Within the spectrum of rock music, surf isn’t all that different from ska: the originals are the ones who did it best, and few who presently indulge in the genres tend to contribute little beyond imitation. “It was my musical mentor and our producer Gregory Lattimer (of Now Records) that really started to get me into this simple, catchy, cool rock sound,” explains *repeat repeat frontman Jared Corder, speaking to the band’s self-described “surf” branding. “[One] that was a throwback to that era without being a direct copy of the 60’s sound.” Within the group’s still-developing stable of tracks, “surf” might better represent a feeling more than an indicator of style though. And *repeat repeat are no surf-rock imitators.
Of the songs that have been released in advance of the band’s debut album, Bad Latitude, “History” comes closest to the advertised sound, flirting heavily with the “urban surf adventure in rockcandyland” idea teased on the group’s Facebook page. More so, however, it introduces a trend that is also heard through “12345678” and “Love That Never Ages,” painting *repeat repeat as a group pre-occupied not with beach-pop, but with making carefully considered reverb-heavy rock songs. “We’re not going for a lo-fi sound, we’re going for pop,” Jared told No Country for New Nashville last spring. It just so happens that the marketing of those pop songs thoughtfully leans on a singular noteworthy influence, used to help strengthen their position within Nashville’s ever-busy rock scene.
“Bands are brands,” said vocalist Kristyn Corder last year in an interview with the Tennessean, speaking about artist development as a necessity for musicians looking for a roster spot with the increasingly popular East Nashville Underground. The quarterly festival — which Kristyn and Jared co-founded — has showcased dozens of local rock acts since 2010. It has also provided the duo with insight into what works and what doesn’t among the ranks of the local DIY scene, reinforcing the importance for self-definition within the context of their own band’s creation.
“We wanted something catchy and simple,” says Jared, explaining the origins of the name *repeat repeat. “I had this idea of reading directions on the back of a shampoo bottle or something where you would see an asterisk, then at the bottom of the page would say *repeat, repeat.” “It’s important to make good music, but these days you have to grab people’s attention with strong visual elements as well.”
While the trio came together in Nashville, their sound would seem a perfect compromise; Jared calls it “a culmination of our personal tastes and influences.” Kristyn’s Southern California roots have left her influenced by “beachy, harmony-driven 60′s rock,” drummer Andy Herrin’s musical history leans a little heavier (having backed-up St. Louis modern rock acts Cavo and Revolution One), and Jared fits directly in between, having played with indie rock-leaning local acts Oh No No and Frances & the Foundation. Out of that collective background comes tracks like “Chemical Reaction,” balancing hard-driving rhythms with the group’s softer influences.
Perhaps the surf label is only used out of convenience, but local bloggers have taken notice, covering the “familiar”-sounding “surf-influenced pop music” of “Dick Dale’s snot-nosed grandkids.” “I think there is an element of surf-rock that isn’t directly related to the actual sport. Surf rock has a 60′s cool feel to it,” continues Jared. “For me it conjures up the mod-Warhol-esque period too.” Here the genre-stamp would seem to be less an indicator of sound though, and more a jumping-off point; a foundation; maybe even a state of mind.
Simply because the group is conscious of what goes into a band beyond the actual creation of songs doesn’t mean their music is as formulaic as “surf,” rinse, repeat, however. “The music came before the branding,” adds Kristyn. “That gave us a jumping-off point and a clear direction for where to take the music.” And in the end, it’s the music — and allowing their music to grow — that the group cares about most. As Jared explains, “We’re not a Beach Boys cover band or something like that, so obviously we’re not limiting ourselves to a surf sound. These songs have been a labor of love for the past two years, [but] we are already writing new material, and letting our sound evolve accordingly.”
*repeat repeat will be hosting a release party for Bad Latitude March 11 at Grimey’s, which will be followed by a dozen-date tour that will take them through SXSW before returning to Nashville for an April 12 Mercy Lounge performance.