Scholarship money usually goes toward, you know, school, but John Paul “JP” Pitts, guitarist and singer for Florida’s Surfer Blood, had other ideas. “I got some cash for college from the state government because I had good grades,” says the unrepentant 23-year-old. “But I ended up using a bunch of it to buy microphones — good ones.” He laughs. “I eventually quit school. My parents weren’t too happy about that.”
The Pittses have presumably come to terms with their son’s decision. Less than six months after forming in Miami in April 2009, Pitts, drummer Tyler “TJ” Schwarz, 24, percussionist Marcos Marchesani, 20, guitarist Thomas Fekete, 21, and bassist Brian Black, 20, found themselves with a record deal — and as one of the mostlauded bands at last October’s CMJ festival, where they played 12 shows in five days.
Tours with Art Brut and Japandroids — whose heartfelt geekiness and post-punk jock jams, respectively, are rough analogues to the Surfer Blood sound — filled out the year. “It might seem like stuff happened quickly,” says JP. “But we made the decision to dedicate our lives to this. We booked five tours in the first five months we were together.”
As it led the band to tighten the songs later found on their recent debut, Astro Coast (Kanine) — a smartly conceived smear of pinging guitar and casually melodic love songs that reference David Lynch (“Twin Peaks”) and WWE slang (“Fast Jabroni” and “Slow Jabroni”) — the road also helped the Bloods bond. “In high school I used to think TJ was a douchey surfer dude. He had spiky hair and said ‘brah,’ ” reminisces JP. “But you get superclose to someone when you’re getting high in a van together for weeks at a time or running over deer in Iowa or fighting with club owners.”
With the band planning to spend eight months of this year touring — including a maiden voyage to the U.K. — the members’ relationship-building should continue. But JP has something else he wants to achieve. “It’d be great if we could help south Florida be known for more than just old people,” he jokes. “Surfers I can live with, but it’s hard to make old people seem cool.”