July 2012 “Band of the Month” – WOWSER BOWSER
We’ve been honored to have such a talented lineup of bands of our Band of the Month series. The series is definitely something we should have started last year but nonetheless, we’ve been able to speak with bands that we’ve been able to watch grow over the past months and it’s a pleasure being able to work with them. Just in case you missed:
“To the Pleasant Life!” intones Pettis, sounding like Bowser if he was actually Charles Foster Kane, and Mario was this plumber that reminded him of the solitary despondency of wealth. But then Mario becomes a charity project, invited to “kick it” and get on a train like it was before sunrise on a bucket list. Juxtaposed with the mdma bubbles they’re embedded in it comes off like a spirit guide on the world of tomorrow ride at epcot, layering gurgling synths on top of what sounds like a keytar if it were actually a guitar shaped like a korg. Just don’t call him twee, he might cry a tear in the shape of a K.” – Discount Coupon
The Atlanta-based foursome has been turning heads since the release of their self-titled full length earlier this year. It seems like everyone and their brother in the South is starting to catch on to these guys and if you listen to their album or happen to catch one of their balloons live, you’ll know why. Help us welcome WOWSER BOWSER, our Band of the Month for July 2012.
First things first; Either Wowser Bowser is a name that spawned from a few too many late nights, it’s an expression one of your grandparents say, or you simply chose it because you liked the way it sounds? What’s the story behind your name?
George Pettis (Vocals + more) – The first word rhymes with the second word. It’s fucking awesome. My grandparents probably said it, because they are awesome too.
Jake Thomson (Bass + more) – The decision to call ourselves Wowser Bowser could not have been more spontaneous, it barely even qualified as a “decision”. George was just like, “Let’s call the band Wowser Bowser,” and really couldn’t think of a compelling reason not to.
You all are all from the Atlanta area, but I read the band played their first show at the small, liberal arts college Guilford in Greensboro, North Carolina nearly two and a half years ago. Why North Carolina?
George – Because South Carolina fucking sucks. I went to school up there, then flunked out, then returned two years later, and now I’m back in ATL. Ryan is still up there though. We forgot about him. Hope he’s okay.
Jake – George went to Guilford the year before and he knew a bunch of people up there, so we thought it would be cool to play for them at a house party, just to test the waters with our music. Also the idea of playing a little DIY show for folks who were there to party anyway was more appealing than trying to get a show at an actual venue for our first performance. That’s back when it was just me and George doing everything, so we had no idea what people would think of our music. They seemed to like it, though.
As big as a family as the Atlanta music scene is, I imagined you all have each played in your fair share of bands before or during Wowser Bowser?
George – Yeah, and we all have side projects as well. The best of them is probably “The Joe’s Crabb Shack Disco Experience” Joe plays every show wearing a different hand-painted cock sock. We the Lion, Tomahawk Deb, Bitter Children, An English Room, and some others I guess. Those are the main ones.
Jake – Yeah, we were in a lot of bands together before Wowser Bowser started; George, Ryan, and I were in a folk-rock band in high school called A Hat for Every Mood, which was our first stab at writing, playing, and recording music, and after that dissolved we started another one called The Damn Animals which also had WB’s former bass player Nick Lynds. Then Ryan, Nick, and I started a band called Rhinodust during my sophomore year of college, at which time I was also the drummer for a jazz-funk band called Invisible Circus. And I think it was a year later that George and I finally got back to writing music together, and that became Wowser Bowser. We’re also in other bands right now – George fronts a group called We the Lion, I play solo material under the name Tomahawk Deb and play drums for An English Place, and Ryan also has a solo project called Bitter Children.
George, now that you’re no longer in North Carolina, how has that changed the way you all write as a band?
George – Well, when I used to live up there it was sort of as you described. Now its a much more communal process I guess. All the new songs are very collaborative, and Ryan is taking a much larger role in writing.
Your self-titled full length was released earlier this year through Adair Park Recordings. Who’s behind Adair Park? I noticed that ATL’s Damon Moon & The Whispering Drifters are also calling it home base..
George – That would be international man of mystery Gavin Frederick. He’s our Obi Wan Kenobi and we love him a lot. We call him Uncle Gavin and we sit up on his knee and he feeds us scotch-soaked toffees and tells us stories about the 90s.
Jake – Gavin Frederick is the mastermind behind Adair Park as well as some other Atlanta labels, such as Stickfigure Records, which I think he’s most well known for, and just a great dude in general. He has a really extensive knowledge on the music scene in Atlanta as well as other spots ’cause he’s been putting out records for a while, and we’re really happy to be releasing our music under his guidance because we didn’t know how any of that stuff worked coming into this.
You all seem more than aptly skilled in producing and recording so when it came time to make this album, did you undertake the task yourselves or did you go through all the motions of studio time, sending away for mixing and mastering etc..?
George – We recorded it ourselves, but then sent it away to be mastered. We were so sick of hearing the songs by then we just didn’t even consider mastering it ourselves.
I couldn’t find any info but it looks like Daniel Bressette, the man behind TheBlueIndian.com Compilation artwork (and way more), could have been behind your jungle-themed cover. Am I close?
Jake – Actually it was Ariel Duncan, a really talented artist and illustrator from Atlanta.
There’s a somewhat obvious influence by the Graceland-era Paul Simon, though maybe that could be said about all pop music following that album, but the biggest era that I get that you’re pulling from would be the 80’s New Wave pop scene. As a generality, what acts would you say have influenced you all the most?
George – Bands like Ambulance LTD and Animal Collective are what I suppose influence me the most, melody-wise. I don’t know where the hell my lyrics come from. Maybe like Goodnight Moon or something. I had this book when I was 4 or 5 called Mouse House. Great read.
Jake – Definitely Animal Collective, some LCD Soundsystem, Brian Eno, Talking Heads, Magnetic Fields, Passion Pit, the Flaming Lips, and Beck, among many others.
Since the release of the “Water Story” single in late 2010, you all have worked your way into the minds, hearts, and iPods of people around the South East. You’ve had the opportunity to open for The Drums and Rubblebucket, as well as share the stage with Qurious, Modern Skirts and a heap of other regional acts (am I missing anyone noteworthy?). Over the years, there’s got to be one or two moments that for you all personally embody the overflowing spirit of the band?
George – We played this Christmas show at the Drunken Unicorn, and all the bands that played that night were bands that I would go out and listen to anyway and all the people in the audience were my friends and acquaintances who I’d hang out with anyway. Those are the shows when the WowBow Spirit comes flowing out faster than a post-Chipotle poop.
Jake – I’d have to go with the two Christmas shows we’ve done at the Drunken Unicorn in Atlanta. It was our idea to set up a goofy, over-the-top show for December that would feature an ongoing play between each band’s set, with the climax being at the end of our set. We had a character named Jazz Fusion Santa played by our friend Kurt Hughes, an amazing guitarist, and it was fantastic.
While there’s always room for a few more hometown fans, you all have done a great job of introducing yourselves to the Atlanta and Athens crowds as well as spot dates in cities around the state but isn’t it time to take your noise on the road? Can we expect any touring from you all in the next few months or are other things taking precedent?
George – We’re gonna tour as soon as we can get our shit together. We’ve been up to NYC and out to SXSW and some other abbreviations of cities as well.
Jake – We don’t have any immediate plans to do an actual tour because of school/jobs/other stuff that take up our time, but we would definitely like to once everyone can commit to it. In the past we’ve done a few week-long trips where we played shows in places like New York, Austin (for SXSW), Miami, and Philadelphia, and they were all super fun and awesome, so once the opportunity arises we’ll take our tunes on the road for a much longer time.
Simply put, what is Wowser Bower and what is Wowser Bowser not?
George – Wowser Bowser is like watching reruns of Jersey Shore for a week and then going outside and eating grass. Wowser Bowser is not your Dad’s bowling trophies.
Jake – Wowser Bowser is understanding the film “Eraserhead” the first time you saw it, and Wowser Bowser is not ongoing night terrors.
I do my best to keep in the loop about what’s going on in Atlanta and Athens but who are some bands that we may not be so familiar with that you could share with us?
George – I really think Faun and a Pan Flute is just getting better and better at a ridiculous rate. Every show I see is better than the last.
Jake – Gun Party, they’re the definition of a good time.
Coke or Pepsi?
George – Pepsi (don’t tell Coke)
Jake – Coke!
DeNiro or Nicholson?
George – Young Deniro, Old Nicholson
Jake – Nicholson!
Ranch or Sriracha?
George – Put em together man! Duhhhh
Jake – Sriracha!
FruityLoops or Ableton?
Both – Logic, son.
Pizza or Cigarette?
George – Pizza. Why is beer not an option?
Jake – P-I-Z-Z-A