'Water' EP Album Review and Artist Spotlight for Surprise Attack
Up-and-coming Jam-Funk act from Washington DC, Surprise Attack, have recently reached out and we are happy to reveal and announce our Full EP Review, Interview and Artist Spotlight here at www.jambandpurist.com
Surprise Attacks most recent EP release entitled, 'Water' is an elemental achievement and coincides with their previous releases, 'Earth' and 'Fire.' This album concept is highly original and represents the level of awareness this band has as a collective. Dubbing themselves, "Mountain Funk," their influences range from improvisational, Appalachian-Folk and Funk music, which coagulates to form Surprise Attack.
'Water' begins with “M.D.M.A.” a song that highlights this bands lyrical qualities, and even includes a barbershop quartet style vocal harmony and a great Jam melody. This song expresses creative and unique songwriting structures and transitions. As an opening track, this song is well selected and while most of us think of ecstasy or some other illicit experience, after reflecting, this song has nothing to do with that at all. It's something far beyond the acronym.
Recording 'Water' in their home studio, Surprise Attack, uses what they have to produce a listenable album with a solid sound. While, I would love to hear what these guys could do in a professional studio, 'Water' is a great platform to release musical ideas, expand their repertoire and work on their band style. Danny Durazo, Ian Frye, Jay Rowe, Jeremy Begun and Tom Casey all have a unique blend of musical styles and collaborate as a cohesive unit.
"J.N.S." opens up with a strong Latin rhythm structure and great guitar licks. The vocal melody itself can be heard prevalently and the disco sound is undeniably danceable. This one could be jammed out live and with the right amount of improvisation, this song could be taken to the next level. The feeling that "J.N.S." brings forth is something greater than I think is on this recording and while this recording doesn’t capture all the intricate qualities, it does show the creative talents of this band.
"Down And Out" takes this band on a different route down I-495 using the easy pass to get out of traffic. This song is much more the "mountain" side of their sound and has a country-folk feel. The initial reaction is calm, collective and juxtaposes with the story itself of being down and out without cash in the city. This song is very relatable and at times funny and could be commercially viable if the band decided to use it in that capacity.
"Train Of Thought" is by far my favorite track from this album and comes with a high recommendation. This songs structure itself is very Zappa-esque and takes the progressive development of improvisation jam music to the forefront of this album. "Train Of Thought" caught my attention initially for its transitions, reminiscent of moe. Phish and Zappa all combined but still original. Surprise Attack should work towards making all their songs this quality and level of conceptuality.
Altogether and combined with its counterparts, 'Fire' and 'Earth,' 'Water' EP stands out as a great beginning for any up-and-coming band to promote themselves off of. D.C.’s budding music scene is expanding and many great jam acts are growing within this community. I look for Surprise Attack to attack the scene with the same intensity that they have brought to 'Water.' Check out the EP here: https://surpriseattackdc.bandcamp.com/album/water-ep and follow Surprise Attack on all social media platforms for more. Is ‘Wind’ on the way?
Interview with Surprise Attack
(JBP) What made you form Surprise Attack and start playing music together?
Surprise Attack is actually the band that we formed back in high school. We were together for about a year before moving to different towns, going to college, and more or less, going on a permanent hiatus. We’ve all been close friends for quite some time now and as our musical taste expanded, we were going to shows together, and collectively starting analyzing the music we were listening to on a much deeper level than ever before. After we graduated, we started organizing “jams in the cabin” where we’d rent out a cabin for a weekend, set up a temporary studio, and create improvised music together. It wasn’t long after starting those meet-ups that we realized just how essential music was and is, in all of our lives. We moved back to Northern Virginia, where we grew up and where Surprise Attack was originally formed and have been pushing our development as hard as we can ever since.
(JBP) What are your goals in the music industry?
Our goal is to become full time musicians and to take Surprise Attack wherever in the world we can. Granted how much the music industry has been changing, we do our best to keep up with the technology and methodologies that will enable us to be competitive with the bands that are several years ahead of us. We embrace the free content model in hopes of recreating the taper vibe that surrounded The Dead and other Jam bands. As a band that revolves around the live experience and performing a unique set every night, we put a ton effort into conveying that through our content distribution.
(JBP) Do you guys have any experiences opening up for bigger bands? Or any bands you hope to share the stage with one day?
It was a really cool experience to play with Midnight North. Watching Grahame Lesh (the band’s front man and son of Phil Lesh) on stage with The Terrapin Family Band at Lockn ‘17 after opening up for his project at Jammin' Java in Vienna, VA was beyond surreal. We, and every other jam band, pretty much owe our existence to the Dead, so rubbing elbows with someone who continues the Dead’s tradition of improvisational music just deepened our desire to become a part of that tradition as well.
(JBP) I have also met with Grahame; he is a treasure to this community. Where else do you take influence musically?
All of us have always been fans of older bands, as well as more contemporary music, and take tons of influences from Funk groups, Jazz artists, Rock bands, etc, but our first experiences with the Jam bands The String Cheese Incident, Phish, and The Grateful Dead iterations were extremely eye-opening. It wasn't until seeing these Jam veterans operate live, that we realized the potential for creating an exciting performance that incorporates elements from Funk, Rock, Jazz, Bluegrass, Latin, and Dance music. Eclectic is definitely the word that comes to mind when thinking of Surprise Attack’s taste in music and we owe that to the inspiration we've drawn from the Jam music community.
(JBP) How do you think your sound and band can evolve to become something greater and bring something fresh and original to the music scene?
The biggest focus for our music and Surprise Attack as an entity is to be as genuine and authentic as possible. We love all types of music and feel like we don't ever compromise putting out a sound that is truly us. There is also an element of eccentricity to our sound that is just different; partially because we go for so many styles, which makes it hard to pin us down as an “x” band when in comes to our catalog, but also because we're just a bit odd ourselves. I think our personality really shines through in our music, which could be refreshing in a music scene that can be pretty self-serious.
(JBP) Who is the main songwriter or is it more of a collective musical environment?
We definitely view our original works, as well as covers, as the product of a collective musical environment. A lot of the time, a member will come with a certain number of parts or ideas to a song and we will have brainstorming sessions in which the final project is envisioned. We very much so operate as a democracy and welcome all ideas and criticism towards developing the most cohesive music that we possibly can put out. Refining the songs is always an ongoing process and we use our home studio to take scratch recordings as songs are coming into being and revisit the recordings to make changes on sections as a whole, transitions, and individual parts. If someone has an idea for a certain part of a song, even if we thought it was completed a while ago, we’ll try it out and see if it fits. We're still making refinements to songs we wrote years ago.
(JBP) This album was self-produced, was this recorded in a home studio and if so, can you can you share what programs you used or experiences you had recording?
This album was indeed recorded in our home studio! For our most recent EP, Water, we used Logic on our Mac Mini after transitioning away from Ableton Live. Developing our home studio has been an adventure and a half with moving in to our first band house, acoustically treating our main room, and constantly upgrading our set up. Over the past 2 years we’ve continuously invested every bit of money we’ve made into upgrading to new, better technology and methodologies that enable us to share solid self-produced studio and live recordings with the musical community for free. The recording experience has always been extremely fulfilling for us too because we get the opportunity to come back to material we’ve been performing live and really put the polishing touches on the songs to make them whole. We are all about the live environment, but recording allows us to take things we normally experience from one perspective and dissect it from a million different ones. Then we use those new perspectives to form a new and better version of the song that we can play live.
(JBP) Have you had any wild band experiences yet?
One time, when we were supposed to play an afternoon gig for a Brewery’s anniversary party we had an extremely unfortunate series of technical difficulties. We had our PA and the stage entirely set up and were preparing for sound check when our bass player realized his electric bass wasn’t producing any sound at all. We tested a bunch of different cables and inputs devices to see if we could get any signal, but alas nothing. Fortunately our drummer lived nearby and was able to quickly grab his old beat up bass. Mind you this was like a first instrument you’ve ever had kind of bass and we were extremely unsure how it was going to sound but were VERY desperate. We plugged it in and the darn thing wasn’t producing any sound either! In a frenzy, our guitar player and bass player ran to the nearest music store to buy a bass and we were able to get our set moving just after the anticipated start time. We ended up having a great time and overcoming the stress, but we still joke about all the completely unexpected technical challenges that can kick you in the butt like having 2 basses fail on you in one day!
Thanks to Surprise Attack for taking the time to reach out and letting us interview them! If you are interested in having your album reviewed by www.jambandpurist.com contact us and we will work out an option that suites your bands needs. Who else do you want to see on JBP? Let us know.
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Editor and Chief: Robert RA Fadley
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Editor: Robert (R.A.) Fadley
Freelance Writer, Musicologist, Music Journalist, Music Critic, Music Writer, Author, Musician, Singer-songwriter, Composer, Guitarist.