Watch By Surprise’s new “Criteria” video (playing Girard Hall on 3/8)

By SurpriseSouth Jersey emo foursome By Surprise premiered a new video for their single “Criteria” on If You Make It this morning. The playful and surreal clip follows singer-guitarist Pat Gartlind as he wanders from home to the office, with his bandmates Rob Wilcox, Devin Carr and Dan Saraceni (pictured above) standing in as his furniture and household appliances. Says Wilcox:

The video was a lot of fun for us. Granted, we try to not take ourselves too seriously, and I think we managed to uphold that standard while still doing the song justice. Pat and his fiancé actually own the house together, so it made recreating his morning routine all the more fun, and for the most part, pretty accurate.

Keep your eyes peeled for an Everyone Everywhere Cup O’ Joe in the video, which you can watch below, and catch By Surprise in concert next Friday, March 8th, when they play Girard Hall with Nicknames, Sparrows, Secret Plot to Destroy the Universe and Pocket.


Stream By Surprise’s new Criteria EP

Photo by Allison Newbold
South Jersey emo four-piece By Surprise released their new EP Criteria today on Topshelf Records. The three-song set is just about ten minutes long, it’s got booming guitar tones, a lot of energy, and a few solid sing-along hooks. Listen to it in the player below.


Tonight’s Concert Picks: Kingsfoil at Chameleon Club, By Surprise at The Barbary, Black Thought at The Blockley, Mike Doughty at The Tin Angel, Moosh and Twist at the First Unitarian Church

York County pop-rock four-piece Kingsfoil is wrapping up its 2012 with a headlining show tonight at the Chameleon Club in Lancaster. The band put out its sophomore album this year, the hooky and emotive A Beating Heart is a Bleeding Heart, and recorded a Key Studio Session with us on the eve of Hurricane Sandy. Opening the show is fellow Central Pennsylvanian Jesse Baker, whose LP Tearing Down the Walls is available as a free download here. More information on tonight’s show can be found at the XPN Concert Calendar; below, watch the video for Kingsfoil’s very catchy single “What Your Mother Taught You.”

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Listen to “Criteria,” a new single from By Surprise

South Jersey emo power-popsters By Surprise are back with “Criteria,” the title track to their sophomore full-length album, slated for a January release on Top Shelf Records (get your pre-order on here). The song, streaming over at Alternative Press, rings out with big and bright Built To Spill chords, generous feedback accents, and a singalong refrain, while the lyrics underneath the uplifting arrangements are laced with bitterness and rejection. “If you’re looking for me, you know where I’ll be / beneath the bus you threw me under.” Dang. Stream the song over at AP, and watch for more from By Surprise later this winter.


Philly Local Philes: Aspiga’s “Tense”

I found out about South Jersey’s Aspiga by accident. I was running late for one of those early all-ages shows at The Fire this winter; they’re astonishingly punctual, so missed the band I’d intended to see (recent Key Studio Sessions stars By Surprise). But I’d already paid the cover, the crowd was still teeming, so I stuck around and took in an impressive set by their good friends and neighbors, today’s Philly Local Phile stars. I dug Aspiga’s showmanship – lots of energy, stage presence and crowd interaction. I admired how their roots obviously lie in pop-punk, but how they stretch that into more ambitious songs done up in a smart, Weakerthans-y way. This weekend Aspiga plays North Star Bar opening for Smoking Popes; I recommend showing up early for this one.


Download the new Key Studio Sessions Compilation Volume One for free

The Key Studio Sessions Compilation Volume OneThe Key Studio Sessions Compilation Volume One—which you can download for free here—features one exclusive track recorded at the WXPN studios by 17 local acts, including Cheers Elephant, Grimace Federation, Summer Fiction, Moon Women, Prowler, Attia Taylor, 5 O’Clock Shadowboxers, Res, Purling Hiss, The Shackeltons, Soars, Johnny Miles And The Waywards, Creepoid, By Surprise, Lady, Slutever, and American Babies.

Want to hear more? Click here to listen to the full sessions by all 17 local acts. You can also download The Key Studio Sessions Compilation, Volume One in its entirety as a .zip file.


The Key Studio Sessions: By Surprise

By Surprise

The first time I caught By Surprise, it was at the North Star Bar in 2007 for one of those ill-programmed, poorly-attended shows that are as lonely and demoralizing for the audience as they are for the artist. My presence was very much at the urging of guitarist Rob Wilcox, who was at the time my co-DJ at Y-Rock, and I was curious to see what dude’s band could do. I definitely picked up what it was throwing down: digable nods to the late-’90s/early-’00s emo underground (the references I made in my Philly Phile last week). But something—blame the night, blame the lineup—didn’t seem quite there. Certainly not like the By Surprise I saw perform with a renewed energy two years later at The Blockley—and certainly not like the By Surprise that stormed our studio last week armed with a setlist of new songs, a lot of caffineation, some vegan pizza, and the rock-and-roll willingness to slam out their stuff, screw the small mistakes, and leave a pint of blood on the studio floor. (Note to XPN engineering: no blood was actually left on the studio floor and I don’t know what those stains are.)

Guest engineer Maddie Lesperance mixed the feisty Douglas Adams ref-ing “So Long And Thanks For All The Shark Jaws” and the heartbreaking “Direct Loans” while I snapped photos of the band in action. I mixed the rest (particularly loved the guitar interplay on “$600 Exorcism”) and came to a realization: so many groups hit hard and burn out fast. By Surprise has, over time, worked its way up to this point: having such an impactful presence in performance; playing with the confidence that comes with doing what you love because you love it; releasing a full-length album that’s as sonically rich and enjoyable as Mountain Smashers. Yesterday, Wilcox made a similar “slow and steady” observation in a heartfelt post on his Tumblr: “When your only desire is to make something as simple as ‘an album’ with your buddies, and hope someone gives a damn, the end result is far more rewarding. We’ve always gone about things at our own pace, and hoped that someone along the way would take a moment to enjoy it for its simplicity.” Mountain Smashers came out yesterday, the session tracks are below. I enjoy them and hope you do too.


Philly Local Philes: By Surprise’s “Realometer”

Cap N’ Jazz, Jets To Brazil, Braid…take your pick. You can hear any of those classic ’90s indie/emo bands reflected in South Jersey quartet By Surprise. Add in a healthy Bob Pollard fixation, and it could be easy to predict the band’s sound from song to song. Until now. Where its prior output was confined to split 7-inches and a punchy-but too-short EP (2009’s Four On Seven In Eight), By Surprise stretches out and gets adventurous on its debut full length, Mountain Smashers (released next Tuesday on Topshelf Records). The overall sound is thicker and more daring—there are guitar lines nodding to Lee Ranaldo and amp tones reminiscent of Superchunk—and Pat Gartland has grown more vocally confident. Some moments delve into unexpectedly subdued and somber territory: “Direct Loans,” written and sung by guitarist (and Y-Rock alum) Rob Wilcox, will break your heart. Today’s Philly Phile features the album’s first single, “Realometer”; tune in to Y-Rock tonight at 10 p .m. for the Philly Local Second Shift to hear the band play a short studio set, and tell us where they came from and where they’re going.