Surf Rock is Dead

Surf Rock is Dead - Press 01 - photo credit- Sky McElroy

Kevin Pariso and Joel Witenberg will tell you they don’t take themselves too seriously. Hence the name of their band, Surf Rock Is Dead (that’s SRiD for short). This playfulness informs their music (which they do, in fact, take quite seriously), a hybrid of surf rock, shoegaze, and new wave, through which the duo meditate on the paradoxes of modern life.

Pariso (vocals and guitar) and Witenberg (vocals and bass) met in a now-defunct recording studio called The End in 2012. Pariso had come in to record with his old band while Witenberg was working there as an intern. Interested in expanding his musical projects, Pariso had an “insidious plan,” as he calls it, to befriend a studio intern. As luck would have it, he ran into Witenberg as he was fixing the thermostat. It must have been fate.

Witenberg, originally from Melbourne, Australia, had to return home for about a year, but the friendship was already set in motion. Each historically musicians in other people’s projects—Witenberg as a drummer and producer, Pariso as a guitarist and producer—the pair found themselves hyped on jamming together after one of Pariso’s gigs once Witenberg had returned to the U.S. in 2014. Witenberg remembers an old drum machine, Pariso kicking the reverb on his pedal, and the seed of Surf Rock is Dead was planted. Their chemistry has always been off the cuff, from that first jam session on. The result a gauzy psych pop that lies
somewhere nostalgia laden and happily between post-rock, chillwave, and goth.

When they first started out, Pariso and Witenberg played an average of five times a month for a number of years—two years in a row, Surf Rock is Dead made the top ten of Oh My Rockness’ Hardest Working Bands list. Since their first release, Surf Rock is Dead has garnered both critical acclaim and a hardcore fanbase. They’ve been written about by Billboard, NYLON, NOISEY, EARMILK, CLASH Magazine, Under the Radar, Gold Flake Paint and appeared on
Billboard Hot 100 Music Festival, Kitsuné Hot Stream, KEXP Music That Matters (Vol. 497), all while while touring and playing shows with Amy Shark, Grace Mitchell, Hot Flash Heat Wave & No Vacation, Shout Out Louds, Black Kids, The Jezabels, Day Wave, SWMRS & The Frights, High Highs, Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, We Are Scientists, Gang of Youths, Pete Yorn, The Radio Dept, and MOURN.

In 2015, Pariso and Witenberg released their first EP, the misty SRiD EP. Its highlights “Never Be The Same” is a dreamy song about feeling foggy, “an endless daze immersed in haze,” and the serenely jammy heartbreak track “Zen A,” which NYLON called “[a] strange contradiction that leaves you pressing play…over and over again.” 2017 saw the release of We Have No Friends? on The Native Sound, which was about escape, almost an ode to their own jam sessions, and a “commentary on the lives we lead.” On “In Between,” a song at once rapturous and murky, they sing, “The city is so bright, you can see / Things have changed, so mad / And everyone you know, can only be / Prearranged, so sad.” A thread through the content of their music and lyrics has been the paradox of living in a big city: the simultaneously isolating nature of city life, and the sincere connections made while creating the work they want to create.

While the majority of the songs from their first two EPs were a product of jam sessions, for Surf Rock Is Dead’s debut album a more deliberate writing structure occurred. After taking a step back from performing so frequently, Pariso and Witenberg created songs with a poppier bent. Their debut album Existential Playboy (released during the height of the pandemic in May 2020) was recorded in three different studio spaces as well as the bandmates’ apartments, is a balanced mix of older, jammier tracks, and newer ones, like the moody and jangly kiss-off, “Diabolik,” or the album’s lead single, the anxiously romantic “Away Message.”

Over time, their writing has grown and matured—they’ve started using more synthesizers, drying up the reverb, experimenting with more electronics—but it’s all still coming from the same space, a core self of minimalist songwriting and pure expression. “We’re the same people, but it’s changing,” Witenberg says. “The types of chords and melodies we tend to move towards are going to develop but it’s never going to change. A person makes their art because that’s them. No one else is going to be able to.”


Surf Rock is Dead Drama

back and forth
tough love
so comfy
show me the world
always the same

Surf Rock is Dead Existential Playboy

Our Time
Away Message
Solid Ties
Typical Cliché
Miss You
Another World
Watching the Dead
always learning what not to do