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Surfer Blood Lead Singer on Success in the "Internet Age"

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When you think of West Palm Beach mental images of elderly people playing shuffleboard or using their walkers with precision should instantly pop in your heads. If it doesn't, there's something wrong with you...or most likely, me. The Southern Florida city certainly isn't renowned for its clean, crisp indie rock and roll. Until now, said the segue. With their refreshing pop beach rock, Surfer Blood is the coolest thing to happen to West Palm since palm trees were first planted. The band (John Paul Pitts, TJ Schwarz, Thomas Fekete, Brian Black, and Marcos Marchesani), who are currently touring their Floridian asses off, have been dubbed the new "it" band by numerous indie music web sites (Pitchfork digs them big time), and continue to build momentum following the release of their album "Astro Coast."

I spoke with lead singer Pitts between gigs in Glasgow, and found this "Slow Jabroni" refreshingly grounded.

So how goes it in Glasgow?

We like it here.

What is there to do?

I guess there's a lot to do. We're on the guest list for the Ted Leo show tonight.

Do you get a sense that you're gaining momentum as a band? I mean I hear "Swim" a lot on satellite radio.

Definitely. A year ago we were playing like six shows in America to ten people, now we're over here in Europe. Things are a lot different than a year ago. I'd like to think it's not just the hype either. We have been staying very busy, put out a full record, and we're touring hard with it.

You've been touring pretty hard as you said - opening shows and headlining...

Yeah. We've opened up and we're headlining - we have a few festivals mixed in. We love doing the support shows. It's a great way to raise our profile. When you're headlining [however] you get treated nicer by the venue and they pay you more. It just feels good. Anyone can ride on the coattails of someone else, but headlining helps the band improve...

How long have you guys been together?
A year and a month...

Ok, so that's pretty unfair...you're already touring around the world!
It would be unfair if I never touched a guitar before and some producer came up to me with Oakley's and dressed me up to look like I shop at Urban Outfitters. But, we've all paid our dues. All of us have been doing this for years, we've played local shows in Florida, and have been in other bands. We got some breaks but the only reason was we were going on these tours, and got into New York, met some people who gave us a push and along we were. Mostly, it's been word of mouth.

But the Internet surely helped. I mean it's saturated with new artists posting their songs but you broke through...
The Internet age is crazy. It's definitely a double-edge sword. If people pick up on it on a blog, the thing can really take off. But people feel they're entitled to get it for free. It's not unfair either - it's just how the market is. Bands have to stay busy and stay on the road. You can't digitize that.

You guys are obviously fully committed to making music for a living right?

Totally. It's not like we're rich or anything. I just had to have to get my dad to wire me money from the bank because people... who work at banks are stupid. But, not it's been very purposeful since we started the band. We all wanted to do this. We knew we worked harder at music then anything else. We got together, none of us had kids, or other serious career opportunities so we went for it. We're pretty good musicians, all believed in the songs, and said 'we're going to do this.'

Now that you're well on your way... has success gone to your heads?
It's all a learning experience. I'd like to think it hasn't gone to our heads. I still check my emal. We still talk to fans after a show. We're not dicks.

Your music stands out in a crowded indie field...
Our arrangements are kind of unique. We use a lot of digital pop elements - mixing them up and they do their own sort of character.

Are you guys cool being dubbed "Indie rockers?"
It's actually a great thing. It's more in line with who we are. When we started, we didn't have the backing of a label. We were burning CD-R's on our computer, making our own inserts, putting them in cases and giving them out - hoping people who get into it. Then, the next thing we knew we were up on the blogosphere and trying to get people to take down the songs we have them for free in the first place.

[Indie rock] is a term that has come to mean nothing in this day and age. Major labels have no idea what to do because the entire industry has changed dramatically in past couple years and they're still trying to catch up. They'll try to take a band and make them look indie. We're more indie rock in the truest sense of the word. Our whole thing is grassroots.

Remaining Surfer Blood Tour Dates Next Month:
06.02: Baltimore, MD - Ottobar
06.03: Milford, CT - Daniel Street
06.04: Rochester, NY - The German House
06.05: Buffalo, NY - The Tralf
06.06: Cleveland, OH - Beachland Ballroom
06.08: Memphis, TN - Hi Tone Café
06.09: Birmingham, AL - Bottletree Café
06.10: Tallahassee, FL - The Engine Room
06.11: Orlando, FL - Club at Firestone
06.12: Miami, FL - Grand Central - Poplife 11th
06.13: Jacksonville, FL - Jack Rabbits
06.15: Carrboro, NC - Cat's Cradle
06.16: Washington D.C. - Black Cat
07.17: New York - Siren Festival
07.18: Chicago, IL - Pitchfork Music Festival