The Catalyst Atrium | January 13, 2016
About a month ago, KZSC teamed up with the Catalyst to present indie hotshots Surfer Blood in The Atrium. Attendance was high for a weeknight and the audience’s energy was palpable. The sound of waves crashing served as a brief introduction before Cayucas kicked off the show. Comprised of songs mostly from their new album, Dancing at the Blue Lagoon, their sunny set was the perfect start to the evening. The audience grooved along to high-energy jams like “Hella” and “Moony Eyed Walrus,” but the highlight of their set happened when the lead singer took to the dance floor and slow danced with an audience member to “High-School Lover.” They wrapped things up with a “song for the headbangers in the audience” that got the whole crowd moving, and were ushered out by more ocean sounds.
By the time Surfer Blood took the stage, the crowd was warmed up and ready for the main act. They opened with “Floating Vibes,” a fan favorite, and the room exploded. Everyone was dancing, and after a few tunes a mosh pit opened up. Lead singer JP even took a moment to acknowledge the crowd’s energy: “Glad to see everyone’s having fun.” The whole experience felt very personal, with the band trading banter about Game of Thrones and the weather with the audience.
Despite the fact that Surfer Blood has recently undergone a major lineup shift, they played with the confidence and tightness of touring veterans, ripping through much of their excellent 2015 album, 1000 Palms. They also played some highlights off of their last two albums, including “Demon Dance” and “Swim,” which JP jokingly introduced as a song “about how much I like to vape.” Near the end of the set, JP descended into the audience and invited our very own Chelsea Valenzuela up on stage for “Take it Easy.” There was a smile glued on everyone’s face as he wandered through the crowd posing for selfies and giving high fives all around.
By the first time the band left the stage, everyone had had an amazing time, but there was more in store. As they took the stage for an encore, Surfer Blood invited Cayucas back up and performed a cover of Third Eye Blind’s “Semi-Charmed Life”, which had the whole audience singing and dancing along. After thanking the audience and expressing their love of California, JP and the band left the stage with big grins.The whole performance was thoroughly charming, the audience matched the band’s energy on every song, and judging by the talk I
overheard after the show, everyone in attendance had a great time.
DJ Orange interviews Surfer Blood:
(Please excuse the audio and video quality, there were a bit of technical difficulties, refer to transcript below)
Mark: I’m Mark Cieslikowski here for KZSC and I’m here with JP of Surfer Blood. First of all, thanks so much for being with us.
JP: Yeah! Thanks for having me.
Mark: So you guys have been touring for a few months now behind your new record, 1000 Palms. How’s the tour been going? Anything of note happening?
JP: Well, it’s been ups and downs the whole way. It’s been our first few tours with Mike McCleary playing guitar and Lindsey Mills playing bass, so there’s been some changes to the lineup, and we famously got our van broken into back in May, when we were on the first tour for 1000 Palms. But for the most part, it’s been really good. We’ve been playing to a lot of crowds that have been warming up to the new material, and have been becoming a lot more solid as a live band. Can’t complain really.
Mark: Great, very cool. Have there been any shows that have really stood out to you? Like, a really great crowd or you guys just really killed it?
JP: Let me think. There have definitely been some really good ones. We played in LA a few nights ago and it was really crazy. You know, traditionally big city crowds are a little bit more reserved than crowds where bands don’t go as often. But it was a really awesome LA crowd for us. So we were super happy about it. Let me think. There’s definitely been some really good shows along the way. we played a really good show in Akron, Ohio, a place we’d never been, and it turned out to be one of my favorite shows of that whole tour. So you never know. You have to stay open to anything.
Mark: Right on. So you guys are obviously playing a bunch of stuff from 1000 Palms. How much of your old stuff have you been busting out? Any super old cuts or anything?
JP:Well, you know, we still play the highlights off of Astro Coast and Pythons. All of our songs are my babies, I have ones I like more than others, but they all have a special place in my heart. So we always mix it up. I know that I was always frustrated growing up going to see a band where they would only play their new record front to back and not play anything else. We try to mix it up for the people at our shows and people seem to be grateful. A lot of times people will be asking “What was that song? I haven’t heard of that.” And if it’s off the new record I’m like “Oh, maybe you should listen to the whole thing.” So, it works out.
Mark: So I’ve listened to a few of the covers that you guys have done over the years. You do a pretty cool Pixies cover and also an OutKast cover. Not to spoil anything, but are you guys working on any new covers that you might be playing this evening?
JP: Well, I recorded a new cover recently. A very deep cut though. I recorded a song by the band Cream from their record Disraeli Gears.
Mark: Great record.
JP: Love that record. And, you know, it’s so funny how they say you end up becoming your dad.
Mark: Sure, yeah.
JP: That was my dad’s favorite band, and I listened to that record so much growing up. And I finally got a Tascam 38 tape machine, and I’m like, this is my opportunity to try and recreate this. Exactly, yeah.
JP: So that was really fun for me. I love recording covers. It’s just a fun exercise and thinking about recording differently for me, so.
Mark: Can I ask what track it was? Because I love that record so much.
JP: It’s a track called World of Pain. It’s not one of their more bluesy numbers, it’s more of a sort of a dark, psychedelic, introspective number. But it’s really cool that that band sort of had that side to them, which often goes overlooked. A labor of love.
Mark: Very cool. So, the news on everybody’s lips this week is David Bowie’s passing, earlier. Did David Bowie have any sort of influence on you either as an artist or just as a person, as an icon?
JP: Absolutely. I love David Bowie, and I’ve always had the greatest admiration for him. He created this sort of alternate reality, like this mythology around him that just, you know, at the time, wasn’t necessarily being done by anyone else. That level of showmanship and dedication to performing and his craft. I mean, he, you know. And his taste. He was on Iggy Pop very early and stuff like that. So, he was definitely a super, super impressive guy who had the most amazing life. And that new record he released right before–shortly before he died is awesome too. Been listening to it in the van the past few days.
Mark: Great. So, speaking of influences, was there anything that really–any artist that you were really channeling on your new record, anything that was sort of standing out to you at the time that may have influenced it?
JP: That’s a good question. There was a lot of stuff that was influencing it, but, kind of from all different directions. I revisited a lot of The Broadcast, that Tender Buttons album that I loved in high school but haven’t really listened to in a few years. And listening to it from the perspective of someone who’s recorded a lot of music since high school, it was refreshing. You know, like all of the production on that record I think is just flawless. And it’s not glossy or anything, it’s just really balanced, and her voice has this nice like old yet still eerie and strange quality to it. I think I was thinking about that band a lot for vocal production. The Fugazi Instrument soundtrack I revisited a lot. Because I like how, you know I just like how raw and unfinished that record is and that was sort of my goal with this record, to sort of leave the songs free, sort of don’t clean them up and polish them. Because we, being on a major label you do so much of that. It was sort of a nice opportunity for us to just be like, press record, do something, and don’t overthink it.
Mark: So have there been any new artists, any up-and-comers that you’ve been really stoked about, maybe who you’ve been listening to in the van?
JP: Yeah! I got into that BRONCHO band about a year ago, and have been listening to that record a lot. I like Connan Mockasin, the guy from, he’s from New Zealand. But his stuff is all really good, and I love his first record, and I’ve just started listening to some of his other stuff. Let me think. Tyler, who else have we been listening to lately? Come on. They’re not a new band at all but I really was a big fan of the newest Wilco record, Star Wars. It’s nice to see a band that you know for doing one thing just completely reinvent themselves. A lot of respect for that. I don’t know. Whenever people ask me this question I can never think of anything on the spot.
Mark: So you guys are obviously deep in the tour right now, but what do you see as the future for Surfer Blood? Are you working on any new material or maybe another supporting tour or something like that?
JP: Well, I feel like recording 1000 Palms myself in my apartment in Los Angeles has sort of got me in this really great rhythm of staying super busy when I’m home from tour. So, I’ve been recording a ton of demos at home. The arrangements still need some work and they still need to be finished a lot. But the material is there for a new record. It’s just a matter of kind of zooming in, sort of crafting it at this point so. I guess I have this really great routine of touring, writing, touring, writing right now. It feels more natural than it ever has before.
Mark: So I do want to ask about your former guitarist, Thomas. I know that he’s been recovering recently. And you guys did a relatively successful fundraiser for him–actually very successful for him. So, how has he been doing, is he recovering well?
JP: He is recovering, but very slowly. He was diagnosed last, like the very beginning of 2014–or 2015. So, it’s been a year now. And he’s still pretty much bed-ridden. He’s getting the best care you can ask for. His wife is an angel of a woman and looks after him and takes care of all the financial aspects of his treatment. I don’t know what he’d do without her, she’s amazing. But he’s hanging in there, he’s fighting. He’s got it under control but the road’s still long and there’s a lot of variables. So he still needs people to donate to that GoFundMe page because it’s obviously really expensive to get a rare form of cancer.
Mark: Do you wanna plug that real quick for the listeners?
JP: Yeah, If you’re watching and you have a few dollars to spare, check out Thomas’ GoFundMe page. Its gofundme.com/welovethomas. I’m sure he’d really appreciate it if you did.
Mark: I think that about wraps it up. Is there anything else you want to say to our listeners? I’m really excited for the show.
JP: I don’t know, It’s just good to be back in Santa Cruz and to be on the west coast and I love touring here and it’s been fun so far, and I’m sure tonight will not disappoint.
Mark: I don’t think you will. I’m very, very excited for the show, I love the new record, and I’m really glad you took your time out to be with us here.
JP: Yeah! Thanks again for having me.
Mark: Thanks a lot.