Laramie Dean plays surf punk, or, as he corrects, punk surf. Channeling the cheery, beat-heavy rock of the Ventures and adding some heart-attack-inducing, diesel-fueled guitar hooks, he hopes to bring everyone back to the beach. The name Laramie Dean is actually the fortuitous result of bad hearing. He was born Jeremy but likes to keep his last name under wraps. "My wife's grandfather would always call me Laramie instead of Jeremy," the amicable 33-year-old says, "so I thought, 'That sounds cool, more like Link Wray. Jeremy sounds more like '90s rock. '" The "Dean" was added later, and his punk surf alter ego was born.
Dean started out playing for a few years in bands in New York and New Hampshire, then decided to move closer to surf music's muse: the beach. He hit the road and landed on the hot black asphalt-paved roads of Florida in 2001. Don't let the fact that he can't actually surf turn you off; there aren't many waves in the Sunshine State anyway.
Looking for like-minded musicians, he did what anyone new to the area would do. He got a job at Guitar Center in Hallandale Beach. There, he met drummer David Lopez and local guitar legend Juan Montoya, previously known for his ax-wielding in Pontius Pilot, Ed Matus' Struggle, and Disconnect and more currently infamous as one of the devil's little darlings in Pandabite. A whole band that works at Guitar Center... Hmm, could make for a hilarious new reality-TV show (What happens when musicians stop being polite... and start playing Rush?) or, maybe even a wacky buddy sitcom in which the daily grind of guitar hocking leads to high jinks and broken strings, with a special guest appearance from Yngwie Malmsteen. Laramie and Montoya immediately hit it off, and it helped to ease the transition. "I love him -- he's awesome," Dean says. "He's a really genuine person."
Dean has a round, cherubic face, rosy cheeks, and boyish enthusiasm. Montoya sports long, dark hair and tight black jeans. Together, they could easily be South Florida's rock 'n' roll odd couple. The pairing also makes for one entertaining stage show, since Montoya brings a darker element to the songs that isn't exactly a staple of surf music -- head banging.
Since there is no surfing involved in his surf music, Laramie's poppy instrumentals focus more on fast cars and girls. And instead of knowing how to surf, Dean dabbles in other aspects of the culture: record and car collecting. The Laramie Dean live show also includes drag racing, complete with checkered flags and audio samples of revving engines between songs; Dean, usually clad in a jacket and black tie, chugs a mystery liquid out of a bright-red gas can. The art of the shtick is not lost on him. "I like a show," he says. "I like to be entertained. I'm into having a good time when we play out, and I want people to get involved, especially if nobody knows who you are and you don't have a popular record out. Then you at least need to have a good show. "
Since all of his songs are instrumental, one might think that grabbing an audience would be difficult, especially considering the diminishing attention spans of South Florida crowds. But he sees it differently. "I think it's a freer stage show because we're not tied to a microphone. When people hear something familiar, they tend to stick around, then recognize the melody and get the idea of what we're doing."
Playing with your co-workers in a band, working with your bandmates at the guitar shop... is it safe to say Dean's a gearhead? "I've never actually bought anything from Guitar Center," Dean proudly beams. "I've had all my gear for probably 15 years." To date, Laramie has one seven-inch record out with two songs ("The Last Lap" and "Praang") dedicated strictly to the need for speed. He has also released a handful of tapes. Good ol' cassette tapes. Remember, we're dealing with nostalgia here. However, Laramie promises something meatier sometime this summer: "Before the ten-year anniversary [of Laramie Dean], I want to have a full-length record out!"