The Break Make More Than 'Retro' Surf Music
Brian Ritchie's foray into instrumental surf music began with a mysterious phone call from Midnight Oil's management. "Brian, get on a plane to Sydney," he was told. "The Oils want to jam."
Ritchie, having known the Oils since touring with them as a member of the Violent Femmes in the '80s, didn't need convincing. Even though he had no idea what they had in mind -- without front man Peter Garrett, Midnight Oil had been largely inactive the previous eight years -- he joined the three founding members of the band. Once plugged in, the musicians began playing the Link Wray tune 'Rumble.'
"It instantly became very appealing," Ritchie tells Spinner.
Since both the Oils and the Femmes were known for their lyrical styles, he said, it was relieving not to have to worry about words. "We just immediately started writing songs in the surf vain," he says.
The band that resulted -- the Break -- has recorded a new album, due out next month. While they are touring Australia now, the band might do a world tour of popular surf places, which could land on the West Coast.
"We'll go anywhere if there's a demand, and if it's feasible," says Ritchie, a Milwaukee native who recently moved to Australia, Midnight Oil's native country.
While it may seem odd for the alternative rockers to form a surf band, both the Oils and the Femmes were influenced by surf music. In the early days, Midnight Oil performed in Australian surf pubs, and an early hit, 'Wedding Cake Island,' was an instrumental surf tune. The Femmes' hit 'Add It Up,' meanwhile, is clearly influenced by the Trashmen song 'Surfin' Bird,' which the band covered in concert, along with the surf classic 'Pipeline.'
"Surf music is a joyous, exuberant