Neither John Paul Pitts, the lead singer of Surfer Blood, nor I can play ping pong.
Before the interview, we volleyed and missed so many points that we began playing off the walls, the floor, everything was fair game and we declared it a tie.
Pitts gave us the short story regarding the origins of the band’s name. The drummer, Tyler Shwarz, grew up surfing and as a result, has a plethora of surfing gear including boards and posters hanging on the walls in his bedroom.
Pitts used to make fun of Shwarz for his surfing obsession, to which he responded,, “Well you wouldn’t understand, it’s in my blood. I have surfer’s blood.”
Pitts called this phrasing “weirdly poignant.” They knew they were going to name a song after it, and it ended up becoming the band’s name.
A lot has changed for the band since then. They now have two new members after losing one to a move and the other to a non life threatening illness in January.
“Considering everything that we’ve been through, we get along famously,” Pitts said.
Q: What do you miss most, being on the road?
“You miss your privacy. You miss the feeling of not always having to be ‘on.’
Talking to fans at shows, while it’s something that we love to do and we wouldn’t have it any other way, it can be exhausting night after night. I miss sleeping normal hours.
But touring is great, and sometimes when you’re in it you just want to go home. Then when you look back on the tour six months later it’s some of your best memories.”
Q: What is one of the craziest things that has happened to you on the road?
“The band had previously gotten into a car accident while on the road.
I thought it was really funny. After everything that had just happened and our life flashing before our eyes, it’s like ‘Hey, will you play our mardi gras party?’”
Q: Any embarrassing moments on stage?
“Oh, all kinds of embarrassing moments.
I think one time we were in Manchester and we were opening for the band Interpol, which was a dream come true for us. We were in Europe in the winter, there was snow everywhere and, you know, we had been through a lot at that point and we were playing for their fans who some of them liked us and were really enthusiastic and some really didn’t like us it seemed.”
During one song, Pitts jumped into the crowd.
“It turned out to be the biggest mistake. So I was out in the crowd and they thought it was a great opportunity. I got pear cider poured all over me, just over my head. I got back on stage and ended up playing the rest of the show with my shirt off which is something I still haven’t done again to this day. And this is in England in the winter where it’s freezing.
I was just drenched in pear cider and felt sticky and disgusting. That was pretty embarrassing.”
Q: When did you start calling yourself a musician?
“I started doing music when I was 14. My friend got a guitar for I think Christmas one year and he played it for six months and gave up on it but I sort of kept up with it. We were really good friends and I was always at his house.
I immediately started writing my own songs. I learned ‘Come as You Are’ by Nirvana. After that I was like ‘Okay, I’m going to write my own songs.’ After that, I always referred to myself as a musician and I got better pretty fast. I just played all the time, nonstop.”
Q: Did you always know you wanted to be in a band?
“I always knew absolutely that I wanted to be in a touring band, you know? Ever since I learned that you can record your own music and like on a computer that your parents had, I immediately went out and got a microphone and started recording with a drum machine and my guitar and just never looked back. I was just captivated by it.”
Q: What goes through your mind while you’re on stage?
“When it’s going well, there’s just no better feeling on the planet. If the crowd is being receptive and you can tell that they want to be there. I just need a little bit of physical energy. I don’t need anyone to be swinging from the chandeliers or anything but when it’s just a little bit of recognition that people are really getting something out of it then it’s pretty much the most gratifying thing on the planet.
The sound guy that yelled at you the second you walked in the door, and the fact that you didn’t sleep the night before, you know, it makes it all worth it.”
Q: What do you like to do while you’re not performing?
“I live in Los Angeles so I really like the outdoors I love the fact that I live in a place where I can drive an hour and be in the desert, or the mountains, or at the beach … The west is really vast and beautiful, so I appreciate that.”
He paused and thought for a second, glancing down at his pizza.
“I don’t know … what are my hobbies, outside of writing and recording music?”
Q: How about any guilty pleasures?
“Oh, I went to Disney World for my 29th birthday. So I’m a 29-year-old child.”
His favorite ride is Splash Mountain. They went on it three times.
Q: Is there anything you wish people knew about you when they saw you up on stage?
“Nothing in particular. For the most part, I like to be an open book for the fans who come to our shows. But a little bit of mystery is good at the same time, you know? I like to leave people guessing and creating some sort of story in their head.”
Featured Photo Credit: Lead singer and guitarist, John Paul Pitts (left), and lead guitarist, Mikey McCleary (right), of the band Surfer Blood during their performance at Comet Ping Pong. (Cassie Osvatics/Bloc Reporter)
Raye Weigel is a sophomore multiplatform journalism and English major and may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.