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September 2019

Brooklyn's Surfbort tackle life's highs and lows via exhilarating punk rock

This bunch break the mould. 
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Published: 11:48 am, June 10, 2019Words: Jamie Muir. Photos: Sarah Louise Bennett.
Brooklyn's Surfbort tackle life's highs and lows via exhilarating punk rock

“Oh, it’s only one hour out of your life - fuck it; go for it.”

It’s the sort of advice that sticks with you, that bolsters that longing to get out in the world and throw yourself into every nook and cranny. When those words are coming from Blondie’s own Debbie Harry, it’s something to live by - especially when she’s already a big fan of your band.

“She’s an icon,” points Surfbort’s Dani Miller, gathered with her bandmates around an outside pub table as the city of Brighton weens its way into a packed evening. “She’s so inspirational and so strong. No other words are needed - it’s Debbie Harry! She’s been a fan of Surfbort for a while now.”

For a band making waves out of Brooklyn’s scratchy punk scene, Surfbort are becoming quite the movement and in turn, an emblem of change and rebellion that’s set to change the mainstream for the better.

“I feel like a lot of people get shocked,” delves Dani when thinking of people’s first reactions when Surfbort’s quickfire scuzz-punk rips into view. “The best thing is when everyone in a crowd just turns to smiling, laughing and having fun. That’s what it’s all about!”

Brooklyn's Surfbort tackle life's highs and lows via exhilarating punk rock
Brooklyn's Surfbort tackle life's highs and lows via exhilarating punk rock
"When bands really hit it off, it’s a magical thing"

Recent shows have seen a rapturous response, touring across Europe for the first time and witnessing first-hand the unforgettable power and change they’re already causing.

“We did our first headline tour of Europe not too long ago,” remembers guitarist Alex Kilgore. “Playing places like Paris and Berlin and shows were fucking insane. We didn’t expect it to be like that, just places going totally off with people knowing the record and just going fucking nuts.”

Drummer Sean Powell picks up: “When we played the Shacklewell Arms in London, that was one of the craziest shows we’ve done in a while! That’s a million times better than playing in front of a crowded room of people who are just standing there staring at you, going ‘what the fuck are you doing’.”

Alex smiles, “what’s cool is when you have that and then halfway through you get them, and then you turn them!”

It summarises exactly what Surftbort are all about, a no-nonsense kick to a world struggling to find its way - both protest and party in equal measure. Self-described as ‘Dani And The Dads’, it’s a journey that shows how across generations and backgrounds, music can find a home. It’s a home plenty are going to be knocking on the door of pretty soon.

“It comes from just a super solid background of the guys being in Texas and playing punk in the 80s and knowing about life in music for so many years. Then meeting with me, and I’m like - what the fuck is going on in life, I have a lot of spirit but ahhhh,” explains Dani. “We all wrangled together, and it’s been great. When bands really hit it off, it’s a magical thing. A weird universe explosion, nobody knows how it happens.”

Naturally forming and shaping into place over the years, the idea of Surfbort was born when Dani first moved to New York.

“I started the band and didn’t know about music or really what the right recipe and process was for it all,” she admits. “I remember the first time I played in Surfbort, I thought I was moving about on stage, and my mum told me I was stood still just freaking out. It was my 21st birthday and I’d just gotten sober, and I drank a Red Bull, and I was like, what the fuck is going on? I’ve never felt this way. An explosion of energy and I learned to fully translate that to the audience.”

Brooklyn's Surfbort tackle life's highs and lows via exhilarating punk rock
"We’re just the clowns erupting the riot"

The band became a true word of mouth hit, something that pulled everyone together to form the unit standing here today. Alex saw an incarnation of the band playing in Berlin which included Dani and Sean, while fellow guitarist David Head joined after being a fan for a while. His second show was appearing at Coachella before heading straight out on tour with the Black Lips. “Just thrown into the fire!” laughs Dani.

A Surfbort show is unlike anything else. A free place for those to express themselves, rally against the world outside the venue’s doors and a carefree explosion of fun and love - it’s a recipe needed for the here and now.

“We’re all about having the audience be the centre of life and attention - it’s not really about us, it’s about ‘hell yeah, people are coming together’,” notes Dani. "Out there, there’s angst and frustrations. Shitty things happen to you during the week, and it’s cool to get together with your friends, have a blast, dance about. We’re just the clowns erupting the riot.”

“We want people to feel included, not to feel alone.”

Brooklyn's Surfbort tackle life's highs and lows via exhilarating punk rock
Brooklyn's Surfbort tackle life's highs and lows via exhilarating punk rock

It’s a feeling that rings true with the band’s debut album. Released through Julian Casablancas’ Cult Records, ‘Friendship Music’ is a blistering whip through potent punk force in all its glorious bright-spots and fury. Rallying against the US government, championing equality and more - it’s a record that delves into unimaginable darkness and comes out swinging and dancing.

As Dani notes, “super fucked up things are happening with the government and all this shit, but we still should be able to enjoy life and come together and not be suffering because of some dickhead trying to rule over us. We have a lot of privilege, and I want to be able to stand up for people who are being put down by shitty, weird laws. Trump and shit just want to point out differences, which is so wrong to us. We love having fun and enjoying the pleasure of life - so we do a mix, I want to be able to stand up for people at the same time - there’s no room to be silent.”

“Oh, fuck yeah. Especially now,” continues Alex. “Our country is so fucked up right now - the NRA, Trump, those making abortion illegal. They don’t want you to find out what you have in common with other people because everybody has a lot of shit in common.”

“At the same time,” jumps back Dani, “it’s about not giving power to those people. Yeah, there’s a lot of work we need to do and need to change in politics, but I don’t want to give them the full power. Let's meet up and hang out and have fun and enjoy life, and fuck all those assholes.”

“They can’t bring us down and make us depressed and think it’s the end of the world every second of the day.”

Brooklyn's Surfbort tackle life's highs and lows via exhilarating punk rock
"I want to be able to stand up for people who are being put down by shitty, weird laws"

The world is definitely taking notice. Not just backed by Blondie and Julian Casablancas, you’ll find the likes of Wolf Alice (“Who popped our UK cherry,” smiles Dani), Karen O and Gucci all proudly waving the Surfbort flag. Yep, you read the last one right, Gucci - with the band fronting their first ever beauty range.

“It’s surreal,” continues Dani. “It’s a huge luxury brand, but the cool thing about it and what we’re so stoked about it is the fact they stand for the same shit we do. Being inclusive and supporting artists - letting freaks and outcasts feel beautiful and be involved, that’s so sick that you can do that in the fashion world.”

“We know a lot of the typical people who are into Gucci might…” begins Sean. “Well, we’ve seen the comments - ‘Gucci HIV: Faces Of Meth’. We know that it bothers a lot of people, and that makes us feel good.”

“Even though there are those people saying that,” continues Dani, “I just want to stand up for those people who feel like they don’t usually fit into the fold of fashion. You can rock it on the streets and feel good about yourself. Be eccentric, be a clown; do whatever you want. Even if you do want to feel polished, don’t feel pressured to fit into any certain box.”

Continually learning, evolving and growing - Surfbort are the welcome revolution bringing a brighter day to the skies. With a second album already brimming on the cards, it’s only just the beginning.

Taken from the July issue of Dork.

July 2019
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