By Mandi Kimes
Surfer Blood is an indie-surf rock band from West Palm Beach, Florida comprised of John Paul "JP" Pitts (lead vocals and guitar), Mike Mcleary (guitar and backing vocals), Lindsey Mills (bass guitar and backing vocals) and Tyler Schwarz (drums). While 2015 was a successful year with their new album 1000 Palms, the band also saw two members leave the band. Original guitarist Thomas Fekete left shortly after the announcement of 1000 Palms, due to a medical diagnosis for a rare form of cancer called Sarcoma that had spread to his lungs and spine, to which the band organized a fundraising effort to help alleviate Fekete's medical bills. In addition, the band announced in October that their longtime bassist, Kevin Williams, was leaving the band to pursue a new job in Austin, Texas.
Surfer Blood will be coming to Crescent Ballroom on Thursday, January 7th with twin brothers Zach and Ben Yudin who make up Santa Monica-based indie-pop band Cayucas. After success from their 2013 debut album Bigfoot, the band released their sophomore album, Dancing at the Blue Lagoon, on June 23th, 2015. Cayucas enlisted Ryan Hadlock to engineer and produce the record. Davey Brozowski, touring musician for Modest Mouse, played drums and percussion on the record, while Ra Ra Riot’s Mat Santos and Rebecca Zeller played bass and strings.
Read below for our interview with John Paul “J.P.” Pitts. Click here for show information.
MK: Your music sounds like a mixed influence of surf music and punk. Can you describe the bands major influences?
JP: I’d say that’s somewhat accurate. I would describe our early sound as Dinosaur Jr guitars with The Beach Boys vocals, and now we’re that with more of a 90's college rock band sound. My favorite band growing up was Fugazi for a long time, so that’s definitely had some influence in my songwriting.
MK: My favorite song on your new album is "I Can’t Explain". Can you explain the songwriting behind that song?
JP: Well, that's one of the older ideas we had from years ago. Our former bass player wrote that song and it was a song that was meant to have a lot of overlapping vocals. I came up with the vocals and he came up with counter-melody. We took it off the shelf in 2014. It's a very lush romantic song; sort of what we knew had a lot of potential.
MK: Thomas Fekete recently stepped down from the band to focus on his health. How much of a role does he still have in the band?
JP: Right now he doesn't have time to do a lot. He will listen to demos we send him, but he's pretty much bedridden at the moment. It’s just lots of ups and downs. He made his own cassette while being at home, but he doesn't wake up making music every day anymore.
MK: Surfer Blood obviously plays a major role in advocating and raising awareness for Thomas' condition with cancer. Can you tell me what sparked the instant need to share his story?
JP: Well it was a matter of getting him comfortable. We found out December 2014 that this was going on. It’s his second time fighting this, since he’s a cancer survivor from when he had it back when he was seventeen years old. He was in remission and we knew it could happen again, but it happened so suddenly. We didn't know how long it was gonna take for him to get better. Around April when we shared the Gofundme page, that was when he let us know that he needed to withdraw from the band. We basically asked him, "What can we do to help?" and he let us know that he’s going through chemotherapy, but there's more help that he needs. I've known him for about five years and been all over the world with him. Sometimes I forget how scary this is.
MK: If you could design your perfect show, who would you invite to play?
JP: Fugazi and The Smiths. I'm sure they'll never reunite, even if Coachella offered them a million dollars to perform. Pavement would be cool, if they could reunite. And where would it be? I would do it in Northern California.
MK: Is this your first time in Arizona?
JP: No, we played a few times. We played Crescent Ballroom last time. We love that place; the food is so good, the sound is incredible, the whole crowd seemed really cool. It was just all-around a good time.
MK: What are you currently listening to?
JP: I’ve been listening Connan Mockasin from New Zealand, the new DIIV song “Under the Sun”, No Joy from Montreal, and recently T-Rex.