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Surfrajettes bringing surf rock to Durango

Coastal regions aren’t the only places that can pump out surf bands. There’s great instrumental surf-rock bands everywhere, many coming from landlocked states, some even formed and reared in The Great White North, as north of the border music isn’t only Rush, Bryan Adams and D.O.A. Canada’s Sadies, The Atomic 7, Shadowy Men on a Shadowy Planet and, as of late, the all-female quartet The Surfrajettes are all well versed in the art of surf music, laying down vocal-less, reverb-drenched aggressive instrumentals ripe for scoring a Bruce Brown or Warren Miller film.

The Surfrajettes, who are guitar players Shermy Freeman and Nicole Damoff, bass player Sarah Butler and drummer Annie Lillis, will make their Colorado debut when they roll into Durango on Saturday, performing at the Animas City Theatre. Opening the show are old-time, prewar jazz duo The Tailspins.

Bands making music that’s not relative to the assumed sounds of a particular geographic region may be trying to convey a sense of place through sound.

If you go

WHAT: Surf-rock with Surfrajettes, opening band is old-school jazz duo The Tailspins.

WHEN: 7 p.m. Saturday.

WHERE: Animas City Theatre, 128 E. College Drive.


MORE INFORMATION: Visit www.animascitytheatre.com.

“I think there’s something really special about landlocked surf bands, and its more of like channeling the energy, wishing we were there, too,” Freeman said. “You can dream about it and it’s the same as living it; you just live in a different place, but you’re all trying to achieve the same thing.”

The Surfrajettes were formed in 2015 by Freeman and Damoff, but Freeman’s love of surf music is predated by a love of instrumental music. She dug on the thrift store finds of Henry Mancini and Herb Alpert, as well as anything kitschy. She dabbled with the guitar as a kid before shelving the instrument for a chunk of time, then picked it back up in her 20s. One thing she loved about playing instrumental music on the guitar was the task of filling in for a singer.

“I was really drawn to surf music because it didn’t require having a singer. It was more challenging in a way, just playing rhythm chords or soloing,” Freeman said. “And I didn’t know any singers either, so thinking about starting a band, I’d seen some really neat surf bands in Toronto, and I was really inspired to explore that possibility. And I found instrumental music to be really fun for guitar players to play. And it’s fun for everyone, because when you’re making room for a singer you have to be conscious of that. So as a band, we all get to shine: Everybody gets their time, and everyone knows when to shut up, too.”

That kitsch-vibe is seen in the band’s act, as the band are outfitted in matching, vintage clothing, a throwback scene that’s kitschy and campy, but far from cheesy. They pull from some of the great surf bands that came before; by digging into the cool style of The Ventures and the aggression of Dick Dale, they prove they are apt students and lovers of the genre.

“It’s definitely fun to play, and I think at this point, studying so many of the original surf bands that were around in the ’60s, it’s really fun listening to the subtle differences of each one,” Freeman said.

They’re also laying down their own sound. Anything can be adapted into an instrumental surf tune, which they prove by covering old-school R&B tunes, or even new wave or post-punk classics. But the whole shebang is a full-blown presentation of surf rock influenced by an animated, cocktail jazz vibe with a psychedelic, lounge music leanings. It’s what Freeman refers to as “dreamy-surf.”

“I think we’ve tried to carve out our own sound, because there’s a lot of amazing surf bands out there,” Freeman said. “It’s fun to find your own little niche. And I think we’ve always kept things rocky and dreamy. I’m always thinking dreamy surf.”

Bryant Liggett is a freelance writer and KDUR station manager. Reach him at liggett_b@fortlewis.edu.