WEST PALM BEACH'S own Surfer Blood makes their Jinx debut this weekend courtesy of Music File Productions.
The indie band crashed onto the music scene in 2009 with “Swim,” a vivacious tracked bathed in noise and punctuated by anthemic melodies and a catchy-as-hell power-pop arrangement.
The band began with John Paul Pitts and Tyler Schwarz, who collaborated as Jabroni Sandwich while living in Orlando. When they moved home to West Palm Beach, guitarist Luke Bovat and Freddy Schwenk joined in, and the lineup became known as TV Club. The group began writing, and some of the songs would eventually become Surfer Blood songs. Sometime after, Bovat and Schwenk were no longer in the group, and Thomas Fekete was added on guitar.
The band, now known as Surfer Blood, released the album Astro Coast in 2010 to widespread critical acclaim. A tremendous breakout album, Astro Coast landed the band gigs at the SXSW NPR music party, ATP festival (curated by Pavement), San Miguel Primavera Sound Festival, and more.
An EP, ‘Tarot Classics,’ arrived in 2011 on Kanine Records, and Pythons, produced by Gil Norton (Pixies, Foo Fighters, Echo & the Bunnymen) followed in 2013. In 2015, the band released a third record, 1000 Palms, through Fierce Panda/Joyful Noise Recordings.
In 2015, Fekete was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer and left the band when it spread to his lungs and spine. Support poured out from fans and the music community. On May 31, 2016, Fekete passed away at just 27 years old.
Snowdonia, released in February 2017, is Surfer Blood’s first album since Fekete’s death. Despite the chill in its title, the record is a light turn for the band, flush with sunshine and bright indie-pop vibes.
With new members Mike McCleary on guitar and Lindsey Mills on bass, there’s a freshness to the sound that shows the band’s growth.
“Mike and Lindsey have been playing with us for over two years, and we’ve had a few hundred shows together at this point,” Pitts told Connect. “I could tell Mike and Lindsey were sort of taking the reins and writing a lot of background vocals for songs, even the old songs off of Astro Coast and Pythons. Some of those doesn’t even have a lot of backing vocals on them, but they’ve been doing music since they were kids. Coming up with a harmony on the spot is something that comes naturally to them, and we thought we should embrace that for this record. We spent a few nights in Mike’s rehearsal space and recorded lots of parts, keeping all of them, and picking and choosing.”
Snowdonia is the second Surfer Blood album that Pitts has mixed himself; he hasn’t mixed the band’s records since their debut, though he has worked with many other bands in that time.
“The process is pretty similar for both,” he says. “It’s me in the living room of my apartment with headphones on, trying to figure it out. The main difference is, this time, I’ve been playing in the band for seven years, and I found a chance to make records for other talented people. It’s a little less banging my head against the wall and wondering why it didn’t sound the way I wanted it to this time. It’s definitely a good feeling.”
Snowdonia is the second album Surfer Blood has released with the independent label Joyful Noise Recordings, and it’s a good home for the band.
“They’re great,” Pitts says. “This is a very nice, symbiotic relationship we’ve had with them for two and a half years. It’s been really smooth, and they always have really good ideas on everything...they are very resourceful and very creative. It’s all about the artist, the vision. I feel like they really get us, and I get what they’re doing.”
Savannah has been a part of Pitts’ life for some time—his dad’s family is from here, and he has lots of childhood memories in The Hostess City. The band played here its early, formative years, and Pitts looks forward to returning.
“It’s a great, beautiful little town,” he remarks. “I think a few members of the band have never been there before, so it’ll be a fun time for us.”