INTERVIEW: SURFER BLOOD
Last year we had been closely following Surfer Blood's story, hoping and wishing for the best, and as a band that we would listen to, we almost selfishly wished to see them continue, not knowing how each individual was truly feeling. After Thomas', the lead guitarists death, we once again could only turn to wishes and hopes. Then earlier this year, the band releases a record, Snowdania, and we honestly couldn't be happier. To see a group grow after such an incident is a truly inspiring story.
We now had the chance to catch up with JP from Surfer Blood and happily talk about the band.
Hey, How’s it going?
Good! It’s Sergio from Buried Muse.
Yes, I was expecting your call.
Perfect! Thank you for taking your time to have this conversation with me by the way.
Oh, no problem man. Thank you.
How’s your day so far?
Pretty good. Just at home right now. Going to be starting our tour a little less than a week from today. Getting ready. Enjoying some time at home before it starts.
Right. Tour starts the beginning of august?
Yeah, it’s about 3 weeks long. Up and down the east coast and a few dates in Canada too.
I imagine touring can get a little repetitive at times. Do you guys take detours or pit stops? I noticed you all like the great outdoors, so I’m curious to see what you do in between shows. Especially when traversing the east coast.
Well, we’ve been trying. It’s hard. By the time we break down equipment and sell all our merch, we get out of the venue around 2 or 3 in the morning so It’s hard to get up in the morning. Recently, we’ve been good about it. Especially the last two tours. We went to the White Sands in New Mexico. Saw the Arches in Utah. Since we were out west we got to visit a lot of National Parks. This tour we’re playing more beachy towns where people are there on summer vacation, like cape cod and Virginia beach. That should be very appropriate for a band called Surfer Blood.
Haha I ask because we really like the outdoors and we make sure we go out on a camping trip at least once a month, so we’re always seeking out the next water hole.
For bands that are just starting to get busy and touring for the first time, is there anything you would advise? Maybe something you wish you knew?
Let me think. I think Ian Mckay? (correct me here) said drink plenty of water. That’s true, but not too much because you don't want to stop and pee all the time. So, drink just enough. Never go through a drive thru with your band because you think no one’s going to have the exact change unless you have a cash app like venmo, but if you don’t, totally don’t do it.
Always bring a backup snare drum, amp, and guitar string. You think you’ll find a local music store in whatever town you're playing in but it won’t be as easy you think. Nothing will be as easy as you think it is.
I appreciate that because I feel like those are things people don’t really think about, especially a young band and it can definitely snowball into bigger problems. I also guess it is nice to learn from experiences and find out the hard way, but also I think people might be looking for others experiences who already dealt with these issues.
Yeah, It’s always nice to have someone in the band who has a type A personality, always plans ahead, and thinks 3 days in advance. Unfortunately our band doesn't have a single person with that trait, so we’re very good a scrambling and leaving things for the last minute, which is actually a great life skill to have.
We also noticed that surfer blood toured with Guided by Voices. They’re pretty up there. How did that relationship come to be?
Ah well, we’ve been fortunate to play a few shows together through the years. I guess we must have won them over at some point. Which is great for us. I mean that’s one of my favorite bands of all time and they were really important to me while I was growing up. Getting the opportunity to play in a show with them, a band that was always legendary to me, is extremely gratifying in life. They’ve been a band for most of my life and sometimes I consider myself a veteran being someone who’s been putting out records and touring for 7 years now, but they’ve been doing this for 25 plus years. That’s real dedication and it’s inspiring.
I could only imagine admiring your favorite bands at such a young age and then being able to tour with them. Must be out of this world!
Absolutely man. At the end of the day those are the types of things you wouldn’t trade for anything in the world. You could say those are the moments that make everything completely worth it.
Is there something that surprised you about how a big band tours? Would you say there are major differences between a band like Guided by Voices and Surfer Blood when on the road?
Things are easier when you make more money and play for more people, and this is not the case for Guided by Voices, but for whatever band; it’s amazing how sheltered and almost removed bands can be from the logistics and the grind of touring. People always ask me if write on the road and the fact is when your tour managing the band and doing all the driving, selling merch, and loading and unloading, there really is no time for anything else. It’s a lot of work. It feels good because it’s almost honest and raw. Like if anybody asks me anything, I know the answer from the top of my head because I’m in such command of everything. But It could also be really exhausting.
One other thing that really impresses me about them is even though they are a big band and have been around forever, it’s just still all of them in a van. Each person has their own set of responsibilities. The drummer collects the money at the end of the night. The bassist settles with the merch. They manage to keep it diy despite being legends in the minds of people like me.
That's really surprising and almost pleasant to hear that they still work that way. Speaking so much about touring. What are the reactions you’ve been receiving while playing songs from the new album Snowdonia?
So far, I think the reaction has been great. It’s an album that we take a lot of chances, writing songs that are not typical Surfer Blood songs. Even the order we chose to release them has been almost unconventional. The fact that people have reacted so positively to it and weren't completely weirded out, is really awesome. I tend to record a lot of overdubs and other things that I would never be able to pull off live. For this album I was really thinking about keeping it simple, not the songs, but keeping the arrangements simple enough that they were able to pull off live and there wasn't so much that you would miss if you saw us play live in a small club. The songs are a little more straightforward and more fun to play live. I think that’s also a big part of the reason people have responded so well and so quickly.
That’s great to hear. We really love the record and actually, one of our favorite tracks is “Taking Care of Eddy”. The music video is very interesting. Where did you all draw inspiration for that video? Any anime fans by any chance?
I dabble in anime. If you start talking shop with me I can’t say too much about it, but I leave that in the capable hands of our friend Niko Guardia who is someone else I went to highschool with. I was a senior and he was a freshman at the time. We sat together in a art history class and we kept in touch ever since. He’s someone who animated for adult swim shows so he is very good at animation, and when he said he wanted to do a video for taking care of eddy, I was pretty much like “do whatever you want” and he didn’t disappoint. It’s really cool and I know it’s a lot of work. Animation is a painstaking process so I’m glad he found the time to get that done.
I feel like animation takes just as much or even more effort than live film. A lot processes that happen for just a few seconds.
About the album. I feel like most listeners have a hard time understanding or even grasping a new and especially different album when a band starts to change their sound. Luckily, in Surfer Blood’s case everyone loves it, which is great to hear. What’s your take on the fact that some people get stuck on old sounds and have a hard time moving on?
Well it’s really hard to blame people for that. For one people have access to all the music ever made in one place. Which is really really crazy, especially since that was never the case for the people who were recording music just a decade ago. Because of that I feel like people want to put a band in a box pretty quickly. For example; surf rock and Surfer Blood. We’re not only a surf rock band, there’s just so much more going on and so much to stay on top of, that people sort of lose the plot after a while. Which is why I think a lot of bands keep their sound in every single album so people can immediately identify them.
It’s almost a way for listeners to simplify things.
The thing is, I also write music for myself and I get bored fast so every time we make a record, I’m looking for a new angle and inevitably in the time between albums, I’ve heard new bands and I’ve been inspired by new music. As people, we’re constantly evolving and growing, and I think the music should change too. We’ve made four LP’s now and I think each one stands on it’s own in it’s own individual moment in time.
That’s a great point that you bring up, that unlimited accessibility to music affects people. It’s a very interesting take on it.
Ha, of course!
Now, I hate to brings this up, but I feel like listeners and readers can use your past experiences to handle their own unfortunate moments. Last year we were following Thomas' story closely and rooting for him and hoping for the best. My condolences to you by the way.
How has it been recording, building the band back up, and touring after that incident?
We already recorded most of the tracks from Snowdonia before the time Thomas passed. He sorta left the band around January 2015 when he told us he was sick. He didn't announce it to the world, but we all knew that he wasn’t going to be coming back. After that I kinda scrambled to find Mikey who stepped in and learned the songs on the way. The first tour without Tom, we already had 60 to 70 shows booked. So it was really crazy then. It felt like I kinda lost what the band was, almost the identity of it and in the past two years or so with Mike and Lindsey, two completely new members, we’ve been trying to figure out what it is, especially since half of the lineup is completely different.
I think one of the things I’m most proud about with Snowdonia is that we’ve managed to sorta find a new direction for the band. Kinda reinvented the sound. We’re even dealing with a new set of strengths and weaknesses. A new palette you could even say.
Tom was just one of those people who was super creative and smart, who came up with ideas that I could never see, and I’m not going to pretend that is something that anyone can emulate. People could try but there’s just something so unique about him.
Well, we’re all super happy to hear and see that Surfer Blood is prospering and reaching new levels. It’s really encouraging to hear this story!
We’re also super happy that you all will be stopping in New York. That means that will definitely be at that show filming the set and sharing it with the world. Where is it that you're playing again?
We’re playing at Cape House. Which it will be the furthest east we’ve ever played.
Meaning the first time in New York?
Oh no no. The first time in Bushwick specifically. We’ve played in New York for so many times.
Oh! For us this will be the first time we will see you live so we’re really excited.
Looking forward to it!
JP. Before I head out, is there something you would like to share with the readers?
Not at the moment. We’re still figuring out what’s next for the band. There’s a few things in the works but nothing I can bring up right now.
Gotcha! I understand. Well, thank you for having this conversation with me and taking time out of your day. We really appreciate it!
Absolutely! Thanks for the interview and I will see you in New York.
Surfer Blood's new record Snowdonia can be purchased here.