The instrumental classic surf rock music of Sunset Suicide ’84 has an unexpected punk and metal edge that keeps listeners guessing. Their songs capture the experience of surfing: the sense of danger while battling it out in the ocean on a rough day, followed by the high of catching a wave and riding it out. While listening to their music, you’ll find yourself contemplating the mysteries hidden in the depths of the ocean.
The Pop Break had the chance to interview Sunset Suicide ’84’s Josh Petrino about the origin of their band name, their one-of-a-kind sound, and most importantly, their brand new surf-themed single “Foamies,” which you can check out here. Listening to this track will help you mentally prepare for your first time surfing, which will involve lots of wipeouts and ultimately, a new understanding of the ocean’s unpredictability.
Who is Sunset Suicide ’84? (Band members and the instruments you play): Josh Petrino on guitar, and Eric Skye just joined a week ago on drums.
What year did you form: I started recording some songs in the spring of 2017 and it just kind of grew into a band.
How did you choose your band name? What is its significance and how does it reflect who you are as a band: I’m a person who believes that the music gives the name meaning and that the band itself makes the name/brand. The name comes from going to the edge of the water at sunset alone with a dangerous break. Your logic and instincts tell you not to go in and you have this looming anxiety, but a force within pushes you to accept the risk and fight it head-on.
I remember a moment where I was standing at the edge of the break with one of my best friends Mike and we were just staring at this angry ocean with these monstrous MESSY waves against a pink sky with about 45 minutes of sunlight left. We inched our way closer to the water, looked at each other and one of us said “We’re going to fucking die.” We were in the water seconds later battling it out. It’s one of my favorite memories and we had the time of our lives. I think about moments like that when I see the name. A lot of surfers put themselves in danger for the high that surfing gives them. I feel like “Sunset” incorporates that summer surf vibe and “Suicide” represents the harder/gloomy edge to our sound. ’84 is the year when I was born and it just kind of helps keep things a bit unique and allows us to bring back that cheesy radical 80’s style graphic work.
So I see that you are based in Beach Haven, NJ. How is the music scene over there? How does this area, and being near the ocean influence your music: We honestly don’t play the area much but I like a lot of the local bands. During the summer, there are tons of different players coming through bars and they’re all so talented. I love catching the infamous jazz pianist Steve Kramer at the Gables on weekends. The cover band The Nerds are pretty damn awesome too! The ocean and the love of everything the shore has to offer is ingrained in our music’s DNA. It’s what I think about when I write and even though our songs are instrumental, I think it still tells a bit of a story for those who consider themselves in tune with the ocean and beach.
You describe your music as classic surf rock with a harder edge. I’m wondering, what creates that harder edge in your songs? What would you say are the defining elements in your music: I’m a huge fan of Dick Dale and I love all kinds of metal and punk. When you really think about it, it’s not too tough to blur the lines between what Dick Dale plays and Kerry King of Slayer or Doyle. The different genres lend to each other—go listen to some black metal and then some Dick Dale and see if you hear a relation. We tend to curve ourselves toward the surf/punk side more than metal, but it’s in there. I use a lot of the same progressions and the structure to our songs are VERY cookie cutter to a point where it’s almost laughable—I’m totally to blame for that, but I think it keeps things easy and fun, which is what we’re all about.
While it has only been a couple months, from the Big Wednesday EP to your new single “Foamies,” how do you think your sound has evolved? How does this new track compare to the vibe/sound of the songs on your first EP: All of the songs were written around the same time but they were recorded different ways at different times so everything keeps sounding better. I don’t care about precision or quality as much as I care about things happening naturally and raw energy reaching the listener. A lot of our songs and some that we haven’t recorded yet sound different but share the same DNA. I think versatility is important but mostly it depends on what phase I’m going through or mood I’m in when I write. If I’m listening to some old school rockabilly at the moment, you can bet those elements are going to cross into my writing—same with punk, metal, or anything else.
To me, your new release “Foamies” is a surf rock song with this almost dark or eerie undertone to it. It’s like what you’d hear while watching someone’s first experience surfing, which involved lots of big waves and wipeouts. The track makes me think of the unpredictability of the ocean and all the mysteries in its depths. Given my relatively weird interpretation of the song, for you, what is “Foamies” about? What does this song mean to you: Umm I’m kind of amazed at how accurate your interpretation was to the song’s intention. It’s not weird at all—you are dead on. It’s about learning how to surf on a particularly rough day and getting knocked around (which is how it was when I learned). Something keeps you from quitting. No matter how frightening or exhausting it is, you keep moving forward. You can’t stand up yet, you can’t paddle well and every wave might as well be a tsunami. You keep getting helplessly thrown around by Mother Nature while she reminds you that you’re at her mercy. Then when you feel like you’re just floating in between moments of getting swallowed, you sync up with nature. You finally get the timing right and everything aligns. You catch a wave, stand up and ride for 15 seconds, experiencing a unique sensation you’ve never felt before. You have a newfound respect and bond with nature that you can’t find anywhere else. From then on, you accept the dangers and risk for the high it provides. “Foamies” can mean two things—foam boards (learner boards) or riding the foam waves straight to shore (how most people learn how to surf and how I still surf a lot of the time). Both uses of the word can be applied to that first surf experience. The sample in the beginning of the song kind of says a lot about it too.
During performances, what do you strive to convey to listeners with your music: I think we just want everyone to have a good time, whether we are just background noise for people drinking beers and partying with friends or people listening attentively. Either way, we give the same amount of energy and have the time of our lives. We love music so we’re just going up there to do our thing and hope others enjoy. It’s all about making people happy in whichever way it fits best.
For you, what do you value most when it comes to music? Or rather, what is the best part about creating music: Music in general is amazing to me. I really like almost all genres of music and I try to listen to as much variety as possible. When I think about music and how long we’ve had it as human beings – how anything can be an instrument, how many different types there are, the cultures that accompany those varying styles, the emotions it can fill you with – it all makes me realize that music is divine. Since I was a kid, I’ve been creating one way or another—I don’t usually like playing other people’s music. I create a lot of garbage but once in a while something comes along that I love. That’s where the pay off is for me. Creating music that I would want too listen to over and over. It’s pretty damn cool.
For the rest of 2017, what is Sunset Suicide ’84 looking forward to the most? Playing more shows, writing more songs, getting a new fan here and there. Those are our aspirations in general. We’re not in this for money or to try and blow up. We just want to play and have fun and if people want to join in on it, even better!