Early last fall, shortly after he'd reunited with old friends to form a new band, guitarist Thomas McElwee was brainstorming band names at work. Charleston meteorologist Rob Fowler's legendary mustache, shaved off for a cancer fundraiser, popped into his head and he couldn't stop laughing to himself.
"I brought it up as a joke to the band," says McElwee. "And they all had the same reaction I did. We needed a name for our first official gig."
Good friends since they were kids, singer Matt Stanley, guitarist Nick Collins, bassist Chris Richter, drummer John Tankersley, and McElwee all grew up in the East Cooper neighborhood of Long Point. Finding themselves back in town in 2007 after their college years, they started practicing and putting songs together. Now they're on the verge of releasing their first studio album.
"It's been a really exciting process," says McElwee. "Everything's really starting to come together. We've been really happy with what's coming out. It's exceeding our expectations."
Fowler's Mustache, whose influences range from Phish and Tom Petty to bluegrass, jazz, and funk, have a weekly Wednesday gig at Art's Bar in Mt. Pleasant. After opening for Sol Driven Train at the Windjammer two months ago, their crowds have picked up substantially.
"We have a really solid group of friends that we're used to seeing," says McElwee. "But seeing people you've never seen before is great, it's like, is this really happening, did we do this?"
Their differing influences are evident in Stanley's songwriting and in their onstage goals. "Matt is like a spring of lyrics and ideas," says McElwee of the singer. "We played our song 'American Son' last week, and a guy came up and told him, 'You better copyright that before Tom Petty steals it.'"
As far as musicianship, McElwee believes in a mantra that he learned from studying Phish: "We want to be technically great, so we know we can play anything, but have a willingness to throw it out the window, to be tight but loose."
As the band extends their reach to Clemson and Columbia, they've picked up new fans, including Rob Fowler himself.