TJ Mimbs founded Surf Bored back in his hometown of Athens, Georgia, as a no pressure way to play with some of his favorite local musicians. That turned out to be a great experience, so when TJ moved to the Bay Area later that same year, he sought to recreate it somehow. Prior to meeting the other members of San Francisco’s Surf Bored: Chris Tye, Jeremy Lyon, Daniel Blum, and Avi Vinocur, he’d always thought that the band would be made of varying like-minded musicians who were free to play shows with him as they came up. Says TJ, “It’s turned into a band; it’s these five guys that play in Surf Bored and I couldn’t think of it any other way.”
Wendy Oakes: Congratulations on your album, The Rehearsal, and the show you’ve got planned to christen it; that’s a great lineup.
TJ Mimbs: It is.
WO: Surf Bored is comprised of musicians who play in highly regarded Bay Area bands, and similarly, the other bands on the bill that night both feature musicians from the core music community here in San Francisco.
TJM: Most definitely. Everybody we’re telling about it, when we talk about the lineup, they smile knowingly. We’re like, “Yes, it’s gonna be very incestuous but it’s gonna be very fun.” Max [M. Lockwood Porter] was one of the first people I met when I moved here. He came into a studio I was working at to record his seven inch single for his song “Chris Bell.” We met and then we lost touch. We reconnected about a year and a half later; it was about the same time I was joining Vandella as well. It’s gonna be a fun night, a long night for me and Chris [Tye], playing in both bands, but it’s gonna be great. Definitely family vibes.
WO: Right. You and Chris play in Vandella as well as in Surf Bored. The rest of the band members in Surf Bored are all from bands that anyone from the Bay Area will recognize: formerly of The Stone Foxes and now in Goodnight, Texas, Avi Vinocur; formerly of Tumbleweed Wanderers and now recording engineer supreme at Pyramind, Dan Blum; and uncharacteristically on bass, Jeremy Lyon of Tumbleweed Wanderers. A well-rounded cast of characters. Surf Bored actually started with yourself and different musicians in Athens, Georgia, where you’re from.
TJM: That’s right. I was writing some different kinds of songs from my previous band back in Georgia, The District Attorneys. It became obvious fairly quickly that that band wasn’t necessarily the right outlet for some of the songs. It was the same kinda community back in Athens; it was a lot of musicians that had their own main bands but were trying to find excuses to play with each other in any way possible. So, got some guys together from some amazing bands back there: Dana Swimmer, The Woodgrains, I could go on and on about that scene too. We started playing a little bit; we did a couple of low profile, under the radar, for fun shows. They already knew I was moving out here. I didn’t anticipate [having] a band of close knit musicians like it’s turned into now. I knew the Tumbleweed Wanderers before coming out here and within the first few weeks they started introducing me. A week or two after I moved here Dan Blum sat me down with Avi, and of course Avi ended up introducing me to Chris.
WO: And you play, like you’ve said in the past, stuff that you want to experiment with. There re no real confines in this band, right? It’s an anything goes, bring what you want you want to the table sort of situation.
TJM: That’s exactly right. The only slight confine we put on ourself is this southern surf rock mantra, which leaves itself open to a lot of interpretation. Something funny actually happened on this front the other day. I had a guy reach out to me on the band’s facebook. He was confused as to why we describe ourselves as surf rock and named ourselves Surf Bored because he didn’t really view it as pure surf rock, but as you said, that’s not the point. Things trend toward surfiness, but it’s about trying out new things and mainly just releasing from the stress of being a musician professionally or even just being a musician as an adult.
WO: Like you’d mentioned, you and Chris are in Vandella, who also play on the night. Tracey Holland is the singer and she’s very much a part of the SF music community. Who else is in Vandella?
TJM: Fritz Mueller plays bass and Dan Miller-Schroeder. he’s actually based down in LA now, he’s the drummer in that band. I got really close to Chris and Tracey, obviously Chris through playing music, and then Tracey through knowing everybody else in this music scene. She’s great. They pulled me aside one evening and they asked me to be a little part of what they were doing. I didn’t know Fritz and Dan until I started doing some practicing with them, but then we went on a tour last fall and I quickly recognized why Chris and Tracey had joined forces with those guys. We all got along swimmingly. It was an interesting tour to say the least. Coming out of that I feel just as close with them as I am with the rest of the crew.
WO: The obvious next question has to be…. what made that tour more interesting than most?
TJM: It was hastily thrown together around a gig in Boise, Idaho. We blew through Reno and drove all the way to Boise to play and came right back to Reno the next night and played in Reno to only a few people, and of course stayed in a casino that night which always turns out interesting. One of the shows was actually a house show [where] our sole audience was the police department. It was interesting but it was fun. Those are the kind of situations where you get to know people really well. It wasn’t adversity so to speak, but things weren’t perfect, and we still had a great time and got to know each other really well. Going into it it was, “Vandella’s bringing along this guy for this tour,” and coming out of it it was, “We are Vandella.”
WO: The other thing that’s special about this night is that it’s a record release show for Surf Bored, and a single release show for Vandella. The name of your album is The Rehearsal. Interesting name. Why is it called that?
TJM: One of the songs on the record is also called “The Rehearsal.” That was one of those songs I mentioned that – I wrote it and it was obvious that it wasn’t really for that outlet I was in at that point. I’d put it aside for a little while waiting for the band idea to develop, but at the time I wrote it I was going through a breakup, of course. It’s not a love song though; it’s not a loss love song. I just had a tough existential time at that point. I was definitely looking around and thinking, “What do I do next?” I actually started reading a lot of stoic philosophy. There was a segment that really took me, talking about how we can’t get too emotionally drawn into everything that happens in life because all life is is a rehearsal for death. That can seem kinda morbid but it struck me as basically saying, the way we handle adversity and different situations in life that are less than ideal, or even great situations, very happy times, it’s the way that we handle those that really matters. We’re hit with things throughout life and the way we react defines who we are. So, I wrote the song at that point and it really defines the whole period of my life from then until now, just becoming an adult and learning how to work through things, fight through and come out better on the other end.
WO: What is Vandella’s single about?
TJM: It’s called “A Feeling I’d Forgotten.” It’s off our upcoming EP, which is gonna be a four track EP. It’s a song that Chris wrote. I’m fairly positive he wrote it on a camping trip that he took with his awesome girlfriend, who did the artwork for both of our records. They went to this beautiful spot, not Crater Lake, but something similar to that. He obviously was struck by the surroundings, and beginning this relationship with someone, and getting out of the city. It’s very different from everything else that we do in Vandella, and especially [from] things that Vandella has done in the past. It’s got a poignant vibe to it but at the same time it’s fun; it’s a rocking song. It’s an interesting song and I think it’s gonna be very indicative of where the band is going.
Surf Bored, Vandella, and M. Lockwood Porter will be appearing at Brick & Mortar Music Hall in San Francisco this Friday, March 18th. Show is at 9.