Limelight: Surf City

“Prog? I don’t think we’re prog,” says Davin Stoddard, Surf City frontman, on the phone from his home in Kingsland, Auckland. “I don’t even know what prog is.”

The email he sends the next day, to further our understanding of his band, is quite prog. Or maybe it’s more psychedelic. In it, he details, at considerable length, the occasion he took mushrooms in Mexico. He compares his trip to “a kaleidoscopic journey” – tiny leprechauns materialising before his eyes as he becomes God and uncovers the mysteries of the universe.

“Yes, we definitely like psychedelia,” he says, and it being very late in New Zealand, he sounds more stoned than acid-delirious.

The band also like shoegaze, krautrock and space-rock. All of these influences are there on Jekyll Island, the third album from a four-piece who were named after a Jesus And Mary Chain B-side and have been going, in one form or another, since 2004. Since then, Surf City have supported Dinosaur Jr. and MGMT, and become local legends.

As to why Surf City exist, Stoddard claims: “We hope to summon forth a maelstrom of such immense power that the message cannot be unheard, even if this moment is only compacted into one infinite moment.”

Come again?

“We aim to free ourselves from the current shackles placed upon not just musicians and artists, the current poor elite, but to all people,” he continues. “We hope to reveal to ourselves all secrets of the universe. Be that by playing a two-minute pop song or bringing ourselves into harmony with the universal rhythmic pulse.”

Fair enough. But why Jekyll Island?

“It’s a record for the times,” he explains. “We’re happy that we’re here but worried that soon we won’t be. It is a record with desire to do good and the understanding that what it is doing might not be enough. Jekyll Island is real. It’s the island where the federal reserve was conceived. There’s no point giving a lesson on how and who was there; the fact remains it was on this island that modern economics as we know it was conceived. Debt is the main subject of Jekyll Island. It shapes the reality that has been created for us.”

That reality, in Surf City’s case, doesn’t appear to have been overly affected by Stoddard’s mushroom adventures, but after a while you start to impose your own prog-psych visions on their screes of guitar noise.

“I lay back on my bed staring into the ceiling, brave psychedelic warrior that I was,” recalls Stoddard, capturing the moment reality impinged on his trip. “Sirius and all of its counterparts opened their collective floodgates and hurled down what became solid bolts of lightning that shook the riverbed into a flurry of a billion raindrops in an infinite ocean: reality was impressing itself on me in its own special way. ‘Here I am,’ it said. ‘Don’t ever forget, you little fucker, here I am, here I always am!’”

Not much chance of that. PL



Davin Stoddard (vocals, guitar), Josh Kennedy (guitar), Jamie Kennedy (bass), Logan Collins (drums)


A krautrock band in a punch-up with a surfer band refereed by a shoegaze band


Jekyll Island is out now on Fire Records


Paul Lester

Paul Lester is the editor of Record Collector. He began freelancing for Melody Maker in the late 80s, and was later made Features Editor. He was a member of the team that launched Uncut Magazine, where he became Deputy Editor. In 2006 he went freelance again and has written for The Guardian, The Times, the Sunday Times, the Telegraph, Classic Rock, Q and the Jewish Chronicle. He has also written books on Oasis, Blur, Pulp, Bjork, The Verve, Gang Of Four, Wire, Lady Gaga, Robbie Williams, the Spice Girls, and Pink.