As they set off on a headlining tour in support of sophomore album Pythons, Florida four-piece Surfer Blood took some time out of rehearsals to chat with the Examiner about life on the road, the politics of support acts, and the ups and downs of covers. When asked to describe the band in just a few words, lead singer John Paul Pitts chose “melodic, guitar centric, and catchy.” They bring that sound to the TLA this Friday along with Team Spirit.
Examiner: Where are you guys at the moment?
JP: We’re actually rehearsing right now, the tour starts in a few days. This is our first headlining tour in the US in a few years, so we’re really excited to get on the road again. The first show is in Atlanta, then we’ll be spending four or five weeks on tour.
Examiner: Do you keep writing while you’re on the road, or use the time as a break?
JP: We’re always kind of writing-- coming up with ideas, anyway-- even when we’re on the road. A lot of times we have ideas during sound checks, then work them out more once we’re home again.
Examiner: What do you enjoy most about being on tour? Are you looking forward to bringing Pythons on the road?
JP: We love touring with a new album because it gives us a chance to find fresh ways to play the songs live-- adding some variety and chance to them. We like to change them up to have more open parts and more room to improvise. As the tour goes on, they evolve from just the three-minute songs on the record.
Before the tour, we’ve been getting into the rehearsal room with the new songs and working out different ways to weave them together, alternate endings-- it has been really good to do something more than just play them straight.
Examiner: Pythons is your first record on a major label. How did that change your experience recording and touring?
JP: The biggest difference is that it was our first time recording with a producer in a studio, so we were able to get all of the sounds we had been trying to find. Before this, we’d been recording in more casual spaces, so being in the studio gave us a chance to be pickier about our sound.
As far as the tour itself goes, planning a headline tour is really different. Even if the shows are smaller, it’s so fun to see people really connecting with the music-- a crowd that’s there to see you. That gives you a certain confidence, knowing you don’t have to work to just win over the audience.
Examiner: You’ve toured pretty extensively with a wide variety bands. Who have been some of your favorite tour companions, and what is it like to be on the other side of the table choosing a support act for your tour?
JP: We’ve been fortunate to tour with some really cool bands-- Death Cab, Interpol, we did a long tour with Foals that was a lot of fun. We also got a chance to tour with Pixies, which was a huge honor for us. We never got sick of seeing their set.
When you’re finding a support act, it’s pretty important to choose someone you like and think you can get along with for weeks on end. On this tour, we picked Team Spirit-- they just put out an EP. Their frontman used to be in Passion Pit, and we got to know him playing at festivals, so when we found out he had a new band we were excited to take them on tour.
Examiner: You recently covered “Spanish Bombs” for Google Play. Any favorite covers or plans to bring some on tour?
JP: We’ve done a few covers in the past-- some more successfully than others-- but we were excited to be a part of the compilation with Google. We grew up loving The Clash, so it was a natural choice for us. We’ve also covered Nirvana and Pixies track “Gigantic” for AV Club.
Catch Surfer Blood Friday, October 4 at the TLA.