Interview: Surfer Blood
2010 has been a pretty big year for Surfer Blood. A simple positive review on a little site known as Pitchfork had them quickly hailed (by some) as the second coming of early 90s nerd rock God's Weezer (considering the fact that many consider Weezer to have taken a long dirt nap post-Pinkerton.)
They've since spent much of their time attempting to distance themselves from said comparison, while trying to establish their own identity through touring the fuck out of their brilliant debut record, Astro Coast.
Roving reporter Rav (RRR) recently chatted to the band's frontman, chief songwriter and major producer of Astro Coast, John Paul 'JP' Pitts, about how Surfer Blood have developed as a live act since the release of the album, what hitting the big time has been like, and how they came up with their super sweet band t-shirt designs.
Hey JP. How you doin' buddy?
I'm good man.
Where are you at right now?
En route to Chapel Hill, North Carolina, for a show.
How's the tour been going?
It's been good. It's been hectic. Been touring a lot. Just got back from Europe last month. And have been touring with The Pains Of Being Pure Of Heart this month. And, you know, it's fun.
I've seen you guys in a bunch of write ups for stories like '10 Bands to see in 2010,' and '50 Bands You Must See!' Do you feel pressured at all by all the media scrutiny on your performances?
No, I mean, hopefully we're delivering. Just like anyone else we have our good shows and our bad shows. There's a lot of expectations but all you can really do at the end of the day is keep working hard, playing good songs, tour and, you know, try to reach out to your fans. We're growing everyday as musicians and as people.
Do you think you've developed over the last 12 months as you've been performing more and more live and to bigger and bigger shows?
Yeah we've definitely come together as a live act. The songs have always been there and recording was good, but the live show has grown and really fleshed out and people who see us now tell us now that it's better and more enjoyable than it was 6 months ago or whatever.
Now that you guys have blown up in terms of touring and having a big supporter base, do you think that you'll remain living in Florida, or is a relocation on the cards?
Right now we don't have any plans to leave Florida. Once this tour's over we're going to go back there and I'm actually excited to be home for a little bit, we've been on the road so much. We'll start working on some new material and I'm looking forward to spending some time with my friends and family.
You were responsible for a majority of the recording of the Astro Coast, and obviously how the album has turned out has been one of the major reasons why you guys have found such success - would you consider recording and engineering other bands in the future, or are you happy to just focus on Surfer Blood for now?
Right now Surfer Blood keeps me quite busy. But in the future it's not something I'd rule out. I've always been interested in the idea of producing other people's records and working with other people. I'm not an expert by any means. I kind of, like, figured it out as I went along. But collaborations are something that I'm interested in.
The first album's songs developed over a number of years before they ended up on Astro Coast, do you think you have experienced enough and will have enough material for the next time you record, and are you looking to get back into the studio anytime soon?
Not any time in the next few months. I'm not a big fan of just writing in the studio. I think it seems wasteful. Before we go to the studio I like to have a song pretty much written and demoed and everything else rather than try and rush through it in the studio and try to piece it together. And demoing is good too because you learn what the song's limits and strengths are because you've already tried to do a lot of the recording once before.
Do you guys like to road test new songs live?
Yeah a lot of times we do. We've been playing a new song on the road that we kind of worked on in the studio and we've been playing it live just to see how it goes. That's also very helpful for us learning a song. You can feel it more than just learning the parts and playing them in order.
Do you foresee Surfer Blood sonically shifting in the future?
Oh of course. I think that that's inevitable with almost any band. I see the sound becoming... You know right now it's already pretty full but hopefully the song writing will mature too and, you know, we'll continue to grow.
I was checking out your Myspace page and I loved the Unknown Pleasures spoof T-Shirt design you guys have for sale. Who came up with that?
That was actually our bassist Brian. He thought it would be a really cool design to show homage to. It's called the 'Unknown Leisures' T-Shirt. And yeah, Joy Division is a band that we all deeply respect so it's cool to pay homage to a band in that way, I think.
The album's artwork is also really striking, where did that come from?
My sister came up with the concept for the album art. She initially wanted to take two images and cut them up into strips and weave them together the way you'd weave together a basket and we sort of took that idea and ran with it and it turned out really cool.
I read somewhere that you're a big Yo La Tengo fan. What's your favourite Yo La Tengo record?
I Can Hear The Heart Beating As One. I mean, I know it's like everyone's favourite but it's just that good.
Yeah it's a pretty fucking amazing record.
Yeah and one of my favourite guitarists ever [Ira Kaplan].
Have you had a chance to meet any of you idols or found that you've got any celebrity fans?
Yeah we have actually. We got to meet a lot of the dudes from Pavement recently. And we met Mac and Laura from Superchunk at SXSW and that was pretty neat. And who knows, maybe we'll hook up after the show in Chapel Hill tonight.
[FYI - Mac and Laura from Superchunk also started the uh-may-zing record label MERGE, who have currently/at one time had signed to their roster The Arcade Fire, Spoon, Neutral Milk Hotel and the Magnetic Fields to name but a few. They're label is based out of Chapel Hill.]
So obviously you're heading to Aussie shores for some tour dates pretty soon. Are you guys getting psyched about that?
Yeah we've been getting a lot of emails and stuff like that from people who are really excited about us coming, so I'm really looking forward to the shows. I think they're gonna be really good. People seem really stoked to have us over there.
Are you particularly excited to be sharing the bill with anyone at Splendour In The Grass?
The Strokes, obviously. LCD Soundsystem is playing. Yeah, I just think it's gonna be a really awesome festival to be at.