Once indie music fans got their paws on Surfer Blood's debut, AstroCoast, the band quickly blew up nationally, and seemingly out of nowhere for anybody outside of South Florida.
The West Palm Beach-borne band is preparing its third full-length release, 1000 Palms, its first with indie label Joyful Noise. Although the songs reflect what we’ve come to enjoy from Surfer Blood, the differences are in the details. The band was very specific in how and where it recorded and all elements of the recording were crafted exactly as the group desired.
As he was preparing to head to SXSW, Surfer Blood lead singer J.P. Pitts paused to tell New Times about the band’s growth stalling after signing to a major label and how it quickly got up, brushed off the dirt, and kept moving forward.
“I’m pretty much open to anything, and who knows how I’ll feel about this in a year,” Pitts said. “I definitely feel really good about this record and I think we made the right choice.”
New Times: Is this like starting over?
J.P. Pitts: It definitely feels like a new beginning. It feels like the last few years were kind of a false start, but that’s what being a grown up about this is like, admitting you made some decisions that weren’t in your best interest in the long run. But it’s not like we’ve been getting the best advice. We’ve been making this up along the way, from the beginning. We were honestly pretty clueless, so it feels really good to have command of every aspect of what we’re doing right now.
What happened with Warner Bros?
We signed to Warner pretty early on. We put out AstroCoast on Kanine in January 2010, and then really just started playing shows every day. Somewhere along the line, we got noticed by Warner. Things were just so crazy and it seemed like things were going to keep getting crazier. But then six months after we got signed, the guy who signed us left the company. We were left in this situation where we had to navigate the waters of this giant company.
We ended up making a record [2013's Pythons] for too much money with a very famous producer. He’s a great producer but he comes from a very different place than us. So after that record came out, when it came time for them to reassess everything, they decided it was time to let us go. To be honest, it was something we were kind of expecting and in a lot of ways was relieving.
Did they just not know what to do with you guys?
AstroCoast was a totally home spun effort from everyone. Once we got on WB, they have hundreds of people working there. There were a few people who got it and tried to help us, and there were a lot of people who didn’t get it or were just kind of 9-to-5-ing there or that kind of thing.
I just don’t really think we connected on the level of where the creative direction for our band should be. We were so used to doing things ourselves instead of having a dozen people driving us in different directions. It was frustrating.
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So you produced the whole new record yourselves?
After we heard the news that we were no longer on Warner Bros, it was the first time in years that we weren’t on a record label. So while it was a relief to not have to deal with the Warner machine, it was also kind of scary cause it felt like we were on our own.
We got together in Portland, it’s a great town and we have a lot of friends there, and we rented a house from a friend and just wrote music all day. We just went through all the ideas we’d overlooked for a long time, had some new ideas, and came up with ten songs. When it came time to record, we looked at those songs, and said, “This is the record. Let’s make this all work somehow.”
Thankfully, when it was all done, everyone at Joyful Noise seemed to be really into it and it worked out. But there was a good eight or nine months where we didn’t have a label and didnt know what was going to happen.
It sounds like returning to doing whatever you want and choosing to work with an indie label was the right choice.
We’d recorded 1000 Palms by the time we sent it around to different labels. Joyful Noise sounded like a really great fit. They were super hands on and into it. We got really lucky that we landed on our feet. I’m not gonna say [indie labels] are better, but it’s more fun for us. It seems like a better fit. It seems like things are happening every day. They come to us every day with a new idea — an idea that won’t take a year to execute — so it seems like it’s working pretty well.