Pensacola, Florida
Tuesday September 17th 2019

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A Philosophical Playlist

By Savannah Evanoff

Surrounder is on the hunt for a good genre.

So far, the Pensacola trio doesn’t balk at punk opera—a two-word descriptor a few have latched onto after hearing them perform.

Much of the operatic sound can be attributed to Carrie Rogers, who doesn’t rush to call herself the lead singer until Ty Cummings, baritone guitar and second vocalist, confirms she is.

“The music goes back and forth,” Rogers said. “I definitely have some classical stuff in my background, not so much of an operatic voice happening, but I keep some classical or theatrical devices in terms of the melody. Sometimes I try to sing quiet and melodic pretty stuff.”

“Then we also do some yelling,” Cummings said. “I do some weird screams.”

It’s the “punk-y kind of screaming,” Rogers clarified. The punk influence in the band dates back to their teenage years.

“We’re all children of the DIY Pensacola punk scene from all the way back to when I was 13 or 14. I can remember going to Sluggo’s and watching bands play live and going to house shows,” Rogers said. “The live show was always the pinnacle of local music. It was great to get a band’s record. I was always stoked to get a hard copy of something I could listen to later, but it was always to remember what the show felt like.”

The three band members approached their latest EP, “Impossible Exchange,” with the same mentality.

The six-song EP, which was released earlier this month, was made to capture the spirit of their live performances.

The members put a lot thought into songwriting, too. No song was complete without a principle of philosophy … or three.

The EP’s title is a phrase borrowed from French philosopher Jean Baudrillard.

“He uses it to describe how since the world and society doesn’t have a double, that its reality and truth can’t be verified,” Cummings said. “We use that phrase as one of the lyrics in the fifth song about death as well. The album art is the outline of a worker against a building, so it hints at the exchange that happens between workers and money or workers and production and how maybe that’s not a true or just exchange.”

“We write songs, for the most part, about trying to be human in a world where economic and cultural forces are taking our own lives away from ourselves,” Cummings continued.

Each song unfolds another layer of the band’s self-proscribed philosophical nerd-dom.

“When we write the songs, we’ll often spend a lot of time, maybe even an entire night, before we even get a solid line down just discussing the particular aspect,” Rogers said. “That might start very broad. It usually starts with some political, philosophical or big human theme of living, and then we’ll refine that and try to make it precise in a way that doesn’t negate the metaphor.”

The first song on the EP, “(Adorno Song),” alludes to a German writer who writes much about the culture industry in modern times, Cummings said.

“The song is about growing up and realizing that a lot of your own characteristics weren’t necessarily given to you from your family or your community but given to you by commercials you were inundated with, advertisements, archetypes in movies,” Cummings said. “As we get older, that becomes more and more clear like, ‘Oh, man, a lot of these aspects of my personality—even my dreams and ideals—how I relate to other people,’ comes not really from other human beings, but movies that have millions of dollars invested into making them exciting and dramatic. It’s about moving beyond that.”

Despite being the most lyrically sparse songs, “Winter Years,” features an equally deep observation. The lyrics are based on a 1990s quote from an Italian psychoanalyst.

“The quote was talking about how in the ’60s and ‘70s, there were all these different really intense and big social movements going on all over the world, and then in the ‘80s and ‘90s, it stopped,” Cummings said. “The song goes from that into our individual lives as being passive individuals that are surrounded by technology that’s updating itself. We don’t even really have to intervene. We’re becoming techno zombies so that nothing ever really seems to happen.”

“Things are happening but not in a sense that makes you feel like you’re a part of history,” Rogers added.

The final song on the EP is also drummer Eric Moeller’s favorite to perform.

“It is the most theatrical for me—especially on drums,” Moeller said. “At the end of it, there’s this big build-up. It gets super noisy.”

The music’s melodramatic nature is the band’s signature.

“The thing we go for and the uniqueness people tend to see in our music is there’s a narrative quality to the music, a lot of rises and falls, a lot of different parts that don’t necessarily repeat,” Cummings said. “We’re definitely rock but we’re alternative rock—not the kind you’d hear on the radio.”

Surrounder
WHAT: Surrounder with Golden Cult and October Noir
WHEN: 8 p.m. Sunday, May 26
WHERE: Rodeo Rock, 3810 W. Navy Blvd.
COST: $5
DETAILS: facebook.com/rodeorockclub