Surfer Blood Closes Out Tour in Gainesville
On Saturday, January 23rd, Floridian indie-rock band Surfer Blood made their return to Gainesville at The Wooly, drawing a close to their tour with one last stop at home.
Upon first entering the venue, The Wooly had a quaint, eclectic feel to it. The clean, minimalist space made it feel as though I was having live music drifting through my living room. Well, if I had better taste and a bigger living room with a full service bar. I felt as though I had found a little hole in the wall; a local gem. A few tables populated the floor, where people sipped on beers and chatted as they watched the local warm up bands, Endless Pools and Loyal Revival. The quiet, ambient space quickly drew more foot traffic leading up to Surfer Blood’s set.
The self-described indie rock band was returning to Gainesville for their only stop in the state. I was able to catch a few words with lead singer John Paul Pitts before the show.
“It’s a fun town. We’ve got a lot of awesome memories there from when we were starting up. We get to see all the people we grew up with,” JP said. “And of the course the Gators. We want to see all our Gator friends.”
When asked how he’d describe their sound, JP described the distinctive “melodic, guitar driven indie rock with a dreamy character to it. It’s tongue and cheek, romantic music.”
That same dreamy, surf rock sound has driven a turbulent five-year career for the band. Surfer Blood’s history has proven more eventful than it is long- having cycled through several members, labels and sounds throughout the release of their three records.
Even more tumultuous, the band’s original guitarist, Thomas Fekete, was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer about a year ago. Although in remission, the band and its fan base continue to raise funds for his treatment, never leaving Fekete out of the equation in the wake of their success.
“There’s been a lot of ups and downs for him. It’s been a tough couple of months, but he’s been texting us that he’s been doing better.”
Surfer Blood, who are West Palm Beach natives, started booking tours through MySpace after its conception.
“It was an awesome resource for bands. We played shows in dive bars to meet people,” Pitts recalled of the band’s humbler beginnings.
Notoriety came quickly for the band, however.
“When we were on the art section of the New York Times, I bought ten copies so I could show my mom,” Pitts laughed. “She wasn’t very happy about me dropping out of college, so I just wanted to let her know, you know?” And that was when that iconic ‘I’ve made it’ feeling began to sink in.
Fast forward a few years and the band has one album under their belt and began to work on a second. Their upbeat, beach-y tunes caught the attention of major label Warner Brothers. Upon signing, their indie, experimental sound was replaced by more polished, critically appraised melodies, which comprised their second album.
“It was produced in a really nice studio with a historic producer for the first time in our lives. When you’re 22, everything is very simple and easy going.” JP said of the transition. “But thinking about things like writing songs for FM radio and having a polished, cohesive record were things I had never thought about.”
Their newest album, 1,000 Palms went without all those bells and whistles.
“We parted ways with a major label and this was a great opportunity for us to not even remotely overthink anything- to just write a song, record it as is, without any tinkering and outside influence,” Pitts said. “It was refreshing for us.”
The new record ushered in more ambient, subtle melodies more align with their return to an indie label.
“We’re most proud of the new album. It’s our most dynamic work and the songs have more variety than anything we’ve done in the past. The instrumental texture and the attention to detail sound really polished for a shoe string budget. It’s a testament to how we’ve grown.”
Notorious for their energy in live performances, Surfer Blood did not disappoint at The Wooly. JP interacted with the crowd throughout the show, jumping into the crowd and weaving through fans. The band members tossed out beads to the crowd from their last stop, Mobile, Alabama during Mardi Gras.
“We try to change it up every night with some improvisation and hopefully some strobe lights. I like the longer songs for playing live. It makes it fun.” JP said, with “Anchorage” being his favorite to perform.
The intimate venue lent itself perfectly to the upbeat, interactive nature of the band. Both the space and the performers made the show feel like a private gig you somehow got the coveted invite to. It was a refreshing way to see a show- a break from the masses and blaring amphitheaters and festivals. As for what lies ahead for Surfer Blood, Pitts spoke about getting the ball rolling on a new record as he continues to write on the road.
All photos courtesy of: Surfer Blood Facebook
Learn more about Thomas Feteke’s Medical Fund