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Salt, Sun and Sounds: Surfing And Its Impact on Aussie Music

Updated: Mar 13, 2022

Tristian Schurmann

There are three things australia's really renowned for- kangaroos, rock 'n' roll and surfing. Fortunately, those last two things go very hand in hand. Whether it's driving towards the beach, blasting your favourite tunes before rippin' into a session or reminiscing on past waves with some post-water frothies, it's a necessity for the vibe.

It seems nowadays one cant escape the mention of surfing when discussing Australian music. A multitude of surf edits are to Aussie music and a multitude of us music videos that feature surfing. the two are inseparable. surfing's found in the lyrics, art and lifestyles to a majority of Aussie musicians as far back as the 60s.

It's seemingly easy to pinpoint whereas this craze washed ashore. It seemingly started with 2011 in Dune Rats 'Sexy Beach,'' thus came Skeggs, then Hockey Dad. The rest is surf punk history.

However surfings influence on Aus music is a current that runs far deeper. Trace as far back as the Atlantics. Which with a quick google search, details that they go back to 1963. However, with a quick listen to their song, ‘Bombora,' it seems more like an acid influenced riff-aganza rather than a wholesome day at the beach. More Grateful Dead than a dead ripper.

Nonetheless, surfing is still ingrained and advertised with a great majority of these bands. Early Hockey Dad had them ripping up a rocky reef that looked more sketchy than gnarly. A mate once told me no band epitomised that Surf Punk sound more than Skegss and he couldn't have been more right. Their first music video 'LSD. This features Coolangatta surfer Noa Deane before he left the group to professionally pursue the most jaw-dropping airs this world has ever seen. Since 2014 the remaining crew have been more than consistent with making that washy guitar angst anthems, truly perfecting the sound many attempted before and probably afterwards.

A bunch of professional surfers are mates with these bands or have gone on to establish bands themselves. Noa went onto pursue a Soundcloud shoegaze/ grunge project under the pseudonym Blistar. Professional free surfers Creed Mctaggart, Beau Foster and Ellis Erickson play together in the much appropriately named punk band Wash. Both are worth checking out, serving as a suitable backdrop for those long-awaited knocked bevies, mentioned prior.Sitting down with a couple of musicians, only just further confirmed these thoughts.

The Moving Stills' are an upcoming group slowily rising in the ranks of the East coast scene, recently opening for Spacey Jane on a bunch of sell-out shows. Local to the central coast area, it's easy to presume that the band themselves aren't afraid to get in the water. Sitting down with lead singer Tom Maher, he was more than helpful in establishing just how surfing is washed in within the Aus music scene.

Tom, cheers for joining, really appreciate you taking the time.

"No worries."

So you're fairly passionate about surfing as well as music?

"We all used to have a crew to go surfing, but everyone gets busy. I'm not a very good surfer, but I froth surfing with my friends. it's kinda nice watching each other get waves. still get to do it from time to time. I reckon surfing is such a basis for some friendships. You find yourself waiting in the water having these chats. Even carpark chats. We'll, be in the carpark talking shit for like an hour or two after.

I've been thinking the last two weeks about fitness and mental health. When you get in the ocean. Not to sound corny but it's an escape. It's a distraction. you've got time to think, I feel like something happens out there that makes things clearer. it's pretty therapeutic.

It's fitness but it doesn't feel like it. Maybe when there a huge paddle out, or a massive rip. there's the time when you feel but the fun outweighs the pain. you know like some sports are very taxing but this more of leisure activity. It's a very fun exercise.

I probably froth a little too hard"

Do any of the other guys in the band surf?

"Ye Mike (bassist,) surfs, and Ben our drummer takes the mal out every now and again. Brad used to bodyboard more so. he's definitely had a dig at surfing."

Do you surf on tour?

"Yeah man, we try to. We're pretty lucky to live on and play shows on this east coastline. It always comes down to time and logistics but we always sure to bring our boards down.

Mike's mum has a property at the crescent head. we finish work, drive like 4 hours into the night and stay."

That's a commitment for sure

"Yeah, we always manage to get a wave in."

Do you feel like surfing influences your music?

"I reckon so. I really like music that goes with surf films. I like how some stuff pairs to surfing. I don't know if I've totally been conscious of it. Seen a couple of things that have made me think about it a bit more. if I come across that sound surfy I'll probably generally run with it a bit more. I think naturally being a coast-based band the lifestyle bleeds through a bit.

Can't say I've been surfing as much as I want to be these last couple of years. I feel like a lot of music can pair with surfing. but sure answer ye I reckon it does impact our tunes.

I saw one of those 'Rage' clips, I could have been 'Rage 1' or 'Rage 2.' I went to this thing in Sydney. it might've been Hampshire hotel. I thought the soundtrack to that was awesome. Made me want to write heaps of surf videos.

There this other band based Lennox head think they're called Headland Soundtrack. we did a gig with them at the coast once. what they do is put heaps of old surf footage and they play the soundtrack live.

The idea of making music that really clicks with making surfing g's me up."

Would u consider having Moving Stills music to surf edits?

"We did actually get a couple to surf edits before. one got in an edit that was in the magazine tracks. That was a couple years ago. We had a couple for WSL edits or warm-up videos. Should probably try to chase up a bit more."

To take to a broader scope how do you think surfing impacts Australian music as a whole

"I think it definitely helps create some sense. for example the Dreggs, Ziggy Alberts, Kim Churchill... a fair few more those guys. they've done the whole east coast van. they have surfing in their lifestyle so much. It seems like they're living out of their van and surfing all the way up. Crescent Head and Byron Bay. Cause there such long points and popular waves. A lot of people are there for surfing and surfing culture. maybe there's a lot of people e around and there.

There's also surf roks and surf punk bands. Maybe like Skeggs, or Dune Rats are the more surf rock kinda stuff. feels pretty surf vibes.

We all would love to do that. well, I would love to do that. cop a van and surf heaps. that's the lifestyle id love to live. not much going on just making music and surfing. so much pretty close together.

From here to Byron theirs a number of spots we spend on that freeway. There's obviously a long history of surfing in Australia you feel like it entwines with our countries culture and music.

Yeah, I reckon man, surfing music goes through its stages as well. surf music round 2005-remember like Jack Johnson, Xavier Rudd, John Butler there was that surf scene of the rootise kinda music that was the surf music at the time. It goes through so many phases. then it kinda wen like Skegss. Then people like Ziggy Alberts. I reckon it's definitely had an impact on music 100%. A lot of those artists are surfers themselves. I reckon it goes hand in hand with surfers playing music or enjoying music or like going out and seeing music. I feel likes it's a pretty similar audience."

You feel like music kinda' recreates that feeling of surfing, and that's why people are drawn to it?

"Yeah, I reckon it's similar in the sense that when your feeling kinda shit if you put on music it moves you in a certain way. with surfing, if you gotta bit on your mind and you end up going for a surf it can take the edge of it or give you a bit of clarity. I reckon it's soothing.

We have a song. we haven't played it for a little while. I reference songs before and I have plans to reference them a bit more. there are good metaphors in surfing and saves and tides. there's good stuff to pull out of surf talks with other things in life.

Nothing we released have references but we do have songs that do. We used to have this song called surf track. we used to play a fair bit of life. that one was about surfing. maybe a bit to surfing. We definitely spoke about it.

it think we were using surfing with the chorus ' paddle out and catch some waves'- it was kinda like just having a go. that's the thing with the life you gotta go out and have a dig."

Fairly modest about his surfing, Tom and most of the boys of the Moving Stills have all lived on the central coast just about their entire lives. It was clear from this interview that Tom possessed vast knowledge of wave formations and the best local spots.

Whether or not someone actually surfs, it doesn't matter. This country is lucky enough to have some of the most beautiful beaches in the world... and that is something that we can all agreed on.

So pull up to the sand, light up the 'Bush TV,' and crack open a cold one. Oh.. also a good speaker is essential. Salt, sun and sounds. What's not to enjoy?

So how are these two things really connected? Music like Surfing allows one to achieves a unique feeling of mindfulness that is hard to come by. A temporary amnesiac to the many concerns that life crashes upon us. To be really thick in the middle of a moment. Both are of the same pursuit- To be free.

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