Hey Australians! Manly Festival of Surfing Starts Today!

I’m thinking this post will be “today” in Australia, but the fManly Festival starts tomorrow for those of us in the U.S.

The is the debut of this surfing festival, which is actually not a music festival, but an actual surfing festival.  However, surfer or not, the music will be a draw for surf music fans.

The big band is The Atlantics. The Atlantics started back in the 60’s classic surf era, and had an internation hit with Bombora.

Manly Surf Music Festival
Manly Surf Music Festival

If you can make it, here’s more info on the music scene there:

http://www.manlyfestivalofsurfing.com.au/event_music.html

Last.FM Surf Radio Station

We’ve got a new surf radio station for you to check out on Last.FM.

We’ve added a whole bunch of surf bands, especially current bands.  It turned out to be a really cool station when I listened.  So head over here:

SurfGuitar.com’s Last.FM surf radio station

And click this button:

If you see this button, click it real hard
If you see this button, click it real hard

Enjoy – and let us know what bands we should add in below.

What is Surf Music?

Sometimes when listening to a band, I wonder if it qualifies as “surf music.” So we’re going to try and answer the question of “what is surf music” here.

We’ll start with a look from ye old Wikipedia for a definition:

Surf music is a genre of popular music associated with surf culture, particularly Orange County and other areas of Southern California. It was particularly popular between 1961 and 1965, has subsequently been revived and was highly influential on subsequent rock music. It has two major forms: largely instrumental surf rock, with an electric guitar or saxophone playing the main melody, pioneered by acts such as Dick Dale and the Del-Tones, and vocal surf pop, including both surf ballads and dance music, often with strong harmonies that are most associated with The Beach Boys.

So there we have a basic definition.  We focus mostly on the instrumental form on this site, so let’s look into that further.  Here’s a little more on the types of sounds heard in instrumental surf music from Kahuna Kawentzmann, formerly of the German surf band The Looney Tunes:

This kind of re­verb ef­fect is sel­dom­ly heard in other mu­si­cal styles, but can be found on the drum tracks of 1970s dub reg­gae record­ings. With the con­nec­tion to mid cen­tu­ry surf­ing cul­ture came in­flu­ences from abroad in the form of Fla­men­co melodies, Poly­ne­sian in­spired Ex­ot­i­ca tunes and jun­gle mood drum­ming.

Taken in context of the music at the time, it’s interesting to look at how it evolved separately from similar music. A lot of influential rock music was coming out at the time, which splintered off indifferent directions. Leonard Lueras in Surfing, The Ultimate Pleasure writes:

Transition artists such as Chuck Berry, Duane Eddy and the inventive oldtimer, Les Paul, had long been experimenting with tremolos, echolettes and other such techno music toys, but these gimmicks were usually utlized for the odd temporary effect.  Not until Dale began promoting himself as a surf guitarist and calling such sustained electro riffs ‘surf music,’ was this pecular sound given a popular or proper generic name.

Here again we see Dick Dale given a nod for both the sound, and the name of surf music.  Wikipedia has a take on this as well:

By the early 1960s instrumental rock and roll had been pioneered successfully by performers such as Duane Eddy, Link Wray, and The Ventures. This trend was developed by Dick Dale who added the distinctive reverb, the rapid alternate picking characteristic of the genre, as well as Middle Eastern and Mexican influences, producing the regional hit “Let’s Go Trippin'” in 1961 and launching the surf music craze.

The Ventures, mentioned above, also had one of the first surf songs to make the Billboard Hot 100 chart with “Walk Don’t Run.” Another song often mentioned as one of the first surf songs is “Mr. Moto” by The Belairs, in the video below:

Beyond simply the sound of surf music, part of what made a song a “surf” song was the strong association with surfing, California, beaches, Woodie cars, etc.

Woodie Car at the Beach with a Surfboard
Woodie Car at the Beach with a Surfboard

Kahuna Kawentzmann also dives into this distinction between surf music and other forms of instrumental rock.  He breaks them into surf, indo rock, eleki (largely Japanese), Asia a go go, European rock instrumentals, Latin American, biker movie soundtracks, and the pioneers.  Definitely worth a read.

Fast forward to the present, songs are still being labeled as surf rock. A number bands, along with the surfy soundtrack of Pulp Fiction, helped renew surf music in the 90’s such as Man or Astroman, the Mermen, the Blue Stingrays, and many others. There are some bands, the Torquays and the Eliminators, for example, playing largely the classic surf sound.  But there are also modern bands that have much in common with rockabilly, punk, space rock, and other genres. From Phil Dirt:

Many of the bands that perform surf now are pushing the envelope of what surf music is. To borrow a band name from Teisco Del Rey, they are the “Lords Of The New Surf“. These new bands have stayed with the original instrumental genre as a foundation, shunning the vocal pop that diluted and polluted it over 30 years ago. They have infused new life via the combination of their healthy respect and love for the pure instrumental form, and varied approach incorporating many influences.

Here’s a good look at what’s involved in being labeled “Surf Music” today from Pitchfork Media:

Somewhere along the line, surf music ceased to have anything to do with actual surfing and migrated to kitsch. But although shuddering tremolo bars fit the image of a guy in floral print trunks, the music is mostly instrumental and as such essentially abstract, so you can make it mean anything you want it to. Even early surf rockers like the Ventures and the Tornados realized this and began to incorporate the astronautical, lounge, and kitsch elements that color most efforts in the genre these days. So the term “surf” as it relates to music today basically just refers to music with lots of reverb and crazy guitar playing…”

Surf music today seems to have less to do with surfing than references to robots, monsters, outer space and any other weirdness you can think of.  This is a good fit with what as El Surfadero said the other day – every surf band has a bit. So if you want to be a surf band today, slap on your Mexican wrestling mask, give yourself a cool name, and set your reverb on 11.

The Ghastly Ones: Spooky Surf Garage Music from Van Nuys, CA

Today’s Surf Guitar interview is with The Ghastly Ones, a very popular surf band from Van Nuys, CA. These guys are awesome. With song themes revolving around monster movies and graveyards, it is very easy to describe their music as spooky. I love their devotion to surf ideals: awesome gear, awesome tone and references to monsters, planets and werewolves. Well, maybe not every surf band writes about werewolves, but we think all surf bands should consider it!

Spooky Surf Band: The Ghastly Ones from Van Nuys, CA
Spooky Surf Band: The Ghastly Ones from Van Nuys, CA

Today’s Surf Guitar interview is with The Ghastly Ones, a very popular surf band from Van Nuys, CA. These guys are awesome. With song themes revolving around monster movies and graveyards, it is very easy to describe their music as spooky. I love their devotion to surf ideals: awesome gear, awesome tone and references to monsters, planets and werewolves. Well, maybe not every surf band writes about werewolves, but we think all surf bands should consider it!

  1. How long have you been playing together?
    Garrett “Dr. Lehos” and I started the band around the summer/fall of 1996. We used to practice and write songs while watching Russ Meyer and 60’s monster movies on TV in my living room.
  2. What city do you claim as your hometown?
    We sprang from the mean streets of Van Nuys, CA.
  3. Do you have any nicknames?
    Garrett is Dr. Lehos, I’m Baron Shivers and Dave is Capt. Clegg. We don’t call each other these nicknames mind you. We just thought it would be more interesting for the album credits plus they go with the undertaker vibe.
  4. What songs come up on shuffle on your ipod?
    Stuff like The Beach Boys, The Beatles, Jan and Dean, The Ventures, the Ramones, The Shangri-La’s, Chuck Berry. I listen to about 80% music from the sixties and fifties, 15% music from the seventies and eighties, and about 5% or maybe even less of music from now.
  5. If you had the chance for some interstellar travel, what planet would you colonize?
    Planet Draculon, of course! Although, I hear the girls on Venus are quite nice.
  6. What kind of music do you say you play?
    Surf and Garage. Most people flat line if you try to explain anything beyond that.
  7. Tell us about everybody’s gear.
    Garrett plays mostly Mosrite, but he’s known to play Burns, Yamaha and Fender now and then. I have a ’67 Ludwig. And Dave plays a Keyboard that he built that he calls The Rasputone.
  8. Spaghetti westerns or spaghetti meatballs?
    Both, but not at the same time.
  9. What’s your favorite venue to play?
    Any place where the people are dancing, jumping around and having a good time.
  10. Who’s your favorite superhero?
    I’m actually more into Creepy and Eerie comics from the 60’s than superheroes.
  11. Are there any other surf bands we should check out?
    There are a lot of really good ones now, but my favorites are Satan’s Pilgrims, Jackie and The Cedrics and The Dynotones.
  12. If all of your band members were in a knife fight, who would win?
    Geez, I would hate to see that happen but it’s come close.
  13. Have you ever actually surfed?
    I never go to the beach without my bogey board!
  14. Favorite surf guitar song?
    Tuff to answer but I’ll say… Bikini Drag by The Pyramids. That’s the first thing that popped into my head.
  15. Favorite SciFi movie?
    War of the Gargantuas!
  16. If you saw Mothra standing on the sidewalk asking for change, would you give him a buck or tell him to get a real job?
    I doubt Mothra would ask for change. He’s too busy destroying Tokyo.
  17. Do you drink beer while you play?
    Beer is a key ingredient to a good surf sound, but too much and the audience will definitely disagree with you.
  18. When is your next tour?
    We played more shows this year than ever. We just got back from playing a festival in Nottingham, England and everyone is pretty burnt out, so we’re going to take a break from shows till next year.
  19. Do you plan to release an album anytime soon?
    We have a brand new 4 song, 7 inch vinyl EP coming in mid-October. You can get it at www.ghastlyones.com
  20. If you could make a worm hole to any time and place, where would you go?
    If that were possible I would love to be a teenager in SoCal circa 1963 to witness the original Surf Music boom..
Spooky Surf Band: The Ghastly Ones from Van Nuys, CA
Spooky Surf Band: The Ghastly Ones from Van Nuys, CA
Spooky Surf Band: The Ghastly Ones from Van Nuys, CA
Spooky Surf Band: The Ghastly Ones from Van Nuys, CA
Spooky Surf Band: The Ghastly Ones from Van Nuys, CA
Spooky Surf Band: The Ghastly Ones from Van Nuys, CA

Cheers and Reverb!

The Secret Samurai: Instrumental Surf Music from San Diego, CA

Today’s surf band interview is with the Secret Samurai. They are a 3-piece instrumental surf band from San Diego, CA. They are just coming off a recent tour, so we caught them at a great time. By the way, they recently played a show at San Francisco’s Hotel Utah with top surf bands Daikaiju, Pollo Del Mar and the TomorrowMen. I would have loved to see that show!

The Secret Samurai: Instrumental Surf Music from San Diego, CA
The Secret Samurai: Instrumental Surf Music from San Diego, CA

Today’s surf band interview is with The Secret Samurai. They are a 3-piece instrumental surf band from San Diego, CA. They are just coming off a recent tour, so we caught them at a great time. By the way, they recently played a show at San Francisco’s Hotel Utah with top surf bands Daikaiju, Pollo Del Mar and the TomorrowMen. I would have loved to be at that show!

  1. How long have you been playing together?
    Steve and Ryan have been playing together for about 15 years. For 10 years in Surf Report, and most recently with The Secret Samurai. Bill, our drummer has played with us for two years.
  2. What city do you claim as your hometown?
    San Diego
  3. Do you have any nicknames?
    Ruhar, Steve-O, and Bilbo
  4. What songs come up on shuffle on your ipod?
    Anything from Mahavishnu Orchestra to The Madeira
  5. If you had the chance for some interstellar travel, what planet would you colonize?
    Titan, because it is the only moon in our solar system to have a dense atmosphere and is rich in carbon-bearing compounds.
  6. What kind of music do you say you play?
    Instrumental
  7. Tell us about everybody’s gear.
    Ryan plays a Fender ’62 AVRI Stratocaster and Jazzmaster depending on mood through either a ’67 Dual Showman or ’63 Vibroverb Reissue. Steve plays a Frankenstein P-Bass through a Gallien-Krueger 800RB Amp and Ampeg 4×10″ Cabinet
  8. Spaghetti westerns or spaghetti meatballs?
    Ennio Morricone is my lord and personal savior.
  9. What’s your favorite venue to play?
    Bar Pink in San Diego, Hotel Utah in San Francisco
  10. Who’s your favorite superhero?
    Silver Surfer, of course
  11. Are there any other surf bands we should check out?
    The Madeira, The TomorrowMen, Pollo Del Mar, Los Twang! Marvels, The Barbwires
  12. If all of your band members were in a knife fight, who would win?
    Bill, due to his lean profile, he would be nearly impossible to strike
  13. Have you ever actually surfed?
    Yep. Surfed pretty actively for a couple of years, but haven’t in quite a while so I’m only partially legit.
  14. Favorite surf guitar song?
    Impossible to answer, but for the sake of argument, a tie between Return of the Space Cossack by Los Twang! Marvels, The Rattler by The Huntington Cads, and Undercurrents by The Madeira.
  15. Favorite SciFi movie?
    Star Wars. I know boring, but it is what it is.
  16. If you saw Mothra standing on the sidewalk asking for change, would you give him a buck or tell him to get a real job?
    I would give Mothra whatever he wanted. I’d tell Godzilla to get a real job though.
  17. Do you drink beer while you play?
    Not as much as I used to. I’m a pretty moderate drinker these days. The reduction has lowered my suck ratio on stage.
  18. When is your next tour?
    We just finished touring actually, so it might be a while.
  19. Have you released an album lately or do you plan to release an album anytime soon?
    We released Gun-Sho-Gun in Feb. 2008 and have enough material for another album. Just need to find the time and resources to put another one out. Hopefully we’ll be able to get our sophmore out in 2010.
  20. If you could make a worm hole to any time and place, where would you go?
    To the Columbia 30th Street Studio, New York City, 1959 during the recording sessions for Miles Davis’ Kind of Blue album. I would want to witness absolute perfection just once.

Thanks to Ryan Ruiz from the Secret Samurai for the interview. Also, I think the Secret Samurai have some of the best show fliers around. Here are a few:

Surf Band Fliers: The Secret Samurai from San Diego, CA
Surf Band Fliers: The Secret Samurai from San Diego, CA
Surf Band Fliers: The Secret Samurai from San Diego, CA
Surf Band Fliers: The Secret Samurai from San Diego, CA
Surf Band Fliers: The Secret Samurai from San Diego, CA
Surf Band Fliers: The Secret Samurai from San Diego, CA

Cheers & Reverb!

The Malamondos Surf Band: Psycho-A-Go-Go in Greensboro, NC

For our next interview, we present The Malamondos from Greensboro, NC. I really like these guys. They definitely have that surf vibe, but there is also a nice dose of psychobilly attitude in their sound as well. And the guitar tones are killer! The Malamondos also have a badass vocalist (Hunny Goodnight), and they play a self-described ‘psycho-a-go-go’ style of music. Check them out if you find yourself in North Carolina.

Psycho-A-Go-Go Surf: The Malamondos from Greensboro, NC
Psycho-A-Go-Go Surf: The Malamondos from Greensboro, NC

For our next interview, we present The Malamondos from Greensboro, NC. I really like these guys. They definitely have that surf vibe, but there is also a nice dose of psychobilly attitude in their sound as well. And the guitar tones are killer! The Malamondos also have a badass vocalist (Hunny Goodnight), and they play a self-described ‘psycho-a-go-go’ style of music. Check them out if you find yourself in North Carolina.

20 Questions from SurfGuitar.com, obviously the most popular site on the internet

  1. How long have you been playing together?
    The Malamondos as a band has been around for 7 1/2 years, with the current line-up being in place for 2 1/2.
  2. What city do you claim as your hometown?
    Greensboro, NC
  3. Do you have any nicknames?
    Nah, but we all have stage-names…Hunny Goodnight, Van Serpico, Mick and Max Diablo. Our go-go girls are simply M1 and M2.
  4. What songs come up on shuffle on your ipod?
    Good god…too many to mention by song title…as artists go there’s a lot of garage (old and new), surf, punk…along with other stuff. I have like 24 days worth of songs on there.
  5. If you had the chance for some interstellar travel, what planet would you colonize?
    The one inhabited by big-hair 60s gals!
  6. What kind of music do you say you play?
    Psycho-a-go-go.
  7. Tell us about everybody’s gear.
    I (Van) have a stable of Hallmark guitars…Swept-Wings, Stradettes and 60 Customs. I also have a Phantom Teardrop and a Reverend Ron Asheton signature. I also have most of the recent Dano reissues. I do an A/B/Y amp setup with a Tone King Meteor II and a Dr. Z Maz NR 18. Our bassist primarily uses a Jerry Jones and a Hallmark Swept-Wing with an Ampeg combo. Our drummer has the John Bonham set.
  8. Spaghetti westerns or spaghetti meatballs?
    One while watching the other.
  9. What’s your favorite venue to play?
    The Garage in Winston-Salem, NC.
  10. Who’s your favorite superhero?
    Dr. Strange
  11. Are there any other surf bands we should check out?
    Killer Filler, The Noseriders…those about the only other surf-type bands we’ve played with. Plus Southern Culture on the Skids usually have one or two great instrumental surf songs on their albums. Same with The Queers.
  12. If all of your band members were in a knife fight, who would win?
    Probably Hunny. She can be brutal!
  13. Have you ever actually surfed?
    Hell, I can barely swim.
  14. Favorite surf guitar song?
    Church Key.
  15. Favorite SciFi movie?
    Hmmmm…tough one…I’m more of a horror guy…I guess Star Wars.
  16. If you saw Mothra standing on the sidewalk asking for change, would you give him a buck or tell him to get a real job?
    Get a job and stop dusting everyone!
  17. Do you drink beer while you play?
    Yup. PBR…nice and cheap.
  18. When is your next tour?
    We really can’t go out for tours, plus people just don’t make it out to live shows like they used to. We tend to play out three or four times a month, though.
  19. Have you released an album lately or do you plan to release an album anytime soon?
    Yes, we’re writing the album now. Looking at recording early next year, with the album being released on a new label called Spider Baby that I’m starting with Joe Queer.
  20. If you could make a worm hole to any time and place, where would you go?
    Mid-60s England, most likely, but I’d split my time there and in the US.
Psychobilly Surf Band: The Malamondos
Psychobilly Surf Band: The Malamondos

Cheers!

Astrochrist Surf Band: Cosmic Gospel Surf Music in Dallas, TX

We are beginning a series of interviews with surf bands. Our first interview is with Astrochrist from Dallas, TX. Check it out now! Here even!

Astrochrist Surf Band from Dallas, TX
Astrochrist Surf Band from Dallas, TX

We are beginning a series of interviews with surf bands. Our first interview is with Astrochrist from Dallas, TX. Check it out now! Here even!

  1. How long have you been playing together?
    One earth year.
  2. What city do you claim as your hometown?
    The Sovereign Nation of Texas is our current base of operations.
  3. Do you have any nicknames?
    Sometimes Reverend Dangerwood goes by Susan
  4. What songs come up on shuffle on your ipod?
    What is this ipod of which you speak? Shuffle? Tell me more!
  5. If you had the chance for some interstellar travel, what planet would you colonize?
    We’re actually colonizing yours right now, take us to your babes.
  6. What kind of music do you say you play?
    Cosmic Gospel Surf Music
  7. Tell us about everybody’s gear.
    Father Edna Strange plays his elegant white Telecaster through a purple Marshall Halfstack. Crimbot 5000 plays a Harmony Bass from the 80s (it’s surf I promise) through an Ampeg SVT. Reverend Dangerwood plays, among other things, an Epiphone dot with righteous lipstick pickups through a Fender DeVille (2×12). Brother Bob plays some delightful Pearl kit that I can’t remember right now with a Chad Smith signature snare that has just been set up and resnared for added freshness.
  8. Spaghetti westerns or spaghetti meatballs?
    Westerns! How can you think about pasta when the banditos are running off with our party liquor?!
  9. What’s your favorite venue to play?
    Hot Rod shows like The Round Up in Central Texas
  10. Who’s your favorite superhero?
    Captain Reverb
  11. Are there any other surf bands we should check out?
    The Surf Coasters from Japan kick all kinds of ass.
  12. If all of your band members were in a knife fight, who would win?
    Brother Bob, his mother is a tiger… a fucking tiger
  13. Have you ever actually surfed?
    Sure, on the internet
  14. Favorite surf guitar song?
    I’m not really into picking favorites, but off the top of my head I’ll just say “Chunder” by Friends of Dean Martinez.
  15. Favorite SciFi movie?
    “Blood Freak…” okay it’s actually a bad horror flick, but it’s got some science bs.
  16. If you saw Mothra standing on the sidewalk asking for change, would you give him a buck or tell him to get a real job?
    If I weren’t broke myself I’d just take him straight to the liquor store and start shoppin.’
  17. Do you drink beer while you play?
    No, silly. My hands are full of guitar, but in between songs, yes.
  18. When is your next tour?
    After college is over.
  19. Have you released an album lately or do you plan to release an album anytime soon?
    Currently in production. Hopefully it will be done soon.
  20. If you could make a worm hole to any time and place, where would you go?
    I would go find Andrew Jackson and punch him in the dick.

-Rev Dangerwood

Astrochrist Surf Band from Dallas, TX
Astrochrist Surf Band from Dallas, TX
Astrochrist Surf Band from Dallas, TX
Astrochrist Surf Band from Dallas, TX
Astrochrist & Zardoz
Astrochrist & Zardoz

“Walk Don’t Run” Covers

The Ventures are one of the classic surf bands, and “Walk Don’t Run” is one of the most classic surf songs.  Because of the lasting popularity of the song, it’s one that’s been covered numerous times.  Below are a few covers of “Walk Don’t Run” that I found worth a listen…

Here’s the original if you need a refresher:

Now here’s a version from guitar great Chet Atkins.  It’s a cool acoustic, jazzy version:

And here’s a ukele version of the song, which is also very enjoyable.  It’s done by a felt bear and rabbit apparently:

Another acoustic version, but with more guitar parts.  This is by the California Guitar Trio, but the sound quality is pretty lousy:

And the final one, this is more of an update to the original version. It’s by the Shadows, and I like this version the best:

Give us your opinions on the best covers of this song…

The Vanduras – Surf Rock Takes Some Tranquilizers

The band of the week is a great group called the Vanduras.  It reminds me of Vandelay Industries, so that’s already a good start.

The only album the Vanduras appear to have released was 2002’s In The Dark. The music is composed and most instruments played by father & son Geoff Brandin and Gary Brandin.

The album is hardly the up tempo, guitar-centric usual offering of the genre.  It’s got a very laid back vibe, mixing ambient music, surf, and also western element.  In The Dark is instrumental, with very prominent pedal steel parts, lending to the western feel.

I imagine the plan for the album went something like this:

“Hey I think we should do an album together.”

“OK. How about we play surf music?”

“Perfect. Hey do we have time to down some whiskey and pop a handful of Valiums before we go into the studio?”

“I don’t see why not…”

The Vanduras Surf Noir Band
The Vanduras Surf Noir Band

Just take a look at the band photo and guess what kind of music they play. How often do you see a Telecaster, cowboy hat and lap steel guitar in surf bands?

Interestingly, Gary Bradin is also in a well known contemporary surf band, the Blue Hawaiians.  They are definitely worth checking out as well, and we will certainly write a post about them in the future.

Let us know what yoy think of the Vanduras…