(Self-released, digital download)
Of all the musical trends in Vermont at the moment, the rise of surf music is easily the most random and inexplicable. Vermont is usually a few years behind on cultural trends. But it’s not like surf music has become all that hip on a national level of late. Sure, bands such as Best Coast, Real Estate and Surfer Blood have popularized certain elements of the style. But that development, minor to begin with, has largely occurred within the larger context of indie rock.
Surf music, especially the instrumental variety, hasn’t really been “a thing” since Pulp Fiction in 1994. Which means the new crop of homegrown surf acts such as the High Breaks, the Concrete Rivals and Torpedo Rodeo, among others, are either close to 20 years behind the times, or way ahead.
The latest local group to test those waters is Vultures of Cult. On their recently released SVRF EP, the quartet, known more for forays into high-concept metal, dip their toes into surf music.
A brief intro track, “Prelvde,” sets a foggy scene. A lone guitar floats atop the sound of gently breaking waves with meandering lines and occasional droplets of bent, reverb-drenched sustains. Then VoC drop in on the title track.
“SVRF” gathers momentum with a surf staple: a staccato guitar run that lingers on one note before shooting the curl into a mid-tempo, Arabic-scale melody. When it does kick in, the tune unleashes a sort of demented “Misirlou,” complete with dueling octaved guitar lines that nod toward the Dick Dale classic but eventually take on a sinister life of their own.
“VVaves” is next and drifts lazily in the washout of the preceding track before finding sure footing. Guitarists Justin Gonyea and Stephen Sharp make a fine pairing, matching sprightly lines against a languid play on the classic “boom bat-bat boom bat” surf rhythm. Drummer Keenan Bouchard’s woozy ride cymbals add to the sun-stroked aesthetic, while bassist Logan Bouchard hangs coolly in the shade.
Following “Interlvde,” which evokes a summer evening spent on a back porch smoking cigarettes and listening to AM radio, the EP closes on “Thank God It’s Doomsday.” VoC’s dusty take on surf music generally exists closer to Link Wray’s heady, rockabilly-informed iterations (think Wray’s “Rumble”) than Dale’s peppy beach-blanket variety. And the swinging, greased-up “Doomsday” is a fine example, not to mention a fitting closer.
For the endlessly curious and creative Vultures of Cult, surf music may be nothing more than a quick beach vacation before they return to their day job of crafting epic, stoner-rock operas — such as 2010’s Cold Hum. But with SVRF EP, the band has brought back quite the souvenir.
SVRF EP by Vulture of Cult is available at vulturesofcult.bandcamp.com.