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Crescent City Sounds Spotlight: Shark Attack!!

For eight years, Shark Attack!! has been bringing their surf rock sounds to the stages of New Orleans. Packed with “shreddin’ guitar riffs and boogie-down dancin’ grooves,” the band’s 2017 album Chum Punch is among the first 30 featured on Crescent City Sounds –– the only online streaming platform to exclusively showcase New Orleans artists.

Often seen sporting head-to-toe Hawaiian outfits, the band’s four members each boast an ocean-theme nickname. Jon “Stingray” Caplan writes and plays guitar, Ian “Squid” Finch, is on bass, Maximo “Mudskipper” Mendizabal drums, and Alexis “Eel” Tahiri writes and plays trumpet, and guitar. Caplan and Finch grew up in Maryland, while Tahiri and Mendizabal hail from Washington State.

The four started playing together through a series of “weirdly coincidental” events that started when Mendizabal and Caplan met while jamming on Frenchmen Street in 2015.

“We liked playing together, but we didn’t really have a musical direction,” Caplan recalled. “One time we were jamming and Max commented that some riff I played sounded surfy, and a lightbulb just went off. It just seemed like the right thing to do: play surf rock.”

Later that year, Finch and Tahiri independently moved to New Orleans and reconnected with Caplan and Mendizabal who they knew from their hometowns.

“It was serendipitous, if you will,” Finch said.

Prior to forming Shark Attack!! Mendizabal and Tahiri played together for over a decade, including in a “psychobilly punk band,” called Curse of the Black Tongue. Last fall, the band teamed up with Save Our Cemeteries to present a night of classic horror movies, creepy music, and lots of camp.
The event, which was hosted at the Broadside in October, embodied the overall vibe of the band, Caplan said.

“We try to keep a tether to surf rock, but we all bring a lot of different influences,” he said “Melodically and how we make our arrangements, is pretty detailed musically. More so than your average surf band, I think.”

The group takes many influences to “package up in a surf genre,” Tahiri said. Their inspirations range from Louis Marie Gottschalk’s classic classical piece Bamboula to Brittany Spears’ iconic 2003 hit Toxic.

Caplan described Shark Attack!!’s overall sound as “silly surf rock, with a lot of humor.” Long-term, the band hopes to develop a “strange, obscure cult following,” according to Mendizabal.

“If in twenty years, someone calls and asks if they can use one of our songs in a strange arthouse film or something like that, that would be amazing,” he said.

The four of them agreed that being a part of Crescent City Sounds may assist in that goal becoming a reality.

“Public libraries are such an important institution in any community, and we think it’s so cool that the Library took the time and energy to build this platform,” Finch said. “You really can gain insight into a community by looking at the public library’s catalog and other services. Having this local music database is, essentially, providing another lens through which to understand New Orleans.”

Caplan said they view Crescent City Sounds as a way to connect with new audiences, while simultaneously being “logged into the history books.”

“I think it’s an awesome idea,” Caplan said. “There aren’t a ton of opportunities for people to cut through the noise. It’s really hard to get through to playlist curators and things like that, so [being on Crescent City Sounds] is a great opportunity for independent bands to cement their place in the local music scene.”

Crescent City Sounds launched last fall, and the band said they were honored to be included in the platform’s inaugural collection.

“There’s no other central organization that connects all of the cultural scenes here,” Caplan said. “For all that New Orleans touts its music scene, there’s not really anything that unifies us all, across genres, at least.”

With this platform, he said, the Library has the opportunity to do just that.

“From an archival perspective, this type can really create a snapshot in time of what the local music scene looks and sounds like, in a very unique way,” Tahiri said.

Crescent City Sounds collection is curated by a rotating team of Library staff and established players in New Orleans’ music community. Every year, the Library plans to add more music, guided by a goal of accurately representing all areas of the local music scene.

The platform’s second submission round is open now, and the Library is accepting new music through April 5, aiming to add 50 new artists this spring. All selected artists will receive a $250 honorarium, in addition to earning a place alongside Shark Attack!! and other local favorites like Young Fellaz Brass Band, Valerie Sassyfras, the New Orleans Nightcrawlers, and more.

“It really is an honor, just to be recognized in the same place as all these other great New Orleans bands.” Caplan said. “It’s also, ultimately, a nice acknowledgement. After all these years of playing around New Orleans, to be seen as part of that community, and know we’re being seen that way.”

Learn more about Crescent City Sounds and how to submit your music to the platform here.

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