Surf Rock is what California sounds like.
Or, to be more specific: surf rock is a genre of Rock & Roll
associated with surf culture
, which originated in The Sixties
in Southern California
Surf rock comes in two flavours, instrumental and vocal. Both versions are centered around some common traits, such as electric guitars using "wet"-sounding spring reverb (the
central defining characteristic of surf music, arguably), vibrato and tremolo, driving rhythms, and in the case of vocal surf rock, doo-wop inspired vocal harmonies. While surf rock generally stuck to the guitar-bass-drums lineup and used some very specific guitar models (they loved the Fender, Mosrite, Teisco and Danelectro brands), there was occasional use of other instruments such as keyboards or saxophone. Notably, surf rock was one of the first genres to universally adopt the electric bass.
Surf rock was incredibly popular between 1961-1965, the period from which originated its iconic songs such as "Misirlou
", "Let's Go Trippin'", "Pipeline", "Wipe Out", "Surfin' USA", "Fun, Fun, Fun" and others. Another label applied to some of these bands, who played songs about fast cars rather than surfing, was "hot rod rock". The genre's popularity was effectively killed by The British Invasion
starting in 1964, with the only group that survived being The Beach Boys
, who despite their association weren't really a Surf Rock
However, the genre proved very influential on several other rock bands, such as The Who
, Dead Kennedys
and The Pixies
. It underwent a revival thanks to the use of several of its songs in Quentin Tarantino
's Pulp Fiction
(most famously, "Misirlou" and "Bullwinkle Part II"), and new surf bands have appeared lately such as Man or Astro-man?, The Mermen and Los Straitjackets.
A good argument can be made that what we know as "spy movie music" borrows a lot from surf rock and just uses a lot more minor keys (case in point; the James Bond
electric guitar theme, or the Peter Gunn
Instrumental surf rock bands:
Vocal surf rock bands:
Revivalist surf rock bands: