Wild Honey have been popping up more and more frequently over the past 6 months or so.
They’re a charming band, spurting out completely joyful rock n’ roll tunes that positively beam with Californian sunshine. Obviously big fans of American rock music, we asked Thom Moore (vocals and guitar) from the band to talk about some of their favourite surf albums. They more than pulled through, giving a run down of their perception of the trajectory of surf music.
Wild Honey give us a lesson in surf rock history with then show off their collection of favourite surf records. Here’s what they had to say:
Just over forty years ago to the day in the summer of 1976, The Beach Boys released a TV special It’s OK featuring future Blues Brothers John Belushi and Dan Akroyd. The two SNL comedians appeared as Surf Police arriving at the Bel Air home of Beach Boy Brian Wilson, enforcing Section 936A of the Californian ‘Catch a Wave Statute’.
The subsequent beach scene is simultaneously comical and heart breaking as a bloated Wilson struggles to stay afloat in ankle height whitewash. How can it be? A Beach Boy but not a surfer?
Most people are familiar with the popular genre of surf music. Emerging at the beginning of the 1960’s, the classification was first associated with the reverb soaked guitars of American artists like Dick Dale & The Deltones (or Australian acts like The Atlantics and The Denvermen) and the vocal group harmonies of Jan & Dean and The Beach Boys. The question remains whether any of these musicians ever set foot on the beach, or more importantly on a surfboard.
Record labels sold an image drenched in Californian sunshine; shapely bikini-clad girls watching on as their men rode 10 ft malibu’s in 5” board shorts on rolling bombora’s. In Australia, the rise of the ‘Surfie’ was so swift that for a time surfboards were required to be registered with local councils and a licence displayed.
Although surfing in Australia dates back as far as 1915, surf culture in Australia really took off in the early 1960’s with surfers like Midget Farrelly heading off to International contests and bringing home the brass.
Some music critics claim the ‘British Invasion’ of bands like The Beatles & The Rolling Stones marked the end of surf rock’s popularity. But it seems to this writer, that with the expansion of surfing from Hawaii and California to around the world; surfers switched on to other sounds which either reflected the feeling or experience of surfing, or the culture off the sand.
Back to the matter at hand for a moment though, are surf music musicians required to be surfers themselves? We know Brian Wilson certainly wasn’t a surfer, though his brother Dennis reportedly was up until his death (he drowned in 1981). Dick Dale was from Boston and from all reports spent most of his time with Leo Fender furthering the development of guitar amplifiers.
However some early surf rock bands were indeed surfers. Sydney’s The Sunsets, spent their days at Bronte and Maroubra, and their nights at the surf clubs at Clovelly and clubs of Kings Cross, before having significant success later on as Tamam Shud; supplying the soundtrack to the Paul Witzig surf film Evolution.
Fast forward to today and what has become considered surf music today is worth exploring.
It may be best to consider surf music as truly defined by its audience. Surf culture in Australia today embraces music of different origins and genres. Mullumbimby via 1967 Haight Ashbury lovechild’s The Babe Rainbow advocate the mantra of Love Forever in a Secret Enchanted Broccoli Forest.
Byron Bay via 1993 San Diego skate rats SKEGSS just wanna have a fun time and get high.
Wollongong via 1996 Camden Hockey Dad are just super keen on birds. All three bands surf and its safe to assume skate. Maybe more than ever authenticity matters?
I’ve chosen five records which have provided the soundtrack to a Bondi surfing life. With its backpacker surf crowds, activewear sporting latte ladies and all the rest. Even at a city beach, for a few moments it’s possible to get away from the same day in day out routine and have a bash.
Kurt Vile – Smoke Ring For My Halo (2011)
A flawless gem of intricate guitar work and lazily perfected drawl. Many a rainy morning listening to this watching onshore mess and hoping the wind will drop.
Sand – Self Titled (1973)
A criminally ignored record from a band out of Portland in the early 70’s. Think Crosby, Stills and Nash meets the Flying Burrito Brothers. Must have for East Coast roadies.
Bob Dylan – New Morning (1970)
Single fin plus reeling right hander equals happiness to me. ‘The man in me’ to me is the soundtrack.
The Beach Boys – Love You (1977)
Underlooked Wilson masterpiece. Lots of juicy analog synths, couples with great lyrics and classic melodies. Almost as good as Pet Sounds. There, I said it.
Crystal Voyager – Sound Track (1973)
Great songs by G.Wayne Thomas to accompany one of the classic Australian surf films of the 70’s. Even managed to win an ARIA, so don’t take my word for it! Changes is such a positive vibe song, Angourie anthem.
Catch Wild Honey on tour this June/July at the following venues:
Sat June 18th – Producers Bar, Adelaide
Fri July 1st – Lass O’Gowrie, Newcastle
Sat July 2nd – Brighton Up Bar 4th Birthday, Sydney
Fri July 8th – Penny Black, Melbourne
Sat July 9th – Westernport Hotel, San Remo
Thur July 14th – Beach Hotel, Byron
Fri July 15th – Bistrotheque @ The Flying Cock, Brisbane
Sat July 16th – Imperial Hotel, Sunshine Coast