First Spin, First Impressions: The Surfrajettes, “Roller Fink”

Surfrajettes - Roller Fink

Have you ever watched one of those movies where the main character somehow wakes up in 1950s small town America, or is transported to the past (Marty McFly, anyone)?  Can’t say that I’ve dabbled with any time travel myself, but upon perusing the recent arrivals last month at Hub City Vinyl in Hagerstown, MD, a blast of fifties-inspired nostalgia was surprisingly discovered tucked away amongst the Record Store Day specials.

“Roller Fink” is the long-awaited debut album from Toronto’s psychedelic instro surfing combo, The Surfrajettes – a four-piece female instrumental surf rock band who have charmed audiences around their home city since 2015 with their clever mix of rock and reverb-drenched surf music. Not only do these ladies look every part a retro-vintage ensemble, collectively Shermy Freeman (guitar), Nicole Damoff (guitar), Sarah Butler (bass) and Dani Nash (drums) have the musical chops to convincingly transport each and every listener on their own Hollywood style time travelling adventure.

Recorded at The Woodshed Studio (Blue Rodeo) in Toronto, The Surfrajettes turned to esteemed guitar slinger Colin Cripps to handle the production duties – having recorded two albums as part of C&C Surf Factory, Colin is no stranger to the instrumental surf rock genre. You could be excused for believing that surf rock has seen a resurgence as of late, but many may counter argue that it has never disappeared since the late 50s – simply choosing to be found only outside of the mainstream, in the outliers and niche corners of the musical spectrum.  Still not a believer?  Go ahead and enter Surf Rock into our GDW search engine and not only will you find results populated with C&C Surf Factory, but notable names such as The Garrys, Shaela Miller, The Currie Brothers, and The Sadies too.

Surfrajettes

The nostalgic theme is not lost on the album artwork either – with pastel greens and pinks drawing your attention to the animated ‘beehive’ that adorns the cover, and the ladies dressed in era appropriate attire and old school roller skates on the reverse side. Labelled with the heading, “Extra Hold Super Fidelity Sound,” you have to love the deliberate attention to the finer details here, which continues when pulling the contents from the sleeve and discovering a pink ‘cotton candy’ colored vinyl pressing to match.  Spinning the record, the opening intro, narrated by ‘Rock and Roller Palace Announcer’ Mike Freeman (Shermy’s father), oozes that old roller rink public address system charm: “Make sure to grab a sweet treat from the snack bar, and don’t forget to bring your song requests to the DJ booth. Hope your skates are warmed up, and let’s ROCK AND ROLL!

As stated, this is an instrumental surf rock album, meaning that it is best enjoyed with the volume dial turned up as far as legally possible!!! The beat from the drums and bass are firmly rooted in rockabilly, but the dueling twang and pitch from the pair of guitars are what separate the surfers from the greasers here, and The Surfrajettes are only too happy to mix original compositions with a selection of covers.  The instrumental version of Sweeney Todd’s “Roxy Roller” is not at all out of place, but prepare for the unexpected when encountering their stunning surf-interpretations of the Blondie hit, “Heart of Glass, and The Beatles’ “She Loves You.”  Depending on the delivery, surf rock can garner many emotional responses, but the tone here is one of fun and frivolity – foot tapping, high-energy, danceable music for those who can still cut a rug.  Track by track, the momentum never falters, as these four ladies go full throttle for the 33-minute duration.  Highly recommended listening.

Photo Credit: Artist Website

The British guy that crossed the ocean and crash landed in central Pennsylvania (to quote Greg Keelor, “And I wonder what am I doing here?”). As the youngest of four siblings, exposure to music from a very early age nurtured my passion and appreciation for many musical genres. Continuing to discover some amazingly diverse and talented musicians based in Canada, I gravitate to live music experiences and remain devoted to spreading the word about such a vibrant music scene.

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