I caught up with John Paul Pitts, the singer and guitarist of Floridian Alt Rock band Surfer Blood, to discuss their new record, Pythons, and his experiences of London.
Introduce Surfer Blood to the uninitiated…
We are from West Palm Beach in Florida and we’ve been a band for around four years. It’s a small town and we all played in bands so we were fans of each others music, so we decided to get together, and start rehearsing. We decided to put school aside for a bit and start touring, and things started picking up really quickly, and we got signed to Warner Brothers about a year and half ago.
We just put out our second record on Monday, called Pythons, which we recorded with Gil Norton (Pixies, Echo & The Bunnymen). Everything before had been bedroom recordings.
Where did you get the name from?
Tyler (the drummer) and me have been friends for a really long time. He was an avid surfer, and we were on a trip and he was talking about how ‘the waves were gonna be sweet’. I was like (sarcastically), ‘Oh man, you’re cool, just go shred’, cos he uses all this California lingo of course. Then he’s like, ‘I can’t help it man, its in my blood,’ and I’m like, ‘Oh man, Surfer Blood!’.
How was it different working with a producer?
I think its good to have a fifth member, because we had been working on these songs for months and had tried them every possible way. There was a few things we were divided on internally, and so it was good to have someone step in and say, ‘this song has got lots of energy, keep it fast, don’t let it get too mellow.’ Little bits of advice like this were really helpful.
The new record feels more thematic than the last one (Astro Coast, 2010), was that intentional or just a natural step?
I think writing all the songs in the same place and the same time period kind of does that, you know. You learn things that work. Astro Coast was me mixing the songs – I was literally reading a recording textbook. Some of the mistakes are cool, but this one; we are older, and more proficient musicians and I think this shows through the performances. The drum patterns are more complex and the vocal patterns are more elaborate. I like being [in] the band that doesn’t repeat itself.
What are your first memories of playing music?
I learned how to play almost all of Dookie on guitar in 7th Grade. I started learning songs, and I wanted to learn every song I knew, and, you know, we live in the digital recording age, and I was able to download recording software and start recording songs. I fell in love with it, and I’ve been doing it ever since.
I saw you back at KOKO in Camden in 2010, do you feel a different atmosphere this time round in London?
Haha, cool, I had a 100 degree fever that night! I kinda like the better connection with the fans now. When we started out we would go to London or New York and we were excited. But it was a little disheartening when every time we would sneeze on stage we would see people writing things down. So it feels nice to see people at your shows that you can see just got off work or just took the tube eight stops to get here and try to enjoy themselves.
Are there any places in London you like to hang out?
Finally, what was the last thing that made you stop and stare?
We were in Wyoming recently, and we stopped at a gas station. There was this guy on a golf cart, all decked up with special rims, with a skeleton. He just rocked up, going like, 6 kilometres an hour. I don’t know what he was doing.