Band of the Day

2012.04.14

Little Deadman

San Diego surf rock with crosscurrents of 60's psychedelia
We were running one by one, shooting seagulls with our smiles.
lyrics from Shooting Seagulls

Little Deadman is a four-piece surf/indie rock band from San Diego, California. Their name comes from Day of the Dead figurines (which are little dead men), which the band buys due to their close proximity to Mexico. Formed in early 2009, the band includes frontman Spencer Rabin (who also plays bass and keyboards), guitarist Anthony Levas, bassist Tyson Wirtzfeld, and drummer Brian Dahl. Both Rabin and Levas are also members of the bands Charles Musket and Red Feathers, while Dahl counts Gray Ghosts as part of his musical resume. Together as Little Deadman, they make music that draws on everything from vintage Californian surf rock, to 60s soul, and 80s groups like New Order. Their debut EP, Shooting Seagulls, was recorded with Keith Milgaten (of Jamuel Saxon), and was released in May 2011 on Cuckoo Chaos’ Single Screen Records. Shortly after releasing Shooting Seagulls, the San Diego-based label also released a 7-inch for Little Deadman. Frontman Spencer Rabin is currently living in San Diego part-time, while working towards a master’s degree at the San Francisco Art Institute.

On one of those scorching summer days, when you can literally see heatwaves radiating off of the ground, an approaching ice cream truck is like a mobile oasis. Suddenly all rational thought is thrown out the window, little kids might even be shoved out of the way, just for the pursuit of a temporary cool-down with a frozen treat. But scarf down that ice cream too quickly, and you'll be hit with a painful case of brain freeze—or “Post Helado Madness” (“helado” meaning “ice cream” in Spanish) if you're Little Deadman. The song, off of the San Diego-based quartet's Shooting Seagulls EP, starts with a dark bass line of impending doom. Spencer Rabin's vocals are awash in a psychedelic haze, with 60s surf rock guitar riffs sounding like they were taken from the soundtrack at a zombie beach party. It's lyrically minimalist (Rabin's “la la la's” stand out more than anything), though not as minimalist as the music video, which just features a guy in sunglasses, half of his face obscured by a dark shadow, eating an ice cream cone with technicolor images projected onto it. While “Post Helado Madness” starts off with an anxious, frantic tempo, “The Lunatic” is more like dipping your toe into the ocean to test the water before deciding to dive right in. The tempo gradually picks up with crashing hi-hats and melodic guitar riffs, before slowing down at the very end as Rabin sings, “just killing time/killing time” to an instrumental fade-out. Inspired by SoCal's sunny, palm tree-laden beaches is the EP's title track. A wailing guitar line mimics Rabin's reverb-heavy vocal melodies, and there's a powerful undercurrent of pounding drums. Though there are only four tracks to choose from on Little Deadman's EP, the stand-out track is “Bullets.” What really stands out about this track in particular is how dynamic it is, in terms of playing with melody and tempo shifts. Like “Post Helado Madness,” there's a prominent bass line right at the top, but this time it has more of an oom-pah-pah rhythm. Listen closely to the lyrics and you'll catch a Moby Dick reference (“'cause love is not my white whale,” sings Rabin). Little Deadman seem to like keeping an air of mystery about them, at least online—there's no biography on their Facebook, they don't have a Twitter account, and their Myspace page simply says “sounds like: Tecate.” But what the band lacks in an online footprint, they more than make up for with their promising debut EP.