By Savanah Mandeville
I discovered Surfbort this fall at The Riot Room in Kansas City when they opened for The Black Lips. Anticipating the headliner, one of my all time favs, I figured I’d patiently ride out the opening act. I had no idea the impression NYC-based Surfbort was about to have on me.
The four piece took the stage. Alex Kilgore and David Head on guitar, Sean Powell on drums – Kilgore and Head looking like they hadn’t changed their clothes or hair since 1980 – and frontwoman Dani Miller clad in a white spaghetti strap sans bra, ripped jeans, and electric blue eyeliner winging up from her eyes like devil horns.
“This first song’s about when you wake up and can’t find your shit,” Miller giggles.
The group barrels into their single, “Hippie Vomit Inhaler” and I’m in love.
Surfbort plays in an old school style of punk – their songs are fast, short, and loud. They bring the noise and pack a lot of punch tempered with friendliness and jokey lyrics. Surfbort wants you to be happy!
They’re kind of an oddball mashup. Miller said in an interview with Monster Children that she refers to her bandmates as “my dads” because they’re all “like 45 to 50” and she is 25. She said, “They took a Back To The Future car ride straight here from the ‘80s punk scene and yeah, I just call them my dads. That could be offensive but they like it, I think.”
Miller’s stage presence is all her own, energetically prancing around the stage with a manic grin on her face and a fist raised in the air, revealing tooth gaps and unshaven pits. This woman’s mere existence is an affront to the patriarchy. Surfbort thundered out two-minute song after two-minute song with hardly a breath in between. This band is all frenetic energy, no frills. Miller is one of those rare, magical entertainers where you don’t know where the persona ends and the person begins, or if the line even exists. In any case, it’s hard to imagine Miller standing in line at the bank – after the show, Surfbort probably got on their bus and rocketed back to garage punk planet where they live.
Still coming down from my Surfbort contact high on the way home, I downloaded their album Friendship Music, released October 26, 2018 (just six days before I saw them!).
Miller’s song writing runs the gamut of millennial anxieties like, um, anxiety, substance abuse, social media, sexuality, capitalism, and a healthy dose of political dissent.
“Trashworld” is a commentary on pollution: “The planet knows what you have done, throwing your filth in the ocean.”
The group unabashedly hates on the current occupier of the Oval Office. The song “45” is a string of insults hurled at Trump. In their music video for “TRASH” Miller can be seen puking on an old TV and rubbing it into a picture of Trump’s face.
Oh, and you can buy their ABORT TRUMP merchandise here if they ever get more; it’s sadly sold out.
Obvs, some people aren’t cool with the band’s Trump bashing. Miller said in an October 2018 interview with NYLON magazine:
“It’s pretty scary, especially on the internet, the shit people say in opposition to what they’ve heard at my shows. … As a white woman, I feel like there’s no room for me to just be silent.”
Surfbort’s volatility is peppered with childlike simplicity and even downright cuteness, and vice versa. In the song “Sunshine,” for instance, Miller sings, “You’re my sunshine when it gets bad out, you’re my sunshine to dry up all the rain” then punctuates the song with 20 seconds of shouting “Fuck the government” over and over.
Miller is the only original Surfbort member since she founded it in 2015, the line-up changes mainly the result of too much partying and chaos from former bandmembers. Miller told Monster Children the current line-up is much more stable. Powell and Kilgore are long-term sober while Head and Miller take it easy.
“I did hard drugs from 17 to 21. I was insane and then I was fully on another planet of destruction. So now I don’t do that shit, I’m like three glasses of wine tops, get stoned, and that’s about it. It’s kind of the best formation of the band because I don’t have to babysit anyone. No one’s wilding out on drugs or lost in the streets after a show. When I’m in New York, we practice every day for at least three to five hours and just get stoked and make a tonne of shit, so it’s really fun.”
Their hard work has paid off. Last year, Surfbort got signed to Cult Records, the indie label founded by Julian Casablancas of The Strokes (and now The Voidz). They’re currently wrapping up a European tour.
P.S. If you wondering, the name Surfbort is in reference to Beyonce’s song “Drunk in Love.”