The Riptide Bandits
The Riptide Bandits is a surf rock band. Not just a band vaguely influenced by surf rock, but a straight-up, headed-to-the-beach genuine article. The elements are all in place: quick bouncy tempos, heroic melodies, and a lead guitarist who plays with a tone so drenched in reverb it sounds like it just stepped out of the ocean.
“And to answer your question before you even ask it, most of us have never surfed,” says lead guitarist Tony “Tony the Grouch” Iaea. “Although we’ve all surfed couches and done the occasional internet porn surf.”
The exception is rhythm guitarist Andrew “86 Andy” Hernandez, who surfed growing up in the Los Angeles area.
It’s not that surprising most of the band members have never surfed, though they do have some experience with skateboarding and snowboarding. They’re mostly Reno boys, born and bred, and instrumental surf rock, even in the time of genre godfather Dick Dale, has never really been about surfing, it’s always been about music that conveys a sense of motion.
Surf rock is music with velocity. It’s music for ridin’ high, whether ridin’ a surfboard, a skateboard, a getaway car or a horse. The surf rock guitar sound is also a central element in the Spaghetti Western film scores of Ennio Morricone, and many The Riptide Bandits songs, like “Dusty Chaps” are Western in tone and title. After all, they’re Nevadans, so they’ve got to represent.
Besides the requisite reverb, neither guitarist uses any external effects pedals or boxes. They create tremolo effects through rapid double-picking and by playing with their whammy bars firmly in hand. Bassist Jonathan “Johnny B. Have” Daniel gives the low end the bounce it needs, and drummer Adam “Hasegawa” Benson keeps everything moving. He plays a fairly barebones kit, no bells or whistles or even a hi-hat, and plays standing up.
“I just started doing that,” says Benson. “It keeps me engaged, and I feel like much more of a part of the band.”
Besides the occasional shout, chant or count-in, the band is entirely instrumental.
“Singers are assholes,” says Iaea.
“Prima donnas,” adds Benson.
Not having a vocalist allows the instrumentalists room to express themselves and gives listeners more room for interpretation. Lyrics often define what a song is “about,” and by keeping the songs instrumental, there’s no set subject matter or content. Still, like many surf rock songs, The Riptide Bandits’ instrumental tunes are very melodic and catchy.
Though The Riptide Bandits has only been a band for a year-and-a-half, the band members have all known each other for more than 10 years and played together in other groups, mostly punk and metal bands.
The band’s sets include occasional covers, like the Misfits’ “Hybrid Moments,” and Del Shannon’s “Runaway,” done in the style of the Ventures.
Though they occasionally test the limits, all the original songs fit recognizably into the genre of surf rock. The range of moods and emotions that the band is able to find in the genre might surprise some listeners. Some of the songs sound menacing and ominous, like a giant wave about to crash. Others sound springy and uplifting, like a bikini-clad girl dancing on the beach. But all the songs have that incredible sense of motion, as the sounds keep coming in waves.