Photograph by Jackie Papanier, taken from Howlish’s Facebook page.
Earlier this week, AltWire introduced our readers to another artist to watch, Vitruvia. In an attempt to start a trend of introducing our readers to new music and helping to give exposure to local or lesser-known bands, I’ve decided to write about a band I believe has the potential to gain much recognition for their work. As an avid concert-goer, I look forward to continuing to discover new bands with all of you and look forward to suggestions as to who we should review next.
With a Radio 104.5 Studio Session under their belt, a recent article in The Reading Eagle (a Reading, PA based newspaper), a landslide poll win for The Deli Magazine’s Philly’s Emerging Artist of 2015 and a place on the ballot for RockOnPhilly.com’s Artist of The Month, I think that labeling Howlish as “up and coming” is putting it lightly. Based out of Philadelphia, PA, Howlish is a four-piece band consisting of Mark Watter (vocals/guitar), Karl Germanovich (bass), Taylor Cullen (drums) and Brendan Sweeney (lead guitar). Howlish’s website describes them as “alt/ambient rock,” but the truth is, they just plain rock.
Howlish is a breath of fresh air in a music scene (at least in Philly) that has lately been dominated by folk-rock. Not that there’s anything wrong with folk-rock, but Howlish brings something that sounds strangely familiar, but is also strikingly unique. The band started performing together in the fall of 2014 just after the release of their debut EP, Open Bones, a 3 track taste of what was yet to come from this group. Since Open Bones, Howlish has continued to work together to create a solid sound and build a fan base with shows all over the greater Philadelphia area.
In November 2015, the band released their first album, Outer, an aptly titled record which provides a stirring selection of tracks that make the listener feel like their hanging out with a jam band in space. Each track has its own raw, ethereal energy, fuzzy guitar and penetrating vocals. Their first single release, “Black Ice”, is a stand out among other songs on Outer. As perhaps their most energetic song, “Black Ice” has a thumping bass line, rolling drums and gritty guitar that show a lot of promise. Aside from “Black Ice” and another more intense track, “Amy,” the rest of the songs are more on the mellow, ambient end of the music spectrum, but are no less impressive in comparison. As for the lead singer, he seems to have a unique and almost haunting voice that’s excellent at conveying the emotion behind every song. In particular, “Scar Scar Scar”, which is thick with longing and swirling guitar, is perhaps vocally and lyrically lead singer Mark Watter’s best work on the album. The song features lyrics such as “because I was only made to scar/give me your lungs not your heart” that are delivered with undeniable purpose and intensity. Lyrically, some parts of the album cryptic, but not without meaning (check out “Woods” and “Woods II” for examples). The fact that the songs aren’t full of your typical repeating chorus and normal pop-rock structure fits in perfectly with the space-y, jam band-esque vibe of the album. Overall, this is an incredible first effort for a band that has been playing together for just under 2 years and I look forward to listening to whatever comes next as they continue to grow as a group and as musicians.
Despite listening to Howlish for over a year, I myself have not had the pleasure of seeing them live. However, videos of their Radio 104.5 session and other shows, as well as reviews from other concert goers have me watching out for their next show. If you’re interested in more information about Howlish, please check out the band’s Facebook at facebook.com/howlish or their website here. Both provide opportunities to find, listen to and purchase their album, Outer.