Surfer Blood has announced their fourth studio album, Snowdonia, due out February 3rd via Joyful Noise Recordings. A sonic departure for the band, Snowdonia is Surfer Blood’s first release since the tragic loss of guitarist Thomas Fekete to cancer in May 2016.
Snowdonia was written shortly after the band’s first long tour without Fekete, as lead singer John Paul Pitts struggled with Fekete’s absence and the weight of getting older. Featuring a talented new lineup that sees Michael McCleary on guitar and Lindsey Mills on bass — both high school classmates of Pitts and drummer Tyler Schwarz — Snowdonia marks the first time since the band’s debut album, 2010’s Astro Coast, that Pitts has written and mixed a Surfer Blood record alone. Though the album features plenty of Surfer Blood’s signature hooks, it also incorporates heavier themes. One of the record’s darkest songs, “Six Flags in F or G,” was written as Pitts grappled with Fekete’s illness and his absence on tour.
Shortly after Fekete was diagnosed with cancer, Pitts’ mother was diagnosed with breast cancer and began undergoing chemotherapy. Her illness inspired him to write “Carrier Pigeon” — Pitts notes it is the most narrative and autobiographical song he’s ever written, and it embodies his attempts to reconcile the love he has for his parents with not always loving how they choose to see the world.
Other tracks on the record attempt to deal with aging in a more playful way. “Matter of Time” is a straightforward pop song that focuses on the decision of when to get married, something Pitts is now considering at age 30. “Taking Care of Eddy” can be taken literally: it was written about Pitts’ girlfriend’s great uncle, Eddy, an 84-year-old who suffered stunted development after a car accident as a child. As a result, he thinks and acts like an eight year old, has Parkinson’s disease, and can’t get around by himself, but maintains a childlike sense of wonder. While taking care of him hasn’t been easy, Pitts tried to inject some of Eddy’s playfulness into the song.
While Snowdonia grapples with heavier material, Pitts likens some of the more complex songs to Astro Coast track “Anchorage,” though the new songs were written specifically with the band’s current lineup and new strengths in mind. Wanting to play up McCleary and Mills’ vocal skills, he wrote layers of vocals into almost every track and added call-and-response parts between himself and Mills throughout the album.
With enormous attention to detail, the eight tracks on Snowdonia make the album Surfer Blood’s most ambitious release yet.
Snowdonia Track Listing:
1. Matter of Time
3. Dino Jay
4. Six Flags in F or G
6. Instant Doppelgängers
7. Taking Care of Eddy
8. Carrier Pigeon