Blackbear & The Surf Bums, “Western Spaghetti”

Sjimon Gompers

Blackbear and The Surf Bums' Carter Luckfield, Jared Chapman, and Ricky Hamilton drift way out west. (courtesy of the band)

Nashville continues to give us groups that keep their ears to the ground of the American DIY landscapes from sea to shining sea. The supergroup Blackbear & The Beach Bums combines the minds of 'bears Carter Luckfield, Jared Chapman with Southern surf rock saint, Ricky Hamilton, who all together premiere their new single “Western Spaghetti“. This would not be the first time the South has looked toward the Westerns shores for insight and inspiration. Even before Chilton's California by Memphis leftward leaning, “Way Out West“, the Opry's bright lit stages and faces have provided the threads that comprise the stretches and spans of American singer-songwriting that stitches together a self-styled ol' glory representative of the individual experience.

Which brings us to “Western Spaghetti”, where the trio of Carter, Jared and Ricky play according to their own rules that swim in the lakes and oceans without borders and passports. “It's not you, it's what you do to me to make me feel the way I do inside my head again tonight, I'm just at man who can't control the heart that beats inside his chest but oh, I'm happy that I have one”. Sentiments drift toward the manifest destiny where the wind moves like the metaphor of a coal and steam driving freight train heading for the heart of the Southern Pacific.

Ricky wears sentiments on the cuffs with a hapless romantic heartache that looks to night meetings by the Western sea as Carter curates a crisp guitar tone that chimes off Jared's bass rhythm backboard. “All I want to do is hold your hand by the moonlight, my lonely head at night drowning in your lakeside”. The 3 together combine the sound of solitude for an unshakable and unwavering devotion wrapped up in an idyllic love that symbolizes a freedom that is completed across the indie rock roads and isolated highways and interstates that end at the Western edges of beaches, sunshine and plentiful waters. The Cali-coast destiny trades in Andrew Jackson's old hat quest of expansion for a lovesick cure to quell the brain's fluids boiled at a fevered pitch of wanderlust and pure wanting.

Ricky Hamilton and I exchanged some thoughts about Southern, Easteren and Western indie favorites and the organic bringing together of Nashville's Blackbear and The Surf Bums in a vacant house.

Tell us about bridging Nashville with the Western California coast with a sentimental approach on “Western Speghetti”?

I think both Nashville and Western California have a sort of nostalgia about them, and both are inhabited by people drawn by nostalgia who have decided to build scenes around it. Western California, to me at least, is still the land of neon signs, roller skating girls that bring you hamburgers and high school surfers skipping class and getting pitted so the music behind that scene, regardless of whether it’s more of a past dream or not, is light, catchy, fun, sunshiny, and bubblegum. Nashville, the land of flowers, southern bell’s, trucks, guns and houseshows has a very DIY, Ron Paul type of attitude which I feel like brings people together who feel moved by the sense of community, history and culture around it. In both places you find young adults, figuring out life and living lavishly in a sort or double reality where great music can be seen for free, beer is plentiful and rock n roll is almost religion but bills still get paid and life goes on. I think for me, I always wanted to get to LA and I still do. I love water, and beaches, and sunshine…I’m human, and 'Western Spaghetti' is of course about wanting to get to the West and change identities but it’s a nostalgic approach. It’s rooted more in the journey as oppose to the landing. The tracks, the dancing in the rain. It’s all romantic. I’ve done the journey and there was a lot more stops to play shows and Pilot gas stations but I kept the fun, cute, romantic aspects for the song and left out the mundane. Escapism, in a very done-up way, is definitely a recurring theme in my music.

Favorite Spaghetti Westerns?

My favorite spaghetti westerns are all of them. I love the whole genre. I guess if I could only suggest one I would go to the 'godfather' of the genre and say The Good the Bad and the Ugly. It has about everything you could want including a soundtrack with the most iconic desert surf lick ever recorded by Ennio Morricone. Clint Eastwood is a badass and Sergio Leone is brilliant. The whole trilogy is awesome. What I like about the genre is how they build and build and build into epic, badass duels. We all know Clint Eastwood is going to win, but it’s still just as fun to watch him do so every time.

Best spaghetti joint in Nashville?

I think that Nashville has a tremendous and growing food scene but I think spaghetti wise there is room for improvement. Demos’ steakhouse serves spaghetti with all there entree’s which is cool and the place has an extensive menu and great steaks that don’t kill your wallet too much. I think the best pasta I have ever had is at a restaurant I worked at in Cleveland called Geraci’s. If you find yourself up north check it out. It’s mom and pop owned and has been serving the best brick oven pizza and pasta since 1950. Nashville definitely has hot fish and hot chicken on lockdown though. If you find yourself there, do your taste buds a favor and go to Bolton’n in East Nashville or eighth avenue south. It’s worth it.

The story behind the bringing together of Blackbear and the Surf Bums?

Well, interesting question. Blackbear and The Surf Bums were established in a vacant house that Carter, the guitarist for Blackbear, Jared, the bassist, and I broke into to smoke weed. We climbed on this dilapidated roof, blunts and bowls in hand and crept sketchily through a broken window in the front of the second story of the house. After a few inspiring tokes we decided surf rock was just about the coolest music ever. Carter is a bonafide surfer. I’ve been a skateboarder and somewhat a surfer for many years and Jared is Jared. Ultra chill and very talented so we started jamming, recording and gigging. All from a shitty room in Nashville. It was a blast. I also love the Trashmen and discovered them through Lux and Ivy’s rare collection of 7” music so I try to channel the garage days of surf as well as the danceability and imagery.

What's up with Nashville catching the surf bug, or is this just an affectation or obsession of sound yearnings?

I think that there is something very right about surf rock and it definitely has a lot to do with the back beat and the vintage tones associated with the genre. The Jet Streams, Deadly Ones, The Trashmen, The Astronauts etc. all had killer tones which audio junkies love, and as a drummer and lead singer I love watching people move their hips and dance around. It’s fun. When you hear a good surf lick it’s like, 'damn, this is cool'. Instantly. And I think the people of Nashville are young and fun and looking for a good garage to dance around in so the conditions were right to spread the surf bug around.

Favorite Nashville band right now?

Hmm… My favorite Nashville band.. that’s extremely tough. So many good bands are coming out right now and it’s such a hotbed for music.. I think if I HAD to narrow it down some of my favorites are Natural Child, Bad Cop, New Pleasure, Natalie Prass, Omega Swan and Rachel. Although Jeffrey Drag has a tremendous roster all the way around and Planet Rad as well. I got to do a few days of tour with Natural Child out in the desert and Seth assured me he has huge plans for the next few releases so keep an eye out for them.

Favorite California band right now?

Favorite California band isn’t that easy either. I’m really into Fuzz City Records out of Oakland California. I think Big Tits, fronted by Joey Genovese, is some of the best power pop and glam I’ve ever heard. Everyone needs a copy of the Ex-Repeater 7”. I also have been listening to Warm Soda religiously since Meltin gave me a tape at south by southwest this year. I think everyone should expect big things from fuzz city in the future. I also think Heather Fortune of Wax Idols is brilliant and she has the ability to draw me into her own creative realm of the macabre which I love. Discipline+Desire is a must have record. Sound of a void is a beautiful song and the tones are epic.

Blackbear & The Surf Bums' single “Western Spaghetti” is available for download via Bandcamp.

Also check out their 2012 full-length, El Año Del Surf.

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