10 Surf Bands That Actually Rip
Wrap your bleeding pterygiums and infected ears around this, waxheads...
From The Beach Boys to The Sunnyboys, Radio Birdman to King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard, here are ten surf bands that actually rip.
When it comes to surfing and music, you won't find a more fruitful relationship than that which occurs in The Sunnyboys.
A much loved band from the halcyon Australian pub-rock scene of the 1980s, lead singer Jeremy Oxley was actually the Queensland State Surf Champ before taking up music. Upon taking the reigns of the band, he quit surfing altogether.
"The band recently reformed. I was there. It was sick."
Oxley would be later diagnosed as a schizophrenic. Some say the endless variations and distortions of sound soothed his troubled mind much in the same way surfing had.
By their early 20s the band had a Gold Record but Oxley's mental issues would call a halt to the band prematurely.
To this day he refuses to accept the diagnosis, pointing to his tremendous success as a musician, surfer and, to a lesser extent, graphic artist as proof. The band reformed recently for a small run of shows. I was there. It was sick.
The Beach Boys
Before we get too far in, let's go back to the beginning of this whole surf music thing. There we find SoCal's original 'surf boys', The Beach Boys.
Although the lads would later fall down the hole of extravagant coke addiction and mental health issues (Brian Wilson, mostly), their beginnings were so humble, so wholesome and so surf, it hurt.
Originally formed by the Wilson brothers (Brian, Dennis, Carl) along with cousin Mike Love and friend Al Jardine, the band's roots very much lay in the DIY garage culture that would come to define the genre.
"Their beginnings were so humble, so wholesome and so surf, it hurt"
Their original hit, Surfin' was made on rented guitars, drums, amplifiers and microphones in the Wilson family home while the parents were away holidays (doing mounds of coke presumably, if addiction is the genetically inherited trait it's supposed to be).
Truth be told, only Dennis was a frother, though the band would share an affinity for the surf for most of their career. Or at least cash in on it to make hits, I'm not sure.
Recently, Brian Wilson gave the remake of Morning of The Earth, Spirit of Akasha, a rare unreleased track, to use. And it semi-rips.
The Goons of Doom
Ozzie Wright's Goons of Doom had similar beginnings to the Beach Boys in that both started on rented instruments.
In their case, they rented them to be used as props in the cult-classic surf film, Doped Youth, before realising that instruments are kinda sick, playing them is even better (even if it sounds fucked), and fuck it, let's start a band.
Five years later they'd be playing to up to ten thousand confused fans in Biarritz and Tokyo on their way to cult-classic status.
They're still alive and kicking on the northern beaches today. Ozzie's just had his second kid and you can hear Goons frontman, Vaughan Dead live and deadly on my radio show.
The Japanese Motors
Hailing from Newport, California, and good friends of the Goons of Doom, The Japanese Motors were unfortunate to meet a grizzly demise, critically speaking.
Frontman Al Knost's mastery on a surfboard may not be in question but musically? We'll let you be the judge.
This crew of SoCal surfers did enjoy some success, however, putting out a couple of records on the Vice label and supporting bands as big as the Black Lips and the Growlers.
"Their more in-your-face retro tracks reek of posturing"
Not everyone was into it, however, in particular the incredibly influential Pitchfork magazine, who gave it to the poor pricks in the following review:
"While those cuts are merely underwhelming and escapist, their more in-your-face retro tracks reek of posturing. B.N.E. with its bluesy chorus of "she wants a brand new everything" gets wise to this whole superficial, materialistic SoCal culture - an observation that's been made in like a hundred jagillion (I checked) works of art in the last century."
Suffice to say the Japanese Motors are no longer. Al Knost now fronts a new band with fellow RVCA team rider, Ford Archbold (son of 90s surf punk legend, Matt).
While we're in Newport, let's check out The Growlers from nearby Costa Mesa. A number of them bodyboard and live for the days at the world famous Newport Wedge.
Close friends and regular jam partners of Al Knost, Andrew Doheny and Ford Archbold, they started out as a Doors cover band. More often than not they live/record/perform out of a Costa Mesan warehouse
Now, they've since morphed into something kinda epic, packing out shows all through America and the Australian east coast.
"There's something kinda eery about their music, like surf pop but super melodic"
Australian shred-head and part-time guitar enthusiast, Creed Mctaggart caught them play a hometown show and had this to say:
"There's something kinda eery about their music, like surf-pop but super melodic. The lead singer has this kind of strange monotone voice and they use heaps of reverb.
I reckon they're pretty Beatlesy, definitely a 70s kind of vibe. The lead singer's voice is really unique and you know, they're definitely unique and capture you."
A generation before The Sunnyboys and a definite influence on them, these Sydney-based shredders were probably the single most important band in Australian rock.
Every bit as seminal as the Ramones, they never really got the attention or celebrity they deserved. Probably because America is just so fucking good at jerking off over their own culture, whereas in Australia if you so much as acknowledge your fans you get pegged with steaming hot meat pies.
Their sound stinks of a mouldy wetsuit in a dank panel van - as in fucking sick. It's The Clash meets the Dead Kennedy's with a good helping of melodious surf riffs, keys and vocals to boot.
Proud late 70s waxheads, Radio Birdman churned out a dozen or so classics before going their separate ways way back in '78. They reformed again in 1996 and have played very sporadically since.
You might know Mickey Smith as the artistic wunderkind behind Dark Side of the Lens, along with half a dozen of the best surf shots and films you're ever likely to see.
He was a semi-pro bodyboarder before that (with a particular affinity for dredging slabs) and now kills it as a musician. That's actually his music on Dark Side of the Lens, while lately he's been touring around with two-time Brit award winner, Ben Howard.
Pretty classic how that happened: Mickey shot the cover for Ben's album, Every Kingdom, and they got to playing music after that. Ben dug him, they formed a little side-project and then Ben went and won two Brit awards.
Next thing Mick knew, he was staring out at a capacity Glastonbury crowd. "Unbelievable natural psychedelics man," he told me. "It was more like a moving sea of 80,000 people all singin' along. I've never felt sea sick before but I did up there," he says.
Flying Stealth a.k.a. Jordy Smith
This had public humiliation written all over it.
"We just wanted to combine Jordy's amazing surfing with music at a high level," say the boys from South African pop outfit, Goldfish, about this unlikely collaboration.
So what was the outcome? Not as bad as you'd think, in fact. Some would say downright pleasant.
Such is Moby-esque production skills of the Goldfish lads, they're able to turn the current world title contender's vocals into something halfway listenable.
King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard
You've probably heard of Tame Impala right? Well, KGLW are one of half a dozen other psyche/rock/blues bands in Oz ripping at the moment. Better yet, a bunch of them hail from down Surf Coast, Victoria way.
It was here that the great mysto shred-demon, Wayne Lynch disappeared in the 1970s while on the run from conscription.
He was joined by the likes of Gerry Lopez at times. Together they took a lot of acid and went surfing. They probably listened to a shitload of Hendrix and Zeppelin too. You don't have to look far to see the connection with KGLW
Just to reinforce how hard Australia is killing it in psyche-world at the moment, here are the Babe Rainbows, hailing from the famous surfing heartland of the New South Wales north coast.
It was here that the shortboard evolution was born, when a loose cohort of aqua-bohemians lopped the tops off their malibus so they could get more pitted. All of which was beautifully captured in the seminal art house surf film, Morning of the Earth.
These boys love single fins and they love point breaks. As for their music, well, there's more than a little pisstake in what these guys do, but fuck it sounds good.
You could say they're the acid scene come full circle. Which is pretty weird, cause acid is pretty circular to begin with. I'll stop now. This is starting to sound like a post-grad essay.