Let me begin this piece by saying that in less than 24 hours, two teenagers from opposite parts of the country, had met in a random coffee shop in Jupiter, FL. A series of fortunate events? Gravity? Mother Moon Lady? The Universe? Whatever the forces, it was a really cool thing!
Max Gowan (known as Snax Chowin’ on Twitter and formerly as Old Man Gowan in high school) grew up in Raleigh, North Carolina, but recently finished up his freshman year of college at American University in D.C. He picked up the guitar at age 8 under the instruction of his Classic Rock-loving dad. “I learned ‘Smoke on the Water’ like every other guitar player has to learn in the first week or something like that!”
He says it’s hard to tell when he began seriously writing, noting that he went through a “serious death metal phase” during his middle school years and that those songs were probably “really dumb.” With current favorites and inspirations being among the likes of Elvis Depressedly, Alex G, Elliot Smith, Wilco, and Porches, he has very much grown out of that phase.
This April brought the release of Max’s second, very personal, full length titled Mass Transit. Completely self-recorded in his dorm room and parents’ home, despite having a band behind him now, Max Gowan and His Dads (“it’s gonna be Papa Robbie, Father Jose, and Daddy Danny!”). A friend of his, Liz, an audio-tech major, helped with the mixing.
The fourteen songs explore the thoughts and ideas, which as a 19 year old, come during the transition from high school to college, suburban to urban life, adolescence to adulthood. We hear a calmer side of his creativity on the instrumental title track which fades right into the more upbeat “Devil Kid” that sounds like it could make the soundtrack for a teenage indie drama. Max tells me that “Mr. Turnaround” was written about a friend who was going through a rough time, something difficult in that transition period.
“I try not to sound too teenager-y just because I think other people do that better than me. [. . .] I think not trying too hard to make a song good, sparks [creativity]. If I’m having a hard time, I just try and write a terrible song, and it usually ends up being one I keep because you’re not forcing it.”
Max says he’s often compared to Real Estate and Mac Demarco, stating plainly that “its guitar music!” and that he tries to take comparisons like that in the best way possible. “I really like Mac Demarco. I feel like he’s inspired a lot of really bad knock off bands. But yeah, he’s great!”
He credits a lot of his more recent success to D.C.’s supportive music scene. He is a DJ for American University’s radio station, meeting a lot of friends through that opportunity. He and his band plan to play more house shows and small venues when they go back to college in the fall. He says he has plans for another album to come out sometime next year. In the meantime, you can follow Max Gowan on his quite hilarious twitter account, and find both of his full lengths on his bandcamp page!