With the nearest ocean lying 350 miles away, surf rock seems out of place in the Arizona desert, and to many, surf music in the 21st century comes off as an anachronism.
However, the sub-genre has found its footing in the Valley of the Sun with the adoration of a growing number of local fans. One band in particular strives to make 1960s style surf music relevant again.
Lead guitarist Eric Hirsch and drummer Adam Gold said the Apaches give the classic instrumental surf sound a southwest twist with catchy melodies, pounding drums and echoed, twangy electric guitars not unlike those heard in old spaghetti western films.
“A lot of it comes down to the guitars and amps that we use,” Gold said. “Basically, just having that really twangy sound. I think it’s just from living in Arizona, that Southwest art sound just seeps into you.”
Hirsch and Gold grew up in Long Island, New York, listening to surf rock before moving out West, bringing with them their “island mentality.” The two jammed together for 18 years in a number of different bands and projects before forming the Apaches over a year ago.
Gold said it was only a matter of time before their desert surroundings influenced their sound.
Hirsch acknowledged surf music as being “out of time and out of place,” but found that it has a steadily growing following in the Phoenix area.
“We were really unsure whether anybody would really be into it,” Hirsch said. “But we met a whole lot of other people that incorporate surf. We also met the Backyard Snakes and the James Brown Band Band, who started out as a surf band and then evolved into something else. We’re starting to find this ‘scene’ type of thing that’s going on.”
Unsurprisingly, the group’s name has encountered controversy. However, the band insists that the moniker isn’t meant to be offensive (the lineup includes a Native American member), but is meant to pay tribute to the 1960 mega-hit “Apache” by the Shadows.
“The whole idea of the band was to mesh surf rock music with a southwestern vibe,” said lead guitarist Hirsch. “That one song defines that.”
Hirsch said the band continues to receive “blowback” from the people who find the name racist, even though many local spots with names that contain the word “Apache” (such as Apache Lake and Apache Boulevard) aren’t generally considered offensive. He also dismissed accusations of cultural appropriation.
“They say, ‘You’re not Apache,’” Hirsch said. “Well, the Dallas Cowboys aren’t f-----g cowboys. The only culture we’re appropriating is early 1960s America.”
On Saturday, the Apaches debuted their first full-length album “Musica Surfica Vol. I & II” with a show at the Lost Leaf, which included the surf-influenced James Brown Band Band and surf rock emcee DJ Beat Betty.
The album is entirely instrumentals written by Hirsch, including the previously released title track “Musica Surfica,” a staple of what Hirsch calls “desert surf.”
The Apaches will perform at the Rhythm Room in Phoenix on Tuesday, March 22.
Reach the reporter at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow @sailormouthed92 on Twitter.