Story and Interview by Dalila Ramirez
Surf rock is a notorious ode to coastal lifestyle and the beauty of storytelling through music. It’s unique in the guitar riffs and the groovy tunes it carries. It’s evolved over the years spreading the love of surfing and the love of the sunshine state worldwide. More recently, surf rock has seen a surge in interest and has found itself overlapping with other genres, specifically indie rock. This marriage of genres has led to new wave surf rock artists such as recent sensations Surf Curse and The Drums. With the internet and many young people with too much time on their hands, this new sub-genre of rock has seemed to capture the attention of the indie rock community around the world. This has led to surf rock bands emerging from states across the country and reaching places internationally.
Based out of Manchester, England, KATZ is a trio composed of three musically talented film enthusiasts. The band includes Ben, 21, on guitar and vocals, James, 20, on guitar, and Archie, 20, on drums. I had the opportunity to have a virtual sit down with KATZ and discuss their influences, newfound success, and latest EP, The Last American Virgin.
The Last American Virgin EP is composed entirely of cinematic influences with each song coming from different American classics like The Last American Virgin and Fast Times at Ridgemont High. The transportation to these cinematic universes makes the entire EP an escapist fantasy.
Interview with KATZ
“We had one song on our old EP which was based off a film,” James said when discussing the creative process of Last American Virgin.
“That’s Feed Me Seymour,” said Ben.
“I guess we just thought we’d do a whole collection of songs based around films,” said James.
Coming of age movies are an endearing sub-genre that bring comfort and allow people to reminisce. They’re a fun exaggeration of real life and oftentimes are what we wish life were more like.
“Going back to the escapism thing,” said Ben, “it’s for sure trying to escape reality. Manchester is not like the sunniest place in the world so it’s nice to make these summer songs about Hollywood films,”
“Where you want to be, not where you are now” finishes James.
When asked to explain the appeal of 80’s movies Ben said, “I don’t know there’s something appealing about it. The cheesy 80’s coming of age story,”
James adds, “They’re not very realistic but it’s fun.”
KATZ has released a music video and some live sessions on YouTube in addition to maintaining an instagram. Like most modern emerging bands, social media can play a key role to gaining momentum.
“We recorded the first EP and we didn’t think much about it and we sorta just stuck it on the internet. And we didn’t really know how to promote anything on social media.” James said.
“Everything we post is stuff like ‘we got a gig next week’ or stuff like that. We never posted any music on it. It was really weird. But we started taking it seriously about a year ago. We tried to get our social media running properly and tried to reach more people.”
KATZ has recently found viral success on tik tok, an app many bands have lately been seen displaying their talents.
“We learned to try to get our music to the right people, like sending our music to playlists and blogs. Tik Tok too.” Ben said with a slight shake of his head.
“We were sort of like ‘Ah we’ll throw a couple videos occasionally but never did much about it,” said James explaining their approach to tik tok.
There’s an obvious connotation with tik tok as an app for dancing or checking in with influencers. However there is an underbelly of music gluttons who enjoy new and unique music on the app. This group of music sensualists on the app has given this trio a larger and unexpected platform.
“We didn’t really have that many followers [on tik tok], only like 20. Our instagram was our main thing. We had about 1000 or something” Ben said, describing their social media following in the beginning. “Then we chucked it on tik tok and in the morning we had like 4000 followers.”
One of the notable traits of KATZ is the great camaraderie and fluidity between the three members.
“Me and Ben met in college while doing a music tech course. We bonded over like Mac Demarco, 50’s duwop.” James says, as he explains how they all met.
“50’s duwop, that’s a big love for us.” Ben continues, “We then just wrote a lot of songs that turned in to dumb songs and then later we met Archie.”
Archie’s quick drumming had caught Ben and James’ attention. “Ben recorded my old band and then asked me to perform.” Archie adds.
“We went through a couple of drummers,” Ben recalls, “A lot of the songs were quite fast, people couldn’t keep up. But when we recorded Archie’s band, he’s a super fast drummer, so we were like ‘we should jam sometime’”
The band has a variety of rich influences such as 50’s doo wop and punk rock. Their sound process is additionally timeless and proves that less is more. At the end it creates a vivaciously creative sound for the band.
“We record on this old four track cassette recorder,” explains Ben, “That’s why it sounds a little bit more lo-fi and distorted and such.”
A four track can be a bit limiting in comparison to other modern sound processes, explains James, “It’s very minimal because we’re not recording on a computer so we can only plug in a certain amount of mics. Two guitars, a drum, and a vocal. So we can’t put any more layers on top of those ones.”
“The restrictions of recording like that affected our sound a lot. Make everything simple for sure.” says Ben. The simplicity of their sound allows discovery for finding unique sounds between the few instruments which can be seen evident within their EP.
KATZ hopes to one day tour around the UK and eventually the west coast. Hopefully KATZ will be able to grace their UK beach sound on the golden coast sooner rather than later. In the meantime, their live sessions are available online along with their ever growing internet presence.
It’s no wonder KATZ provides some much needed comfort and fantasy during this current pause on life. They’re the voice of movie sentimentalists and escapists. With talented fast paced drumming, unique vocals, and ornate lyrics, KATZ is a love letter to free spirited adolescents who wish to ameliorate their lives through daydreams.