Indie band Surfer Blood is playing a show at The Hall that’s so intimate, you could probably wear your swimsuit—or pajamas—if you wanted. Come for a listen.
Last we left Surfer Blood, life was pretty excellent. The four members then—vocalist John Paul Pitts, guitarist Thomas Fekete, bassist Kevin Williams, and drummer Tyler Schwarz—were doing big-time rock-band stuff, like opening for The Pixies, touring around the world, and releasing Pythons under a Warner Bros Records label. That’s a straight-up upward journey for a group of childhood friends from Florida who essentially recorded their first album, Astro Coast, in a college dorm room for a few hundred dollars.
Then came a couple rock ‘n’ roll-style upheavals, including being dropped by Warner Bros. But that’s okay.
Life teaches a few truths: Namely, struggle is essential to art, a small budget breeds ingenuity, and A&R people rain on parades. Proof is Surfer Blood’s newest album, 1000 Palms. While the budget may be a throwback to their Astro Coast years, their sound has definitely grown up. It’s the last album with the band for Fekete, whose rare form of cancer has progressed—though he still makes surprise appearances.
Grunge-style bass guitar mixes with a high-pitched, finger-plucked lead on the track “Island.” The result is an upbeat, by-the-ocean vibe. In contrast, “I Can’t Explain” brings the listener under the water. It might be the delirium-inducing repetition of the song’s namesake, “I can’t explain…” Or maybe it’s the bending treble notes that weave between the vocals and the bass line, like sea life bobbing in the waves. It’s one of the best tracks on the album, proving that these guys do indeed have surfers’ blood.
The big question is: Will Surfer Blood play it when they stop in at South Beach’s tropical Art Deco hotel for the last stop on the Good Measure Tour? RSVP for the November 7 event to watch Florida’s own garage-band success story.
Ahead of the show, Pitts talks to us about his home state, backstage stuff, and then there’s that time when he collided with two mammals of the sea…
When you come home from a tour, where’s the first place you go to eat in West Palm Beach?
John Paul Pitts: First, I go to Publix (a grocery store) for a chicken tender sub. Then, if I’m up late and can’t sleep, I go to Havana Cuban Café and eat papa rellena (a croquette with meat and potatoes inside).
Do you bring anything from Florida with you when you’re on the road?
JPP: Mangoes! Mikey’s family grows mangoes and makes really awesome mango wine. (Mike McCleary is the band’s new guitarist.)
What’s the best way for a visitor to get to know the music scene in Florida?
JPP: Churchill’s in Miami is a good venue. I’ve been to and played a lot of awesome shows there. Respectable Street in West Palm Beach is a place I’ve been going since I was 19, and I’ve played there countless times as well. We just recorded our video for “I Can’t Explain” there.
Do you have pre-show rituals?
JPP: I stretch, do some breathing exercises, shave my face, take a wheatgrass shot, call my girlfriend, and shotgun a beer. Then, I’m usually ready to go on stage.
What do you absolutely have to have in your tour bus or hotel room?
JPP: Grapefruit LaCroix, because I drink at least a dozen every day. Also, my Kindle.
So, Surfer Blood. Do you all surf?
JPP: The other band members surf. I tried. But one time in the water in Orange County, I collided with two dolphins. Ever since then, I’ve been really freaked out.
Photos courtesy of Surfer Blood