Surfer Blood's JP Pitts on Where the Band Is Today: "We Are All Still Best Friends"

Pythons. The long-awaited follow up to the collection of lo-fi fuzzy gems that made up Astro Coast, is slated for a June 11 release date. 

It's been a long time coming for Surfer Blood, who technically self-released Astro Coast three years and some months ago. An impressive debut, it showcased Surfer Blood's use of Pixies' start-stop dynamics, and Pitts' Black Francis' style roar. The album won a place on our 2009 Best Of List and on many an accredited national music sites around the nation.

Recorded and mixed in front man JP Pitts' apartment in early 2009, it wasn't held back by its DIY nature. 

In stark contrast, Surfer Blood received all-access to Warner Bros' mac daddy LA studio for their second full length. Additionally, the up-and-coming four-piece was bequeathed recording help from big name producer Gil Norton (known for his work with the Pixies, and Echo and the Bunnymen, to name a few,) and mixing help from Rob Schnapf (who lists such names as Beck, Elliott Smith, and Guided By Voices as clients). 

Because so much time passed between releases, rumors circulated that Surfer Blood was undergoing turmoil and the dreaded sophomore slump has sunk its claws into the promising, fresh-faced musicians. Nothing could be further from the truth, according to the group's introspective lead vocalist JP Pitts. Yesterday, New Times caught up with the soft-spoken, reflective singer to hear about his foursome's meteoric rise through the indie ranks and reason it took so long to release its anticipated major label debut.

Speaking from his parent's home in West Palm Beach where he is residing until the Surfer Blood boys make the move out to LA this summer, Pitts promises that the band's bond is stronger than ever: "We are all still best friends." He says that he couldn't have gone through the experience with anyone else.  

Since first meeting guitarist Thomas Fekete with drummer Tyler Schwarz, oddly enough, at an Ultra Music Festival after-party, and with years on the road behind them, they've only gotten closer.

Pitts says it was Fekete who brought the attitude that Surfer Blood could be more than just a local band. "He came to us with a lot of positivity and convinced us that with the right confidence and proper commitment, Surfer Blood could burst out of the local scene and find a national audience. The idea really never had occurred to me before then." 

We wondered if the group found it more difficult to cull creative energy, on demand, in the fancy confines of a well-equipped major label studio. Pitts says the upscale studio experience was a liberating one. "It allowed us to focus on the arrangements and performances rather than worrying about the minutiae of the recording, such as files being corrupt and stuff like that."

According to Pitts, sophomore slump pressure was nonexistent in these Surfer Blood's studio sessions. "Warner Bros gave us the opportunity to make the record we always wanted to make; they have been supportive with us from the day we signed to the label." 

Surfer Blood has benefited greatly from the large, specialized team that is dedicated to their success, rather than dealing with the limitations found in smaller labels, which often have a staff of two people. He does admit that the band had significant reservations about signing to a major label, but at the end, the perks of a chance at greater airplay and distribution convinced them to "take the leap of faith." And that leap will likely pay off. 

The new album doesn't totally mark a new sound for the band, but Pitts admits it's more dynamic than their first. "When we made the first record, we did the writing and recording all at once," he points out, adding that Pythons does sound a bit more kitsch, but the marked difference between the albums is in their quality. 

"The songwriting is much more precise and punctuated," he admits, thanking Norton for helping make the songs flow more naturally. 

All the songs on the album were written in the last year and a half since Pitts says that the band spent the last two years touring extensively, and simply didn't have time to focus on songwriting. Taking that time is one of Pitts' biggest regrets. Additionally, he explains that constructing a song can be a lengthy process, "When I write, I like to block out a lot of time." That made writing while on tour impossible. He deliberately took his time to allow himself and his band to grow as musicians. He thinks the new record reflects that sentiment in a positive way.

And the singer couldn't be happier with the end result. "Weird Shapes," for instance, a song released on the web this week, provides a nice sample of the sonic tools the band used on the record. "It will give fans a good idea of what direction we are heading in next," say Pitts about the heftier sound. 

With a major tour coming up with danceable indie act Foals this spring, a gig at Sasquatch Festival, and five SXSW dates booked, we wondered what kind of luxuries being on a major label has afforded Surfer Blood while touring. 

"Well, we are not the most luxurious touring bad," shrugged Pitts. "We still tour in a van, but at least we can afford to stay in a hotel now, that's nice. My back is ruined from sleeping on floors when we first started." With Pythons coming out on June 11, and the move up from floor to hotel bed, we're betting on the success of our hometown boys.  

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