If you were a trend-spotter or pigeon-holer, you might include Surfer Blood with the new wave (excuse the pun) of early-’60s-style surf rock played by American indie bands like The Drums and Soft Pack.
This five-piece from West Palm Beach, Florida, excel in laid-back melodic vocal harmonies and twangy guitar hooks which evoke sun-drenched beaches with the tide rolling in. Their debut album Astro Coast, due for UK release in June, was released Stateside at the start of this year and garnered some highly positive reviews. Despite the band’s name, the album title and cover design, it seems the guys are not actually surfers themselves. But then nor were most of The Beach Boys.
Led by talented singer/songwriter John Paul Pitt, Surfer Blood put on an assured performance in their tight 55-minute set which naturally focused on the tracks from their album. The band appeared as chilled out as their image suggests, joking with each other and the audience. But what was impressive was the way they took the opportunity to play some songs in slightly different versions from those recorded – always a sign of a good live act.
They started with the up-tempo Fast Jabroni, followed by the Afrobeat Take It Easy which is reminiscent of Vampire Weekend‘s material. Floating Vibes features great guitar riffs from Thomas Fekete, as Pitt croons, “If you’re moving out to the West/Then you’d better learn how to surf”. I’m Not Ready is a new song with a lilting melody, while the sublime Harmonix stands out from the rest of the album in its stunning harmonic simplicity and ‘what could’ve been’ emotional appeal.
In Twin Peaks, Pitt soars higher vocally with keyboardist Marcos Marchesani adding extra percussion to Tyler Schwarzm’s drumming and Brian Black’s bass in more African-style rhythms. The echoing wall of sound reverb in first single Swim was performed with great clarity and attention to detail. Anchorage was given a rougher-edged treatment, while Catholic Pagans returns to sweeter-sounding territory with its harmonious backing vocals. The encore Slow Jabroni is a complex song, starting off slowly but picking up speed half way through as it rises to its climax.
Surfer Blood seem to have what it takes to deliver live what they produce in the studio. Now making an impact in the UK, after intensive touring in the States, a second album which builds on their promising debut and receives more airplay could see them in a year’s time riding the crest of a wave.