Douglas Martin will accept an all-expenses paid trip to lovely Bloomington.
I assure you that Bloomington, Indiana is a nice place. The city is home to the Secretly Canadian Music Group (which includes Secretly and equally-unfuckwithable labels JagJaguwar and Dead Oceans), the campus of Indiana University has an unexpected and refreshing lack of broken chairs, the townies leave you the fuck alone, and there is an awesome record store (the appropriately-named Landlocked Music) with a Chipotle next door. And just like every college town, there are a bunch of college kids and former college kids making music, and Bloomington bands Triptides and We Don’t Surf are ushering a new… um, wave of beachy lo-fi music from the shore-deprived city. And though two bands don’t necessarily constitute as a “scene,” these two bands do their job well enough to generate attention outside of WIUX’s bandwidth.
The more accessible of the two bands would be Triptides. Bassist Josh Menashe, guitarist Glenn Brigman, and drummer Shaun Snyder play romantic surf-rock very similar to Belfast’s Girls Names, with plaintive crooning, catchy guitar lines, and an upbeat rhythm section. “Reel” dreamily shuffles with poise, and with better production values, “Summerday” could easily make a teen drama. As “Bad News” gets by on its infectious jangle, Brigman delivers a message that could easily apply to their reasoning for starting a band with such a sun-kissed sound: “Life’s too short to hear bad news.”
We Don’t Surf proves to be not only more dynamic, but also a bit more mysterious. To start with, the only two members of the band with real names are frontman Jerome Assad (of garage-rock terrorists Jerome and the Psychics) and Nick Tromley (on loan from garage band The Pom Poms), but even they are named here as “Surfer 1” and “Surfer 2”. There are thirteen “surfers” in total in We Don’t Surf, and over the course of eleven online EP’s, there are ten different configurations of them. There’s a song sung in French, an EP that solely consists of Spanish-sung folk songs, a seemingly halfway-sarcastic tune titled “Fun in the Summer Sun,” and a lyric that goes, “I was your pimp and you were my whore.” A lot of the work of We Don’t Surf is reminiscent of the sloshed and slapdash approach of vintage Black Lips, which can sometimes get lost in the shuffle of all of the new garage bands infiltrating indie-rock these days, but it’s better than the bargain-basement twee on the other side of the fence. Picking your battles is sometimes the important half of the fight.
So while Triptides and We Don’t Surf make their way towards releasing something that’ll get their tour vans somewhere near an actual beach, you have to wonder if dwelling the Bloomington DIY house show circuit has made their sound aspirational (for moving to California, or grad school, or even assistant manager of Landlocked Music), or if it’s a means of escapism from the muggy Indiana summer weather. Regardless, whatever the reason for making these two bands think up being surf-punk outfits for a city that’s never held a beach party in its history, fans of lo-fi music are made all the better for it.