My dad grew up in San Diego, hanging out on Pacific Beach with an 8-foot-long wooden surfboard, catching waves all day and soaking up the sun.
His stories are awesome. He hung out with Gordon and Smith at their first surf shop when it was just the two of them carving board in a little hut on the beach. He also crossed paths with Dennis Wilson, the Beach Boys’ first drummer — and the band’s only surfer — who tragically died surfing. He also played piano in a band back then, Satan’s Boys, most famous for two things: getting kicked out of one of their two gigs and playing surf rock.
But, that was a long time ago and it was all the way across the country on the coast of California. Something like surf rock emerged naturally because everyone was surfing. What’s less likely is for there to be a surf-punk, trash, twang type band here in central Pennsylvania, but we have the Delvarados, and they are playing a gig on Jan. 6 at the Elk Creek Café + Aleworks, just off the marshy coast of the Coburn tubing loop.
“We’re moving in some new directions,” guitarist Dave “Doc” Mudgett said. “We’re moving into more spaghetti Western stuff. We’re doing a little more subtle stuff. It was mostly trash, twang, thunder back then. We’re trying to sort of weave in a little more chilled out, vibe-y kind of stuff now. Think ‘The Godfather’ theme. We’re doing some stuff that is true spaghetti Western. We’re doing some old pop tunes.”
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The band has been together off and on for about 20 years, and consists of Chris Coyn on guitar, Mudgett on guitar, the reverend Jimmy James on bass and Sean Hershey on drums, and aside from a few personnel changes has mostly consisted of the current lineup.
“My take on this thing is that the centerpiece of what we do is like surf music,” Mudgett said, “and Link Wray and all that old school trash, twang, thunder kind of stuff. But, we’re doing some blues. I’m really into slide guitar these days so it’s like we’re doing some hard core blues with me playing slide.”
It’s an interesting approach for sure, and it’s all heartfelt. I got to jam with the band a bit after the interview to knock the rust off of my ‘lectric chops on Coyn’s guitar, but more so to get the feel for what the Delvarados are up to. I can say with all confidence that these guys are rocking, intuitive musicians who bring it when they start rollicking through their repertoire, which includes a healthy dose of original material as well.
“Everyone sings,” Hershey said. “All three of these guys sing. We all have our own original songs that we’re still throwin’ out.”
While the Elk Creek gig is a good start for amping up a gigging schedule, the Delvarados are looking to find a home for their unique and edgy style, which isn’t so easy to do here in the often rootsy folksiness of central Pennsylvania.
“We need a regular spot somewhere,” Mudgett said. “I’m an old hippie. This is psychedelic surf music. My initial music that I started playing on guitar was coming out of San Francisco: psychedelic blues, and surf and punk. It was extremely aggressive. We’re very aggressive. We’d like to do more gigs. We’d like to purvey some of the stuff around here. I think there’s an audience for it around here.”
In the end, however, it’s all about the relationships, and the members of the Delvarados have that piece in place.
“It’s easy and fun,” Coyn said. “We all like the same kind of styles. I’m the newest one, so that’s what I notice right away. We came together and had fun right away. Practices are really fun, you know, which a lot of times they aren’t. We make it a night out, for the old-timers with kids and what have you, and we play music we like to write and arrange.”
Kevin Briggs is a musician, writer and teacher who performs at venues throughout central Pennsylvania. Contact him at KevinTBriggs@gmail.com.
IF YOU GO
- What: The Delvarados
- When: 8 p.m. Jan. 6
- Where: Elk Creek Cafe + Aleworks, 100 W. Main St., Millheim
- Info: www.elkcreekcafe.com