Safe to say 2016 was pretty awful for all of us but one band who have suffered more than most is Surfer Blood. The band have had to deal with the untimely death of guitarist Thomas Fekete to cancer and the subsequent departure of bassist Kevin Williams. It was something which could’ve easily meant the end for Surfer Blood but with this album and their touring schedule they managed to overcome something which many other bands would fail to get past.
Snowdonia is the fourth album for the band and it shows primarily a maturing of their sound. There is still the same nuances which made the Florida band a ‘new car’ must. Their sunny disposition across their sonics mixed with their tilted and sometimes dark imagery within the lyrics lent themselves brilliantly to a mixed up world. Where these things still remain what has been added is the technical and layered flourishes, expertly mixed by frontman John Paul Pitts.
The 8 minute title track is testament to this new approach and stand out track ‘Six Flags in F or G’ is following suit as it deals with Fekete’s absence, Pitts says of the song “It’s unlike anything we’ve done before. When I was writing it I was listening to a lot of Swell Maps, Can, and The Breeders, all bands that Thom got me into. Even in his absence his tastes and sensibilities continue to influence my writing. We used a lot of pedals and effects: there’s an amp drop, an octave pedal, and even a way pedal in the second half. We were going for the guitar tone from T. Rex’s ‘Monolith’ and I think we got pretty close.”
A central theme for this new release is the fragility of life. ‘Carrier Pigeon’ deals with this issue as it delicately strums across the airwaves, whilst recording Pitts learnt of his mother contracting Breast cancer, and with this news he pens one of the most heartfelt tracks on the album. ‘Taking Care of Eddy’ and ‘Matter Of Time’ take contrasting approaches with the same joyful outcome.
One brilliant addition to the line up is Lindsey Mills on bass as her dulled vocals and another layer of subtlety to the current arrangements something Pitts wanted to exploit. “When I was writing I was thinking more about background vocals and harmonies,” he says; “Lindsey and Michael are great singers, and I really wanted that to show in the songs. There are layers of vocals on almost every track, and the call-and-response parts between Lindsey and I are something totally new.”
This combination of sorrow set to a backdrop of upbeat melodies makes this record a complex and easily listenable record. Something which is very hard to complete. It rings of truth, emotion and a want to move forward no matter how much life or indeed death throws at you.