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Surf City

Embrace Yr Idols

Jul 31, 2009 Surf City
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Sure, it’s easy to pin down the provenance of Auckland, New Zealand act Surf City’s self-titled debut EP. There are delectable dashes of Pavement-style melodies, nods to the roughshod pop of the ’80s Flying Nun roster, and elements of the stomping tribal rhythms of Animal Collective. The band’s frontman Davin Stoddard admits this, but he’s unapologetic. “Those are all bands we’re into, a common thread among us all. A song like ‘Dickshakers Union,’ we got the idea from Animal Collective, and thought it was a great song. Some people said, ‘fuck, this sounds just like Animal Collective,’ and others said, ‘we dig it, it’s a great pop song.’”

Count this writer in the latter group. The EP is terrific, infused with an imaginative youthful exuberance, and leavened by innate pop instincts that render the songs flat-out irresistible, transcending the weight of the act’s formidable influences. Highlights include “Canned Food,” a sublime number whose understated flair recalls the urbane elegance of The Chills’ classic “Pink Frost,” and the jagged caterwaul of “Mt. Kill,” which chugs along with the alacrity of the best of mid-’90s American indie pop.

Work on a debut full-length is well underway, expected sometime in mid-2009. According to Stoddard, it’s shaping up to be a homespun affair. “We’ve already recorded most of it ourselves. It’s just been a home job, because we’ve never really worked in a pop studio or anything. Our EP was done around our flats, and the vocals were even done in my parents’ garage. On the LP, the tempo’s slowed down a little, maybe because you can’t play an entire set of two-minute songs at breakneck speed the whole time, but I’m pretty sure it’s the same basic idea. Still pop songs with guitars.”

Talk of a dearth of New Zealand bands since the halcyon days of Flying Nun ensues, and Stoddard offers, “Over here in Auckland, there’s like four or five bands like us, and the rest are pretty dire. Ruby Suns, they’re from here, and we like them, but it’s not exactly a healthy scene. We played a show here a while back, and we walked out with twenty dollars. Between us.”

He continues, “Die! Die! Die!, they’re a New Zealand hardcore band, and I actually got in a fight with them last night. It was quite funny, one of the guys in the band, he just punched me for no reason.” I jokingly suggest that the band’s taking their Jesus and Mary Chain influence to heart (their name derives from the Mary Chain B-side “Kill Surf City”), getting in fights like the pugnacious Reid brothers used to years ago. Stoddard responds, seemingly mortified, “Oh no, that wasn’t me! [Laughs] I just went up to him and tapped him on the shoulder, and he turned around and hit me. It’s the first time I’ve been in a fight in like four years. The noisy guitar thing, and maybe a bit of the attitude, that’s what we take from the Mary Chain. Not the violence,” says Stoddard with a laugh.


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