Two weeks ago, West Palm Beach, Fla., quartet Surfer Blood released the Tarot Classic EP, a blend of dreamy texture, fuzz-laden guitars, and bubbly melodies that harks back to bands like Dinosaur Jr., the Pixies, and the Flaming Lips.
"I had a lot of older friends when I was in high school that were complete and total college radio dorks — deep Dinosaur Jr. fans and stuff like that," explains 25-year-old frontman John Paul Pitts. "They kind of turned me onto it."
Tarot Classics marks a clear advance over last year's well-regarded debut, Astro Coast. That's natural in one respect: 18 months of pretty constant touring really sharpens your chops. Yet there are sonic differences as well. Recorded with friends on very good borrowed equipment ("trying to figure out how to use it most of the time"), it's a lot crisper than their lo-fi debut. The song structures are considerably more focused.
"We got really creative and weird with the sonics on the record," Pitts says. "It's less all over the place, in terms of the songwriting, lyrics, and arrangement. It's just a lot more focused, and I think that's going to be sort of the future of this band."
Apparently the future is now because Surfer Blood's already collected 10 new songs for their Warner Bros. debut. Pitts is hoping to add more by the time they go into the studio in January. He's expecting the album to be out in the late spring (perhaps a bit too ambitious given typical major label timelines)
The band will be road-testing many of these songs on this tour. Pitts readily admits the live show is a different beast than the albums, even if lately they've begun recording together live in the room, rather than track by track.
"When you're in the studio, you have a lot of ideas that can't necessarily be reproduced live, and some you wouldn't even necessarily want reproduced live," he says. "The longer you're a band, the more you live with that. People don't come to your show to hear you play your songs, note-for-note, front-to-back. It's definitely more intense, and the vocal delivery is more in your face. We'll extend parts and have jams that start quiet and get very loud — everything that the live experience should be."