Local Wire

Surfside IV Part of Phoenix's Long Love Affair with Surf Rock

Every Wednesday is Heritage Hump Day! That's because every Wednesday from now to the end of the year, Heritage Hump Records (a temporary subsidiary of Onus Records) and New Times will be bringing you a limited edition collector's item of a much beloved Phoenix band  that only sounds like it walked the scorched earth of Arizona around or shortly after the year 2000 A.D. We will honor that band with a commemorative digital single that you, the digital public, will have a limited time to download to your computers and smart phones before this single gets marked up to an exorbitant price as determined by the mp3 collector community. When that happens, a new Heritage Hump subject will be chosen and the free-for-a-limited-time-only cycle begins anew.

This week, Arizonans experienced an earthquake measured 3.2 on the Richter scale. And now we're so giddy with entitlement for natural phenomena that we might expect our very own tsunami, with Big Kahuna waves crashing onto Tempe Beach Park. Dream on, hodad!

But we do have our own Tsunami Saturday this weekend, when the American Legion Post 1 and the Hell City Saints Car Club present the "Blessing of the Rods 6," a classic cars show with a musical soundtrack provided by a host of hot rod and surf instrumentalists, none with a bigger gift for accessorizing than the fez-festooned Surfside IV, who first surfaced near Arizona Bay in the mid aughts. I profiled them in 2011 but their hearts, then as now, are still smack dab in 1961.

When Trey "T-Minus" Rhodes started The Surfside IV in 2006, they were the lone purveyors of surf music in the Valley. With singularity came great responsibility. The band and their manager, Rhodes' wife, Christine, had to build a scene around surf sounds and Polynesian drinks where one didn't exist. Hence the group's annual Tiki Lounge Party.

As for the Surfside IV's fez-festooned and heavily shaded look, neither Rhodes nor the other three-fourths of the band (bassist Nick "Nilla" White, drummer Scott "Scotty Bravo" Kowitt, and guitarist Nate "Cap'n Tubesock" Marshall) seem to mind the anonymity, a holdover of their admiration for Los Straitjackets and that band's mystique-building wrestling masks.

"People say the fez reminds them of Will Ferrell's character in Austin Powers," Marshall says. "We get that a lot."

"Or [they] remember that Me First and the Gimme Gimmes album and expect us to be punk," White adds.

The group formed quickly and started gigging almost immediately. "At that time, I remember thinking this is really cool. We're the only surf band in town. The only one in a city of 31/2 million people . . . you can't beat that."

"I sit at home and wonder, are there more surf bands or polka bands? We're in the same boat with polka and Tejano bands. It's definitely a musical backwater. It's never gonna die or change much. It's always going to sell beer. We're great sellers of beer."

Not sure what the surf band count locally is now (it's high), but the Surfsides are pretty good about importing talent from elsewhere, like the Boogienauts from Tucson or the tiki punch of The Tiki Bandits from Mohave Beach.

As mentioned before, beer is liberally consumed once the familiar strains of "Penetration" or "Miserlou" are heard, but on this week's Heritage Hump single (recorded live-to-tape at 513 Analog Studios, produced by James Miles and mastered by Gary Hobish), the Fez Four reached across the channel for classic surf sounds.

Can you say Bert Weedon?

Says Rhodes, "I became a fan of Bert Weedon by way of being a Beatles geek. [The Beatles all purportedly learned to play guitar from Weedon's Play in a Day books.] I really dug a few tracks on his 22 Golden Guitar Greats LP. Discovering that the Ventures had a minor hit with a version of the tune more or less settled it for me: I had to cover it. Ours is kind of a synthesis of the Weedon and Ventures."

"The composition has an undeniable 1960s-vibe. After Bert Weedon passed away in 2012, I got a very nice email on behalf of his survivors after they found our recording. The song is hard as hell to play, especially live and at our standard 175+ bpm tempo."

The Surfside IV will be playing at the American Legion Post #1 on Saturday, November 7, and then at at Yucca Tap Room Thursday, November 12, with Tiki Bandits, The Rebel Set and The Boogienauts.
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Serene Dominic
Contact: Serene Dominic