It sounds like the premise of a sitcom: in the sleepy seaside town of Hollywood, Florida, reside three roommates who work at a place called Smoothie Palace by day and play retro surf pop by night. It seems too good to be true, but Beach Day singer-guitarist Kimmy Drake verifies it all as fact, and she notes that she, bassist Natalie Smallish, and drummer Skyler Black even met cute.
“We were all at the same show,” Drake recalls when the Straight reaches her on the road in Iowa. “We had three separate bands and we were playing on the same night. That’s how we all met. We just, like, left our bands and started this one together.”
While that’s a truncated version of events—Drake fails to mention that the three musicians also played together in the Orlando-based Black Rabbits, an outfit fronted by Skyler’s brother, the improbably named Jetson Black—it’s close enough for rock ’n’ roll. Suffice to say Beach Day’s members eventually ended up in their Three’s Company–meets–The Monkees arrangement in the place they affectionately call “Hollyweird”.
“There’s not really a music scene in Hollywood, per se,” Drake says of the band’s chosen home base. “It’s mostly old people, and there’s a beach. It’s like a ’50s beach town, mostly retirees.”
That actually seems fitting, oddly enough. As heard on its forthcoming debut LP, Trip Trap Attack, Beach Day specializes in upbeat sock-hop pop that sounds like the kind of thing Frankie Avalon and Annette Funicello might have done the Watusi to. Drake is quick to cop to her influences, which aren’t hard to spot in the songs. She says Phil Spector is her all-time favourite songwriter and producer, and that’s borne out by the album-opening “Walking on the Streets”, which plays out like a lost-in-the-vaults girl-group classic. She also cites the Ventures and the Kinks, both of whom surely informed the steady backbeat and garage-rawk fuzz guitar of “We’ve Gotta Go”.
Others may be strip-mining the same territory (Dum Dum Girls and Best Coast spring to mind), but Drake comes by her vintage-pop obsession honestly. She credits a friend’s father with literally opening up the world of oldies for her. “I was at their house one day—I was probably about seven or eight—and he opened up this trunk, and it was full of 45s,” she says. “He actually played a Beach Boys song on a 45, and I can still remember it. It was a really big moment for me. I was like, ‘Whoa, that’s so cool.’ I think it was ‘God Only Knows’, but I’m not exactly sure. But he had a ton of 45s. And then, of course, all we listened to growing up was oldies radio. There’s a station called Magic 102.7 that was the only thing I liked to hear. I hated all the other stations.”
Magic 102.7 broadcasts out of Miami, a city that Beach Day regularly travels to for “local” shows, along with West Palm Beach and Fort Lauderdale. Hollyweird, it seems, isn’t exactly teeming with venues for indie-rock acts—although Drake has her eye on one particular musical hot spot.
“There’s hardly anywhere to play in Hollywood,” she says. “We were trying to get a gig on the beach. There’s a bandshell on the beach. Most of the time it’s old people playing keyboards, and then there’s a bunch of old couples dancing. But we’re trying to play there. We’d be great.”
Beach Day plays Electric Owl on Thursday (April 18).