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Surmiser: NY Band Marries ‘80s Punk and ‘90s Grunge on “ESF” (PREMIERE)

Photo: Tom L. Matthews

"A lot of our inspiration comes from '70s and '80s punk, '90s Seattle bands like TAD, Nirvana, Melvins, and also groups like Fugazi, Sonic Youth, Shellac, the Wipers, and Dinosaur Jr." That's what Surmiser guitarist/vocalist Jay Andersen tells me about his band's influences, and unlike many of the times I ask the same question to other musicians, his answer actually does reflect how his group sounds.

Hailing from the Woodstock area of New York, the power trio will be dropping an EP called Hold the Static in June, their fourth overall release since forming back in 2012. For many people, when they think of Woodstock, images of naked hippes on LSD hanging out in a field come to mind, so I ask Jay how it really is up there. "Woodstock, in some sense, is what you might imagine. Woods, fields, streams and ponds, scenic hikes, mountain views and all of that, but the naked hippie culture honestly has grown up into a society of uptight dinosaurs.

"There was a recent hearing where they imposed a noise ban in the town that effectively shut down a promising DIY venue that was the only real outlet for the younger set up there. It's mostly littered with snobby, self-important singer-songwriter types and Jazz dweebs who either weekend here or who have moved up from the city permanently. The shops and restaurants are largely high-ticket joints and the property values and taxes have risen to match them."

Well, that sucks. Let's move on to better things, namely Surmiser. I got my hands on "ESF," a track from the forthcoming EP, to give you a taste of the trio's tunage.

Jay offers up some thoughts on the song: "'ESF' (Expensive Swedish Furnishings) is a song about being so fucking bored that you go cross-eyed and into a hallucination daydream. The being 'stuck in the couch again' part is a call to the cover of a Dinosaur Jr. record where it appears a couch is eating a human. It literally spawned from the most boring weekend in history, where I was seemingly unable to escape an overpriced IKEA you-build-it sofa. 'All my friends are in my head' is play off of Nirvana's 'Lithium,' except I couldn't get a hold of any friends where as Cobain found his..."

Now, how about that cover art, huh? "The EP cover was shot and edited by our bass player, Tom Matthews. It was shot in a parking lot, in the middle of a very cold winter night, with only a battery-powered work light and his camera. The guy in the photo, who I believe wants to remain anonymous, basically showed up, adjusted his wardrobe and held this plastic container as a place holder for the static ball. The smoke and the static stuff was all done by Tom in post. We chose this person because he has a wizardly look, but also because he's a super cool duderino. He has offered many times to help us out, and we appreciate his participation."

I can see indie music heads digging what Surmiser is doing, but there’s also a punk element to what the band does that I think could also lend itself well to that side of things. "I think we hang pretty well with indie, alt.rock, punk, and metal bands. I'd love to do a run with A Place to Bury Strangers, METZ, or even a band like Slaves (from the UK). I personally love punk rock and the DIY culture even more-so, but I've outgrown some of the expected punk rocker habits, so touring with some legit and gritty younger punk bands probably wouldn't be a great fit. I've got too much dad vibe for alot of those people [laughs]. Oh, I'd also love to open for Dinosaur Jr. or the Melvins one day." 

Photo: Stephanie Kerr-Matthews

Hold the Static will be released on digital and CD on June 8th; find digital pre-orders here and watch for CD pre-order shortly.

Surmiser live dates:
5/19/2018 Bangkok Café – New Paltz, NY w/ Hairbag, Ramona Lane 
6/09/2018 The People's Cauldron – Rosendale, NY *release show w/ Hairbag, Mr. Blonde, more TBA

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