Max Gowan, a.k.a. Snax Chowin’

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.

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Mass Transit cover art

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!

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Catfish and the Bottlemen @ First Ave Mainroom Minneapolis, MN

AHHHH! So I came Home (Minnesota) earlier this month for a couple weeks to visit family, friends, the city, etcetera. I love Minneapolis and all my people so much, and being away from it all for the past six months has only made my love grow stronger. So thanks to everyone for being the greatest people, and thanks to Minnesota for having the best public radio, being green, and not deathly humid in the summer (*cough cough* Florida. *death staring out my bedroom window at our one sad, tiny palm tree in the front yard*). Anyway, now that the fan-girling over Home is over, lets begin with Catfish!

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I saw Catfish and the Bottlemen on my eighteenth birthday last year, it was a gift to myself. Unlike other freshly 18 year olds buying scratch-offs and cigarettes, I celebrated by finally going to an 18+ show! They played Varsity Theater and were greater than I had expected music wise, but we got there late, so we were pretty far back in the crowd. We had trouble seeing and there was a ton of fog, so that didn’t help with the visibility either.

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Catfish and the Bottlemen // Varsity Theater 6/9/2015

This year, The Bottlemen announced their U.S. tour and they just so happened to have a stop in MPLS while I was back home. I bought a ticket before I flew back, not really knowing who I’d go with. fast forward to me in MN, and it turns out a bunch of people I knew were going, so I bummed a ride with Marge and Syd and off we went! ( s/o to Maggie Yetzer and Sydney Rezac who, aside from being the coolest grrrls out there, came and visited me in FL this past spring. Bless their hearts!)

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Marge and Syd and I after the concert, holding hands to keep the magic flowing. 

The band was playing to a considerably larger crowd at the Mainroom of First Ave with the capacity for over 500 more people than last year’s Varsity show. They had the Worn Flints (who’s lead singer made it clear they were from Ohio) opening on their tour for the past few shows. I was impressed being that it was the first I’d heard of them. Their lead, Kenny Steigele, was a little weird in a comical way, very much like Jack Black in School of Rock.

Shortly after the Worn Flints left the stage, Catfish and the Bottlemen casually appeared on stage and jumped right into “Kathleen” off their first album, The Balcony. Van McCann, one of my many musician crushes, seemed to be a fan of this little move where he leaned into the mic stand during the verses, almost to the point of it falling. Crowd favorites were definitely the gems off the first album, and their new singles off The Ride.

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yes I know this is a crappy phone picture, don’t yell at me I didn’t have a photo pass

Marge, Syd, and I were standing only a few rows of people back, stage left. The majority of those around us were parents who were there with their too-young-to-get-in-alone kids, so nobody was moving. Marge, Syd, and I were dancing and bouncing like a bunch of crazy fan-girls (but I swear we’re cool, honest), and Marge was belting the lyrics with all her might. We caught the attention of Van, and between songs in his dreamy Welsh accent he said to us, and more specifically Marge, “I see you all dancing over there! You [Marge] singing all the words, you having a good time?!” We flipped out about it later.

I had really been hoping for them to do “Glasgow”, sadly though they didn’t. Mid-set we did get an acoustic rendition of “Hourglass”, which sufficed just as well because Van has the voice of an angel and it was just magic.

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photo cred to Margie

The rest of the show was #lit as the kids say it these days. Catfish finished their show sweaty as hell with an extremely charged “Tyrants”, everyone was screaming along. At the end of the song, Van climbed the amps on stage and hung  his guitar from the lights. This one went down in my book as one of the best concerts since The Wombats last year, it just might have topped that show. You can catch Catfish on their fall U.S. tour in most major cities. They won’t be stopping in MN, but they will be in Chicago, thats close enough, right?!

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