“Don’t worry, I’ve cut it out now,” he assures. Well good, because it’s time to try and crack his effortlessly cool exterior and experience the Nielsen, vocalist of The Growlers, that everybody knows and loves.
It’s been quite the year for the self-proclaimed Californian beach goths. They released their album Casual Acquaintances to high acclaim and began their Beach Goth tour across North America, which is set to hit Australia in January. They’ve already sold out a Sydney show, but Nielsen, in his endearingly macabre manner, hasn’t paid much attention to those details. “I don’t know what it is, but hey, it sounds good to me,” he says.
There’s an epic sort of Jack Skellington meets Edward Scissorhands meets Bob Dylan aesthetic to Nielsen. He may initially appear nonchalant, but really it’s a dry wit and a quick humour that paints colour on the otherwise blackened shell of the singer. Much like their frontman, The Growlers are often described as being a little bit of everything – not goth, not punk, not hipster – and their music is appealing to so many kinds of people, for reasons unbeknownst to Nielsen. “I’m fine with labels,” he drones. “You know, people need to talk, like magazines, journalism and all that. That’s the only way to talk about bands, bands need it to get off. After that, talk is cheap.”
The Growlers are coming out natural, never feeling pressured in anything they do. Where his band mates are out looking for music to inspire them, Nielsen of course is a different sheep, trying, he says, to just tap into something and communicate that. In how he seems to want to approach his music, Nielsen is so relaxed that he could very well fall on his backside.
“I don’t know,” he begins monotonously. “I’m a harsh critic of myself, I mean, I tear myself up. I do it to myself when I’m writing but it’s all based on what I want.
“I think the difference is people are making stuff thinking about what other people are thinking about it, I couldn’t give a shit. If the people we make music for – if you don’t like it, I really don’t care at all.
“I guess that’s why we come across casual or nonchalant or careless. I don’t know, if it doesn’t work that way I don’t understand what the fucking point is.”
So gothic is Nielsen’s manner and meaning, it’s a wonder if he frequents the beach dressed all in black – the question of which raises an explosion of laughter from him. “Occasionally,” he teases. “When I’m at the beach I’ll wear my [black] wetsuit the entire day.”
Admittedly, Nielsen doesn’t know what’s going on. His life is removed from everything going on, and he doesn’t care. His music is internal, direct to his life and what’s directly connected to him when he tries to make music. It’s been described by Nielsen that his persona on stage can be very childlike – if he’s so removed, as he says, from the outside world, is that particular persona drawn from his internal happenings? Heavily, Nielsen says, “There’s only a couple of areas in my life when I get to be weird and artistic, and that’s when we make a record, when I’m designing costumes for us, planning fun parties, and when I’m on stage.
“When I’m not doing music I’m doing the opposite – I’m not listening to music, not looking at what another band does, I’m only worried about using any free time I have to hang out with my family and get to the beach, have a little fun.”