Genuine Article

Feb 12 • ARTSY SMARTSY, Music2 Comments

The Carvers produce the surf and garage-rock of yesteryear

The Carvers
Sat., Feb. 16 • 10 p.m.
Duck ‘n’ Dive
114 Dock St.
Free • www.carversmusic.com

SURFIN’ AND STOMPIN’: The Carvers preach original ‘60s-style surf music while helping the audience get its groove on. Courtesy photo

SURFIN’ AND STOMPIN’: The Carvers preach original ‘60s-style surf music while helping the audience get its groove on. Courtesy photo

The sound of surf music evokes images like the iconic “Endless Summer” movie poster: dark silhouettes peering off toward the ocean, their surfboards in tow; alluring hues of hot pink and bright orange; a large sun setting in the distance. Phrases such as “cowabunga” and “gnarly” come to mind, too. And when a high, manic laugh precedes “Wipe out,” folks can always expect vigorous guitar work and an aggressive drum solo to follow.

While surf music holds an identity in the 1960s, garage rock saw its own rise in the late ‘50s. Characterized as gritty and unfiltered, the genre shares at least one quality with surf: simple chords played strong and quick.

One Wilmington act, The Carvers, revives the mid-century brands in their own original music, paying homage to surf and garage greats like The Ventures, The Sonics and The Chandelles. “It seems the thing that draws us to garage music is the fact that it’s so raw and out there, like an exposed nerve. It’s not supposed to be glossy or super-polished,” guitarist Jason Delamar explains. “Surf is appealing to us, I think, because of the instrumental aspect of it. There are all these great jangling guitar narratives to tap into—melody lines that really tell a story. Traditional surf musicians borrowed from jazz, bossa nova, Latin and gypsy music.”

The band—rounded out by Ben Moore (bass, vocals), Brian Drake (guitar), Seth Moody (keyboard, guitar, backing vocals), and Steviemack Harrington (drums, backing vocals)—adds one more element to their throwback sound: stomp. With this triple threat, The Carvers’ concerts become massive dancing events. “Think of old soul and gospel numbers and rockabilly beats that really get you moving,” Delamar says. “Throw in some backing vocal harmonies, and we think it really captures that late ‘50s/early ‘60s sound we all love so much.”

The Carvers formed just over a year ago after Moore and Delamar made the decision to dissolve their band, the Palm Readers, admitting the garage act had run its course. Moore knew guitarist Drake from a previous group, the Stunt Doubles. While garage-style music still spoke to the ex-Palm Readers, Moore and Drake had long held the idea of starting a traditional surf band.

“Of course, I was up for the challenge,” Delamar asserts, “especially when I heard Drake was bringing friend and bandmate Seth Moody along from The Noseriders. As far as we were concerned, Seth was one of the most talented guys around, and we all leapt at the opportunity to get something going. Steve Harrington filled in for The Noseriders a few times; when Drake told Steve what we were doing, I think he was immediately into it. It was kismet!”

Since, the five-piece fashioned a name for itself as one of ILM’s only classic surf rock groups. Any given Saturday night, one can find The Carvers throwing a lively bash. “I think we are all intrigued by the ‘50s- [and] ’60s-style because it seems like music back then was simply about having fun,” Delamar describes. “Nevertheless, the musicians of that day were also disciplined and serious about the service they were providing. They showed up in uniforms, and they did the job right! The dance floor was always packed.”

Likewise, The Carvers don their own retro costumes. From maroon and cream bowling shirts to burgundy blazers, the men show up in style to set the mid-century mood. This Saturday, Feb. 16th, they’ll perform at Duck ‘n’ Dive for their “Huge Twist and Frug Party.” Folks who can’t catch them this weekend have a second chance at from 9 p.m. to 12 a.m. at Satellite Bar and Lounge (120 Greenfield St.) on Saturday, Feb. 23rd, too.

“[It’s] pretty self-explanatory, isn’t it?” Delamar quips. “It’s a huge party where people do The Twist, The Frug, (and for good measure and old-time’s sake) perhaps The Monkey, The Jerk, The Swim, The Backstroke and The Karate! What can I say? We’re a dance band. So far, there’s been a lot of shaking and sweating at our shows. I can’t explain it; it’s just what happens. We want to embrace this kind of fan participation, so we hold dance contests and give out Carvers swag and Official Fan Club cards to show our appreciation.”

With a large focus on instrumentals, The Carvers create the sort of tunes to which audiences can hardly resist moving. Haunting keys mimic the trembling of guitars, only amplifying the surf-rock grooves. Staccato, speedy and repetitive picking of the strings harnesses an essence of days gone by as the rhythm pulses through the players’ wrists. All members are on board, sticking to the theme of each melody. Moore’s baritone vocals are authentic to the time period, and back-up harmonies suggest heavy nostalgia.

“The best part about this band is that we’re all on the same page about the format, so there’s no squabbling about who we’re trying to be,” Delamar tells. “People get it. Fans tell us they hear a unique twist on a familiar sound; they see the jackets and [The Carvers] crest, and I guess it just makes sense to them. We’re not trying to reinvent the wheel here; we’re just trying to get you to shake and holler and dance!”

The members play well off of each other, according to Delamar—allowing the music freedom to openly appear before the artists. “We don’t over think it, and somehow the parts of the song that should be featured just naturally find the surface. We all take turns getting behind it, creating a texture for it, singing back-ups or whatever it takes to make sure the right light is shining at the right time. I think the fans just see five guys having fun, and it works.”

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2 Responses to Genuine Article

  1. Doug Skipper says:

    Nice write-up Bethany.
    I’ll have to make it a point to catch one of The Carvers up coming gigs, sounds like a great format!

    We just wanted to bring it to your attention that there is another Wilmington Surf band – THE METEOR MEN.

    • encore says:

      Thanks for the comment, Doug! I am aware of The Meteor Men, and I’ll have to check out one of their shows, too. Just as a reference, I said “one of ILM’s only classic surf rock groups.” Perhaps I should have said “few” instead of “only”; there aren’t many, but the ones we have are good, thankfully!

      —Bethany

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