By Jeremy Hallock
By James Khubiar
By Observer Staff
By Kelly Dearmore
By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
It sounds like an aperitif on the menu for the finny diners that tend to hang out just beyond the white sandy beaches of South Florida. But, turns out, the name Surfer Blood actually applies to a group of fresh-faced dudes who formed a band in West Palm Beach and now have a mild feeding frenzy in the music press thanks to the January release of their debut album, Astro Coast.
Conjuring up fond memories of some of the great power-pop bands of the '90s (think Weezer and Pavement) but updated with a sunny outlook and some modern, polyrhythmic influencers (Animal Collective and Vampire Weekend), Astro Coast is, indeed, a pretty darn good album. As such, Surfer Blood's lead single from that album, "Swim," ended up on Pitchfork's list of the Best Songs of 2009. So there's that.
Funny thing is, it's all happened so quickly. Formed only a year ago, the band is already a few weeks into its second national tour—its first as headliners. But it's not like the band's first national tour was without thrills: When the band visited Dallas back in mid-December, it did so as the opening act at what turned out to be Jay Reatard's second-to-last show before the Memphis garage-rocker died of alcohol and drug complications a few weeks later.
"Getting to hang with Jay, that was really cool," recalls Surfer Blood's lead singer-songwriter, J.P. Pitts. "I'd heard he could be a real asshole to other bands, but he was really sweet to us. Just really a shame."
He trails off. On other topics—namely, incorrect facts being put out there about his band—he's more forthcoming. Like the fact that, somewhere along the lines, it became common knowledge that Surfer Blood recorded Astro Coast in a dorm room at the University of Florida. That's not true, Pitts says.
Chalk it up to the band's short lifespan, and the surprising amount of interest it's been able to garner over that time.
"When printed by something like Pitchfork, it becomes 'fact' and just takes on a life of its own," Pitt marvels. In actuality, the album was recorded in an apartment across the street from Florida Atlantic University in West Palm Beach.
Even with all the critical acclaim lavished upon his band over the past year, Pitts, who is all of 23 years old, says that the lessons the band has learned over that time have been the best part of the experience. Specifically, he calls out "the art of compromise."
"Few things go just the way you want," Pitts says. "And if you can't laugh at yourself and relax, you'll go crazy."
Learning to laugh at one's self is no doubt a good thing—especially when you're intentionally trying to ignore everyone else.
"Initially, the record label was keeping us informed about the sales since it was doing so well," Pitts says. "But now I try not to follow reviews or watch sales. You could say I try to stay wrapped up in my bubble. I think, to make good music, you have to live in your own world. Otherwise, you may end up reacting to what people say and losing your own voice."
And that sounds like...well, bloody good advice.