Fuzzysurf is a surf pop indie band from Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Citing The Beatles, The Byrds, The Beach Boys, Blur, Weezer, and Talking Heads as early musical influences, the group goal has always been the creation of a catchy song.
Sweet Sweet Music blog spoke to Sean, Corey, and Mike about their Sweet Tooth, playing in a Weezer cover band, competing with a soccer game, recording and performing, and trusting the younger generations will take control again.
As an artist, you chose to show your emotions to the world. Is it always comfortable to do so?
Sean: For me, not at all. Don’t get me wrong, I can be very sociable and have no problem expressing, sharing ideas, or being intimate with those close to me. However, when you are creating, let’s say, snippets or pieces of art or music or whatever and finally decide to take the steps to say, “Hey, look over here everyone, I made something!”, you do open yourself up to criticism or different takes about yourself that you would have otherwise never had to worry about. A song is only a small piece of something that is much larger to someone. A person’s impression of a song can define that person’s impression of the artist massively. So yeah there is a lot of pressure to make something good and I’m not always comfortable but that is also part of the process. To gain the courage to put yourself out there is the reward.
What’s the gig you will always remember? And why?
Sean: I think Corey or Ben can tell this story better but I’ll try. We were booked to play a show at a soccer bar in Milwaukee. We had been rehearsing before the show in our old practice space which was in the basement of our drummer, MIke’s house. He had been doing some major home remodeling since he knows how to do things like that, and sometime during our rehearsal, he stepped on an exposed nail through his bass drum foot. Mike couldn’t play the pedal and he had to go to the doctor. So last minute the other three of us decide we will try to do our first acoustic show ever instead since the show was that night and we always keep our commitments. At the show, we wing it with a “stripped” down set, and halfway through, the owner of the venue stops us and shouts out that the soccer game which was previously delayed due to rain is now starting and he wants to play the game and shut us down. We were in disbelief and the owner could tell so he decided to hold a “loudness wins” cheering competition between those who wanted to watch the game vs those who want to watch our band. We were totally in shock at this point. Our drummer is in the ER with a rusted nail in the foot and now we may be totally humiliated and kicked off stage for a soccer game. Luckily, we won without a question and finished our set. What also made it extra crazy was that one of the musical directors from a local radio station and a writer for a music blog were there to catch our show for the first time. It could’ve turned out really bad, haha!
Corey: I was outside unloading some gear when Mike stepped on that nail but I don’t think I can ever get the image of Ben having to stand on the board to pry it out of Mike’s foot. He managed to tough it out for the full rehearsal, grimacing through all of our songs but I was pretty sure he wasn’t going to make it to the gig afterward. One additional layer of disappointment came when Sean’s guitar battery died 10 minutes into the set and he had to run out to the car to grab a replacement. Ben saved the moment by continuing to play the same baseline the entire time he was gone.
Mike: I played in a Weezer cover band for a Halloween gig in Philly circa 2006 or 2007? It was for a one-off show Halloween show at World Cafe Live. We got done with our set and someone in the crowd begged us to go to their house to do another late-night set in their basement. That snowballed into something like 10 shows in 6 days, culminating with one last basement show. All I remember is looking up from my drums on “My Name is Jonas” and seeing a crowd of people falling into the band, pulling down the drop ceiling, and screaming at the top of their lungs. That moment changed everything for me and my love for playing.
When was the last time you thought ‘I just wrote a hit!’?
Sean: I’ll let you know when.
Mike: Every song we write. Not in an egotistical way but what I love is after every song we complete we sit there and think “damn, how are we going to top that?” Well, I don’t know about the other guys but I get nervous like did we just hit our peak with that one? But then a few months later Sean will send a group text with some jam he’s working on and we’re blown away. At the end of the day, we love these songs because they’re hits to us. We’re just so lucky that other people sometimes feel the same way about them.
Is recording a record easier than getting it heard nowadays?
Sean: For sure. The price of admission to recording music is incredibly affordable now. Anyone can get a free app or cheap equipment and have access to multitrack recording capabilities and instant plug-in effects. I think it was David Byrne who I remember saying something along these lines about it. You’ve now got all these people that otherwise wouldn’t have been able to record and put out music who now, suddenly in the last decade, can do so and are doing so at an incredible rate. The music being made is more varied and diverse in styles than it’s ever been. However, the downside of reduced barriers to recording is more music is being made, and therefore, more bad music is also being made which makes it difficult as an artist to rise above the noise.
Corey: I wish I could say that being in a band involved as much recording and performing as it did hustle but the fact of the matter is 90% of our time is devoted to the business and exposure side of things. Being a musician in 2020 feels more like working in marketing and social media sometimes. As Sean says, with so many people making music these days, you’ve got to do what you can to set yourself apart. Everybody’s passionate about what they do and it takes a special effort to demonstrate why you’ve got something that’s worth any attention when everyone is being so inundated with other music.
Mike: I grew up in the East Coast punk/rock scene. Getting a 4-track together and laying shit down with your friends, I mean it doesn’t get easier than that. Today you have so many options if you want to track in a studio, at home, all together, separate, in different studios, mixing, mastering, pre-production, etc. It’s just endless. On one hand, I feel like it’s harder than just getting a 4-track in a basement but on the other hand, I enjoy the accessibility and flexibility of recording so to me that’s a lot easier as you scale your production.
Getting heard is a timeless endeavor. I’ve been in bands for 20 years and it doesn’t feel any harder or easier, it’s just part of the gig. We just focus on writing our songs, making them the best they can be, and constantly challenging ourselves. When we release them to the world we hope there are a few more people who enjoy it and that those people want to share it with their friends.
Vinyl is back, Spotify is ruling, tickets for concerts are becoming more and more expensive, everybody can record songs, social media is the marketing tool, Coldplay stops touring … how will the music industry look like in 5 years?
Sean: On the smaller scale, it’ll be like craft beers. The floodgates are open right now but being a successful independent artist will be more and more like running a small business which takes a ton of work. Music will continue to become more niche-oriented and develop new styles but artists will need to adapt and find what works and what doesn’t for their intended market. “Pop” music coming from the big labels will continue to homogenize if trends from the last few years keep up.
Corey: And that’s to say nothing about what this pandemic is doing to live music. I hope that people are doing what they can to support their local venues these days and I hope that everyone is continuing to be creative about the ways in which they can make things work while things are the way that they are. That said, I feel like all of these live-streamed events that we’ve been seeing have reminded me of the value of an actual live music experience. Watching a great band play on a computer screen just can’t stand-in for the experience of being there in person. It’s reassuring to me that as society becomes so much more focused on streaming media, social media, and digital formats, that we can also still agree on the value of sharing in a live musical moment.
Mike: There’s a deep emotional connection between artist and fan that’s impossible to replicate outside a live show. You can’t make it happen in a recording, you can’t do it in a live YouTube setting, you can’t do it on a big stage. My faith is in the younger generations rebelling against the trends being shoved down their throats. I hope 5 years from now you see kids taking control of their local scenes, putting on shows at their local VFW halls, in their basements, wherever they can share 30 minutes singing with their friends. They will bring music back to its core because they will want to experience something that’s real.