Sunday, December 12, 2010

2010 The Year Surf Rock Swelled

When trends seem to come on in this day and age, they seem to come fast and intense and then wither away, especially musical trends. One of those trends has been the rapid growing genre of surf rock. Not the surf rock that your parents and grandparents are accustomed to. This is not The Beach Boys, Jan and Dean, The Surfaries or Dick Dale and His Deltones, this is surf rock done indie style. Just like the classic acts they are inspired by the summer and everything that makes for fun in the sun. However, the surf rock bands of today go a bit deeper and show more emotion. They take that vibe of the classic acts and mix it with inspiration from bands like The Smiths, Stone Roses, Weezer and The Strokes.

Where and when did this neo style originate? Or resurrect itself in this new way? Though, no one really knows for sure, one can say it could be due to the massive success Vampire Weekend received after their 2008 debut. Vampire Weekend came in and brought in a new style of preppy rock, singing about Cape Cod in the summertime. Since then, an abundance of bands have come through bending the style and entering the door that Vampire Weekend opened. Though the bands may not sound like Vampire Weekend, they certainly carry the same vibe. Bands such as The Drums, Surfer Blood, Wavves, Best Coast, Soft Pack, The Postelles and Tennis to name a few. The genre has even spread across the Atlantic and into the UK with bands like Male Bonding, The Vaccines, The Heartbreaks, Doll and the Kicks and even in France with rising lo-fi surf rockers Le Femme.

For some of these bands it all has to be location that inspires them. Singer Ezra Koenig from Vampire Weekend would spend his summers in Cape Cod as a kid, Surfer Blood hail from Florida, The Drums originated in Florida and are now based in Brooklyn. Bands like Best Coast, Wavves and The Soft Pack are from California, yet Soft Pack guitarist Matty McLoughlin would never admit to it, as he told me about being inspired by California “I guess it has by living there. We are not really conscious of it though.” The husband and wife duo of Tennis lived on a boat for almost a year and were inspired by their journey.

For the UK bands, Male Bonding live in Dalton “near the canal and we hang out there on the tow path under the bridges. John [Webb] sleeps there sometimes for inspiration and to feel real” as singer Kevin Hendrick told me when I spoke to them earlier this year. Doll and The Kicks hail from a vacation town Brighton, England. As they say, write what you know and for these bands, seaside towns and fun in the sun maybe it. It is the case with The Heartbreaks, who hail from the small town of Morecambe just outside Manchester, England. Drummer Joseph Kondras told me “We love Morecambe; it's beautiful, it's hilarious and it's heartbreaking. There is an unbeatable sadness to old English seaside towns, it's there in our music. People say it's a dead end town, my views vary on the place depending on what mood I'm in. It's not an especially hard place to grow up, more frustrating, especially being who we are. There were few people in Morecambe with the same passions as us, we felt isolated but from that isolation came The Heartbreaks.” Yet, what explains for the bands that do not come from seaside towns? The Vaccines are from dark London, The Postelles are from New York City and after all The Drums relocated to New York. For some it is just simple influence, David Dargah of The Postelles said to me in 2009 “I think our sound comes as a result of the music all the band members really love. We don't really try to specifically write songs to sound retro it just happens naturally. We love the Motown era of music as well as NYC Rock like The Velvet Underground and Ramones.”

With fuzzy guitars, intimate lyrics and raucous live shows, these new surf rockers are riding the wave of indie success, but are not taking it too seriously. What Kevin Hendrick says “To be honest I think those bands vary in styles way too much to be tied to one particular movement, and this is a good thing.” The same goes for Drums guitarist Jacob Graham “Maybe people feel restricted by all the conveniences of the modern world. I know I sure do. I think the trend is almost over though” as he told me. Whether the trend is almost over or not, one thing is for sure and that is the genre will not die, as we have seen in the past, someone has to be inspired by this and will bring it back.