Surfbort: A Punk Band That Pukes On Trump [New Blood]
Welcome to New Blood, a series that highlights the coolest emerging creatives in NYC.
“We are Surfbort, we don’t believe in Google, fuck Donald Trump!”
So begins a show from Brooklyn punk band Surfbort. It’s how lead singer Dani Miller starts all their shows—screaming into the mic, clawing at the air. At the risk of sounding cheesy, it’s electrifying. “Live music shouldn’t make you fall asleep or make you suicidal,” said Miller. And watching Surfbort, I don’t want to drift off or text or sit down or kill myself, which is my typical mode of concert attendance. I feel alive.
I met up with Surfbort before a recent show at East Village club Berlin, stopping at the Greenpoint 7/11 for slushies. Most of us went for the Airheads flavor. It was a poor choice. The band, made up of Miller, guitarist Alex Kilgore, drummer Sean Powell, and guitarist/vocalist Charlie Wimberley (who, full disclosure, is a friend), has a song called Slushy. 7/11 should look into sponsorship. Wouldn’t that be kind of punk?
Punk is hard to define (reading Please Kill Me helps, as well as this list). But isn’t it essentially power, attitude, not giving a fuck about norms or trends? It’s hard to be punk when punk is trendy. After all, if it’s cool, aren’t you just following something, which is in itself the opposite of punk? But Surfbort stays true to it.
Beyond their music, which is loud and fuzzy and makes you want to jump up and down over and over and over again, they have an attitude that screams punk. They’re political—songs deal with the environment and abortion, merch reads “Donald Trump Is My Sex Slave,” and Powell says the Donald’s face looks like “a butthole with teeth.” They’re kind of gross—Miller once puked all over the crowd at a show after eating a big burrito, they have a video in which Trump’s face is puked on, and my personal favorite Surfbort song is called “Young, Dumb and Full of Cum.” Above all, the four members are truly witty, throwing out the kind of jokes that make you lose your breath and feel like a goober when responding.
“We found him in a dumpster behind an abortion clinic.”
Founded in early 2014, Surfbort is indeed named after the famed Beyoncé lyric. After going through a few changes, the current members are in a good place; this lineup seems like the one that will stick (founding member Matty Picola was a major contributor and writer). Kilgore joined a few weeks ago after working on a side project with Miller and Powell called Hippie Vomit Inhaler. Powell has been with the band since last September, and he lives with Wimberley and Miller in a house in Bed-Stuy. When I asked how they met, Wimberley said, “We found him in a dumpster behind an abortion clinic.”
Miller doesn’t play any instruments, but the rest are longtime musicians; Kilgore’s been in numerous bands, and Wimberley began playing piano at four when her father told her that she’d have to learn in order to become a Spice Girl. Powell started playing back in junior high in Texas. “I played the double bass and the sousaphone,” he said. “It’s a giant tuba that wraps around your body. Chicks really thought it was cool.” I asked how he moved from band nerd to rock ‘n’ roll. “Drugs!” everybody shouted.
All of the members of Surfbort are sober. “We’re a total straight edge band, like Minor Threat,” Wimberley laughs. “Except we were all drug addicts.” Miller and Wimberley both got sober a few months ago, while Kilgore’s been clean for three years and Powell’s been clean for nine. “Rock ‘n’ roll doesn’t exactly lend itself to sobriety,” Kilgore laughed. I asked if people have ever bothered him about it. “Not me and Sean,” he said. “We earned our stripes.”
For Wimberley and Miller, they had to quickly adjust to playing shows sober. Surfbort shows are physical and intense and require a lot of audience engagement—it couldn’t have been easy. “It’s just something I have to get used to again,” said Wimberley. “I have moments of clarity where I get really self-conscious, but it’s still fun. I’m glad I’m sober—and alive.” It’s similar for Miller. “I have gnarly panic attacks before every show, but then I just run onstage and start screaming,” she said.
Surfbort throws everything into their live shows. They’re an experience, and they are never, ever boring. When I asked what they thought of what the “scene” (barf) is like in New York these days, they laughed. “Ahahahaahahahaahaha,” yelled Miller. “That’s your answer.” “Someone thought that muzak and rock ‘n’ roll would be a good combo, and then it caught on,” said Powell. “There aren’t a lot of scary bands out there right now.”
Powell and Kilgore got to experience the earlier days of punk, as opposed to Miller and Wimberley, who are respectively only 22 and 23 years old. They’ve really lived, but their moms might actually be more badass than they are. “My mom’s been to a lot of shows,” said Powell. “She got in a fistfight in a mosh pit in 1987.”
“My friend Big Todd, who’s a Texas legend, pantsed Henry Rollins.”
Kilgore’s mom was equally wild. “My mom was in a mosh pit for Black Flag on my 16th birthday, on somebody’s shoulders. She just showed up!” he said. “She had this boyfriend who was kind of a crackhead at the time. He was a videographer—”
“Slash crackhead,” said Wimberley.
“Yeah, he had a problem,” said Kilgore. “And then my friend Big Todd, who’s a Texas legend, pantsed Henry Rollins.”
“That means he pulled down his pants,” said Powell. I thanked him for the clarification.
While Wimberley and Miller may not have been around for Black Flag mosh pits, they have distinct tastes of their own. “When I was about eight years old I started listening to Slipknot, and that really formed my taste and love for rock ‘n’ roll,” she said. “And me and Charlie are both really into Nickelback.”
“I love Nickelback,” said Wimberley. “They will stand the test of time, I promise.”
Beyond Kilgore and Powell’s killer moms, all of the Surfbort family members have been supportive. But a special, unlikely standout is Miller’s grandfather, who loves Fox News. He made an entire social network dedicated to the band. “It’s called Magic Memory Books,” said Miller. “It’s like Facebook, but it’s way better. Save all your memories on the Internet so they’ll never get lost! MagicMemoryBooks.com!”
The tagline for the Surfbort Magic Memory Books site is “Surfbort—A Union of Anarchy and Despair.” Each band member has their own page, with pictures and joyful bios. Wimberley’s page features the headline “Sweet Charlotte.” She loves it. “[Dani’s grandpa] said that I helped Taylor Swift write all of her hits!” she said. “I feel really accomplished in my life after Magic Memory Books set the record straight.” Powell is compared to Picasso, Miller is “off the chart” intelligent. We should all be so lucky to be blessed with a Magic Memory Book page.
Beyond Magic Memory Books, Surfbort can be kind of hard to find online—there are a lot of Google results pertaining to Beyoncé. Someone told Wimberley that they should get the guys out of the band and change the name to “Party Sluts.” Horrifying. But as they gain traction (unless they really do manage to piss off Google), they should be the first result in no time—maybe the second. After all, Beyoncé does control the Earth.
Surfbort is getting bigger, and better, all the time. They were featured on the second season finale of Broad City, and they’re playing constantly—they recently opened for DIIV at Market Hotel, and after our night of slushies, they immediately embarked on tour, playing in St. Louis, New Orleans, and at South by Southwest. They plan on touring a lot more, and hope to go to Europe.
“The world is fucked and a lot of shit sucks a lot, so I just want everyone to come out and just let out all their aggression, and enjoy themselves and scream and freak out and dance,” said Miller. “You don’t get to do that at your stupidass jobs.” So go do it at a Surfbort show.
Check out our last New Blood installment, featuring the guys behind Rinsed, the best warehouse parties in NYC.
Stay tuned to Milk for more bands and bodily fluids.