Surfer Blood on in-band punch ups, twitter groupies, and annoying Weezer comparisons

Florida band Surfer Blood first started making ripples with their anthemic indie rock single “Swim” and ever since have been on the touring juggernaut all over the UK, Europe and America. They’ll be heading to Australia to play their youthful, euphoric indie guitar tunes at Splendour In The Grass this July, and as burgeoning rock stars they are more than happy to crash on your floor. We spoke to band guitarist, Thomas Fekete, about the band resourcefully scouting places to shower and snooze via their Twitter followers around the world. Thomas gave us the insight on groupies, an exclusive story about the band’s one and only fist fight and the best bands from their local music scene. Surfer Blood’s debut LP ‘Astro Coast’ is recommended for anyone with a fondness for a bit of The Shins, Wavves, the Cure, My Morning Jacket, Built To Spill and, yes, Weezer. Just don’t call them a “surf rock” band…

Hi Thomas. I understand you’re on the road at the moment? Yeah, yeah, we are. We’re on a two week tour.

And that’s with the Pains of Being Pure At Heart right? How’s it going so far? Yeah that’s right. It’s good. The guys from Pains of Being Pure At Heart are really nice and everything has been really mellow on this one. The last tour was a little intense. There was – it was about seventy days long so we’re all going insane by the end of it but this one is nice and easy.

When you’re in the middle of crazy touring do you find the time to kind of like chill out and be by yourself for a while if you need to? Yeah, yeah. We have some time in the van where we’re just having to sit
around and – sorry I’m in a bathroom right now in a rest stop, so there’s like country music blaring over me.

When you’ve got to go you’ve got to go… There is plenty of time to just kind of hang out by yourself, you know what I mean? iPods are definitely a necessity. Some of us – J.P. (John Paul Pitts, singer) and I – always stop at bookstores and stock up on books, that kind of keeps us sane. It’s a long drive but it’s kind of gotten to the point now where I don’t really like being completely alone. It’s nice to always be surrounded by my friends.

And do you have a lot of groupies to keep you company? You know, J.P. kind of does and he’s good at keeping track of them. Yeah, they swarm around J.P. for sure.

He’s kind of like…the Gene Simmons? Yeah, but he’s actually trying to deny it right now but… [J.P. can be heard protesting in the background]… did you talk to TJ [Schwartz, drummer] at all before I talked to you or no?

No, not at all. Oh, okay. What’s the name of the girl who just connected our phone call?

Nicola you mean? [wondering where the hell this is going] Yeah, yeah. TJ just had a ten minute conversation with her. He wouldn’t let her connect us because I think he liked her voice or something, but TJ’s just had a couple of Southern Comforts. You know how we were just talking about how we cope when we’re on tour? TJ kills it by drinking a lot of liquor especially before a long drive. So, a lot of times we let him do interviews and they turn out really awful.

Actually, I bet they’re amazing. He probably reveals all these great insights into the band that a sober person wouldn’t. Yeah, it’s “real” that’s for sure.

I’ve noticed you guys update your Twitter a lot. Are you very much into the whole social media thing? It’s kind of weird. I don’t know why anyone would want to like look at a picture of me and so it’s kind of strange I guess. I don’t know, it’s something that we’re still getting used to for sure. There are certain things [we post on Twitter] that everyone in the band don’t really agree with. It can get pretty corny at time, but you know, it’s all part of the game so like I said, it’s just something that we’re still getting used to and it’s getting easier and easier to deal with for sure.

…because I was having a look at your Twitter last night and I noticed that there was a bit of a dialogue about asking your followers to hook up somewhere for you to stay while you’re on tour. That’s really resourceful. Yeah, we’ve been doing that on this tour because on our last tour we didn’t make any money so we decided on this tour we’re either sleeping in the van or we’re sleeping on someone’s floor. So, we’ve been sleeping in the van for the past four days. Every now and then someone will get in touch with us on Twitter and let us come use their shower, which is nice.

So, these are just like random fans who let you into their homes? Yeah, sometimes. It’s cool.

That’s fantastic. Actually J.P. just recently fell in love with a random fan so that really worked out great.

Oh, really? So, are they still… Yeah! Yes, it’s great. She actually – the deal was we could use her shower if she could get an interview and, you know, she got much more than that so that was great.

And speaking of groupies, when you guys come to Australia, is this going to be your first time visiting as a band? Yeah, it is. None of us have been there actually so it’s really exciting.

What are you most looking forward to? Do you have time to be tourists? Yeah, just hanging around is going to be amazing. We definitely want to do some sightseeing and just, I don’t know, just meeting…

…meeting random fans through Twitter? Yeah! The Twitter… It’s funny because even though we have four thousand followers on the Twitter I have a hard time imagining that more than a hundred of them understand our sense of humour. So, that might not really work out in our favour.

We’ll put the call out for you. I’m sure their will be no shortage of people wanting to shower and feed you. Tell me a little bit about Surfer Blood’s live shows. Well, you know, here’s the thing: it all just – a lot of it depends on how we’re doing emotionally. When we’re not getting along the live show suffers in a way, but it’s also great because tension on stage can be really positive. But when we’re getting along it’s goes great too. It can go two different ways, there’s no middle ground. Some people have said they like [our music] much better live than the album and obviously we’ve been playing these songs for the past – pretty much everyday for the past six months. Things are going to change [in our live show]. I mean that’s how you stay sane, that’s how you stay excited about the music you’re playing. I know I prefer [to play the songs] live – it’s a bit more abrasive and noisy and loud.

Just out of curiosity, after having spent the last five days sleeping in a van together how do you get along after all that time in close proximity? Aren’t you ready to pull each others’ hair out? Oh yeah always! It’s funny, you know, it’s always over ridiculous shit. It never gets too serious. We’ve only had one physical fight and that was at a pretty low point in this band.

Really? Yeah, we had one physical fight.

Who was it between? The fight was between TJ and me.

What happened? Well, I guess you’re going to get the exclusive on this one.

Yeah, that’s what I’m after. I don’t know if I’m ready to give this away though.

Oh come on. What am I going to get out of this?

Just tweet me when you’re in Australia and we’ll find you some babes. All right. Well, basically what happened, it was in Austin Texas or Dallas Texas. We were staying at this dreary, miserable, little motel and we had been doing some serious partying and as usual TJ moved twice as fast as any of us did and ended up in a pretty drunken state. And he was just kind of pushing our buttons the whole night. Ha it just sounds so childish…

Go on… But at one point he just kind of made a very unnecessary comment and I think I just kind of lost it and we just started going at it.I think at one point I actually picked up a bottle, like a beer bottle and I tried to hit him with it, hit him in the face with it, but TJ kind of just extended his arm and took it gently out of my hands and everything was fine. The funny thing is, you know, I stormed out to the van and I went to go sleep in the van and I think like five minutes later I walked back into the hotel room with TJ’s arm around me and we were hugging each other and telling each other that we love each other.

It’s like a classic sibling relationship: you hit them in the head with a hair brush and moments later you’re like you’re going to kiss and say sorry. Yeah. Sometimes you really just have to almost hit someone with a bottle…

Of course. And at that point we had been around each other for, I don’t know, probably like fifty days or something.

That’s pretty intense. There’s ups and downs for sure, but I think compared to other bands we do very well. For the most part we all do get along so.

Thomas, you guys have kind of been getting slapped with the ‘surf rock’ label. Uh-huh.

Obviously people are quick to make that call based on your name, even though the majority of songs on your album don’t sound ‘surf rock’ at all. Is that annoying? I mean it’s kind of lazy. I definitely think that surf rock has had an influence on our band but we’re definitely not a surf rock band by any means. We like to use distortion a lot and we do also love reverb but I don’t think we have very many surfy riffs in our music. I don’t know, I think it’s just kind of – like I said, it’s just lazy. When we first started playing everyone was comparing us to Weezer and it was like [music journalists were] just grabbing the first thing that pops in their head.

I have to say I can understand why people might compare you to Weezer upon first listen… Yeah, and that’s great. I mean we don’t take it as an insult at all. Some of us really love the first two Weezer albums but there’s definitely more to it than that.

What kind of music are you listening to at the moment. I think we’re constantly listening to Television and we’re always listening to Pavement. Pavement is one of the few bands that I can always listen to, you know, no matter what kind of mood I’m in – I can always put them on.

Actually, your video for “Swim” looks a lot like a Pavement clip Oh, that’s amazing. You’re the first person who’s said that.

I’m not exactly sure what it is, but there’s something about it – I was just watching it the other day and I thought: “that looks like a Pavement clip”. That’s excellent. Thank you so much. That’s kind of, you know – I don’t want to say it’s exactly what we were going for but that’s…

[Someone in the background says: What was that she said?]
[Thomas replies to the person in the background: She said that it reminds her of an old Pavement video, our music video.] That’s good! Thank you, thank you.

So Television, Pavement… Yeah… all of us listen to many different bands. I mean Brian – one of Brian’s favourite bands is The Melvins. All of us like Stooges a lot. We’re kind of all over the place.

Tell me about being a band from Florida and about the music scene there, because a lot of people (who’ve never been probably there) have this idea of Florida as Disney World, aligators and orange groves, but don’t hear a lot about a music scene there. Florida has – I mean south Florida – is a really boring place and I think because of that there’s some really great music and really great bands. Basically, if you’re not in school in south Florida I don’t really know what else you’re going to do other than play music – unless you’re into surfing or whatever, which is kind of ironic. But there’s a lot of really great bands from south Florida and it’s always so nice to go back and play music with our friends and play music for our friends. That’s what we grew up doing, you know. For example, I feel like there’s a difference between being a band from New York and Florida. In New York it’s possible that one of your first or second shows will be in front of hundreds of people, but in south Florida it’s just like just playing for your friends. That kind of made things very exciting for us when we were first starting up. The first time we played there was fifteen people. So, I think it really gave us an appreciation for, you know, touring and playing live music definitely.

It sounds like it’s more of a community. Yeah definitely.

Can you recommend a few bands from south Florida that we should keep an ear out for. All right. There’s this amazing band, they’re based out of San Francisco now, they’re called Dead Meat. One of the singer songwriters in that band his name is Joe, a very handsome man which… by the way – I don’t know if you’re single or not, but I think he’s going to be coming with us and he is just devastatingly handsome so, you know, I’ll make sure I introduce you guys.

[Laughing ass off] We’ll definitely make sure to give you guys a call to catch up. He’s right next to me right now. He’s does our sound when we’re on tour in the States.

Okay excellent. So, Dead Meat. Handsome Joe. Who else? And then we have our friends in a band called Love Handles back at home who are really, really great. They’re… I don’t even know how to explain it! It’s just really – it’s really good. And then we have our friends from Tallahassee, they’re in a band called Holiday Shores where it’s amazing too. There’s a lot of good music. I mean, I always say my friends bands are my favourite bands. Especially lately I’ve been listening to my friend’s band more than any other band – and it keeps me excited.

You’re basically touring non stop until the end of the year. What happens after that? We have almost a month off after this tour, then I do some writing, and then we go to Australia and back to the U.K. and then we’re going to do a big support tour in the fall, which we don’t really know too much about yet but it will go all the way till the end of the year. Then we’re definitely going to take time off and write a new record which is very exciting. It’s something we look forward to.

Have you been doing any writing while you’re on the road? Yeah, a bit but it’s kind of ideas we’ve been kicking around, nothing solid yet. We had a new EP almost done, and we actually went and recorded it in a studio in New York but some of us were not really happy with a couple of things. I think what we’re going to do is release a single and then start working on it. It will probably end up being a full length. We’ll see.

When do you think it will be out? Oh, I have no idea… I think latest mid next year but who knows. We haven’t really had a chance to sit down and write so things might fly or things might go really slow. We’ll see.

Is there anything else you want to do in the near future – is there any one you’d really like to record with? You know we don’t have anything yet. I think just because we’ve been touring so much we haven’t really had time to think about that sort of thing, but it’s definitely something that [is] in the back of our minds that we’ll probably pursue later on. But there’s a ton of people that we’d love to collaborate with.

Who would be a dream-come-true kind of collab? Some are more realistic than others. Like I know J.P.’s dream would be to write a song with Jeff Mangum [Neutral Milk Hotel]. And then we’ve talked about – we talk about how amazing it would be to do a song with, you know, like Kevin Barnes [of Montreal] or… there’s so many people. There’s a lot of good music right now.

Thomas I’m going to let you go but we’ll put the word out that you’ll be looking for somewhere to crash or bathe when you’re here. And we’ll catch up with handsome Joe. Yeah definitely. Just get in touch and we’ll hang out. We’ll see you when we’re over there though.

Looking forward to it and good luck on the rest of the tour. Cool. Thank you so much.

Surfer Blood tour dates:
Fri 30 July
Corner Hotel, Melbourne VIC
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Sat 31 July or Sun 1 August – SOLD OUT
Splendour In The Grass
Woodford, QLD

Tue 3 August
Manning Bar, Sydney NSW
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