No one saw it coming, but when Surfer Blood showed up on the scene in 2009, plenty of us caught notice. And Astro Coast was a debut well worthy of the head turns. Like Weezer’s Pinkterton, Coast is rife with punchy, anthemic guitar rock. It captures the feel of the ’90s college rock greats (the young Floridians cite both Dinosaur Jr. and Built to Spill as early inspiration) and evokes the spirit of suburban small-town living. Best yet, it’s only the start for a young band with a very bright future.
Following almost two straight years of touring — and one promising follow-up EP — the Surfer Blood boys left indie label Kanine Records for a big-time deal with Warner Bros. Next month they head to the studio with acclaimed producer Phil Ek (Fleet Foxes, The Shins) to hammer out a sophomore release. And this week, the band heads west for a string of California dates, including a Thursday-night stop at Velvet Jones.
I recently caught up with guitarist Thomas Fekete to talk new tours, new tunes, and how one hasty decision has Surfer Blood looking at the music biz in a whole new light.
First off, how’s the new record coming? Good. We’ve got about 14 songs written and done, and we’re going to go record in Seattle in the beginning of March. We’re working with Phil Ek, who’s just finishing the new Walkmen record right now. We’re going to do 10 songs on the record, but we’re going to try and record all of the new ones and use the extras for an EP a few months after the record’s release, if all goes according to plan.
How did you guys hook up with Phil? Our label put us in touch with a few producers. We weren’t completely opposed to the idea of working with a producer, but it was definitely a bit out of our comfort zone at the time. … We thought for the hell of it we’d have a conversation with Phil, and we got on the phone with him, and we liked him a lot, so we ended up flying out to meet with him the next week. We pretty much immediately knew that he was the guy for us. We just really clicked, and I think he really got what we were going for.
So you’ve been sending him demos? Yeah. We did a week of demoing with him where he basically tore us apart and told us what we need to be working on. [Laughs.] It was really good; we’d never had that before. That was about a month-and-a-half to two months ago, and we’ve been demoing since. He seems to be very excited about it, so that’s comforting.
Can you talk a bit about the new songs? I thought it was a huge shift in terms of sound and songwriting and everything, but everyone who’s heard the demos has said that it still sounds like us. I was 20 when Astro Coast was finished, and I’m 23 now, so everyone’s grown a lot. A lot of the songs are very classic sounding; one of them sounds like it could be played at a prom, which is cool. It still sounds like Surfer Blood, though. It’s not like a drum-machine-and-synth album. Although we thought about doing that, just like a full 360. Maybe later down the road. I don’t think Warner [Bros.] would like that right now.
You guys made a pretty big label jump with that one. It was definitely a quick decision. It was during a really, really crazy time for the band; we were right about to leave for Australia and Japan. We were about to be away from home for two-and-a-half months, and we were all so deep in debt, and we were freaking out about financial stuff. I remember we signed the deal at the airport before we boarded a flight to New Zealand, and when we got to New Zealand we were like, ‘Oh my god. I can’t believe we just did that.’ But a few months later, we went to the Warner office, and we saw that we have legitimate fans in the office. They’re really excited about us. … The more I think about it, the more I realize that there’s not that much of a difference between the really big indie labels and major labels. It’s just the name, you know. Being signed to Warner might not be very cool, but we’re not very cool people anyways. [Laughs.]
Surfer Blood plays Velvet Jones (423 State St.) on Thursday, February 23, at 8 p.m. with openers Wild Ones. Call 965-8676 or visit newnoisesb.com for tickets and info.