Dante Elephante

Courtesy Photo

Dante Elephante

Up Close with Dante Elephante

We Sit Down with Santa Barbara’s Rising Surf Rockers

“Craigslist. I put an ad on Craigslist,” Ruben Zarate explained about his search for bandmates and the subsequent 2010 formation of Dante Elephante, a rising Santa Barbara surf-pop band. “I could have gotten some creeps, but I was lucky,” laughed Zarate about the outcome. The resulting group is a sort of Best Coast–meets–Dr. Dog creation. On their recently released EP, German Aquatics, the band stirs up a thick atmosphere with the swirl of surf; the sound is vast, the vocals expanding beyond Zarate’s voice to a background swell of “oohs” as the lead guitar wanders around the fuzz of chords and frenzied drums. All of this combines into a distinctively California-sounding sonic soup — it’s not too little or too much, kind of like the equilibrium of a wave. The band recorded the six tracks on German Aquatics in a hodgepodge of studios around Santa Barbara and Los Angeles. The songs were mostly recorded live, avoiding too much discrepancy between the album and actual gigging and effectively maintaining the organic and interconnected bridges between songs like “All the Time” and “Let’s Start Talking.” Still, the band is looking forward to recording more in the upcoming months. Zarate tells me they’ve written “about 14 songs in a two-month period.”

Impressively, this year Falling Whistles, a campaign for peace in Congo, asked the band to contribute music for their cause. (Other notables on board include Shins frontman James Mercer, Broken Bells, and Foster the People.)

“I’ve been playing in one band or another since I was 14,” Zarate explained, citing influences that range from Sam Cooke to scruffy ’90s rock. Initially Zarate started out playing drums, and the emphasis on rhythm powers Dante Elephante’s powerfully feel-good live performances. They’ve played in various places around town, such as SOhO and Muddy Waters, and plan to tour in August, starting in Portland and making their way down the coast. “We’ll travel in an old classic tour van, the sketchier the better,” Zarate joked, “and it has to break down at some point in the trip.” And as far as making good on the band’s nostalgia-soaked surf sound? Zarate does not surf, though he promises his bandmates do. “Brian Wilson doesn’t surf,” he chuckled, “but I guess I should learn eventually.”

For more on Dante Elephante, including show dates, visit For a full stream of German Aquatics, head over to

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