In just two years, Surfer Blood has come a long way from the days of self-recording and playing gigs in pizza parlors. Its single “Swim” made it onto Pitchfork’s top 100 tracks of 2009. After great reviews on its first album, “Astro Coast,” Surfer Blood released “Tarot Classics EP” in October and hopes to record its second full-length album soon. The Spinnaker got a chance to chat with frontman John Paul Pitts and guitarist Thomas Fekete before the four West Palm Beach guys played their Jan. 8 show at UNF.
Spinnaker: You guys are from West Palm, but you’ve gotten to tour all over the U.S. and the world. How does it feel to come back to Florida?
JP Pitts: I love coming back to Florida. I have a lot of family here, both my parents live here. A lot of my friends growing up still live here. And, you know, that’s nice. It never gets old. And it’s nice to come back someplace warm after a long, cold tour.
S: What are some of your musical influences?
JP: We all listen to a lot of different music, a lot of different bands. We really like Yo La Tengo. We like the Pixies.
S: Speaking of the Pixies, you guys recently got to tour with them. What was that like?
JP: It’s just a dream come true to tour with one of our favorite bands. I mean, I think we’ve all been listening to them since we were really young. And it’s kinda cool to just see them backstage every day and get to talk to them some and get to know them as people. And getting to watch that show every night is really amazing.
S: Have you gotten to meet any other artists that you’ve been fans of?
Tom Fekete: I know JP’s a big Tyler The Creator fan. He got to meet him.
JP: We met Lady Gaga at Bonnaroo last year. We didn’t ever think we’d get the chance to do that.
S: What’s the most memorable show you’ve played? Any crazy stories?
JP: There’s too many crazy stories honestly. I guess the first two tours we did are kind of the funniest because we didn’t really know what we were doing, and we were booking ourselves. So we played in a lot of weird places. One of the weirdest ones that comes to mind off the top of my head is we played in a pizza parlor for a bunch of families who were trying to eat dinner. And they were sitting maybe about 40 or 50 feet away from us. And some guy tried to fight me after we got offstage while we were loading out. So that was a weird one, but there were a lot of weird ones.
S: What about your favorite places to play?
JP: Well we went to Australia last year, that was really cool.
TF: Japan’s cool.
JP: We like Denmark. We like Prague. The West Coast of the United States, just pretty much the whole thing. Yeah. A lot of cool places.
TF: Gotham City. [JP laughs]
S: So when is your next full-length album coming out? Have you guys been working on it?
JP: You know, we’ve been writing it now for the past few months, and it’s coming together, and I think we’re gonna go into the studio soon and start recording it. Can’t really say a release date right now, but it should be sometime later this year.
TF: We’re on our third producer. We’ve had two producers walk out on the record. So things aren’t really going as planned, but it should be out pretty soon.
S: Where do you hope to take the band? Do you have any specific goals?
JP: No goals, just a reality television show.
S: You guys signed on with Warner Brothers last year. Is it different making an album with them as opposed to smaller record labels?
JP: Yeah, it’s a lot different. The first record we made was self-produced. It was made in my apartment. So this is going to be a much different thing. We’re going to go to a different city and record in a studio where we’re going to kind of bunker down for a while. It’s going to be entirely different.
TF: For the first year being signed to the major label, they kept pushing money toward us, like, we’d be at dinner, and our guy would sneak a little cash in my pocket, or we’d open up our music cases and there would be a little bit of money in the case. And then we realized that you just have to pay it all back, so it doesn’t matter. So I don’t know, we’ll see. It should be OK.
S: You guys are playing on Jimmy Fallon tomorrow night. How did that come about?
JP: You know, our manager had been talking about it for a while, and it had been tossed around a little bit, but we didn’t think it would really happen because people are always saying, “This is gonna happen, and it’s gonna be crazy,” and it usually never happens. Maybe three days ago we heard about the Jimmy Fallon thing, and we were like, “Wow, that actually came through.” So we’re obviously really excited and really nervous about the whole thing. It’s gonna be cool.
Indie enthusiasts may recognize Owen Holmes as the bassist from the indie pop band Black Kids, but for the last few years, Holmes has also been writing and performing his own songs under the name Gospel Music. In October, Holmes and the band released their first full-length album, “How to Get to Heaven from Jacksonville, Florida,” followed by their first national tour. The Spinnaker sat down with Holmes and Gospel Music drummer Cash Carter to discuss the Jacksonville music scene, touring and the future of Gospel Music.
Spinnaker: So, you both are from Jacksonville, do you have a favorite hangout spot?
Owen Holmes: We both live in Riverside, so the bars are always kind of changing. I think right now we all spend a lot of time at this bar, Birdies, and the bar next to it, Wall Street, is kind of a classic dive bar.
Cash Carter: I agree, I mean, I walk into Birdies, and my drink is ready at the bar.
S: Do you have a favorite venue to play at in Jacksonville?
OH: Yeah, the UNF student ballroom.
S: Any others?
OH: Jack Rabbits is really great. They have good sound there. Each place has a different appeal. Like, Jack Rabbits, the sound is really good. There are bars in Riverside that are really fun, but the sound might not be as good.
S: Do you feel like the crowds are good in Jacksonville?
OH: Yeah, it just kind of depends on you and who you bring out — the band. You can’t really rely on the crowd just to have fun when the band isn’t fun, so you kind of have to meet them halfway.
S: What about compared with the rest of the cities in Florida that you’ve toured in? How do you think Jax stacks up against them?
CC: People seem to be a little more apathetic in Jacksonville. They probably don’t get as big of a crowd as in other places. But Jacksonville has more potential than any of the other cities, I think. One of the biggest problems is that our big college is so far away from downtown, and then our public transit is so terrible. So, I love Jacksonville, and I love being here, but it’s a matter of getting people to care more about music in Jacksonville and getting out to the shows. Whereas in other cities, like Orlando or Tallahassee or Gainesville, you can go play a show, and there will be people there no matter what. That doesn’t happen so much in Jacksonville. You have to really, really work to get people to come out. That’s one of the biggest problems in the music scene in Jacksonville right now is getting people to care more, not to be so apathetic.
S: What’s your most memorable experience that you’ve had touring? Anything crazy happen to you?
OH: We had a bad experience with the police on the road a few weeks ago. We were driving through Ohio, and these small-town cops needed something to do. They searched our entire van and read us our rights, put us in the back of their car. Canine unit, the whole nine. You know, we don’t really do drugs, so we didn’t have anything, so they were disappointed. They came up empty-handed.
S: Does the name Gospel Music generate a lot of confusion?
OH: Yeah. Yeah, it does. Confusion in that people think we’re a Christian band or something, which we’re not. And also Google searches. It’s just impossible to find. It was a terrible marketing move.
S: Have you thought about changing it?
OH: I think it’s kind of too late, although if I did change it I would change it to “The Christians,” which probably isn’t much better, in either respect.
S: What are your goals for Gospel Music?
OH: Well, I guess just in one sense to keep making records and writing three-minute pop songs that people like and can remember and think are clever. But I think we all really like touring, so as long as we’re able to do that, I’m happy.
S: Do you see any more full-length albums in the near future?
OH: Yeah. I’m actually writing it right now, so my goal is to finish it before March because that’s when we go on tour again, and then record it after. So it will be out late this year.
Dargan Thompson, Staff Writer
Email Dargan at [email protected]