Surfer Blood | What Dreams Are Made of

“I had this dream and I met a woman named Snowdonia.”

Prior to their concert stop in St. Louis June 2, I caught up with Surfer Blood frontman John Paul Pitts. We discussed their new tour, their latest album, and the true meaning of indie rock.

So you guys are just starting out a new tour?

Yeah, we are. Right now we’re on day one of a tour. We’re doing basically all the parts in the middle of the U.S. and Canada that we didn’t do on the last tour. We’re going to have a lot of long, beautiful drives on the way and looking forward to some good shows.

Are you guys excited to be back out for more shows?

Oh, yeah. We’re smart; we take a little bit of time off in between tours. We’re a little bit older now, so just trying to get a little bit time at home when we can. This should be a fun one.

There are a couple newer members in the band. How do they like being on the road?

I think they like it; I don’t know. Mike has been in the band I think going on two years and Lindsay well over a year, so we’ve probably played a few hundred shows together at this point, and they’re very easy people to travel with. No drama ever, and it’s been pretty easygoing so far.

Congratulations on the newish album, Snowdonia.

Thank you.

I love it, and it seems very well received by everyone. So a few questions about that: I didn’t see anywhere where the name came from. It’s a place, is that right?

Well, it was—it was in a dream, that’s where the name came from. It’s pretty convenient when things come to you in a dream, as far as naming stuff goes. It’s a long instrumental song that I was working on. I didn’t really know when I began writing lyrics. I had this dream and I met a woman named Snowdonia. And I woke up, and I wrote the lyrics for the song and that sort of became the center piece of the whole album. It was one of the first songs I started writing. I was trying to write a song without a lot of repeating parts, where all the pieces connect but not in a very Part A, Part B, Part A again way. And suddenly, everything fell in the place for that song and then sort of off to the races writing the rest of the record. I think that was the moment for me: Writing that song is just where everything really clicked.

It had some unexpected twists and turns that I think worked really well. Did you enjoy writing a song that was a little bit longer and more kind of more intricate in that way?

Yeah. I was looking back to our first record and there’s a song on that album called “Anchorage” that was always—not only a fan favorite, but it was something I considered one of our very best songs. And it’s one of the songs that—it was all over the place and doesn’t depend on a repeating hook or repeating part, really. And I thought it was really cool how it just doesn’t go anywhere you expect it to go. And I was trying to channel that energy and that style of songwriting while I was working on a lot of these new songs.

Do you have any recent influences or anything you’re listening to?

Well, while I was writing Snowdonia, I was exploring and listening to a lot of Kraut rock stuff. That’s just something I didn’t know a whole lot about growing up. Our former guitarist, Thomas, introduced me to a lot of that music that he was always very, very into. So, that’s something that I was sort of listening to and drawing inspiration from, unconsciously or not, while I was writing a lot of these songs. That’s probably why a lot of them have a really strong backbeat, all those rigid rhythm section parts, with really ambient guitars over them. That sort of aesthetic was something I was playing with a lot. And there’s a lot of sonic collage work that we were doing, like the song “Six Flags in F or G” that’s very ambient, like a lot of guitar overdubs that don’t necessarily sound like guitars. That’s something that I was really excited to explore when that came together while we were recording, and we ended up doing it a few more times.

Surfer Blood is one of the bands people really think of as an “indie” band. Does being an indie band mean something to you—or do you know what it means at all?

For me, it’s one of those words that doesn’t necessarily mean a whole lot these days on its own, but I guess that’s the classification of all my favorite bands growing up were. When I think of the bands that we’re sort of emulating, I think the bands like Pavement and Built to Spill, and, I guess, melodic, guitar-driven stuff like that. That’s sort of what we strived for. And I guess you can call all those bands “indie” bands, whatever that means. To me, we’re still an independent band that does a lot of things ourselves; we don’t necessarily rely on the greater music industry to propel us in our careers. I have no idea what people younger than me think that word means; probably something completely different. Now, if you ask a 17-year-old kid, they’d say, “Oh, isn’t that the kind of music that’s in all the Apple commercials on TV?” So I’m just not sure anymore. | Karl Beck

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