Chad Shivers, purveyor of that infamous high-energy reverb and maniacal mayhem a.k.a. Surf Rock, will be reviving Atlanta this Saturday, September 19, retro-style with his Southern Surf StompFest! at Little Tree Art Studios (Avondale Estates), from noon until 8 pm! Catch a wave and raise a ruckus with a whole lotta vintage vendors (our swanky retro pals, 2the 9’s Retro and Jezebel Blue [see our Shop Around feature here]; Uncle Daddy’s Woodworks [see our Shop Around feature on Dirk Hays here], Beachcomber Cory’s Tiki Hut; THE SURF King Surfwear, and more!), tasty vittles and of course one helluva rockin’ line-up, featuring El Capitan & the Band with No Name, Ouroboro’s Boys, Kool Kat Caroline & the Ramblers, The Beech Benders, The Surge!, The Gold Dust Lounge, The Mystery Men?, Aqualads, and DJ Dusty Booze spinning surf, rockabilly and ‘50s/’60s rock between sets, and so much more! And why not round out your weekend with Southern SurfStomp’s surf-tastic bookend events; the official pre-show at Sunbrimmer Records (Avondale Estates) with Chad’s current project, MOONBASE, Genki Genki Panic and Vacations; and the official after-party rockin’ out at Kavarna (Decatur), featuring Kool Kat Jeffrey Butzer’s surf-rock outfit, The Compartmentalizationists (SUTURES CD release); Band, James Band; and Gemini XIII! So, come on down and rock out surf-style at the most rock ‘n’ roll weekend-long beach party around!
Chad is no newbie to Surf Rock, or rock ‘n’ roll in general. His musical journey began at age 14, when he jumped head first into his first band, The Squares, in 1995 (active until 2002), releasing two records and extensively touring the Southeast. After selling his soul to the rock ‘n’ roll devil, he built a revved up repertoire with Sorry No Ferrari (2005-2011); joined Kool Kat Jeffrey Butzer & the Bicycle Eaters (2010); joined The Mystery Men? (2012); founded the Southern SurfStomp! (2014); and currently fronts his own group, MOONBASE [George Asimakos on guitar; Eric Balint on bass; Sonny Harding on drums and Chad Shivers on guitar], debuting, CREATION MYTHS, in August 2014. And if that isn’t enough, Chad has also performed with Jeffrey Butzer’s, The Compartmentalizationists, Sleep Therapy, the Insect Surfers, The Madeira, and his own Surf Rock Christmas outfit, Chad Shivers & The Silent Knights, dishing out The Ventures’ and The Beach Boys’ Xmas albums every season for the past five years.
ATLRetro caught up with Chad Shivers for a quick interview about the Southern Surf StompFest!; Surf Rock’s history and resurgence; and his craft of spreading the infectious rock ‘n’ roll vibes of the Surf Rock subculture far and wide! And while you’re takin’ a peek at our little Q&A with Chad, get an earful of his current surf-rock outfit, MOONBASE’s “The Serpent” from their debut album CREATION MYTHS; and a sneak peek at The Compartmentalizationists’ “Blurry Eyes” from their new album SUTURES!
ATLRetro: Who doesn’t love surf rock?! And of course the Southern Surf StompFest! is right down ATLRetro’s alley! Can you fill our readers in on the history or your monthly Southern Surf Stomp! events? And how did you put together that righteous rockin’ line-up you’ve got waiting for our eager readers/listeners?
Chad Shivers: Southern Surf Stomp‘s inception was inspired by multiple factors including Greg Germani‘s incredible Ameripolitan shows; festivals such as Crispy Bess‘ Instro Summit held in North Carolina; and the desire to showcase the vast amount of talent within the Southeastern surf music community. Our first show was in April of 2014, and has been going strong ever since, featuring some truly great artists such as Eddie Angel (Los Straitjackets), Ivan Pongracic (The Madeira), Daikaiju, Kill, Baby…Kill!, Aqualads, and even a The Penetrators tribute. For the festival, I wanted to include Atlanta staples (El Capitan and the Band With No Name, The Surge!, The Mystery Men?), groups that have previously performed at our monthly event (Aqualads), and some fresh new faces (Ouroboros Boys, The Beech Benders, Gold Dust Lounge). I’m particularly excited to see Gold Dust Lounge from Miami, as I’ve been practically begging them to come up for the past year or so.
You’ve been devoted to the genre for quite some time, beginning in 1995 with your first band, The Squares, at the ripe old age of fourteen. Can you tell our readers how you became aware of surf-guitar and what drew you to the genre?
As a freshman in high school, I attended a house party where a cover band played a number by The Ventures and was completely enamored. Upon seeing my excitement, my friend Jeff, with whom I attended said party, later introduced me to Dick Dale (see ATLRetro’s feature on Dick here) and Man or Astro-man? and that was it. We started The Squares very shortly thereafter. Surf for me just has the energy of punk, the technical prowess of heavy metal, and the melodicism of pop music but (mostly) without lyrics; allowing the listener to create their own narrative.
You’ve been a member and have performed with surf rock and semi-surf rock outfits galore over the years [The Squares; Jeffrey Butzer & the Bicycle Eaters; The Mystery Men?; Sleep Therapy; The Insect Surfers; The Madeira; Chad Shivers & the Silent Knights, etc.]! What exactly is it about surf rock that keeps you coming back for more, even when you’ve stepped away for a bit?
I think it’s just that it’s so much fun to play and there’s an unbelievable amount of variation within the genre from lo-fi garage to highly technical, almost progressive rock and everything in between. Not to mention, the people involved within the surf scene are among the friendliest, supportive, talented and interesting people you could ever meet.
Although the genre and its subculture hails from Southern California and has even been dubbed “SoCal folk music,” who or what would you say brought that particular sound to the Southeastern US?
Surf music in the South actually dates back to the ‘60s, and of course there was a later resurgence in the ‘90s with bands like Man or Astro-man? But any ‘scene’, I believe, can be attributed to The Penetrators. They were the jumping-off point for many including myself, aligned themselves with like-minded groups, and were absolutely instrumental – pun intended –in the development of the global surf rock community. What a bunch of incredible songwriters, instrumentalists, and just downright fun guys to be around. Their influence can still be seen, heard and felt greatly even today, and one cannot attend a surf music festival in the US without at the very least a mention of them.
Who would you say are your top three musical influences and why?
That’s quite a difficult question, as the answer will most likely change day to day. But as of right now, in the most general sense: While not necessarily the greatest influence on me as a musician, hearing Social Distortion for the first time was really a game changer. They brought guitar music to the forefront of my mind and introduced me to punk rock, with which I still greatly identify and has led me down so many wonderful new avenues. Man or Astro-man? was the band that made me want to play surf. Yes, and more specifically, Steve Howe‘s playing has been a huge influence on me in more recent years. They’re all just such masterful players, yet lyrical and serve the song.
Are there any noticeable differences between current surf rock and the sounds that were spilling out of the ‘50s and ‘60s?
Most definitely! I mean, there are guys out there still trying to recreate the sounds of the ‘60s, but I think for most of us it’s quite difficult to ignore the music of the past 50 years and avoid its influence.
How cool is it that your band, MOONBASE, shared a stage with the granddaddy of surf-guitar, Dick Dale, as well as Man or Astro-Man? at the Surf Guitar 101 Convention in California. Can you tell our readers a little bit about that experience?
We opened for Man or Astro-man? last year and Dick Dale earlier this year, both at The Earl. It’s a bit hard to believe and feels like everything has come full circle; from idolizing
those guys as a kid to sharing the stage with them, it’s quite the dream come true. When we were approached about performing at the Surf Guitar 101 Convention this year, I was absolutely shocked! I had no idea we were even on anyone’s radar out there and with our being more on the progressive side, wasn’t even sure how we’d fit in. The response was overwhelmingly positive however, and the opportunity to play with the likes of Davie Allan and The Arrows at the convention for their 50th anniversary and then the following day at the Huntington Beach Pier while people surfed behind us just miles from where it all began was truly a magical experience, never to be forgotten.
Can you tell our readers a little about your collaboration with our Kool Kat Jeffrey Butzer and his new surf-rock project, The Compartmentalizationists?
It’s no secret I’m a huge fan of Jeffrey Bützer and his music. He has always been so supportive and highly influential on me. He had performed with his trio The Compartmentalizationalists several years back, so of course I had asked him about resurrecting the project to perform at a Stomp. Other members being unavailable, I offered to back him and enlisted fellow Bicycle Eater (as well as Silent Knight, Small Reactions, and Gold Bears member) Sean Zearfoss on drums. After that initial show in June, we all had such a great time we decided to keep going which has led to Jeffrey to finally The Compartmentalizationalists ‘ debut album SUTURES, which we’ll be celebrating at the Southern Surf StompFest! after-party at Kavarna along with Gemini 13 and Band, James Band.
If you could put together a dream line-up of musicians to play with [still around or not], who would it be and why?
I stepped away from surf music for about 10 years in the early 2000s and regret missing many of the great shows that happened during that time. The biggest regret of them all is never getting to meet Eddie Bertrand (of Eddie & the Showmen and The Bel-Airs) or to see him perform. Although Dick Dale holds the title of “King of the Surf Guitar,” Eddie is my favorite from that first wave in the 1960s. So I would have to say backing him either with his band, The Showmen, or quite possibly with Ivan Pongracic (The Madeira) also on guitar, Dane Carter (The Madeira) on drums, and Carol Kaye on bass.
They can quite certainly expect to hear some of the finest surf music in the country and possibly even the world, performed by astounding musicians. While there, grab some tasty food, enjoy your favorite beverage from The Beer Growler, and shop with our fine vendors. Of course, this is a free event, so please bring some cash to donate toward raffle tickets. We have some amazing prizes and contributions go toward helping us to pay the bands.
What’s next for Chad Shivers?
Hopefully after the festival I’ll be able to spend some much needed time with my family. The Spooky Surf Stomp! with Fiend Without A Face, The KBK and Bad Friend will be October 10. I’ll be doing my annual performance of The Beach Boys and The Ventures Christmas albums with my group the Silent Knights at Kavarna on December 12. I know it may be a tall order, but in 2016 I’d like to see the reach of the Southern Surf Stomp! expand beyond Atlanta, to include other cities in the Southeast and the monthly podcast to become a weekly affair, with revolving hosts. Also next year, be on the lookout for new releases from The Mystery Men? and Jeffrey Bützer and the Bicycle Eaters!
Anything else you’d like to tell ATLRetro readers about yourself, surf rock, etc.?
Nothing other than to ask them to please come out to the Southern Surf StompFest! or one of our monthly shows and bring plenty of friends and family! If you’d like to learn more about what’s happening in this wonderful community please visit our Southern Surf Stomp! website, ‘like’ us on Facebook, and follow us on Twitter (@SouthSurfStomp)!
What question do you wish somebody would ask you and what’s the answer?
I’m not sure the question exactly, but it would most definitely involve a wealthy benefactor!
All photographs are courtesy of Chad Shivers and used with permission.