When asked about the critical acclaim for Scowl’s new album How Flowers Grow, singer Kat Moss is honest.
“There’s a feeling of being overwhelmed,” she explains through the Zoom screen. “We’re just riding the wave because we have no idea what to expect.”
It might not be the most typical answer to come from the singer of one of the hottest punk bands in the scene. Then again, Scowl is anything but a typical hardcore band.
The Santa Cruz/San Jose band—part of the “40831” scene, as it’s known—steer away from the tough exterior used to the point of cliche in today’s hardcore. Instead, they juxtapose light, floral imagery with their gritty sound, using a flower as an “O” in their logo. The video for “Seeds to Sow” could be taken straight from a Disney film, with cartoon imagery animated over the live action video, and at shows Moss is known to dress with 1960s and ’70s inspired style—go-go boots, bright make-up and beehive hairdos.
But when it comes to the music, Scowl takes no prisoners with their brutal onslaught of fast, furious and message-driven tunes. Aggressive power chords, thundering drums and driving bass lines lay the foundation for graveled—yet surprisingly intelligible—vocals.
It’s a sound that Scowl have made completely their own (as one YouTube commenter posted: “I did not expect that sound to come out of that girl”), fueled by the spirit of old school hardcore from bands like Cro-Mags, Bad Brains and Black Flag.
“Ultimately we just want to write what we all like,” says drummer Cole Gilbert. “Whether that’s a mix of ’80s hardcore or indie, that’s what we’re going to do.”
“We’re not going to pigeonhole ourselves,” guitarist Malachi Greene agrees.
Scowl’s debut full-length album, How Flowers Grow, was released last month on Flatspot Records. Almost immediately, the popular heavy music magazine Revolver named it one of the top hardcore albums of 2021. The band’s powerful presence on the scene has earned them almost instant, overnight success—from playing this past summer’s now infamous RBS (or “Real Bay Shit”) show, to gracing the underground music headlines and recently featured on this month’s cover of U.K. punk and metal publication Kerrang!
But for Greene, the fans’ response means more than any headline.
“We put a lot into it so I’m just happy people are liking it and care enough to buy the record,” he says. “Growing up I really had to pinch my pennies to buy a CD. So the fact that anyone is willing to spend money on our music is huge to me.”
Formed in March 2019, Scowl began after Moss told Greene she wanted to be in a band. Right away, Greene and Gilbert—who have played together for years, most recently in the Santa Cruz hardcore band Jawstruck—started writing music and Moss penned lyrics. Soon, they recorded five songs with Charles Toshio at The Panda Studios in Fremont in a matter of hours. By May, their self-titled demo was online. The following week they booked their first show and never looked back.
Bassist Bailey Lupo joined the band that summer at the suggestion of Greene, all of them having known each other through the San Jose and Santa Cruz scenes.
“I remember seeing [Gilbert and Greene] in Jawstruck and thought they were fucking sick. Now we’re in a band together and I hate them,” Lupo jokes.
In November 2019, Scowl released their second EP, Reality After Reality, with the intent of going on a West Coast tour with fellow hardcore homies Punitive Damage in the spring of 2020.
Of course, we all know what happened after that.
Yet, Scowl bounced back, taking the time to record their most impressive record yet. The result is the blistering 10 song, 15 minute and 34 second How Flowers Grow, an album that—like the title suggests—focuses on personal development through hardships, the self-confidence needed to survive and evolution of the human spirit to aspire to something greater. Clearly, the work is resonating with people.
“It has a lot to do with identity and I think every young adult struggles with their identity at one point or another,” Moss says. “Scowl is an extension of that for me: having confidence and the concrete aspects of that confidence.”
How Flowers Grow