Link to Surf Zombies music and merchandise: SURF ZOMBIES
by Karl VonHamburglar
MIDWEST of EVERYTHING (2019) - I knew about Surf Zombies founding father Brook Hoover long before I ever met him. He was in a band called Meerkats with my friend Kyle Oyloe (See: WeGotCornBlogPost#1).
At some point in the late 90's, I got my grubby paws on their album Curse Of The Hearse. I was living in St Louis at that point, but picked it up from a friend on a trip back to Iowa. I was really enthralled by the album for many reasons. I listened to it from beginning to end, read the liner notes, looked at the artwork and was generally just really proud of my friend. I still dig the album.
I'm sure everyone makes the joke, "A surf band in Iowa? *chuckle, chuckle, chuckle" but yes, they are. Music scenes can migrate with their respective albums like flocks of diseased birds. The above punk/roots album Curse Of The Hearse is not of a musical genre born in Iowa either. These things ebb and flow upon mighty brown UPS trucks. Culture is being dispersed by speedy delivery services.
Surf Zombies began as a pestering comment to Brook, "You should start a surf band", folks would say. He heard it enough and loved the music enough that he decided to do just that. The Zombies were birthed to this world, very near 2005-2006, from the nickel-wound claws of Mr. Hoover himself ..and friends.
It started as a separate side project for Brook, but it didn't take long for the members of Meerkats to migrate over to this new project. Brook's longtime friend Joel McDowell on bass, Kyle Oyloe on guitar and Erik Marshall on drums.
Musicians are like organized crime, they tend to keep work within their "family" and they wear a lot of black clothing.
Surf Zombies are a band of musician's musicians: they live and breathe the entirety of the operation and are well respected by other musicians. They can fix their own instruments. They load in and load out together, nobody pulls a "Good-time Charlie" on the hard work.
**Good-time Charlie can be found drinking beer and talking to possible sex interests while everyone else in the band loads equipment. Good-time Charlie is a dick and never lasts.
Never get close enough to smell a tour van. I kept my distance.
A collection of bad-ass gear. I salivated.
By 2009, the grueling schedule of that first group of gents came to a boiling point. They were all working together in a few different projects - Meerkats, Surf Zombies, The Flaming Camaro's and others. Playing out 4 nights a week was good in some ways, but it started to create some bad blood. It ended with Kyle and Brook in a straight up brawl, throwing and landing punches. Band Brawl Apocalypse 2009 shook things up.
Brook recalled, "We sabotaged ourselves, we all drank too much."
The band did not die, but rose again like a great phoenix. The "grudge match of the century" happened on a Saturday, but by that Tuesday, Ian Williams was in on guitar and Kyle was out. Things just happen. Brook and Kyle patched things up later on.
Kyle has since passed away and is still missed by a lot of people, myself included.
Rest in peace, friend.
The Surf Zombies changed lineups a few more times. Trevor Treiber came in on bass not long after Ian (Joel wanted to focus on being a dad), then 3 years ago Luke Ferguson joined on drums. That's how they remain today.
They arose from the dead and descended upon the stage like mythical beasts.
According to Brook, this lineup is solid. "It's a very easy thing to work with these guys, they all give it 100% on stage every time. Really consistent. No drama either."
Brook is a wild man. The coolest of dudes.
Brook is both a student and teacher of the guitar. Never stops learning and teaching.
He gives numerous guitar lessons in his Cedar Rapids home (including a couple to my son) when he is not playing out with his Zombies or other projects. Guitar is his full time gig and it comes through in his ability. Brook is one of those guys that can just drop in anywhere with a band and knock it out of the park.
He started the Surf Zombies specifically for performing. They have put out 5 albums now (I think... maybe 6?) but to truly get at the "meat and potatoes" of the band, one must venture out to see them live. More than music, it is an evening of entertainment. The band likes to move around and have fun, which tends to leave people in the crowd having fun as well.
This is Ian.
Ian Williams is not only a great player, but he can also fix your shit if you step on it at 3 am.
Living in Des Moines, he works on guitars for others. He also plays in The Blendours with bassist Trevor and I think he has recorded at least one of the SZ albums. He is an analog recording enthusiast, according to Brook.
If you look closely at his red guitar (pictured) you will be a bit confused maybe. It's a mid 60's Mustang neck on a mid 60's Jaguar body. He was refretting his Jaguar and threw on the Mustang neck while he was doing that. Decided to keep it like that. Permanently? I don't know. It may bother an uptight collector to see that, but it makes perfect sense in the Zombie realm.
Ian also played through an old Sears and Airline combo from the 60's - maybe 50's. He has a friend in Des Moines that works on amps, so they trade work if it needs to be done.
Trevor hits you in the gut... with kindness.
Trevor Treiber is a straight-up force of music energy.
If anyone anywhere was ever born to be a musician, it sure seems Trevor was. I did a little Internet stalkery (new word alert) when he first joined Surf Zombies and found his other band The Blendours. It was like 1955 meets 1975 NYC. Sort of punk, sort of just rock n roll. It reminded me a lot of another band like that. I won't say their name, but it begins with an R and everyone has the same last name. I feel like a time machine picked up Trevor straight out of that band and dropped him in Cedar Rapids in 2009. If he could go back, I think he could easily be Trevor R. (A.M.O.N.E.S.). He may shirk at that comparison? Not sure.
One thing I am sure of, Trevor is a solid super nice dude. Even when I drank too much and called him Tyler, he was nice.
Even Brook called Trevor "overwhelming." Trevor is a solid musician and a great performer. Many funs to watch dominate a stage. It is refreshing to see someone so at ease on stage. His stage presence warmed my cold black heart.
Luke, I am your father.
(I'm not Luke's dad)
Here he is:
Luke is the newest member of the band, going on 3 years a Zombie now. He is no newbie to the drums, though. He toured the country for a few years with Lipstick Homicide, opening for Green Day at one point. He plays with a few other bands besides Surf Zombies - including The Blendours on occasion with Ian and Trevor. He has a day job at Backpocket Brewery in Coralville, they make one of my favorite beers - Slingshot, a nice bottle of dark brewed elegance.
I enjoyed talking to Luke as well, solid human.
I met up with the band on May 10th at the Saint Charles Brewing Company in Charles City, IA. I contacted Brook beforehand to see if the band would be game for a meet-n-greet and photos. He was. They were.
I pulled up to the venue around 4:30 and found Brook and Ian looking over newly pressed vinyl of their most recent album Return of the Skeleton. Pretty bad ass cover.
We talked a bit about the expense involved in that venture, not cheap. I helped carry a couple boxes of vinyl and I shot a few photos of their load in and set up.
After they were all set up and ready to go, a fairly simple process considering there are no vocals at all in the mix, we headed off to shoot a few band photos about a block away.