I play guitar and sing, and I like cantaloupe.
Jeff: I’m Jeff, I play keyboards, and cantaloupe tastes like nail polish remover to me
Adam: I’m Adam and I play guitar and I like to jam on Smoke on the Water in all my free time. It’s all I ever do.
Kate: I’m Kate and I play bass. This is my first show with Growwing Pains.
Was this show like anything you’ve ever played before?
Zak: No, not really. We’ve played at a college, but never at like, a school building. We’ve played with all these bands before in Detroit.
Jake: I’ve heard of bands playing, like in Madison, a lot of bands play at the Student Union. So the idea wasn’t weird, just that it was like a Wendy’s, you know? We were joking about going into Urban Outfitters and just starting to play there. But everyone would probably have thought that was normal.
What did you guys think of the crowd here? Was that typical of one of your shows?
Jake: It was cool.
Zak: It’s usually a little more like, dancier?
Jake: It was a sterile.
Jeff: Yeah, for me, I think it was because people didn’t have, like, drinks in their hands.
Adam: For me, there’s so much light on stage that I can’t even see. So for me to have an impression is pretty rare. At least for me. I never look at the crowd so I never know
What are your typical shows like then?
Zak: There’s not really like a typical show. I guess we usually play in more dive-y places.
Jake: Our buddies in Detroit run a DIY place called Elijah’s and last winter we played there probably like 10 times to an insane amount of people who were all inebriated beyond belief and it was nuts.
Jeff: Because there’s no stage, we’re all just crammed into a corner and it was really in your face.
What makes your shows unique? Do you guys have something you like to bring to stand out, you think?
Jeff: I think the variance in the song structures. We’ve doing more chill stuff recently. Like tonight, about half the show was slower, more mellow stuff. And there are other songs that are much faster and only about a minute and 10 seconds long are much different.
Yeah that new song that you played, the second one, what was that called?
Zak: “Talking to a Wall”.
Jake: That’s one of my favorites!
Zak: Yeah I’ve been listening to this guy Juan Wauters and I wrote that one after listening to him. Really very cool.
Jake: I would say, to the question, just people having fun.
Zak: Yeah, just vibing off the audience. I would say that how good our shows end up being is just like directly related to the audience’s performance as much as ours. We think of ourselves as maybe going through a couple of definitive phases. First it started off with a rougher Retards-style type of punk. Moving on to recently Raw Prawn, doing that chorus-punk thing. Shit like that. We kind of change every couple of months.
Just from the different influences you guys have?
Zak: Yeah, and also because it’s boring doing the same thing.
Adam: I think the way you perceive your band yourself changes. The longer you do it, the more it evolves. There’s no conscious decision.
Zak: I’d say the difference between our band and other bands is that we haven’t yet pigeonholed ourselves into playing the same things. Maybe we will, we’re trying to find something that really works.
How do you guys do your songwriting?
Zak: It’s different each time we do a song.
Jake: Zak will come to practice with the bare bones, like a riff or a melody and we’ll just jam on it. We’re not a band that waits a long time to play a song. Like if we write a song at practice and we have a show the next week we’ll just play it. And over the next 6 months it’ll change.
Is that like tonight with “Talking to a Wall”?
Zak: Yeah, usually I’ll come with a guitar riff and maybe rough lyrics and the lyrics will change as I found out what I like to do phonetically.
Adam: I like the metaphor that Zak gets the skeleton, and we get all the muscles and organs and skin and clothes and everything else.
Jake: I do think just playing it live is the best way that songs get written. I think we function much better as a live band.
Zak: And we can see how people react to a rough song and then change it accordingly.
Adam: The song that we opened with tonight called “Not Anymore”, Zack had the idea for that. We demoed it together and it was way more mellow and stagnant. But when we played it live we realized it was better to kick it out and we tailored it to be less stiff.
Jake: Yeah I couldn’t do that one without a high-energy feel. I knew it was going to be way more hyper.
So we tried to do some history on you guys. You guys started out as just two of you jamming together, and then you put the pieces together. Did you have a band idea?
Jake: (laughing) Ok, so Adam and Zak Forever were a band with Adam and Zak. I knew Zak as a drummer, a very sick drummer. And he approached me before one show saying, “I’ve been writing songs on guitar, I want you to play drums on them”. I said we should practice and they were like no, let’s just go. So at the first Growwing Pains show I had never heard any of the songs before.
Adam: I guess to answer the second part, there was never any concept like “We’re gonna start Growwing Pains and it’s gonna be this” because our first shows were total disasters but everyone there had fun.
Zak: I wanted to play guitar in a band just to fuck around. So we did that. And it wasn’t serious at first but we accumulated members and we’re all pretty good friends so it just snowballed.
Adam: Basically we’ve all been playing in a bunch of other bands since like 8th grade, rotating in and out. And we brought Kate in on bass once our other bass player quit. She plays for a band called Moonwalks and she was the obvious choice once he left.
We listened to your debut, “17 Songs about One Girl”. Is that girl out there?
Zak: We didn’t have a name for the album, at first it was 22 songs. The name was always a joke, because you know, every band is like love songs. And it’s probably still love songs, but we don’t have that obvious lyrical aspect to it. It was kind of like a joke about music. Pitchfork said that it was a literal thing, but it wasn’t. We’re not total creeps.
Jeff: Like some dude blasting a boombox outside a girls window. That’s not us.
And after the debut, you started writing some smaller recordings. Do you guys see yourselves evolving after the recording? Do you see yourselves growwing??
Zak: We’re just in a transitional phase. A lot of our songs are turning out to be mellower, more personal, more lyrically-based.
Jake: The record was weird, because like with every band’s debut it’s everything you’ve done since you started your band. So I think that’s part of why it sounds the way it does. It was just a conglomeration of everything that happened in those first few years.
Jeff: And the reason it’s changed so much is because that record took a really long time. Like we finished recording it a year before it came out.
Adam: And now we have like two records, material-wise, that we’re just sitting on that probably won’t even be out, if we record them, for about another eleven months. It’s just the way it goes.
Zak: It takes a really long time for records to come out.
Jake: And that was the first record that we, or any of our friends, had done. So we were really just trying to figure it out.
Zak: It’s funny because we really became a band after we did the album. So like a lot of those songs have jokes from when we were like, 17.
Jake: Like all of our tours happened after we did the album too.
What was the recording process like?
Zak: Chris Koltay, or Big Daddy K as everyone calls him. Amazing guy. We went in there, plugged in our stuff, played all the rough tracks, got everything done the first day, then just did overdubs the rest of the time.
Adam: We rough-tracked 27 songs, but had to cut 10 of them just because you can’t fit all of them on a record.
Jake: He’s also hilarious. He’s a great energy to have around recording. But I also don’t think we’ve recorded enough to have a definite process, you know?
Right. So do you guys have any major influences? Any artists from Detroit you’ve looked up to?
Zak: I guess it started with the Retards. I think that’s what he wanted to do with this band when we started. And then it kind of progressed to like Wipers, Useless Eaters, that type of punk. Recently, Raw Prawn from Australia. And we’ve all had different phases. I think it goes from rough to much less rough
Jake: I’m really into 90s stuff like Dinosaur Jr. and Pavement so I try to bring that. I really see a lot of that in our music.
Do you try to bring that with your personal drumming or with the whole band?
Jake: Oh, both. I get a lot of that energy from those bands and I feel like that comes out. And drumming, yes definitely. And Detroit bands, the two that come to mind are The Stooges and Clone Defects.
Favorite place to play in Detroit?
Zak: Any place that’s not a bar. Bars great too, but any place that’s not a real venue.
Adam: People like to bring their own beer and just operate on their own terms and not have to worry about someone kicking them out for breaking the rules of a bar. It’s just more fun and frankly, more punk. And it’s just cooler. Like if you can do a show like that, in a place like that, and have it not be a disaster then it’s 100 times better.
Jeff: Bar-wise though, UFO is cool. Although we’ve never actually played their together as this group.
How many shows do you think you’ve played together as a group?
Zak: WOW. A lot. We’ve taken a couple months off recently.
Jake: Just to kind of collect everything and think about what’s going on.
Zak: It used to be that we’d play every show that anyone asked us to play.
Jeff: It was around once a week, maybe.
Adam: That was awesome. When you’re starting out, that’s what you should do. But now we don’t want people to get sick of seeing you like, twice a week. And Detroit’s so small. Like if we played every show we could we’d probably be playing twice a week and everyone would be really bored of it.
Jeff: Which is really actually nice.
What makes the Detroit scene so small?
Jake: Well a lot of shows keep happening at the same places. There aren’t that many people who go to shows but it’s a really strong community.
Kate: It’s how I know you guys.
Jake: Yeah! It’s the sickest music scene because there’s a specific amount of people and it’s really tight and cool.
That’s awesome. Do you guys have anything in the works?
Adam: Yeah we’re gonna tour the West Coast over the summer.
Jake: We played South By Southwest and we’re going back down again in March. And we’re playing a couple shows along the way.
Adam: We’re doing a show in Kansas City on St. Patrick’s Day which is going to be fucking crazy.
Jake: And we have more than enough material for a new record so we’re going to record in the next few months, hopefully.
Zak: Yeah, I have a master list of material that I’ve divided up into different albums. It’s pretty nerdy, I’ve color-coded it. There’s an acoustic album, a more lyrically-focused mellow album, and another album that’s kind of quirky, up-tempo punk. And I think with the next album we’re going to try and make it more personal and thought-out. We’re really excited about it!