Surf Curse

In the Mix is a monthly column of reviews of albums by musical artists local to the Reno area. To submit an album for review consideration, send a physical copy to Brad Bynum, Reno News & Review, 708 N. Center St., Reno NV 89501 or a digital link to

Music and the internet have thus far had an interesting and exciting, though deeply troubled, marriage. Songwriters are able to post their new compositions up to their websites immediately after completing them. You can write a song, record it on your computer, and send it out for the world to hear in an afternoon and still have time to watch a couple of movies before bed.

One gets the sense that this is the favored working methodology of the Reno duo Surf Curse, the young, local band that best represents the newest waves in independent rock music. Jacob Rubeck and Nicholas Rattigan, multi-instrumentalists and singers both, write catchy little pop tunes, with bittersweet harmonic progressions and twisting, serpentine vocal melodies.

Demos, available streaming on their Bandcamp page ( or for download there at the nominal price of $.51, is a 10-song batch of home recordings. The songs have a raw, rough and ragged feel, like they really were written, recorded and released all within the span of a couple of hours. But that’s part of the songs’ charm. This sense of immediacy gives the songs emotional immediacy as well. And the emotions here are multilayered—not the simple anger of a lot of rock music nor basic emo sadness or pop punk’s happy idiocy—but the complex real emotions of real life.

“High School Blues,” in addition to having a nearly perfect song title for a song about being young and having weird emotions, is one of the best of the batch. “Ponyboy” is another good one, with a vocal hook, “You promised me that everything’s gonna be all right,” that earworms without being annoying about it. The title’s a reference to The Outsiders—and movie references, especially to’80s flicks, abound here. The production leaves a lot to be desired, as does the quality of the audio files, and the band name is a little too on-the-nose—reverb, the defining feature of surf rock guitar—being a prominent component of their sound.

These kids write good songs. They can write sensitive tunes about their complicated emotions without being wusses about it. It’ll be great to see how they develop—maybe someday they’ll even save up enough songs, go to a studio, get some decent recordings, and press it to vinyl they way their grandparents used to do.