Silver Linings 

Surfer Blood’s John Paul Pitts takes the good with the bad for their newest record

Casual fans of Surfer Blood likely know at least two things about the Florida band. First, they likely all agree that the song "Floating Vibes" off of the band's first album is a damn fine tune and very catchy one at that. However, the other bit of Surfer Blood info that most people know is darker.

Following a series of articles in Pitchfork about three years ago, you'll see why lead singer John Paul Pitts is looking to move forward. A domestic dispute between him and his former girlfriend was a hot bit of gossip in the indie rock world for a while and the music blog's post-incident interview with Pitts revealed that the charges, which were eventually dropped, had caused some in the music community to distance themselves from his band. He expected, at that time, that the backlash from what happened between him and his ex would keep his band and him specifically "under a microscope."

"It's been tough meeting people and seeing it in their eyes that it's the first thing they're thinking about when they see me," he says. "In that interview I was talking about something that was heart-wrenching for me and would I do it again? You know, probably not."

Although the band's second album "Pythons" charted just three spots lower than their first, Pitts says the main fallout from that incident was that to this day there are musicians who were once friends with Pitts that will no longer talk to him. Even three years later, when you Google "John Paul Pitts" the Pitchfork articles pop up first, as well as the singer's mug shot.

Pitts says he's trying to move on despite everything that happened in 2012. According to Pitts, he's now in a loving relationship and his band Surfer Blood is looking to release their third full-length album "1000 Palms" on May 12.

"Thematically I think our lyrics are our most imaginative lyrics. It's about finding the path to happiness and contentment and a lot of stuff about dealing with loss," Pitts says. "The lyrics are more introspective."

For the third album, Pitts says the band went back to self-producing, as they did with their first album "Astro Coast," which allowed more of the band's personality to come through. The result was 11 songs that make up the band's "most diverse record" to date.

"We have a song that's the loudest, fastest thing we've ever done opening the album and the last song was recorded mostly outside," he says. "We were willing to try anything. People are going to love it or hate it obviously, but I think it's definitely a bold step for us."

Although that bump lower on the charts between the first to second Surfer Blood records could certainly be attributed to the stigma that surrounded the band at that time, Pitts also notes that music services like Spotify definitely limit record sales more and more. However, as a band that self-produced two out of three albums, he sees the value of the Internet as more of a wash than anything else.

"You have to take the good with the bad. Now we can make a record on a computer that was already in my house for free—that's a product of the digital age," he says. "Would we sell more records if it weren't for Spotify or YouTube? Probably, but would we even be in the limelight in the first place without it? I don't know."

To promote the upcoming album release, Pitts and Surfer Blood are touring, which will bring the band through Tucson to The Flycatcher on Thursday, Feb. 19 as well as a number of smaller, more niche festivals in the coming months. Pitts notes the distinct difference between playing a club show and a festival. At festivals, he says, you can sometimes "feel the crowd getting tired" if you're booked to play mid-day, admitting that one time even his drummer fell asleep for a brief moment during a festival performance. Of course, it's not all bad, though.

"Sometimes it can be really exhausting and upsetting, but there's always that little bit of hope that you'll find one or two people that want to check you out and find out about you," Pitts says. "What you put into it is what you get back sometimes I guess."


More by Heather Hoch


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