The sun isn’t out all day in the Pacific Northwest, and its beaches aren’t friendly for all night parties. But that doesn’t keep El Borko from playing surf rock.
In a typical week, El Borko can often be found performing on various stages throughout Eugene-Springfield, and the band releases its third album, El Borko ¡Surf! at The Monkey’s Paw Tiki Bar in Springfield 9 pm Saturday, April 22.
El Borko’s “home base” is The Monkey’s Paw, guitarist Brook Adams says. And if you haven’t seen El Borko play there while slurping down a Mai Tai, they take the sunbaked Southern California surf rock sound and add in a dark, B-movie edge that you might find from ’80s era Chicano surf rock band the Plugz with the psychobilly twist of The Cramps. It’s the kind of music that was made for driving through Los Angeles in the early moments of sunrise — or if you’re running away from The Blob in a black and white movie.
Adams grew up absorbing the sounds of his father’s record collection, which included honky tonk and one of surf rock’s architects, The Ventures.
Like most surf rock, many of El Borko’s songs are instrumentals. And what’s been an influence for surf rock, even for Adams, is the doo-wop chord progression (for an example, listen to “Stand By Me”). “At the time that surf rock evolved, doo-wop was the chord progression,” he says. “There are ways to integrate it without sounding too retro.”
El Borko’s first two albums — Surficana and Surf Monster — were recorded without a full live band. Adams says he played guitar and bass and Jon Neher played saxophone. For drums, Adams says he used a MIDI drum machine.
For the new album, El Borko went into the studio with a full band, and each member brings a certain quality of the surf rock genre. Cameron Wick has a Cramps “sleazy surf” drumming style, and James Daley is influenced by surf music from monster and spy movies.
While in the studio, the band recorded live, and then Adams layered some of his guitar parts to provide texture, which he says was maddening but worth it.
“It’s richer. It’d be like a textured painting versus flat paint,” he says. “I’ll play the melody with an electric guitar on the left [speaker] and then I’ll play the same melody with an acoustic guitar on the right. When you blend them together, it just sounds way different — I love that.”
As part of the band’s album release party, The Monkey’s Paw is working on a special drink to commemorate the event, called the “Borknado.” Adams doesn’t know what’s in the drink, but he just hopes it has two shots of booze.