2015 Artist Survey: Surfer Blood | Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
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2015 Artist Survey: Surfer Blood

John Paul Pitts on Music Streaming, Bernie Sanders, Guided By Voices, Star Trek, Puppies, and Disastrous Dates

Feb 26, 2016 Artist Surveys 2015 Bookmark and Share

For Under the Radar’s 13th annual Artist Survey we emailed some of our favorite artists a few questions relating to 2015. We asked them about their favorite albums of the year and their thoughts on various notable 2015 news stories involving either the music industry or world events, as well as some quirkier personal questions.

Check out our Best of 2015 print and digital issues for answers from Arcade Fire’s Will Butler, Julien Baker, Blanck Mass, CHVRCHES, Dan Deacon, The Dears, Dutch Uncles, EL VY, Everything Everything, Father John Misty, Field Music, The Flaming Lips, How to Dress Well, Sondre Lerche, Low, Luna, Mew, NZCA Lines, Cullen Omori, Natalie Prass, Small Black, Tamaryn, Telekinesis, Vampire Weekend’s Chris Baio, The Walkmen, Youth Lagoon, and others.

Here are some answers from John Paul Pitts of Surfer Blood. Surfer Blood’s latest album, 1000 Palms, was released in 2015 via Joyful Noise.

A shorter version of this interview ran in the Best of 2015 print issue, which is still on newsstands now. This is the full unedited version of the interview.

Top 10 Albums of 2015

1. Alex Calder: Strange Dreams
2. Kurt Vile: b’lieve i’m goin down
3. Built to Spill: Untethered Moon
4. No Joy: More Faithful
5. Deerhunter: Fading Frontier
6. Hop Along: Painted Shut
7. Julia Holter: Have You in My Wilderness
8. Courtney Barnett: Sometimes I Sit and Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit
9. Wilco: Star Wars
10. Viet Cong: Viet Cong

What was the highlight of 2015, for either you personally or for the band? What was the low point?

The low point of 2015 came early in the year: in January we found out that our guitarist, Thomas [Fekete], was diagnosed with a very rare and aggressive form of cancer (a sarcoma). His doctor had found a tumor in December 2014, but it continued to spread throughout the beginning of this year. Since then it’s been a lot of ups and downs for Thom, and for the band. We started a GoFundMe page, played a few benefit shows, and launched an auction to raise money for him and are so happy with all of the love and support we’ve received for him. One of the highlights of this year was reuniting with Thomas for one show where we played Astro Coast in its entirety. It was amazing having him back on stage, and it was a huge deal for him. Unfortunately, a few weeks later he was back in the hospital for a major surgery. But we feel lucky to have had him back on stage with us for that show.

What are your hopes and plans for 2016?

Besides hoping for Thomas’ health to continue to improve, we are hoping to release another record, which we’re working on right now. In terms of plans, we’re touring the Southwest in January with Cayucas which will be awesome. Other than that, we’re just looking forward to releasing more music and playing more shows.

With the launch of TIDAL and Apple Music in 2015, there are more streaming music options, but the same issues of adequate artist compensation persist. What are your current thoughts on streaming and which service would you most like to have your music on?

I’d like to have our music on all streaming services, so that people have access to it. Honestly, in terms of artist compensation, as far as I know, all streaming services are similar. I’m really glad that people have easy access to music, but also am really excited about people still buying vinyl and going into record stores. Vinyl is still a huge seller for us, and we always release something for Record Store Day.

What are your thoughts on Friday being the new global release day for albums? Is it helping or hurting album sales?

I honestly had no idea that this happened.

What are your thoughts on how the 2016 U.S. Presidential election is shaping up?

I love Bernie Sanders. I’ll support him for as long as I can, but am of course happy to support Hillary in the general election when it comes down to it. I have major post-Obama anxiety. The GOP playing field right now freaks me out a lot.

Ryan Adams covered Taylor Swift’s 1989 (and then Father John Misty covered Adams covering Swift). If you were to cover another artist’s album in its entirety, which would you pick and why?

I would re-record Guided By Voices’ Alien Lanes. I love that album. It inspired me to start recording my own music. We have played a couple of shows with GBV and I’ve met Bob Pollard a few times, and sometimes I feel like he’s my other dad. One time he grabbed me backstage after a show we played together and asked me, “Honestly, am I your idol?” and I said, “Oh, hell yeah.”

Have you ever been fired from a job (be it a day job or musical one)? Why were you fired?

I got fired from being a lifeguard when I was 15, because I was late all the time.

What’s your earliest music-related childhood memory?

Listening to Cream and Creedence Clearwater Revival with my dad.

What outrageous request would you most like to put in your tour rider as a joke?

I heard Grimes asked for puppies. I guess I would like some puppies too? But I would worry it would be too loud for them in the venue.

What’s the most disastrous date you’ve ever been on?

Once I spilled hot coffee all over myself on a date; that was pretty bad.

Which Star Wars character are you most like?

I don’t really know much about Star Wars, but I do know a lot about Star Trek. I like to think of Jean-Luc Picard as my moral compass. If I’m ever in a really tough situation where I have to make a difficult decision, I ask myself what he would do.

Following the terrorist attack at the Eagles of Death Metal concert in Paris do you think that security at music venues should be improved and do you now worry about something similar happening at one of your shows?

I think that the scariest thing about the Paris attacks is that it shows that you can never fully anticipate the kind of place a terrorist would target. I don’t necessarily worry about something like this happening at our shows, but I think that any extra protocols any venues could take to increase safety would give artists and fans a better peace of mind.

What’s the lamest breakup excuse you’ve ever given or been given?

Well, this isn’t something I’ve been given or used myself, but when I first started seeing my girlfriend over three years ago, she was kind of dating someone else. She broke up with them by saying she had a “thyroid problem,” which didn’t really make that much sense as a breakup excuse, but I’m happy because she and I are still together.

Which recent anniversary for an album, film, TV show, or historical event has most made you feel old?

Astro Coast came out five years ago and that makes me feel very old.

What song will most unite or amp up the tour bus or van (à la “Tiny Dancer” in Almost Famous)? Which song do you love that the rest of the band or crew refuse to let you put on?

The entire Clueless soundtrack, front to back, is perfect.

If the world was ending in 24 hours, what would you do in those 24 hours?

Hang out with my girlfriend and some dogs, eat some fried chicken, and finally release my comedy album.

Which part of America or which specific state do you find it most challenging to tour in and why?

States where weed isn’t decriminalized. Also, driving through West Texas between San Antonio and El Paso is very bleak (excluding Marfa) with not many places to stop, and very little phone service.

What was the most baffling cultural phenomenon in 2015?

Man bun.

If you could drop a copy of one album in the inbox of every citizen of the world, what album would it be (besides one of your own)?

The Clientele’s Suburban Light.

How prepared are you for the apocalypse, zombie or otherwise?

Very unprepared. I live in Los Angeles, so I have recently started preparing for an earthquake. I think I have a couple spare bottles of water and I just got a fire extinguisher. My girlfriend’s father has an interesting collection of crossbows, which would likely come in handy during a zombie apocalypse, but not really useful for an earthquake.

What’s the biggest goal for your life that you have yet to achieve?

Becoming a dad (to a child). I often feel like a dad, but I am not yet a father.



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July 18th 2016

Keep working guys, I hope to listen a new album soon! rip Thomas, you were on of the greatest…