By: DJ Ducky / Jessie Stepan
We’ve all heard The Beach Boys. You can’t live in America, especially on the Western seaboard, without hearing at least ONE song by the golden-haired Californians. The Beach Boys are to surf music what The Beatles were to modern pop – the perfectors, the originals, a generations-spanning supergroup. For fans of surf rock, it’s easy to think of other names in the genre. Maybe you’ve heard of Dick Dale – the unofficial inventor of the musical subgenre, The Turtles, The Rip Chords, or The Surfaris. For those of you who may have only heard “Good Vibrations”, though, grab your puka (those are back in style now, you know), your suntan lotion, and buckle up for the surfari of a lifetime as I take you into the new millennium and give you a glimpse into the modern era of the surf rock genre. Long gone are the days of the soda fountain and little deuce coupe. I love the Beach Boys & co just as much as the next dad, but it’s time for a more modern spin on the classic sunset filtered, rose-colored tinge of Western beach tunes. Turns out you don’t have to be a Trey to take inspiration from the classic sounds of summer. So in no particular order I introduce you all to the NEW sounds of summer, surf, and shakas.
Summer Salt – “Honeyweed” / “Sweet to Me”
Full disclosure, I had a really tough time choosing a feature song for Summer Salt. “Honeyweed” is a new, new release from July 3rd so I feel like it’s necessary to include because it’s fresh and great. That said, “Sweet to Me” is one of the more popular songs on their Driving to Hawaii EP released in 2015. You know that feeling you get driving down the coastal highway with the windows down, winding up on a secluded beach at dusk with a friend or significant other, bonfire ablazin’ and your body relaxed as it ever could be? “Sweet to Me” is that feeling. Hailing from my home state of Texas, Summer Salt was formed in high school by friends Matthew and Eugene. In 2012 they moved to Austin to pursue their music full time where they eventually gained two more members – Anthony and Elliot – last year. If you were to describe Summer Salt in one sentence, their line from the aptly titled “Driving to Hawaii” comes to mind, “trying to slow down and enjoy the ride of chasing what appears to be an unattainable pipe dream”. As is the case with most surf music, old and new, the music and lyrics are rooted in a perpetual daydream of teenagerdom, coconut scented skin, salty ocean air, and sun-kissed highlights.
落日飛車 Sunset Rollercoaster – “A Little Piece of Sadness”
Summer themed names aren’t a requirement to be included in this blog but they certainly make things fun! Want to know something even more fun?! Sunset Rollercoaster is a Taiwanese band and because of their romantic bossa nova sounds Asian fans placed them in an entirely new genre of rock – pregnantal. That’s right. Listening to Sunset Rollercoaster will get you pregnant. Their latest full-length album called “Cassa Nova” was released in 2018 and featured more bossa nova sound infused with the familiar riffs and licks of classic surf guitar. On their 2011 release cheekily titled “Bossa Nova” the song “A Little Piece of Sadness” takes cues from classic surf punk and ska bands of the ‘90s. The 2011 release is the best true-to-the-surf sound from their original work. It’s just as fun and enticing as their classic pregnantal rock. The entire discography of the Taiwanese group is definitely worth more than one listen. I am adding their newest smooth jazz, surfy, Charlie’s Angels-esque single “Villa” to my summer rotation pronto.
Peach Pit – “Peach Pit”
There are two things you need to know about Peach Pit: 1) they’re PNW born-and-raised and 2) I may have included them because their name definitely has certain 90210 connotations and what’s more surf than Southern California itself? Peach Pit formed in 2016 by two friends in Vancouver, B.C. and gained national attention when a YouTuber discovered their self-titled song “Peach Pit” in 2017. Self described as lo-fi or bedroom pop, Peach Pit encompasses the new sounds of surf music. Much like the Sunset Rollercoaster surf punk inspiration drawn from the ‘90s, Peach Pit includes a lot of nostalgia-driven, fuzzy, garage band dreamy vibes. It’s a great song for late summer nights whether indoors or out. One of the more classic denoters of all modern surf rock is the mix of nostalgia for teenage summers and laid back, easy-listening vocals. Peach Pit hits all the right notes and is an awesome representation of the indie of the PNW.
Bane’s World – “Drowsy”
The 22 year-old Long Beach bedroom pop producer released his first album Drowsy in 2016. He’s been making waves (pun intended) nationally since, including a new single “You Say I’m in Love” released in 2017 that’s reached 24M streams on Spotify. Taking inspiration from the tremolo sounds of classic surf music, “Drowsy” is a slower, melancholic indie surf tune to add to your summer playlist. With a falsetto and overall vibe reminiscent of the classic Twin Peaks song “Just You” there’s something almost eerie about the haunting vocals and slide guitar of “Drowsy”. While not entirely true musically to the surf rock songs that invented the genre, Bane’s World takes the musicality of his native land and transforms it into a lo-fi, experimental, and introspective version of what it once was.
La Luz – “Don’t Leave Me on the Earth”
Surprise! It’s not just the BOYS of summer. La Luz is a stellar quartet based in Seattle formed in 2012 who is still severely underrated. With the most true-to-surf sound of the entire lineup here, it’s a wonder why the group hasn’t taken off! Although they began by self-producing, La Luz recently recorded their 2018 album “Floating Features” with Dan Auerbach of The Black Keys in Los Angeles. On the final track “Don’t Leave Me on the Earth” they harmonize sweetly about death and love. The lyrics are haunting and the guitar rocking. You can feel the crashing waves of existential dread flooding in on your ears while listening. If you’re looking for classic surf music, look no further than this. With insane musical talent and an incredible ambition and drive to keep making music, this girl group isn’t going anywhere except to the beach… with me… on my car stereo next weekend.
So now you’ve got a start to your own essential summer coastal playlist. It’s clear the surf rock of yesteryear is still heavily influencing the sounds of modern indie and bedroom pop. Growing up listening to the saccharine California pop and sweet, sweet harmonies of The Beach Boys with my own dad has given me a love for all things summer and surf. The genre’s not just about California, hot rods, and surfing anymore though. It’s about the summer sun, a salty breeze, and a tranquil feeling that can only be felt at the ocean. With these bands in tow, it’s time to go out and live your summer teenage dreams with a soundtrack that even your dad would enjoy.