Q&A with Surfer Blood
Backstage at the 40 Watt, musicians are lounging on couches smoking cigarettes and their guests are marveling at the fact that they’re in the same room Snoop Dogg was in the night before. Surfer Blood has just finished a phenomenal set, and Quiet Hooves is about to start their record release party. Just before the music starts, Surfer Blood’s John Paul Pitts and Kevin Williams sit down with me to discuss the band’s most recent tour and success, association with a “beach movement,” and their aspirations for the future.
TBI (Sarra Sedghi): So you guys just finished your tour.
John Paul: Yeah it’s been a long tour. We started off in Miami, then we went on a cruise in the Bahamas and played that – it was called the Bruise Cruise and that was pretty fun. We got straight off the boat and went to Europe for two weeks and played a bunch of shows in the U.K. and in France, Holland and Germany.
Kevin Williams: And then straight into SXSW. We played that for a week and then a week of shows in the South. Tonight’s our last night before we go home to West Palm Beach.
SS: Do you have a big fan base in Europe?
JP: The fan base over there is pretty good, especially in the U.K. and France, there were good turnouts for both. It’s still kind of hard in Germany, we’re still working on getting people to come to shows there. But yeah, there’s a fan base over there for sure.
KW: And then a tour with No Joy. Great band.
SS: I just saw No Joy with Best Coast and Wavves actually.
JP: They’re really awesome people. They’re from Montreal and they’re a really good band. The best support band we’ve toured with in a while.
KW: We hung out with them a bit at SXSW even after the touring ended. We’re still meeting up and finding places to hang out.
SS: What other bands did you hang out with at SXSW?
JP: Our friends, the Dewars, they’re a really good band. They’re from West Palm Beach too. We’ve all kind of known them for a while. We brought them on another tour, we went on a tour in the fall in the US. We hung out with the band The Drums and we brought the Dewers on half of that tour and they drove all the way out to Portland to do a tour with us, so you’ve gotta have a lot of respect for them, not making a lot of money and doing that, just really trying to do it. Who else? Beach Fossils, nice guys. Our friends in this band called Trash Talk, they’re from Oakland and they’re really good. They’re a really heavy band but they’re really super-mellow dudes offstage. You know onstage the show’s really violent and intense. Offstage they’re just really chill dudes, they want to just drink beer.
KW: And the rest of the time we were super busy.
SS: You’re from West Palm Beach but you sing about the west a lot.
JP: Mmhmm. Well I don’t know.
KW: One song’s about Georgia.
JP: Georgia, Alaska. Just about places, people, memories. Syracuse, New York in one song. So yeah, it’s pretty much all over the place. “Floating Vibes” is about a friend I had who was convinced that she had to move out to Los Angeles to make anything of herself and it was just about cutting all her ties back home and I felt that it really kind of short-sided. Always remember about the people who care about you and are close to you because they’re always gonna be there for you. Being a scenester isn’t gonna be as much fun forever, you know?
SS: You’re recording your new EP.
JP: We have a few songs that we have to go back and finish the vocals and we have to mix them and send them out for mastering. Hopefully we’ll release those by the summer and at that point we’re going back into the studio and we’ll start producing a new full-length record.
KW: The actual release might end up being a couple singles.
JP: We’d like to save all our really good songs for the full-length.
SS: Well you’re doing pretty well for being young. Your band’s like two or three years old.
JP: We’ve been playing together for two years now. We started getting some attention probably in the fall of 2009 and ever since then it’s been a steady climb. Now we have a pretty good following both here and internationally. We’ve been really blessed. It’s a lot of hard work. We played some 200 shows in the past year and a half so we’ve only been at home for a few weeks at a time. That’s really what’s been kind of helpful in gaining us a steady and loyal fan base because so many of our fans are loyal. We kind of always wanted to go for it, just have a fan base that would keep coming to shows regardless of the press and everything else. I think that if we keep working like we’re working we will accomplish that.
SS: I’ve noticed that there’s kind of a beach movement. There are a bunch of bands singing about the same stuff, like Best Coast and Wavves, just the general feel. How do you feel about that?
JP: We get lumped into that a lot. I think it’s kind of unfair just because the name Surfer Blood is so obviously that. A lot of people are just going to lump us into bands like Best Coast, Wavves, Beach Fossils, there’s probably a few dozen more that I don’t know about. For the record we were never going to be a part of any movement. All that sort of popped up around the same time that we were gaining momentum. I don’t think we’re a particularly beachy band to be honest. We’re a guitar-driven pop band who takes a lot of influence from the music we grew up listening to and I think it’s pretty straightforward in that sense.
SS: What do you hope for in the future?
JP: Honestly I can’t ask for much more than continuing to put out records, continuing to tour. The past year and a half has been wild but it’s been a dream come true. I’m very happy doing what I’m doing and I think we all are. Our goal’s just to keep this going; keep working hard, keep putting out music, to keep coming back to shows like these to play for our fans.