Opening for Iceage, Surfbort Is Riding the Freak Wave

Check out those stems! Surfbort lets the freak flag fly!
Check out those stems! Surfbort lets the freak flag fly!
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Surfbort is coming, and once you have a taste, you may never want anything else.

The Brooklyn-based quartet is visually and musically stunning, to say the least, and singer Dani Miller is like no one else in rock music right now. Perhaps this is why ex-Strokes and current Voidz member Julian Casablancas snatched them up for his Cult Records label in October of 2017 and put out their new record, Friendship Music, late last month. Miller, joined by drummer Sean Powell (formerly of Texas noise savants Fuckemos) and guitarists Alex Kilgore and Dave Head (Headache City/Motards), is the baby of the bunch at 25, but packs enough punch to lead the charge for a band that has come a long way in a relatively short period of time.

Surfbort is currently on tour with Iceage and Black Lips and will play Crescent Ballroom in Phoenix on November 14 at 8 p.m. Phoenix New Times caught up with Miller on the road following a show in Kansas City.

Are you playing a lot of cities on this tour that you haven’t played?
Yeah. We’ve never been to Vancouver, so Kansas City, Denver, and Vancouver we haven’t been to before.

You’ve been to Phoenix before?
Oh, no. I haven’t been to Phoenix, but I feel really connected to Phoenix. Our first 7” came out on Slope Records.

I’m well aware, I have a test pressing of that 7” right in front of me.
Yeah, (label owner Thomas) Lopez rules. We’re going to be there on the 14th, so this is great.

Tell me about the guys in the band.
My band rules. They're from the '80s in Texas. They're from that scene, the punk scene, injected with the '80s. They really know about music. They're awesome and just good people. So far it's just been a blast.

How did Surfbort start?
I moved from California to New York, and I started the band with my friends at the time and my boyfriend at the time, Matt Picola. The songs that Slope put out were "beginning" Surfbort songs, and that was my first-time writing songs, and then it fully transformed into the monster it is today. Now I have this monster band of Texas punks and then me – I’m younger and don’t know as much about music, but I have a lot of fire and excitement for life. The combination is really awesome.

How did you meet your drummer, Sean (Powell)?
I met Sean when he was playing in a band called Ice Balloons. It was an early Surfbort show and before the show I had eaten an entire burrito. Mid-set, I puked it up and Sean was in the audience. After the show, he said, “Oh, hey, what’s up? Let’s hang out.” He was friends with (guitar players) Alex (Kilgore) and David (Head) who are in the band today. It slowly just turned into what it is now.

I noticed that there have been a few band member changes during the band’s history so far.
There’s been a lot of changes, but I feel like the theme of Surfbort, being yourself, being a freak, and loving fellow humans is staying the same, so that’s rad.

I was curious about the changes. Some of the early imagery had a much darker feel, almost dystopian view of the world. Your new videos have a lot of color and a lot more life going on, is that by design?
Not on purpose, but yeah, I guess the themes have changed a lot. Everyone was on drugs and we were all working, like, five jobs and it was really tense, so that was always the main theme back then. But now, we still work hard, and we’re still frickin’ upset with current times, but I would say the bandmates have more wisdom. They’re older and half the band is sober. We’re into health food. We’re on a different vibe right now. I feel like the heart of Surfbort can never really be ruined or disappear. We’re all just learning how to survive.

Is the world ready for Surfbort?
I would say that certain people are super ready. The people who come out are ready. They are, like, freaking out and really happy. Then there is definitely a crew of not ready people. They are, maybe, Trump supporters and into easy listening and not ready. But we’re here and we’re staying, so, yeah…

It seems like weird, heavy, noisy music is making a comeback, which is great.
It’s sick. I feel like the LA scene and Texas and New York have amazing bands coming up right now. It’s really exciting. There are so many amazing bands coming up right now. It becomes a bummer when you can’t think of something to inspire you. I am glad. For a second, there was a lot of garage rock, which is cool, but it seems like a regurgitation of other stuff. I think right now there is more original, inspiring shit happening.

Speaking of inspiring, what inspires you? What made you want to front a band?
I was going to shows every day when I was 15 and living in San Diego. I would go to Che Café and freak out and dance and scream and I loved going to shows. I was always attracted to the music scene and how people supported each other and were able to release all these pent-up emotions. It was really great for my mental health and ability to connect with other people. It was so cool to discover that. Where I lived was very suburban, military and bleak.

Surfbort. With Iceage and Black Lips. 8 p.m. Wednesday, November 14, at Crescent Ballroom, 308 North Second Avenue; 602-716-2222; crescentphx.com. Tickets are $22 via Ticketfly.

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