Your New Favourite Band: Surfer Blood
After slaying all before them at last October's CMJ festival, Surfer Blood inched their way up most tipster's cards for '10 but before anyone had a chance to say "don't believe the...", the Florida four-piece released their wholly critically-lauded debut album Astro Coast before the month of January was out. Shortly before they arrive our side of the water for their first UK dates, front man JP Pitts tells Ragged Words about ignoring the buzz, dorm room recording and who Surfer Blood's new favourite bands are.
You've been included among a lot of people's tips for 2010 (including our own) but, unlike say fellow Floridians The Drums, you don't have the pressure of being held up as THE band for 2010. Is that a nice position to be in?
The Drums certainly are contenders right now, they have a solid EP and a great live show (not to mention they are our good friends). The fact is, you can’t be too concerned with other people’s expectations without compromising yourself; I try not to anyways. When you get a lot of momentum really fast there are a lot people waiting around for you to do something wrong so they can pick it apart. We’re extremely grateful to have been championed by so many great people and publications so fast, but we’re still taking it one day at a time.
Are you also glad to have the album out right at the start of the year to save being swept up by any buzz or hype? That you can say to people, here's 10 songs to make your mind up over rather than what you read on an excited blog post or two?
Well, the full-length has been a long time coming, this record has been pretty much done since early August. We actually used to travel around with a stack of CD-R’s to pass out at our shows on tour. Then we met Kay and Lio from Kanine Records (which was actually based on a recommendation from Jacob Graham of The Drums) who signed us soon after and we’ve been preparing for the release of Astro Coast ever since. I’m glad people will have an LP to gauge us by, the record is much stronger as a whole than any of the songs individually.
The album was recorded in your University dorm room. I understand it was more that you weren't happy with how things were sounding in the studio than having to home record by necessity. Had you guys done much recording before because it sounds incredibly accomplished.
Thank you. I’ve actually been recording songs by myself and for my friends since high school, I also studied the recording arts briefly in college. Tyler and I decided to track Astro Coast in a studio and mix it on a different console later, my friend recommended one particular studio in Port Saint Lucie, Florida. We only budgeted two days for tracking, however, things took much longer than we expected initially and we ended up spending both of them working on drum tracks. We decided to take the files and leave at that point, I didn’t like the engineer’s approach and wasn’t willing to throw any more good money after bad. I spent the next six months tracking and mixing the record in a small apartment across the street from Florida Atlantic University. As I said earlier, I’ve been working on smaller personal projects for years, but this is the first time I had ever undertaken the recording of an LP. I learned a lot about recording and mixing during the production of Astro Coast.
In that dorm room, is/was it full of Pavement, Weezer and Pixies albums because they're the kind of bands being mentioning regarding Astro Coast. Are references to those kind of early 90's influences accurate?
I am a huge fan of nineties indie and alternative music. The bands you just mentioned are some of my favorites, especially Pavement and The Pixies. I listened to music of that era almost exclusively in high school, I was introduced to much of it by an older friend in my freshman film class. I was listening to a lot of Pavement when I started writing and recording some of my first songs, I’m sure some of Stephen Malknus’ hyper-melodic sensibility worked its way into the way I play and write for guitar. I also love the way both Stephen Malknus and Rivers Cuomo write about pain with a sense of humor, I feel like it gives their music more depth because there is an extra element blended into their songwriting. Maybe that’s why both are so easily recognized upon first listen. The Pixies have an incredible (and totally unique) approach to production: they take pop elements and scramble them up to make high-art, no one does it nearly as well with the possible exception of The Breeders; but that seems understandable.
There are some big old fist pumping choruses or moments at least on the record too (the guitar, violing dueling that closes 'Floating Vibes' for one). What songs have you been getting the best reaction to live recently?
People always love ’Swim,’ probably because its been the most played so far. They also seem to love ’Take it Easy,’ which makes sense because its one of the more dance-ready songs on the record, especially the ending. I’ve been very pleasantly surprised by the reactions we’ve been getting to ’Anchorage’ live, its one of the more epic songs and one of the darkest. However, the ending is one of my favorite parts on Astro Coast, its driving and cathartic, and also is one of my favorite lyrical sections. It’s a really nice reward at the end of a seven minute song.
CMJ appeared to be a bit of a turning point in terms of the band's profile. What was that week like? To an outsider, it seems like a mad battle field where the media scramble to proclaim the new kings of 2010. Is there a sense of that? Or were you just busy packing as many shows in as possible?
CMJ in New York was an exciting time for us Surfer Bloods. We stayed really busy, playing 13 shows in a week and I think it was all for the best. First of all, we were destined to get a lot of exposure playing so many shows during the festival, we even had articles in a few publications criticizing us for taking on so many shows. Secondly, we didn’t have time to be on the internet watching to see what the press was saying, we knew something was going on, but that was all in our peripheral vision. You are right though, it is an extremely industry-centric and press-centric event, every time you cough on stage you see ten people in the back scribbling something down on a notepad. Either way it was a lot of fun, we got to see and play with a lot of impressive bands we had never heard of and a couple that we had been waiting for an opportunity to see.
You're headed to the UK next month - is it your first time over this side of the pond and are you looking forward to anything in particular?
We’ve never been to the U.K. before, we are all really excited for February. I’m really excited to visit Rough Trade and get some Indian food in London. I visited England once or twice when I was younger, and I was really struck by how nicely the ancient and the modern sat right next to each other. I was also struck by how efficient the subways are (it’s a shame they close so early). I hear Camden is really cool as well.
3 Feb 2010 Hoxton Square Bar and Kitchen London
4 Feb 2010 Hippodrome (New Slang) w/ Pete & the Pirates Kingston
5 Feb 2010 Koko London
6 Feb 2010 Sound Control w/The Drums Manchester
8 Feb 2010 Puregroove(instore) London
9 Feb 2010 Scala w/British Sea Power London