Surfing the Midwest Music Scene
December 13, 2018
Growing up in the Midwest tended to put a damper on dreams of being a surfer. One way we Midwesterners satisfied the surfer craving was through surf music. Bands like The Ventures, Dick Dale, The Surfaris, Jan and Dean, and The Chantays influenced a whole generation of baby boomers to dig fast cars, waxed boards, and big waves.
One Midwesterner that was taken by the groovy and slick sounds of surf music was Mark Brody, lead guitarist of Fort Wayne surf rock band Strange Waters.
Surfing the midwest
When asked why start a surf rock band, his reply was pretty matter-of-fact.
“I always loved surf rock when I was a kid, listening to oldies on the radio with my parents in the car,” he said. “I came across some cool modern surf groups in 2017 like The Kilaueas, The Atomic Mosquitos, Los Straitjackets, and Messer Chups, and I was hooked all over again. I knew no one else was currently playing surf rock in Fort Wayne, so I figured it would be a good style to focus on to start a new band.”
Brody, along with Jon Schafer on bass, Chris Lewis on drums, and “some guy” on rhythm guitar, make up Fort Wayne’s premier surf band Strange Waters. The band became a complete unit in 2018, but the project has been a work-in-progress for Brody.
“I became obsessed with playing surf guitar in late 2016, and pretty quickly decided I wanted to put a band together and start playing surf rock around town,” Brody said. “In mid 2017 I enlisted bassist Jon Schafer, who brings a punk rock influence that gels really well with the surf style. Things moved slowly until early 2018, when Chris Lewis joined us on drums. He brought some original surf compositions he had written for a previous project that never got off the ground, so it kinda felt meant to be. He brought his hard-hitting sound and really solidified the band — Jon and Chris are basically the engine room that keeps this train running. It’s hard not to play like a maniac once those two get going.”
Now, in regards to “some guy” playing rhythm guitar, Mark Brody was rather cryptic about the whole thing.
“On stage with us you’ll also find The Stranger With No Name,” Brody said. “We’re not quite sure who he is, but he always shows up to our shows and plays a mean guitar.”
He had this to add, “Rumor has it you can also catch him playing out with a local prog rock trio.”
When talking influences on a surf rock band, you think of the usual bands listed earlier. But what’s a big influence on Strange Waters?
“Looney Tunes,” Mark said. “The way those old cartoons used musical cues and sound effects to support the animation is masterful, and extremely interesting sonically.”
“Chris wrote some tunes and named them after lines from that ’80s sci-fi movie The Last Starfighter,” Brody added. “Also, my musical journey with this specific band has much in common with the original Blues Brothers movie, but that’s a whole other story.”
One musical influence on Mark Brody is the masterful bassist Victor Wooten.
“I have to say that the book The Music Lesson by Victor Wooten has heavily influenced everything I do musically, especially when it came to starting this band,” Brody said. “I recommend that book to every musician, especially musicians that struggle with keeping their enthusiasm level high.”
A Strange Waters show is mostly original music with a few covers thrown in for those die-hard Dick Dale groupies. And the songs cover many different styles of surf music.
“There are a lot of different flavors of surf-style music to explore,” Brody said. “Spy-theme stuff, slow and liquidy latin grooves, horror surf, ’50s bubblegum pop, it just keeps going.”
Going to the studio
With Strange Waters playing mostly original music, the conversation turned to the band possibly hitting the studio and recording.
“In fact, we just recently completed our very first EP a few weeks before this interview,” Brody said. “We did the whole thing (six songs) at Rainmaker Studios here in Fort Wayne. I wish I could provide a date for the album release show, but we’re still working on that.”
So where does Mark Brody see Strange Waters in five years time?
“It’s been a little overwhelming just getting this project up and running, I think for now we’re just excited that people seem to like us,” Brody said.
“Our original goals were to have fun, play some gigs, and record an album, in that order. And we’ve accomplished those goals much faster than we expected. So for now we’ll focus on playing out regularly, and networking with other surf bands in the midwest.
“I will say that we’re working on something special for a show here in Fort Wayne in March 2019, but we’re keeping a lid on that until the show is officially announced — keep an eye on the Fort Wayne events calendar and you won’t miss it.”
But the biggest question is: Have any of the guys ever surfed?
“Two of us have, Chris and The Stranger,” Brody said. “I’m more into snorkeling myself. Jon has been landlocked his whole life and does not identify as aquatic.”
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