Tombo, as drummer Thomas King is affectionately called, surfs. Hence the title of Jacksonville-based, indie rock band Opiate Eyes’s new EP, Tombo Surfs.
The band’s songwriter and lead singer, Drew Bond, has long admired King’s penchant for “making homes of waves,” and was recently inspired to write the title song with his friend in mind. With a jaunty guitar riff mid-song, the brotherly homage also pays respect to old-school surf rock, but it isn’t a Surf City throwback. It’s not as forcefully driven as a tune by Dick Dale and the Deltones, but also not reminiscent of Jan and Dean’s straightforward, up-tempo pop.
“I wanted to write a song about admiring someone else’s gift,” says Bond, who does not surf. “It’s about looking for something good in someone–their talents and interests–and celebrating them. In the past, the lyrics I’ve written were kind of self-involved, you know, personal or confessional or journalistic.” He wanted to shift away from that method of writing for a moment, he explains, but elements of personal reflection are still present. “My youth is like the evening sky; it’s dim as it is bright,” he sings, before bringing Tombo back in focus and ending the song with, “And he’s calling it in early now, because morning brings another tide.”
All three songs on the EP are short and summer-drenched, prime candidates for a beach-day playlist. The music has a mostly upbeat and bouncy feel, but the lyrics and vocals add a touch of lazy-day doldrums and listlessness.
The first song, ‘And Besides,’ comments on our society’s constant state of online connectedness. “You share it all with whomever listens. You’ve got a message for us all,” quips guitarist Roland David, who sings lead on the song. It’s unusual but not unprecedented for him to take on lead vocals. “I’m going to try to get him singing more,” Bond says. Sometimes the lyrics he writes are better matched with David’s lighter-toned voice. On ‘And Besides,’ David’s voice assumes an airiness that pairs nicely with the lines, “You’re in tune, the world speaks to you and through you.”
‘The Thirsty Traveler’ is the most dissonant song on the EP, beginning with bright, melodic guitar lines and descending into lyrics that seem to interlace sexual thirst with a thirst for liquor. Just as ‘Tombo Surfs’ isn’t a cut-and-dry surfing song, ‘The Thirsty Traveler’ isn’t a cut-and-dry drinking song.
Opiate Eyes prides itself on its do-it-yourself approach to making music. They record at Warehouse Studios on Jacksonville’s Southside, handling the recording, sound engineering, mixing and mastering themselves with bassist Tom Essex at the helm.