Flat seas keep concerts coming 

Surfer band Current Swell are not the Beach Boys, with reggae, ska, blues and rock mix

click to enlarge Swell Boys Reggae, blues loving beats of Current Swell beach themselves in Whistler Friday August 24 at Garfinkel's.
  • Swell Boys Reggae, blues loving beats of Current Swell beach themselves in Whistler Friday August 24 at Garfinkel's.

Who: Current Swell & Hey Ocean!

When: Friday, Aug. 24

Where: Garfinkel’s

Tickets: $10

Stuck in Toronto rush-hour traffic on a smog-and-sun summer smoked afternoon might seem like a fish out of water situation for four surfer boys from Vancouver Island.

The Current Swell band members don’t mind. It’s summer; a welcome open window of time where the Victoria boys can pound the pavement with their music, leaving free time in the winter to pound the surf.

“I love Toronto,” shouts an enthusiastic Scott Stanton from his touring van ground to a halt somewhere in bumperville.

“Kensington Market is amazing and there is so much culture here it’s awesome… South Island surfing is all about winter. We aren’t missing anything right now. It’s a winter sport, so we tour as much as we can in the summer.”

Current Swell shares the stage with Hey Ocean! at a summer pit stop Friday, Aug. 24 at Garfinkel’s.

Water appears to be a theme, but only an h2O postal code is a common denominator.

“They may surf, but they aren’t surfers,” Stanton said of his friends Hey Ocean!

South Island surfers are wave warriors to the core, if you can find it under their five millimetres of rubber. A two-hour winding drive and half hour hike to sub-zero surfer hideaways in Jordan River, Sombrio and Port Renfrew can be rewarded with 10-foot-plus swells. Other times paddlers are skunked with glossy flat seas.

This is not the California bikini, always-hang-10 surfing most moviegoers are familiar with. Neither is Current Swell’s music.

The Beach Boys remain in Kokomo with Current Swell’s ebb and flow between reggae, folk rock, ska and jazz. The word-stuffed, rhythm-driven lyric word play of Ben Harper crests their music, often likened to Sublime — a band Current Swell wasn’t even aware of when the former Alberta boys first headed west five years ago.

The West Coast’s eclectic music scene first introduced reggae to founding members Stanton, Dave Lang and Louie Sadava, who lived in one huge house on Victoria’s famed Dallas Road. Sitting on the wild West Coast’s doorstep, ocean living led to laidback backyard and beach jams, which later culminated in basement sessions.

“It happened so fast,” Stanton said of the band’s success. “We were not planning on being a band. We were writing music just for fun. We got to do a couple of shows and a newspaper showed up and wrote an article on us. He asked what our name was and we didn’t even have one. A guy living with us at the time made us a web site for fun and he gave us our name. We went to change it so many times, but we kept getting a lot of shows with the name. It seemed to be working well for us, so we kept it.”

And the boys kept at it. In the garage, buddies shaped surfboards while the basement shook on with what would become Current Swell’s first album, So I Say.

Self-produced, mainly acoustic, the album was the white-water kiddie pool of surfing: lots of fun, but not much action.

As the title suggests, the band’s newest album, Trust Us Now , was the holy grail of getting barreled. Their sound, which now includes Chris Petersen on drums, runs the gamut: the track How Could They Trust lays into reggae, Five White Boys rattles out honky tonk rock and Short Stories blows into a bluesy harmonica with mandolin opening.

“It’s definitely hard to categorize us,” Stanton said. “Right now we are just (listening) to Peter Tosh, then we’ll throw in a little Neil Young. If I want to write a blues tune, then I do. If I want to write a ska tune, then that is how it goes. We really don’t care. We play what we want to play.”

And they play where they want to play. Music brought the boys to some of the biggest surf meccas in the world from 2005 to 2006: from Bali to Australia, Current Swell gathered an international fan base. International and later Canadian tours kept the islanders in great stage company with acts such as Bedouin Soundclash, Xavier Rudd and The Beautiful Girls. Current Swell opened for The Beautiful Girls in Whistler last year at the Boot Pub.

U.S. tours are already in the works, but for the winter months, these Canadian surfer boys are sticking close to home.

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