Surf De Soleil is a five-man alternative rock band, and for a group of high school guys, they’ve already carved out a pretty significant reputation in the local music scene. Their support base is impressive, and on Friday, the band is throwing a release party for their eponymous debut album at the NWA Showcase Theater at 7 p.m.
At the Northwest Arkansas Music Awards this year, Surf De Soleil was nominated for both Best Rock Band and Best New Artist. And though they didn’t leave with either award, their name was in the mouths of more than a couple of musicians at the ceremony. When A Good Fight stepped onstage to receive the award for Best Rock Band, vocalist Eddie Love prefaced his thank-yous by saying, “By the way: Surf De Soleil is the best band in Fayetteville right now.” After the show, Geoff Baker from Randal Shreve and The Sideshow wrote online, “Believe me, the NAMAs don’t always go to the best band. Surf De Soleil didn’t win a thing, and in my opinion they are one of the best bands in the region.”
So who is Surf De Soleil? The band is comprised of Philip Shepherd (vocals), Scott Love (guitar), Nate Korth (guitar), Jared Thompson (bass), and Cody Nielsen, all of whom will be High School seniors next year, with the exception of Shepherd, who just graduated. The band started playing together in 2009; in 2010 they released four songs online, citing influences as widespread as The Strokes, Kings of Leon, Bright Eyes and Led Zeppelin.
But the band doesn’t sound a thing like their listed influences. Really, there isn’t a band you can point to and say, ‘Oh yeah, Surf De Soleil sounds like those guys,’ with the one possible exception being the song ‘Shasta,’ which features lyrics about leaving town and “breaking free.” It feels more like a 90’s rock song than anything, as if Lenny Kravitz suddenly burst into the recording studio and said “Hey Shepherd, lemme get at some of those lyrics real quick.”
“I’ll be rich, successful, I’ll be loaded for life / All I’ve got to do is take control and learn to fly / I’m going to be free! (Yea-aah!),” Shepherd sings.
But this sort of direct comparison is the exception, and not the rule.
“Our music is really diverse, and we bring in a ton of different influences from everywhere,” said Nielsen. “That’s why we usually just refer to ourselves as alternative rock. It’s easier.”
Cirque Du Soleil translates to “Circus of the Sun,” so if somebody decided to force a translation of the band’s name, he would come up with something like Surf of the Sun. Though the group’s Facebook interests include the line, “Surfing. Haha get it? Because we are called ‘Surf De Soleil’, we like to ‘surf’,” it’s (predictably) just a cheap gag (and presumably it would be done in the water anyway, and not on the boiling plasma surface of Helios). Regardless, the band has come across a very cool-sounding moniker.
“It’s a spinoff of that famous traveling circus thingamajig,” said Nielsen. “We thought about calling ourselves The Sunset Adventure Crew, but then one day Scott Love brings in this name. We all thought it sounded really cool, and for some reason nobody had used it yet.”
The release party at Showcase will also feature performances from local bands A Complicated Creature and Space Cadet.
“We played our first show ever with the guys from Space Cadet at The Warehouse,” said Nielsen. “Over the years we’ve become really good friends with them, and it’s really cool that we got them to play with us this time, too.”