SURFER BLOOD play Respecs
The thing about success is that it is not easy. Gained through hard work and perseverance, once achieved, it needs looking after—jealousy-guarding even. No one escapes this clause. West Palm’s Surfer Blood might’ve not enjoyed a meteoric rise but with the well-earned modicum of success and appreciation that it received early in its career, it certainly is a band that has paid its dues and suffered for its fame.
Founders John Paul Pitts and Tyler Schwarz have been playing together for many years and found their identity upon meeting and working with Thomas Fekete. This idyll netted their first album an A- rating from critic Robert Christgau, TV appearances, opening for The Pixies, and world-wide touring. After eight years and hot on the release of their fourth studio album, Snowdonia, the band can take a moment to inventory itself and where they stand. 2010’s debut, Astro Coast, was an immediate critical and fan favorite and its single, “Swim,” on the minds and lips of music fans across the globe. For an indie rock outfit coming out of the “Orchid City,” things were looking great. Fekete’s sarcoma diagnosis in 2014 which had spread to his lungs and spine was a game changer in many regards. After fighting over a year and garnering support of his bandmates and friends in the music scene, he passed in the early summer of 2016.
Along with Mike McCleary and Lindsey Mills, Surfer Blood sits at a different place these days. Snowdonia is not the redemptive epic fans and critics will expect—it is a natural and organic spiritual follow-up to their debut. Flawless? No. Nothing still in the works ever is. Because that is what Surfer Blood is, still in the works. This is a band that knows that there is work to be done, hard work, and is willing to do it.
PH: What have been the greatest lessons learned in the course of eight years as a band?
John Paul Pitts: 1. Take the time to get everything right in your practice space before you start worrying about recording, merchandise, or your Instagram account.
2. Write a lot and don’t be afraid of writing something you don’t immediately love, you can always come back to it later. There are no bad ideas.
3. Don’t go through the drive thru with your band unless everyone has exact change. It can be a nightmare.
4. Eat whenever you can, sleep whenever you can. Be really nice to everyone.
PH: From WPB and into the world, what has this success meant to you?
JP: I’m just grateful for the opportunity to travel. Its something that I’ve always wanted and I’m lucky I was able to do it with my best friends. There have been a lot of ups and downs through the eight years we’ve been doing this, but I wouldn’t trade the memories for anything.
PH: This is your first release since Thomasí passing and it is filled with hope and a genuine feeling of fun, a return to form, was this deliberate or a byproduct of grieving?
JP: I don’t know, there’s not a whole lot that’s deliberate about my writing. I never start a record by thinking “we need to go in this direction” I just write a ton of songs and see what sticks. I will say that it wasn’t easy writing without Thom, he had come up with ideas that were eventually turned into Surfer Blood songs and helped me finish a lot of my own ideas. He was on my mind while I was writing Snowdonia, I was listening to a lot of music that he’d introduced me to and trying to write songs I think he would have liked. I miss him everyday.
PH: Three albums down, what are your hopes for this record and what kind of support (tour, videos, etc…) will it receive?
JP: We have tours lined up for the next three months at least, trying to play as many shows as possible and find new places to play. We’re in Europe right now (in March 2017) and heading up and down the east coast in April (when we’ll be playing Respectableís :). We’ll be heading to the midwest in Canada in June and are already making plans for the fall. We just released a video for the song “Six Flags in F or G” that was produced and directed by Liam Milano and Tommy Coleman. Its one of our weirder videos yet, lot of crazy animation. Its a long song and the video really takes you on a journey.
PH: Where does the band go from here musically? Anything musically that you’d like to explore in the future?
It’s still too early to tell what we’re going to do next. I’ve been working on demos and home and am starting to get the raw material together for another release. So far its a little more fast and furious than the stuff on Snowdonia, but not too much of a leap. Hopefully I’ll have some time later this year to finish up some new songs.
Surfer Blood close their tour with guests Boytoy, Chaucer and The Hey Fellows on Saturday, April 29 at Respectable Street. Tickets cost $12 advance, $15 at the door. Visit surferblood.com.
~ Abel Folgar