Surf Rock Christmas - The Volcanics

The Volcanics: Ben, Frankie, Jarrod
The Volcanics: Ben, Frankie, Jarrod

Surf Rock trio; The Volcanics, have just released "Christmas Wassailing"! We sat down with Frankie, lead guitarist of the group to talk about it.

To start off, lets have Frankie introduce himself.

My name’s Frankie and I’m the lead guitarist of The Volcanics. We’re a Surf band from San Gabriel California that plays early 1960’s style instrumental Surf music with a few Rock n’ Roll vocals in between. We wear blue cardigan sweaters and play loud guitars. We’ve been consistently active since 2001, and besides playing locally, we’ve been fortunate enough to travel to Europe, as well as all over the States, and Mexico. We’ve played a lot of festivals including the Surfer Joe Surf Music Festival in Italy, the Asbury Park Surf Music Festival in New Jersey, the Viva Las Vegas Rockabilly Weekender in Las Vegas, and the Surfeno Festival in Mexico City.

How did the group come to be?

The Volcanics started in 2001. My old surf band The Futuremen opened up for a band called The Mighty Kegsmen. The Kegsmen was comprised of Norman and Kevin from The Ghastly Ones, and Benny and Arunas from The Markdowns. After the gig, Benny from the Kegsmen mentioned he had a red sparkle drum kit that matched my candy apple red Fender Jaguar guitar and that we should start a band. The Volcanics were then formed. The band went through some line up changes over the years and many of the old members still contribute to the songwriting process. The current line up consists of Jarrod Keith on bass, and Ben Marazzi on drums, as well as myself on lead guitar. Jarrod and Ben are amazing players that really keep me on my toes. It’s a pretty awesome line-up.

What can listeners expect from your new Christmas album?

“Christmas Wassailing” is a STOMPER of a record. We took four Christmas classics and did our best to flip them into a really wild party record. Our Surf and rock ‘n roll influences are all over the board so I think the result is something really fun. Expect lots of reverb, loud drums, and just an overall fun record for Christmas.

What can you tell us about the song mix?

All four songs are technically “covers”, but not necessarily in the traditional sense. We covered the classics like “Hark the Herald Angels Sing”, and “Here We Come A-Wassailing” but really tried to bring some surf energy to them and make them our own. For the last track on the record we were inspired by the Christmas animation from the 80s, “The Snowman”. We took some inspiration from the music score in that short film and mutated it into something new that we’re calling “The Snowman walk”.

What are you drawing from for inspiration on the album?

The band has a lot of different influences on the surf side of things and I think we bring all of that into this record. I take a lot of inspiration from bands like The Crossfires, and The Fender IV. Jarrod is into The Ventures and The Vistas. Ben the drummer comes at stuff from more of a punk angle and takes a lot of influence from more garage surf bands like The Trashwomen, or “surf-adjacent” bands like The Cramps.

There have been a few surf bands that have done holiday albums, but we really wanted to make one that was full-on “Volcanics” style surf. We even threw in some deep-cut surf references for anyone who wants to go on a scavenger hunt. In the opening track there's a little nod to PJ and Artie’s cover of “They Call the Wind Mariah” as well as a pretty direct nod later on Side-A to The Chantay’s. There’s also some Charlie Brown references and a lap or two of Auld Lang Syne. It’s sort of like a Where’s Waldo puzzle of surf and Christmas stuff we’re all into.

How has this differed from creating a non holiday album?

It’s interesting because I guess technically they’re all covers so it should have been easy….but I think we took so much “artistic license” with them that it was almost like starting from scratch. We would start with the central melody that everyone knows, and then dive into our bag of tricks to start to make it our own. Whether that’s a reference from a surf song from the 60’s that we could slip in, or just playing with the building blocks of the song to make it different.

On top of that a large portion of this record was demoed while we were “social distancing”. So for a lot of it I would quickly play a little something on my guitar and record it on my phone. Then I’d email it to the other guys to get their input. Ben would tap out a little rhythm on a snare drum in his apartment and then send it back over to me. Our version of “Here We come A Wassailing” was pretty much constructed through phone recordings and we didn’t get to play it “together” until we walked into the recording studio and pressed record. I think the version you hear on the final record is the second or third time we played it as a band. Making a record in 2020 is an adventure in and of itself haha.

What gives you the Holiday Feels?

Yes, totally. I grew up with 4 brothers and a block full of kids my age so Christmas was always really special and felt like a huge event. I think one of the biggest things for me growing up (and you’ll hear it a lot on this record) were the Christmas specials on TV. I can totally remember hunting through the TV guide trying to find out when Charlie Brown Christmas would be on. I’m also such a huge fan of It’s A Wonderful Life, and grew up watching it when it got broadcast on TV every year. Lastly I can’t forget about National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation. The rest of the guys make fun of me and call me the Clark Griswold of the band.

Available on all streaming services November 6th, 2020, you can find those links HERE