By B. Simm
CALGARY — A 427, if you don’t already know, is a “big block” engine that was favoured by hot-rodders in the ’60s and ’70s and also dropped into factory muscle cars out of Detroit during its heyday. The 427’s, Calgary-based surf outfit, has the power-burst of those sleek machines along with the smooth stylistics of a sultry cocktail act playing Dino’s Lodge off Sunset Strip circa 1964. In 2015 their first EP, Surf Noir, was nominated for an instrumental award. Lead guitarist, Chris van Keir, talks to BeatRoute about his band’s upcoming release, Mavericks, and how they put the noir in surf.
BeatRoute: Obviously the 427s are purists to a large degree, and embrace traditional surf. But there’s a lot more going on in the music than just beach blanket melodies. For instance, you list Neil Levang & Buddy Merrill, a pair of Texan twangers, as one of your influences. What do you think are some of the main music ingredients that fuel surf, and what do you like to throw in the 427s’ tank?
Chris van Keir: Surf is catchy guitar hooks played by reverb-soaked Fender guitars coupled with danceable beats to create a vibe of black skinny tie, Wayfarer coolness. We apply ideas and influences from jazz, punk, novels, film, and visual art to avoid becoming another three-chord wonder.
BR: You gave your first release, Surf Noir, an interesting title. What did you have in mind or envision by calling it that?
CvK: Our music has a dark edge to it, giving it a moody, smoldering vibe. And we draw from the film noir aesthetic, which is sexy and stylish, with a sense of mystery lying just beneath the surface. We like to explore that mystery.
BR: Mavericks sounds much smoother, slinkier and fuller than Noir, which has a rough-around-the-edges garage tone. Were you deliberately aiming to switch up the production and make it bit more ‘chill’?
CvK: Absolutely. There was a very deliberate decision to spend a lot more time and effort recording Mavericks. Surf Noir was our preamble; Mavericks is our first chapter.
BR: You have a couple of videos out. “The Spy Invasion” is filmed in a distinct noir aesthetic with props and fashions borrowed from the private eye TV series 77 Sunset Strip. Can you discuss a little about the inspiration and making of the vids?
CvK: We believe a music video is simply a short film. It tells a story. We pay homage to Sam Spade and Philip Marlowe with “The Spy Invasion” while we embrace the digital world with Fake Betty, giving people the control to experience our live show at their convenience.
BR: Fake Betty? What’s that?
CvK: It’s a crush with eyeliner.
BR: Even though Surf Noir leans towards lo-fi, the playing on both your recordings is tight, precise, deep in the pocket. But onstage the band lets loose and rips it up. There seems to be a very definite distinction between making records and playing live. What’s your take on that?
CvK: Our records are meant to be heard; our stage show is meant to be seen. A live show should be interesting and engaging, not emulating your album note-for-note. Isn’t that what rock n’ roll is all about?
The 427s’ release party for Mavericks is Fri., Feb. 12 at the Palomino.AB, Alberta, Palomino, The 427s