TALKING PITTSBURGH & TOUR RITUALS WITH SURFER BLOOD SINGER JP PITTS

From releasing their Snowdonia LP in February to putting out a covers album later this month (and touring relentlessly behind it all), Surfer Blood has had a busy year. The indie rock band from West Palm Beach, Florida is now bi-coastal, with lead singer JP Pitts living in California, and after a tumultuous few years, their most recent release is surprisingly their most light-hearted. At first listen, the songs seem to channel fellow indie mainstays like Vampire Weekend, Pavement and even vintage Squeeze vibes, all with Pitts’ recognizable lyrical style and warm, droning vocals front and center.

Ahead of Friday’s show in Pittsburgh at Cattivo and the band’s upcoming covers album later this month, we talked to lead singer JP from their unofficial home base in Florida. He took a break from packing the van to fill us in on the band’s touring rituals, inspiration behind their covers album and even a few of their favorite things about visiting Pittsburgh.

Have you guys played Pittsburgh before?

We have. We’ve played quite a few shows over the years. We played Brillobox a few times and opened for Silversun Pickups at Stage AE, so we’ve kind of run the gamut of venues there.

Is there anything that you really like or remember about being in Pittsburgh? 

I think of the character of the old streets, houses, stuff like that. We’ll probably get to spend a whole day there before the show, and it’s not a bad place to spend the day.

What kind of stuff do you guys like to do on the road? Is there anything that you look for in every city? 

We’ve been trying to do more outdoorsy stuff lately. Lindsey and Tyler are camping enthusiasts, and this time we’re going through the Appalachian Mountains. Last time we pulled off on a spot on the Blue Ridge Parkway to go hiking. There’s not always time, but we try to pull off to find some spots.

What about food? Any food you love?

We try to pull off and find Indian lunch buffets. We usually try to have our big meal early in the day so we don’t want to take a nap before the show.

You’re releasing a covers album — how did you decide that now was the time to do it? 

I record on an old desktop Mac, and I’ve been recording on it for years. This year I realized that we’re like two covers short of a full length. A lot of those had been used for B-sides, one was used for a charity auction, kind of random things that weren’t necessarily releases, and over the course of 7 years they started piling up. Our guitarist has a warehouse space, a recording studio and rehearsal space, so we said, “Lets go in there, record a few more covers, see what happens,” and we got a few done in one night. I would like people to hear these ’cause we had fun making them. They were all recorded in different places, on different equipment, with different band members, kind of all over the place. It’s just a fun thing and we wanted more people to hear them.

The songs you chose are so varied. How did you decide which songs to cover? 

They’re songs we all liked – something from every decade, every recording style. It’s fun to look back on the past 7 years, which is something I do a lot more now that I’m old. You get to see where your head was at at different points. You start listening to different songs and your whole philosophy on songwriting and recording changes […] A lot of these songs were songs we played in the van on tour – some we played every day and got sick of, then came back years later and loved them again. It’s kind of a shared musical experience with three other people.

I have to ask: what about the Polaris song [The theme song from The Adventures of Pete & Pete] — did you cover it because of the show, or did you just love the song? 

Oh, we loved the show. It was important in all of our childhoods. Sometimes we cover it live and you can always tell the people who are almost exactly the same age as us cause they freak out, and the 19-year-olds don’t really know it. It’s a weird song — it’s weird and wholesome and heartwarming at the same time, but also very surreal. It’s a strange mix of feelings, which is also what I try to do in my songwriting.

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Surfer Blood
Cattivo 
Friday, October 13 
Doors at 7 p.m. / Show at 8 p.m. 
$12 / $14
Tickets