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Dylan among Howls’ influences

Since their first public performance less than a year ago, local band The Howls have been making a name for themselves playing venues throughout North County and San Diego.

Made up of John Cooper, 23, on vocals, guitar and the occasional harmonica, Dave Gargula, 20, on drums and Caleb Chial, 20, on bass guitar, the band has played stages at the Belly Up Tavern in Solana Beach, the Casbah, Cricket Wireless Amphitheatre and the Kensington Club, just to name a few.

While Cooper calls playing live a “forceful personal experience,” the band has scaled back the number of shows they play. Through the summer and early fall they were doing two or three shows a week, but have cut back over the past few months and are focused on recording their first EP.

The band hopes to release the disc when it is completed in the next month or so. They handed out free copies of a seven-song CD during their show at the Kensington Club on Jan. 17 and asked people for feedback on which songs should make the EP.

With songs spanning rock, folk and Americana, the CD delivers on Cooper’s desire to show people a good time and to “give them something to dance to.”

“Hopefully people see the genuineness of the songs and that they are just real,” Cooper said. “They’re not contrived or just a song for the sake of writing a song.”

The biggest goal for the band right now is finishing their EP, but being recognized and appreciated by other local musicians has been a highlight up to this point.

“The thing that I’m most psyched about is other bands and other people in San Diego that I think are cool or have their ear to the ground or know what is going on have opened their arms or seem like they like us,” Cooper said.

One San Diego musician who is a fan of The Howls is Matt Binder, lead singer of Hotel St. George, a popular local band.

“John has a definite rootsy, Dylanesque quality about his writing and singing but combines that with really raw-sounding punk guitar playing and attitude,” Binder said. “It’s a really honest sounding band.”

Things first got started in January 2008 when Cooper asked Gargula to play drums on some of the songs he had been writing. It was Cooper’s first band, but Gargula had previously been in a band called Stand the Gaff, with Chial.

Although Chial had always played drums, he liked what Cooper and Gargula were doing and wanted in. He tried to pick up the guitar, and when that didn’t work out, he grabbed a bass. Currently performing with guest lead guitarists at their shows, the band is looking to add someone to their line-up permanently.

The influence of musical acts ranging from Bob Dylan, The Rolling Stones, The Who, Tom Petty and Black Rebel Motorcycle Club is reflected not only in their music, but their name as well.

In his study of Bob Dylan, Cooper came across a poem called “Howl” by Allen Ginsberg, who was a longtime friend of Dylan. “Howl” was also the name of an album by Black Rebel Motorcycle Club. The word stuck and sounded like something that fit with their music and that would stay in people’s minds. The Howls were born.

While they’ve only been together a short time, Chial said he thinks the band has already accomplished a lot and seemed optimistic about the future of The Howls.

“Hopefully we can release a full-length album, I mean that would be the ultimate goal,” Chial said. “And to get on a big tour. I think that’s something we all want.”

Scott Landheer is a San Diego-based freelance writer

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Dylan among Howls’ influences