Howler Blog

Talking to Mountains : Scott Ballew

Posted on April 29, 2021


Maybe you don’t know the name Scott Ballew when you hear it.  But, if you trod around in the Howler universe, you have probably unknowingly crossed paths with his work as a filmmaker for our Austin, TX brethren Yeti.  Scott has produced or directed over 85 pieces for Yeti ranging from short films to in-depth explorations of people and place.  He also stepped out and directed the acclaimed independent feature documentary on the iconic artist and musician Terry Allen.

During flat spells in film shoots Scott started writing songs. These songs eventually became his debut album Talking to Mountains - a timeless and picturesque amalgam of story songs which elicit the ghost of Townes Van Zandt and the fractured folk of Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy.  As his subject Terry Allen said, “Scott's songs are stories that go rolling through your head like little movies.“  We invite you to check out Talking to Mountains on your favorite streaming service and give it the time in deserves.  Or pick up a vinyl copy or cassette over at leisurerodeo.com.  

We asked Scott to put together a playlist as a companion to one of our 10 Year Anniversary Edition Gaucho Snapshirt releases.  He included a few of his own songs and others by the likes of Blaze Foley and Jerry Jeff Walker.  Here’s High Lonesome : a Howler Music playlist by Scott Ballew.

Photos by Austin Stapleton. 

10 Years Of Howler

Posted on March 23, 2021

The seedling that grew into Howler Brothers was planted with a random conversation with my friend Chase Heard sometime around 2008. He told me he was considering getting some drawings he had been working on printed onto t-shirts. The t-shirt thing was a new development but art was an every day part of Chase’s life so the concept didn’t totally shock me. He emailed me a few of the drawings and I liked them. A lot. So, I told him I would help him figure out how to do it. No big deal right?  

Well, I had no idea that this seemingly innocent statement would change my life. In fact, neither of us did. We were coming off of a few years of running around the country in a van playing music with Wrinkle Neck Mules and we were used to doing creative, sometimes ill-advised, things together. The band was sort of in a state of flux as we stared down the changing realities of life and geography so something new seemed to make sense. Maybe it was good to hedge our long shot bets. So, even though we had zero knowledge of the clothing business and no formal clothing design experience, we never batted an eye.  

The next thing we knew, the concept had grown well beyond a few printed t-shirts. We daydreamed about updating the classic embroidered western shirt, guayaberas and the boardshorts of our youth. Chase kept sending me sketches and concepts. I loved them all. We spent what felt like months looking for a name that would encapsulate our vision. There were 100s of ideas but only one hit the mark dead center. Howler Brothers. 

There’s a lot more to tell. But, the bottom line is that for nearly two years we stumbled around in the dark trying to figure out how to make these sketches into clothes. We finally made it happen. One fine day in the fall of 2010 a truck pulled up and dropped a bunch of pallets into Chase’s driveway in Austin. He packed all the stuff into Howler Brothers headquarters - his garage. Finally, without much fanfare, we pushed “publish” on our website just before Christmas 2010. Nobody bought anything, but Howler Brothers was off and running no less. 

Looking up now, it is hard to believe it has been 10 years. What a wild ride. We have met so many fabulous people and had a million good times so far. We are consistently surprised by the incredible culture which has grown around this little monkey. The people that buy our stuff, those that work with us, our retailers, photographers, Ambassadors - all are top level people. And, we get a chance to create every day. We cannot ask for much more.  

We cannot express our gratitude enough to anyone reading this for being a part of our the first 10 Years of Howler. Thank you. We aren’t going anywhere and we have much in store for this year and beyond. For now, we are going to bask in the glow and celebrate a bit.  

- Andy (& Chase)

Howler Musical Origins : Antlers in Velvet

Posted on March 5, 2021

Music is a vital part of the origin of Howler Brothers.  In fact, before Howler was even a twinkle in the eye, Howler Founders Andy Stepanian and Chase Heard, along with HB partner Mason Brent, were making music together and plowing the clubs of the US and UK with their band Wrinkle Neck Mules.  The Mules spent the better part of the mid-2000s on the road playing 150+ nights a year and recording 6 albums.  They developed a cult-like following and even brushed shoulders with the mainstream when a tiny computerized lizard danced along to one of their songs in a television commercial for auto insurance.  Without question, Wrinkle Neck Mules was the origin of the creative relationship between Andy, Chase and Mason.  To this day, they say that their years of writing songs together, traveling for weeks at a time in a van, sleeping with 5 people in one hotel room and braving the often-ruthless music world prepared them for running Howler Brothers better than any design school or MBA program.  

The musical lineage took on a new branch when Andy and Mason released an album under the moniker Leon III in 2018.  The album took a detour from the WNM path “into the psych-folk wilderness” (Jedd Ferris / Blue Ridge Outdoors).   Although technically a duo, Leon III employs a revolving cast of ridiculously talented folks who play in the live show and on the recordings.  Some of you may have seen them on tour with Howler amigos Futurebirds or Mother Hips in recent years.   

Leon III is at it again with a new album called Antlers in Velvet which came out today.  The release is already being called “expansive”, “damn good” and “genre-bending”.  Live for Live Music even went so far as to call Leon III “one of the next big names in improvisational music”.  The list of players on this album is pretty startling.  Even our very own Howler Ambassador Kai Welch - who is a recent Grammy nominee that plays all kinds of musical instruments in Kacey Musgraves band - played on the sessions which took place in Stinson Beach, California.  A whole laundry list of others including Matt Pence (Centro-matic, Paul Cauthen), William Tyler, Dana Colley (Morphine) and Paul Niehaus (Calexico) contributed to the cause.   

If you’re watching really closely you will see that Leon III released it’s album under a new record label called MonoSonic.  Mono like the spanish for monkey.  Not mono like the opposite of stereo.  If you can read between the lines, you will see the connection.  We are happy to say that the Leon III release is just the beginning of a number of big things we have in store involving Howler Brothers and music.   In the coming months, we will begin to peel back the curtain on Howler Music, MonoSonic and a larger musical stew from Howler Brothers.  It only makes sense because it is in our blood and it is where we came from.  Until then, we invite you to check out the Leon III Antlers in Velvet on your favorite streaming service.  You can follow them on IG at @leonthethird or order the album and some badass Howler-made merch on their website at leoniii.com.  Follow MonoSonic (@monosonicrecords) and Wrinkle Neck Mules (@wrinkleneckmules) while you’re at it.  And, stay tuned.  

Spring 2021 - Our Most Well Traveled Collection (and we never left home)

Posted on February 26, 2021

Never in our history have we been so excited to launch a new collection! Honestly. Having a small apparel brand in the last year has been full of ups, downs and unpredictable moments. We learned a lot and hardly an hour passed where we were not thankful for the incredible community that has grown around Howler Brothers. Since you’re reading this, you are part of it so thank you.

During the early stages of the COVID pandemic, it was hard to know exactly how to proceed.  Would manufacturing be interrupted? Will people stop buying things? What will happen to our retail partners? How much stuff should we make for fall 2020 and spring 2021. Absent a crystal ball, we just tried to do the best we could and focus on what we could reasonably predict. And, we kept doing what we do best and have the most fun doing - creating things.

Usually, when we have a new collection release, one of the ways we celebrate is by rushing off to some exotic locale with a pack of Howler Ambassadors and brothers in tow for a photo shoot. Of course, these photo shoots are full of good times and don’t feel much like work. For this year, we reluctantly had to take a different approach. Many international destinations are closed and travel anywhere did not seem the most prudent. So, we decided to send a bunch of our Spring 2021 Collection off to various corners of the world to some of our Howler Ambassadors and let them run the show. What they sent back was awesome. Take a look below and see our Spring 2021 Collection in action with our Ambassadors Ignacio Pignataro in Uruguay, Christiaan Pretorius in Namibia and Izzy Preciado in Mexico.  All of them brought along their crew to join the action. This is our most well traveled collection that’s for sure.

Meet John Dunaway: Howler Ambassador

Posted on January 8, 2021

It’s been a while since we initiated a new Howler Ambassador into the ranks. We’re pleased to welcome John Dunaway to our merry gang of creatives, weirdos and amigos. Some of you all may have seen this coming when John starred as the Howler Frogman for our recent Wes Anderson inspired Mutation. We got to see John’s expertise in stealth, karate, explosives and diving all in a short time period. Beyond these skills and a keen interest in the outdoors, John has one of the most romantic professions around - a life at sea piloting cargo ships.  

We caught up with John recently when he was back on dry land and dug into his brain a bit. Here’s what we found out…

You easily kicked Andy and Chase’s ass in the Howler Frogman video. Are they pathetic fighters or are you skilled in martial arts? 

It was supposed to be a secret, but I did train martial arts heavily as a kid for 2 weeks. It clearly carried through the decades.

What is Abstract Conformity?  

My alter ego. It’s the way I approach life, living fairly conformed to societies standards with my own view of things within that box; just a little abstract from the norm. I’m not unique, I just like to do whatever sparks my fancy and it usually contrasts with the standard approach. While going to sea it became my creative outlet from a physically labor intensive job to show folks more about the maritime industry.

How did you come to be a cargo ship pilot? 

Years ago, my mom said I could get paid to drive ships and the rest is history. It never seemed like a “job” Because it was and remains so fulfilling working on ships. I went to maritime school for 4 years, sailed deep sea for another decade then had the good fortune to start piloting ships 3.5 years ago in Houston. 

You mentioned having traveled to loads of countries during your early days as a seaman. What’s your favorite? 

Two port calls have always wrestled for the top spot on very different spectrums.

Freetown, Sierra Leone in West Africa for its perspectives growth on life. Here is a country in West Africa with rolling blackouts if you’re lucky enough to even have electricity, little running water and unpaved streets yet I had the time of my life because of the people. Even with all their struggles they showed me such warmth and the ability to find happiness within those confines because that is their daily norm. Sure they want better, but they still work with what they had.

My other favorite was Buenos Aires, Argentina for the culture. We’d move cargo all day, grab lunch across the street at a churrascareia, wash all the meat down with a cold beer or two on the outdoor barstools then work until dinner. Everyone would hit that gangway with a vengeance and we’d partake in 3 hour meals before wandering the streets. It was a great 4 days in port.

Is life at sea as romantic as it seems?

It certainly can be with the right mindset and run. At the same time it has the ability to be a complete drag. I was fortunate enough to sail on ships that tramped the globe, staying in port for days at a time in rather unknown locations and the office had little oversight on us. Captains still captained the ship instead of the office running things. I loved my decade at sea.

In the Howler Frogman video, you appear to blow up an enemy boat.   What’s the biggest thing you’ve actually blown up in life?

Probably an ant hill with M80s, but it was a Texas sized ant hill for a 10 year old. Sure seemed large at the time.

Twenty One Pilots or Stone Temple Pilots?

STP for sure. In a product of the “alternative rock” generation.

Frank Ocean or Billy Ocean?

Truthfully, I had to open Spotify and listen to both of them because I was clueless. Billy Ocean it is!

Why do you believe that Howler Brothers is the coolest designer of apparel in all the land ? (shameless promotional inquiry)

Do you see anyone else making an Aguacero Jacket video? That creativity flows right into the designs. The patterns are fresh and nobody can have enough Gaucho designs in their arsenal. From top to bottom, the products look slick and were designed with purpose by folks that use it for such. I’m stoked to be in the merry gang of amigos.

The Frogman Mutation starring John.

Howler Brothers x Fort Lonesome Collection

Posted on December 8, 2020

It’s such an honor for us to work with Fort Lonesome once again on a new collection. They are bonafide artists who work in a truly unique medium. For those who are not familiar with them, we cooked up this little video to highlight their craft. You can catch a glimpse of the the inner workings of their Austin studio where they design and stitch for people like Bill Murray, Sam Beam from Iron & Wine and a laundry list of celebrity types. But they aren’t all caught up in that and they are just as happy working with anyone who wants to create something unique.  

For the collection this time, Howler Brothers Founder Chase Heard and our graphic design guru Josh Abel put their heads together with Fort Lonesome to come up with a series of desert themed icons - like ocotillo cactus, thunderheads, circling hawks and misty forms from the cosmos. The whole thing evolved into a series we are calling Desert Elements. We love it and think you will too. Remember that everything is made by hand and very limited edition so hop on it if you see something you like or else it will be gone.

We look forward to whatever is next with Fort Lonesome. 

The Frogman Mutation

Posted on November 3, 2020

By sea or by land, the Howler Brothers Frogman is equipped to handle any covert operation with stealth and precision. His mission is to take on villains, minions and henchmen so the world is free to heed the call. Join the Frogman Unit today.

 

 

 

Howler Brothers x Indifly : Kio Kio Collection

Posted on October 13, 2020

We are glad to be back at it to create a little collection which benefits our friends at Indifly. This time we are celebrating their work in the Anaa Atoll in French Polynesia. Their efforts have brought not only conservation but also sustainable livelihoods to the 500 people who call Anaa home. We thought nothing could be more appropriate than putting a bonefish (kio kio to the locals on Anaa) on one of our Sheridan Shirts and hats in order to help the cause. 

We encourage you to watch this video, made with the help of Costa Del Mar, about Anaa.

It’s a beautiful place full of kio kio! And go to indifly.org to read more about their mission. Get involved. Here’s a little photo collection of Anaa to tempt you. Photos by Josh Hutchins (@aussieflyfisher).

New Approaches and Silver Linings for Fall 2020

Posted on August 25, 2020

When we started design on our Fall 2020 collection way back in the spring of 2019, we never could have imagined the state the world would be in when we got around to releasing the collection. Like everyone, we long for the days of unrestricted movement and gatherings big and small. But, in the chaos, we have found solace in stepping back, reexamining and slowing things down. We’ve surfed more, taken road trips, backpacked and listened to more music. Silver linings. 

Under ordinary circumstances, our photo shoots are big, jolly affairs. Many of the Howler crew pack up and head off to whatever exotic locale we have chosen for the shoot even if they don’t necessarily need to be there or have a “job” to do. We work hard and play a lot. Unfortunately, this year, the obvious restrictions on travel prevented us from putting on a big and social photo shoot. Instead, we carved up the collection and farmed it out to some of our favorite photogs with instructions for each of them to “do your thing." The results were awesome and it was fun for us to see how each put their own spin on Fall 2020. 

Here’s some highlights of Fall 2020 from Jonathan Nimerfroh, Boone Rodriguez, Josh Abel, and Sam Roberts

Gulf Coast Print

Posted on June 25, 2020

Austin isn’t on the Gulf of Mexico. In fact, it’s a couple hour drive before we can even smell the Gulf. But it’s still our home waters and the closest place to grab a wave and feel the sigh of relief that comes whenever you go to some spot on the coast. The Gulf has always held a special place in our collective hearts because of the strange and cool culture that seems to grow up along its banks. Anyone that’s ever been to Key West or New Orleans can certainly vouch for the strangeness. But there’s also an amazing natural world along the Gulf. Birds, animals, reefs, fish, oysters and a million reptiles and snakes. We love all this stuff and wanted to pay a little homage to it with our Gulf Destinations collection for this spring and summer.

Howler founder Chase Heard put his mighty pen to paper and drew a selection of these cool destinations - Apalachicola, Key West, Campeche, Yucatan, Espiritu Santo, Dry Tortugas, Cuba - in the style of an old sea map. It turned out super cool and timeless. We asked a few of Howler Ambassadors to share their favorite place in the Gulf. Here’s what they had to say…

 Colby Crossland - Yucatan

“All summer the anticipation builds and when the temperature starts to drop I know it's time to get on a plane and fly over The Gulf of Mexico to touch down in the Yucatan. The Mayan Coast is where I want to be. Spicy food, kind people, great tacos, beautiful flats, amazing al pastor, and missed shots on permit; it's just where I am, when I am who I want to be.”

Curt Hamby - New Orleans

“New Orleans is one of my favorite November trips with my favorite local guide buddy in his favorite local spots. Shooting teal in the morning, catching BIG bull reds in the afternoon and a few trout! Duck and trout on the grill with some fresh oysters, can’t wait for fall! Head down to Tipitinas for some brass band music for some NOLA nightlife and hit the beignets at Cafe Monde before my flight back home is a great trip for me!”

Kameron Brown - New Orleans

“The finest shrimp Po Boy I ever did have..... and the 'not-so-finest' Blue Drinks served in a fish bowl...”

Patrick Duke - Yucatan

“Margs at the airport, road trips in white vans, roadside al pastor, Victoria micheladas with my hermanos, early morning panga rides and tailing permit.”

JT Van Zandt - Apalachicola

“Beautiful little town on the forgotten coast of Florida. Little pastel colored farmhouses built in the mid 1800s surround the square. Seabirds float on the warm wind under the salty sunshine while the pines lean inland. An amazing tributary that flows into the Gulf of Mexico, the Apalachicola River and all of its fingers feed the sea with a tea stained Pineywood forests full of bears and deer. The Tarpon bite well and the old culture is true gulf coast America preserved in time”

Honson Lau - Cayo Hueso

“Beyond the rich history and debauchery lies vast shallow water flats teaming with bonefish, permit, and tarpon. This is a fly fisherman's paradise to one who seeks to pursue seemingly unpressured fish without having to travel to an exotic destination. The night life here brings a "come one come all" feel from scenic family dinners to derelict adventures. Some of my younger years were spent here crawling into a skiff at 6am after 30 minutes of shut eye. What happens in Cayo Hueso... stays on the skiff the next day.”

Christiaan Pretorius - Apalachicola

"I have fond memories of soft shell crabs with Brett Martina and jumping Tarpon on Mangum’s skiff."