Bonus: Same label as Grizzly Bear!
Surfer Blood is one of the fastest rising bands on the scene right now. Blending a bit of 90’s alternative with 60’s surf rock, the band who was hoping they could land one show at CMJ ended up with over 12. I sat down with the band who is John Paul Pitts, Brian Black, Tom Feketethe, Tyler Schwarz and Marcos Marchesani, on their first day of the festival, in the back of their van no less, to get the scoop on one of the hottest bands around.
How did everyone in the band meet?
JP: The drummer Tyler and myself have been playing together since 2006 — we met in Orlando, Florida. We started playing together and feeling it out. We were working and going to school full time, and we started jamming together as this band called Jabroni Sandwich, which is a retarded name but we were serious at the time. We had a few members come in and out and then I met these two guys (Tom and Brian) at a Diplo Ultra after party in Miami, we all went for the free beer and met each other. They were like “Oh I’ve heard of you guys, I really like you,” and we had heard their band too and was like “We should all jam together sometime and tour.” And I was like, “Well if you’re serious, call us and we’ll do it.” And three days later were already learning the songs and planning a tour.
Tom: It’s strange, because we had heard their songs and really liked it but none of us were really doing anything, I feel that each of us had a member or two in our band that wasn’t really available to do it full time. We’ve been a band for 6 months, but we started with the idea of we’re going to get this record out and we’re going to tour and that’s it. So that’s what we did and we’re on a tour right now, so it turned out.
How did you come up with the name Surfer Blood?
JP: The same night that we met in the club, Tyler was in the backseat just mumbling stuff under his breath, and we had the music playing really loud and he wanted us to turn it down but no one was really listening to him so he started yelling random things, and Surfer Blood was one of the things he yelled, and we all were cracking up. We were trying to think of names and stuff.
Who are your influences? You sort of have a Weezer meets Beach Boys vibe.
JP: We get Weezer a lot , but I don’t see it as much. I love Pinkerton but it’s not like it’s a bad thing.
Tom: A lot of people tell us they get a nostalgic feel from us, like we remind them of a lot of bands from the 90’s.
JP: We love all those bands, we don’t really mess around with too much electronic stuff. I mean we have Marcos playing keyboards.
Tom: We have another member (Marcos) we just added to do all the keys and do extra percussion on the record, and it works out.
JP: Now the live show has gotten that much better. Our influences, Yo La Tengo is one of my favorite bands, in terms of current bands, Women are great, Holiday Shores is really good. We’ll be playing with them and we’re excited about that.
Brian: There’s this whole group of bands in Athens, GA, this guy Mercer is in a couple of bands, this one called Mouser.
JP: The So So Glos from New York are really good, we’re big fans. Our influences if you can’t tell in the record, are really, really broad. Some of the guitar effects and rhythms. We get really excited about other people’s music and that’s what kind of makes us want to play music. We love so many bands.
Brian: We’re glad there’s other bands out there otherwise we’d be writing the same song over and over again.
You’ve been getting a lot of attention from blogs, online media and general word of mouth. Does your ever growing and fast attention ever surprise you?
JP: Every single day. We’re just so grateful, just the fact that we’re playing 12 shows. Just four months ago we were like “Oh man hopefully we can find a way to get one CMJ show,” and now we’re playing 12.
Tom: I always say this, it doesn’t really hit us until we’re doing it. We’re kind of floating around and then it’s like “Shit it’s really happening.”
JP: Everytime we see a favorable blog entry or review or something we’re just so happy because people can be so brutal. It’s so bizarre to us. It’s really strange how it happened, we played 4 shows in New York, and the first couple were really bad and then we played one that was decent, then I guess a couple people wrote and heard about us and ever since then it’s been steady. I got a message at 9 o’clock in the morning saying “Hey do you guys want to be on the Pitchfork Forecast?” and we thought they were joking or something and we saw it later that day like “Oh wow!”
Is this your first time playing CMJ?
JP: Yeah, it’s all of our first time playing, none of our previous bands did.
How did you get involved with Kanine Records?
Brian: You know The Drums? They were name dropping us in interviews and stuff, and then there was a show for Insound that they were playing and they told Leo to go see us at Bruar Falls, and Leo came.
Tom: They’re really cool and they’ve been the most helpful people.
Tyler: When I first moved to Orlando, I was playing in this band that I wasn’t really into but I was playing drums for it, and I didn’t even know anyone. And his band was based 45-minutes east of Orlando and we played a bunch of shows together, so they contacted us about 12 months ago asking if they could use one of our songs for DJing, and it wasn’t until we met each other in Gainsville that I was like “Holy shit, you’re that kid Jacob!”
JP: We are really cautious about being lumped into the whole surf rock thing. The only thing really surfy about our band is that we have vocal harmonies, and our guitars sometimes have reverb on them.
Tom: We don’t want to get pigeonhold in that category, we’re going to do other shit. We’re wondering what the next record is going to sound like.
So your first album, Astro Coast is due out in January. Are you more excited or more nervous about the release?
Tom: It’s been done for a while, and we just want it to be out and available and start working on more stuff.
How does the songwriting process happen within the band?
JP: Well a majority of the songs we already had but people have brought in new dynamics and things have changed. There’s been a lot of tweeking and the live sound sounds very different from the recording sound. It’s a new perspective.
You’re doing a lengthy tour with Japandroids and Art Brut. Is this the longest tour you’ve ever done?
JP: It’s the furthest we’ve ever been for sure, and yes our longest.
Brian: We did like 30 self-booked dates but those were miserable for the most part. Sometimes you go to a city and no one is there. It happened in DC, it was Thomas’ brother and his girlfriend. Even the promoter didn’t show up.
Where do you see Surfer Blood in 5 years?
JP: We still want to be touring and writing, doing exactly what we’re doing now.
Tom: At the end of the day, there’s nothing we’d rather be doing. It’s fun, it’s better than school! We don’t want to be some sort of hype band.
JP: We kind of want to break the trend that’s been going on. After people stop blogging about them, it’s all over.
CHECK OUT TONS OF SURFER BLOOD PICTURES FROM CMJ 2009 AFTER THE JUMP