By: Ashley Magenheimer
Clothed in black and bathed in blood, local outfit Bat City Surfers take on macabre personas with their instrumental horror surf. Their music is akin to surf-punk, a sub-genre that emerged in the ‘80s after surf music became popularized in the late ‘50s.
Bat City Surfers formed in 2011 and is composed of four members – Joey Muerto on rhythm guitar, Omega Rand on lead guitar, Vampire-Hunter Hunter on bass guitar and Korn Rolla on drums. They released their first album Fear of A Bat Planet on Halloween 2015, and are currently working on writing and recording for an upcoming demo.
SMEAR: Why the name Bat City Surfers?
Joey Muerto: It’s very direct and catchy. And I wanted it to be very direct and catchy. I wasn’t 100 percent about the name until I talked to Korn about it, and he was like, ‘No that’s perfect, stop talking.’
Omega Rand: We wanted to incorporate the horror and the fact that Austin is known as the Bat City.
JM: We also knew from the very beginning that we would be probably more of a punky sounding surf band, so we kinda wanted to reiterate like, we’re first a surf band.
S: Why the choice to exclude vocals from the music?
OR: Surf music traditionally has no vocals. I think once you add vocals it takes on some other kind of genre.
JM: There are surf bands that have some vocals, bands we really love like Man or Astroman or Trash Women, so we’re not 100 percent opposed to it. But we’re an instrumental band, not a vocal band.
OR: I think it’s like ‘beauty is in the eye of the beholder’ because there are no vocals to get caught up in, it’s just whatever it means to you. There’s no bias, it doesn’t matter if you speak english.
Vampire-Hunter Hunter: But it also makes people focus more on the music.
Korn Rolla: Even though the song titles are in english, the language barrier just goes that far.
VHH: Aliens could even listen to it.
S: What’s the writing process like for you guys?
VHH: I would say Rand, Joey, and I come up with ideas and we talk about it, and then we give it to Korn and he kind of pours concrete all over it, and that’s the way it is.
KR: Throw a beat down and that’s it.
OR: It’s a lot of improv, I’ll hear something in my head and try to cite it down, and then I’ll try to do it in GarageBand and send it to them.
JM: Yeah we send each other a lot of GarageBand files.
S: How do you think your sound has changed, from 2011 until now?
OR: I think it’s gotten more psycho-surf. But I know that we’re more confident and we’ve been experimenting more with sound and effects.
S: And individually?
KR: Well, my sound from the beginning was just a bunch of noise. I’m used to playing in punk bands with vocals, so you can follow the lyrics and the structure of the song. I’m more comfortable now and I can listen to a track once and jump in with whatever I can. It’s been easier to play with them now that I’ve been playing with them for five years now.
VHH: Bass was the first instrument I learned how to play, but I never really took it seriously. When I got with them, I started taking it seriously. When we started in 2011, I was just following Joey or Rand and I wasn’t really coming up with too many ideas or anything. I think as time went on, I started experimenting with things a little bit differently, and now I’ll sit down and think of a riff and it all kind of comes together.
OR: I know Joey’s sound has changed. I’m always trying to tell him how to play things a certain way.
JM: I have to tell Rand to play worse.
S: What are your hopes for the band in the future?
KR: Probably travel more and put out more records, and keep writing more music. At the end, I’ll be happy with whatever happens.
OR: Maybe tour a bit. Album two for sure, we’re set on doing a demo with a friend of ours. But other than that, trying to expand our record label Bat Tones. Or just total world domination.
VHH: I see action-figures
JM: Action figures. Lunch boxes. Giant spinal tap stage pieces. We’re still kicking around ideas.