He’s not 20 yet, but Minneapolis rocker Jordan Gatesmith already has done time in more than 40 failed local groups, with quirky monikers like Tits, Dark Lord, Gay Animals and the A-Cups.
“Bands always start out with somebody saying, ‘You know what would be so cool?’” says the singer-guitarist, who appears in The City on Saturday. “Then you get together and everyone goes, ‘Well, I don’t know what to do.’ So it usually turns out like, ‘All right, we’re going to write Western music, with this super-hardcore, heavy-metal breakdown in the middle of it!’ Really stupid s— like that.”
Oddly enough, he ended up fronting Howler, among the most critically acclaimed new quintets of 2012, by giving up the group format entirely.
He enrolled in college as an English literature major, but that, too, ended badly.
“I dropped out because I was getting way too high and watching (Cartoon Network’s surreal) ‘Adventure Time,’” he says. “I cared more about ‘Adventure Time’ than I did about school, in the end.”
That’s when he retired to his cellar with a microphone, six-string, loop pedal and drum kit.
Left to his own devices, Gatesmith hit pay dirt almost immediately with two minutes, 33 seconds of surf-foamy adrenaline aptly dubbed “This One’s Different.”
The die was cast.
“It was written really quickly, and I demo’d it out that same night on GarageBand,” he says. “And it sounded so dreamy and almost magical that I kind of freaked out. I thought, ‘This is something that should be explored.’ So Howler began as me, by myself in my basement, just trying to figure out the rest of this sound I’d started in that song.”
The songs — from the Replacements-bratty “America” to the Jesus and Mary Chain-inspired “Back To the Grave,” collected on Howler’s brilliant debut, “America Give Up” — were so solid that Gatesmith had the pick of the hometown litter when he decided to add musicians.
British Rough Trade executive Geoff Travis heard the material and promptly got in contact.
“He phoned up and said, ‘I see you have a show in two days. How about if we send someone to see you play?’” Gatesmith says. “And we were playing this crappy little club in Minneapolis, with 48 hours to prepare — it was a little intimidating.”
The A&R rep signed Howler the next day. Wise move. The tall, angular Gatesmith is a huge rock star just waiting to happen, and an archivist who really knows his stuff.
“It’s always been an exploration for me,” he says. “Like, who inspired Black Flag? Who inspired the Clash and the Sex Pistols? I was always trying to dig up all these other bands, from the get-go.”
IF YOU GO
Where: Hemlock Tavern, 1131 Polk St., San Francisco
When: 9:30 p.m. Saturday
Contact: (415) 923-0923, www.brownpapertickets.com