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Thursday August 21st 2014

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Surfer Blood Comes to Town

by Hana Frenette

Surfer Blood easily sounds like the name of a band that’s eager to churn out Metallica covers and induce gnarly mosh pits. The Florida natives have a much more appealing sound than their name may suggest.

The various distortion techniques and catchy guitar hooks are reminiscent of some of the great and familiar bands of the 90s like Pavement and Weezer, but front-man J.P Pitts’ modern sounding vocals give the music an edge of timeliness that prevents Surfer Blood from floundering in pure nostalgia.

Their first album “Astro Coast,” released in 2010, attracted quite a bit of attention and ended up landing the band a tour with both the Shins and the Pixies. A couple years, festivals and late night talk shows later, they are preparing to release their sophomore album, “Pythons,” and embark on yet another tour around the world.

While on tour in London, J.P. Pitts caught up with the IN for a quick chat.

IN: I heard the band was started in a college dorm. Did you already know the guys or had you played with them prior to forming the band?
JP: I knew the other guys from before. West Palm Beach is a pretty small town and we’d all been in bands since we were kids.  I’ve been playing with Tyler since I was eighteen years old, and we’ve always written songs together.  I met Thomas at an Ultra Music Festival after-party in Miami in 2009, but I’d been aware of all of his bands before that.  I knew Kevin through my sister, and it just made sense.
To be fair, we did record most of the record in a college dorm room, everything except the drums anyways.  I had ProTools 7.3 on an old Hewlett-Packard computer with Windows XP. It’s a miracle that thing still works now.  I really didn’t know that much about recording at the time, and it took us a solid seven months to record and mix “Astro Coast.”

IN: Did you have any ideas or notions about what you wanted Surfer Blood to be or sound like?
JP: Not really, to be honest. We were all over the place in the beginning.  Tyler and I played in a different band called Sleigh Bells Band in West Palm Beach before Surfer Blood.  After that band broke up we didn’t really know what to do besides keep writing songs together, and it took us a while to find our stride.  Then we wrote Swim and Twin Peaks; after that we were sure about our direction as a band.

IN: The band went straight into recording their first album after forming. Was it just a mutual understanding of what the record would sound like, or did you all just kind of wing it?
JP: I’d say we played it by ear.  We took so much time writing and recording the record that we had time to think (and overthink) every song.  We didn’t know what to think when we were done. We were second-guessing ourselves right and left.  On that note, listening to “Astro Coast” makes me feel nostalgic.  That being said, I am extremely proud of all the material we’ve put out since then.  Maybe it’s because our first record sounds like a lifetime ago, but to look back and see how much we’ve grown as a band is more satisfying than anything.

IN: What was the band’s first tour like? You played so many shows in a row right away, was it something that you had to adjust to, or did it just feel like that was what you were supposed to be doing?
JP: It’s hard to believe that we got through those first tours sometimes.  In the fall of 2009 we played a full US tour with seventy shows getting paid $100 a night.  We were so excited the entire time. We were supporting bands we really liked and making ten hour drives every day. To me it didn’t even feel real most of the time. I was happy to be playing every night.

IN: What do you like most about being on the road and on tour?
JP: I enjoy playing live. I really like connecting with the fans.  I know it sounds cliché, but there’s nothing like seeing people sing along to your songs with you.  Tour can be exhausting and stressful, but seeing people get really excited about your band never gets old.

IN: The band ended up going on tour with the Pixies. How did that come about, and what was it like for you guys? Is Frank Black as intense as he seems in person?
JP: Playing with the Pixies was an absolute dream come true. They are my favorite band without a doubt.  We had done support tours before, so we honestly expected the Pixies to be reserved, but they were really social with us.  The band and the crew were really nice, and it was amazing getting to see them play Doolittle every night.  I like the Pixies on a personal level because there are four distinct personalities who happen to make incredible music together.  It’s a situation where the whole is much greater than the sum of its parts and its magical to be around.

IN: The band is getting ready to release their sophomore album. Do you feel any pressure about what it should sound like or be about, since the first album was so well received?
JP: “Pythons” has been finished since Halloween of 2012, so any of the insecurities I’ve had about the songs have vanished with time.  We didn’t put any pressure on ourselves for it to sound any certain way, we just wrote as many songs as possible so that when we went to record our record we had a ton of material.  We recorded “Pythons” in the summer of 2012 with Gil Norton in Los Angeles, and the input of Gil as a producer was extremely positive for us.  Essentially, Gil was the fifth member of our band during the recording, it was relieving to have someone outside of our band give honest feedback about our performances and our songwriting.  It helped us to see all of our songs from a different perspective, and the way “Pythons” sounds is a direct result of that collaboration.

IN: What would you like to happen next for the band? Where do you want to go from here?
JP: I’m excited to play shows again, its such an important part of being a band.  Other than that I want to continue writing and stay productive.  I’m very proud of how far our band has come thus far and would like to see that pattern of growth continue in the years to come. {in}

Surfer Blood
WHEN: 7:30 p.m. Monday, April 29
WHERE: Vinyl Music Hall, 2 S. Palafox
COST: $12—$14
DETAILS: vinylmusichall.com