The Bat City Surfers are the new kings of urban psycho-surf! Pumping out hard,hitting, horror tinged rock ‘n’ roll the band is quickly becoming one of the more popular local acts in Austin, Texas. Climb aboard our coffin shaped board and find out what this band is all about! Today we were lucky enough to grab front man Joey Muerto for a quick interview. Surf’s up ya’ll!
I know you’re a big comic book nerd like myself. So what is the origin story of Bat City Surfers?
JM: I guess our origin story is that we come from a world where man-kind evolved from bats and, after joining forces to create the ultimate surf-punk experience, we accidentally transported ourselves into this dimension during a recording experiment gone horribly wrong! This was back in 2011 and after adapting to this atmosphere and your yellow, sun we played our first gig in January, 2012.
Who makes up the Bat City Surfers and what can you tell us about the fellas?
JM: Bat City Surfers are: Omega Rand (a man out of time; hailing from a bleak, distant future ruled by machines) on lead guitar, Vampire-hunter Hunter (the legendary slayer of all vampire killers) on bass, K-rolla (Korn, who is descended from a long line of ancient, tentacled sea beasts) on drums, and myself, Joey Muerto (the only dead man with insomnia) on rhythm guitar.
Me, Korn, and Hunter all come from a punk rock background, Korn even played with me in my old horror-punk band Los Bones before this. Hunter is a double threat kind of guy ’cause he’s also a really good drummer. He played drums in Cronis and Snatchracket and also played bass in Slumlord before BCS. Korn is one of the busiest musicians in town, and has juggled multiple punk bands for many years. He even filled in for Raegan Youth one time! Nowadays, he splits his time between Bat City Surfers and his skate punk band Sober Daze. Rand is like a guitar prodigy, which he doesn’t like me saying, but its totally true. He can do almost anything on guitar, he can cook fucking breakfast on that damn thing. He’s an audio student as well, so he has that much more experience and training. I guess to illustrate the personalities of the group: Korn is Michaelangelo, Hunter is Leonardo, Rand is Donatello, and I’m Raphael after a couple drinks.
Give me a rock ‘n’ roll glory story from one of your best(or worst) performances?
JM: Our first show was a house party, in a spooky old fortune teller’s shop. It was packed tight and there was dancing and moshing. It just felt really great for us to bring this monster alive for the first time, and it went perfectly. There was also this one time where all these girl were twerking like crazy, upside down on pool tables kinda stuff. That was fun. A less awesome story is the time we played a gorilla music showcase, they suck by the way, and half the bands cancelled. We played with three different high school bands who doubled as our audience. I don’t want to compare it to pulling teeth but it was bad. At least they and their parents liked us!
One of things, I love about Bat City Surfers is the sneering attitude that comes through the music. Which is uncommon for a band that doesn’t use lyrics to convey a message. What is the creative process you go through to create emotive music without words?
JM:Well I absolutely appreciate that you feel that way! Some people think it’s limiting to play instrumental music, and it’s great to hear those people say they were wrong after seeing us play. They’re all surprised and stuff and it makes you smile. You know you had a part in changing their perception of what music can be, and thats very gratifying. As far as the sneering goes, we are a surf band comprised of punks, y’know?. We always planned for there to be a bit of edginess in the sound, and thats why we’ve always described ourselves as surf-punk. I’d say sometimes our song writing process is about having a solid main riff and then trying to play it as little as possible, while other times we really want to bleed a riff dry. The energy has to be there but it has to be in balance with the vibe of the song. So we just ride the wave and see how it flows.
Is one person responsible for the writing or is it a group effort?
JM: It’s definitely become more of a group effort over time. In the beginning, I brought a couple of riffs to show Rand and we fleshed them out. Then after a few practices with Korn, he was writing like a madman! More recently, Hunter has written some badass stuff and its just a whole other area of our sound to explore and play with.
You recently recorded and put out a CD, tell us about the process of that:
JM:Yeah we did some recording at Firestation studios and have been working on putting together our first album, “Fear Of A Bat Planet”. Recording is always stressful but fun, and we had the benefit of Rand’s recording skills and gear. I remember we recorded drums in our practice room while I was in corpse paint because of a separate photography project. Of course, the guys were merciless about it, calling me the Crow and shit. Hunter laid down bass at the studio after that. Then we got guitars out of the way and Rand was our engineer the whole time.
Has surf rock been a life-long love or something you’ve grown to love as you’ve aged?
JM:It was definitely a love at first listen situation with surf music. When I was 14, one of my very first shows was a surf band called Squid Vicious and they blew my mind. I would jam their three song tape all through high school. Later, at 18, I heard Man… Or Astro-man? for the first time and it was over for me. They instantly became one of my favorite bands and surf became an important genre to explore the depths of. Thats a fun time, when you slowly realize that this new type of music you’re getting into is actually everywhere! TV theme songs, foreign music, movie scores, every scene ever when someones on a beach, Taco bell commercials, the list goes on. I definitely got more into it as I’ve aged, but only because with time comes knowledge. More knowledge of songs and bands. Surf music is the gift that keeps on giving.
Who are some of your favorite surf rock musicians?
JM:The number one favorite band and main influence for myself and Bat City Surfers is Man…or Astroman? Daikaiju is also a very inspiring band, their music and performances are beyond intense and we are over the moon about getting to play with them at this year’s Surf by Surf East. I try to never miss Dick Dale, and I firmly believe that just watching him play makes you a better guitarist. I also love the dirtier, lo-fi sound of bands like The Trashwomen, Agent Orange and The Cramps. Y’know, the whole punk thing.
There seems to be a lot of surf rock around Austin, Texas. What is that scene like?
JM:Yeah, I think we’re very lucky to be in a town that appreciates this kind of music. Like, I still have to hum the Pulp Fiction theme on a weekly basis to get people to know what my band does, but thats not always the case! I think the whole world knows that Austin, TX is filled with music nerds; and it doesn’t get much nerdier than surf rock! We have some great bands in town like the Nematoads and Really Rottens, and those are two great surf bands that couldn’t sound more different from each other. The surf scene is still a fairly small one but its very passionate. We know what we want. Id say that its a lot more welcoming than other scenes, like we’re all just these surf nerds trying to geek out together, y’know? There’s never any fights lets just say! I guess, just by nature, surf-rockers are a little more easy going and mellow. I feel like everybody looks out for everybody else, less of the egos and competition.
JM:Absolutely and we fucking love it! We started out playing a lot of punk shows ’cause thats just who we are and who we knew and how it went, but it became clear that we could fit in on most bills. Punk, psychobilly, indie-crap, whatever. We’ve never played a metal show but metal heads seem to dig us. It took us a minute to realize that there was an actual surf scene, and that there were actual surf-only shows to be played. That was very rewarding, when we had both the attention and respect of the scene. We love playing for any crowd, but at a surf show EVERYONE gets it.
Anything in closing?
JM I just wanna be cheesy and remind everyone that this is a very doable thing. If you love surf music and you want there to be more of it in your town, start a band! Play some covers and suck for a while! Surf music needs you!
Facebook Group: https://www.facebook.com/batcitysurfers