You guys have been releasing music since 1992. When you started, did you think you’d be playing spooky surf garage rock 22 years later?
When we started playing, we didn’t even think we would play any shows beyond house playing for fun in our basement. Once we played a party at our house, we got asked to play at a club, and soon we were going up to Seattle and other regional cites beyond Portland and were asked to record our first record. It all happened pretty quickly and by 1993 or 4 we were touring the US. If we had known that we were going to do what we ended up doing, we probably would have picked a different name for ourselves!
Is there more interest in the band now than when you started two decades ago?
There is definitely a lot more interest in the band now than when we started, in that more people know who we are and listen to our stuff. Being that we play a style of music that is already a specific niche style of music, it seems like we hit a certain level of popularity in the 90s when we would tour and play live shows, but back then, a lot more people were going out and seeing touring bands and were interested in surf music, due to the popularity of Pulp Fiction. That all seemed to change around 2000-so much so, that we stopped playing for a few years. But, even though it seemed like a real down time, between the internet and word of mouth, our notoriety was somewhat growing. By the time MuSick released the “Plymouth Rock” collection in 2005, we were blown away by how popular it was, and we became aware of websites like Surf Guitar 101.com forums, and its predecessor, Cowabunga that had been discussing us and all surf music, both old and new, and introducing it to a new generation of younger fans, along with the older ones that had missed us the first time around.
Well, we loved it, and were somewhat familiar with surf music,especially the more well-known songs, plus The Ventures, since we could find their records at garage sales and discount bins at the time. As we began to listen to, dissect, and attempted playing surf music in our basement, we realized more and more about the subtleties, equipment and technique, which just made us hungrier for more, sending us all on a quest for the more obscure surf music beyond Dick Dale, The Ventures and the Chantays. I should also mention that we were already into a lot of 60s pop, garage and rock and roll, including the great Pacific Northwest bands like TheSonics and The Fabulous Wailers. The Wailers did a fair amount of great instrumentals that were precursors to surf and definitely influenced a lot of surf bands in the early 60s. We also all had been through playing in bands throughout the “college rock” years of the 80s that eventually became “alternative” and “grunge”, and we had all played in punk and new-wave influenced bands. Another thing that drew us to it, besides the musical side of it, was that we saw early on that a lot of women were drawn to this kind of music and wanted to dance, you have to remember that this was the era of stage diving, crowd surfing and the mosh pit was still around at some shows as well. At our live shows, especially in Portland, our female fans would stake out territory close to the stage and then dance the whole time without the threat of a flagrant fist hitting them in the face or some stage diver landing on their head. For us, of course, it was way nicer to play to a dancing crowd than dudes with their shirts off, pushing people around.
Was it a challenge to find other musicians into this type of music in Portland, Oregon?
It wasn’t a challenge at all. We fell into it because we were already roommates in this big house where we practiced, so we didn’t have to find anyone. But Oregon and the Northwest as a whole have a fairly strong surf music history and fan base. Before we ever came along, there was The Surf Trio that started in the 80s, and of course The Ventures, whose members came from Portland and Tacoma, and then there were teenage bands from the 60s like The Satans, whose 45 we helped to get reissued. Around the time we started, The Galaxy Trio was also starting out in Portland, while The Boss Martians were out of Seattle.
How active is the band today as far as playing live shows?
We generally play once or twice a year now, usually in Portland and the Northwest, but we have played in San Francisco, Los Angeles, Las Vegas, and Asbury Park, NJ in the past 10 years. We stopped touring and playing all the time in 2000.
I noticed NIKE Japan just picked up your song "Devil's Punchbowl" for a commercial. How’d that happen?
So, first of all, to have a song we recorded and released 20 years ago used for something like this in 2014 is great! Last I checked, the youtube version of it has over three million views! It happened because Nike is based in Portland, as is the ad agency that does all of their ads, including those for Japan. Luckily, we made the cut and they liked how the song went with the ad.
2009’s ‘Psychsploitation’ was your last album right? Any plans to get back in the studio to record new music?
Yes, “Psychsploitation” was our last release. We hope to return to the studio in the coming year sometime. We love recording, there’s nothing like it. We also hope to have a new release in 2014, a collection of unreleased songs, songs from comps and b-sides, so we are not returning to the studio for that one.
Thanks for talking to us! we’re big fans!
Thanks for the interview!