PREMIERE: Surfer Blood’s “Karen” Video Captures the Otherworldly Landscapes of Florida
John Paul Pitts talks the new single, Wipers, “Fast Jaboni,” and the fabled Florida Man.
In a lot of ways, Surfer Blood’s forthcoming fifth LP Carefree Theatre brings the band full circle. Set to be released ten years after their monumental debut Astro Coast, the record will arrive following frontman John Paul Pitts’ return to his home state of Florida as well as SB’s return to their original label Kanine Records—though the turbulent ten-year interim has provided Theatre with a brand new perspective on their debut’s themes.
That said, one track that sounds structurally familiar is “Karen,” which was born of the same universe as a song off Astro Coast. “It was originally supposed to be the companion song to ‘Fast Jabroni,’ but I never finished it and ended up shelving it for over a decade,” Pitts shares. “After moving back home to Florida and reevaluating my entire life, I decided it was time to revisit the material.”
The move back to Florida also inspired a vision for the breezy tune’s gleaming video, matching SB’s tune about someone named Karen taking showers with images of all four band members getting soaked while strumming and percussing along. It’s as much an earworm as anything we’ve come to expect from the group over the years, though there’s a certain sense of comfortability unheard since their Jabroni days.
Carefree Theatre is out May 1 via Kanine Records—you can pre-order it here. Read on for a brief Q&A with Pitts about the single, and for an extensive list of tour dates.
Did you still reference “Fast Jabroni” when re-writing this song to make it sound more (or less) like a Surfer Blood track circa 2010?
I wrote this giant batch of songs in 2009 that all sounded pretty similar. Originally I was going to call them “Part 1, Part 2, etc.” but didn’t quite get that far. I ended up with “Fast Jabroni” and “Slow Jabroni” by the time it was finished. I didn’t go back and listen to “Fast Jabroni” or anything, I really didn’t need to—that song is so embedded in the DNA of this band that, stylistically, it has a mind of its own. I tried to stay true to the original vision for “Karen,” but it needed something to break up the relentless pace of the song.
I came up with the idea for the bridge part over the Christmas holidays in 2017 and was really happy with where it took the song. Not sure if I would’ve done the same thing back in 2009, but I’m glad I finally found a way to tie it all together after a decade.
What about “Telepathic Love” inspired this song? Have you always considered Wipers an influence?
I’ve always been a fan of Wipers, and after high school I was determined to write songs that were fast, loud, and moody. I always loved how “Telepathic Love,” while an incredibly catchy song, had something sinister lurking beneath the surface of the melody.
I also loved how it sounded like it was recorded in a garage. As someone who was just learning how to record, I felt like this was a reasonable goal to aim for—everything I did recording-wise at the time was based on trial and error.
I didn’t have much experience singing in front of people at the time, and the idea of buried vocals with reverb on them sounded really appealing to someone who still shook uncontrollably every time I got up to perform in public. This would all become part of the band’s sound down the road, but at first it was my reaction to overwhelming stage fright.
Was there anything in particular about this song that lent itself to the Florida-centric visuals?
I think it’s the sheer thickness of the instrumental textures. The guitar tones are lush and rugged like the Florida wilderness. When you take the time to explore, there’s a ton of biodiversity here—things that look like they belong on another planet. Moving away and coming back really made me appreciate the things that make this place so unique, and shooting this video seemed like the perfect opportunity to show off the variety this state has to offer.
Have you ever had any run-ins with Florida Man?
Florida never ceases to surprise me, some of the people you run into down here are truly one of a kind. In a way, it’s more the wild west than other parts of the U.S., a tropical swamp that was never fully tamed. There aren’t a lot of people who are originally from here, and sometimes the story of how they ended up here is pretty crazy—fascinating and bizarre. Every gas station and truck stop has a “no shoes, no shirt, no service” sign on the front door, and they mean it.
Fri May 1 Orlando, FL @ Will’s Pub
Sat May 2 Tallahassee, FL @ Junction
Sun May 3 Atlanta, GA @ Shaky Knees
Wed May 6 Albuquerque, NM @ Launchpad
Thu May 7 Phoenix, AZ @ Valley Bar
Fri May 8 Los Angeles, CA @ The Echo
Sat May 9 San Francisco, CA @ Bottom of the Hill
Sun May 10 Ukiah, CA @ Ukiah Brewing Company
Tue May12 Spokane, WA @ Lucky You Lounge
Wed May13 Vancouver, BC @ Fox Cabaret
Thu May14 Tacoma, WA @ Alma Mater
Fri May 15 Everett, WA @ Fisherman’s Village Music Festival
Sat May 16 Portland, OR @ Doug Fir
Sun May17 Boise, ID @ Neurolux
Tue May 19 Denver, CO @ Globe Hall
Wed May 20 Salt Lake City, UT @ Urban Lounge
Fri May 22 Sacramento, CA @ The Starlet Room
Sat May 23 Santa Barbara, CA @ Soho
Sun May 24 San Diego, CA @ Casbah
Mon May 25 Tucson, AZ @ Hotel Congress
Wed May 27 Austin, TX @ Hotel Vegas
Thu May 28 Houston, TX @ Satellite Bar
Fri May 29 New Orleans, LA @ One Eyed Jacks
Sat May 30 Mobile, AL @ Alabama Music Box
Sun May 31 Pensacola, FL @ Chizuko
Wed Jul 22 Indianapolis, IM @ Square Cat Vinyl
Thu Jul 23 Chicago, IL @ Empty Bottle
Fri Jul 24 Milwaukee, WI @ Cactus Club
Sat Jul 25 Minneapolis, MN @ 7th Street Entry
Sun Jul 26 Fargo, ND @ The Aquarium
Mon Jul 27 Sioux Falls, SD @ Total Drag
Wed Jul 29 Kansas City, MO @ The Rino
Thu Jul 30 St. Louis, MO @ The Ready Room
Fri Jul 31 Grand Rapids, MI @ Pyramid Scheme
Sat Aug 1 Detroit, MI @ El Club
Sun Aug 2 Cleveland, OH @ Mahall’s
Mon Aug 3 Columbus, OH @ Ace of Cups
May 6-14, 16-31 with Winter
May 8, 9, 22, 23 with Winter and Business of Dreams
May 6 with Winter and Carrier Waves
May 16 with Winter and Lo Fives