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Beach Day: New album an exciting collection of retro echoes

There is no mistaking Hollywood-based, indie-rock duo Kimmy Drake and Skylar Black’s affection for sunny fun at the shore: Onstage they call themselves Beach Day.

And while their second album, “Native Echoes,” due out on Kanine Records Aug. 19, is filled with trademark retro surf guitar, tumbling waves and plenty of esprit de bikini, it also seems to take a few steps inland, toward the city, where the music picks up chunks of garage-rock grit and Drake’s vocal becomes more soulful and self-assured. It is an evolution that makes the follow-up to last year’s critically lauded debut, “Trip Trap Attack,” such an exciting album.

Drake acknowledges that the band’s ambitions have changed.

“With ‘Trip Trap Attack’ I just wanted to write some fun, surfy songs. That's all I wanted to do, so that’s what we did,” she says, laughing. “I love that record so much. But this one is different. I guess it's a little bit more deliberate.”

“Native Echoes” clearly benefits from having Detroit garage-rock pioneer Jim Diamond producing in his Ghetto Recorders studio, famous for vintage analog recording equipment that has helped crunch the sound of the White Stripes, the Dirtbombs and others.

A song such as the album-opener, “All My Friends Were Punks,” bops along to a bouyant, hand-clapping beat worthy of a Go-Go’s clambake, which Diamond subverts with fuzzy guitar, random distortion and a thick, throbbing bass line (played by Diamond himself). Add Drake’s Ronnie Spector-meets-the-Ramones vocal, and the song is impossible to resist.

Drake can’t point to a particular influence for her vocal style — Spin magazine said it “would make Joey Ramone weak at the knees” — though she does credit her mom’s collection of soul-music 45s, which provided repeated listenings of Aretha Franklin, the Supremes and Arthur Conley. Drake also credits a more unlikely source.

“Do you know the radio station Majic 102.7? They used to play all '50s and '60s music when I was a kid. That’s all I would listen to. I’ve always loved that kind of music ever since I can remember,” says Drake, a Kendall native who studied photography at the Art Institute of Fort Lauderdale (she doesn’t surf, but spent her childhood at various South Florida beaches, thanks to her father, a scuba instructor who grew up surfing in California). Drake found the “modern” music her friends were listening to in the ‘80s and ‘90s “horrible,” though, when pushed, she does admit to one “guilty pleasure” from that era: “All That She Wants” by Ace of Base.

“Native Echoes” also is distinguished by a maturing songwriting voice: The neediness of “Boys” on the first album (with its giddy refrain, “All I want is boys!”) is replaced by a protagonist who demands more from her man on “Don’t Call Me On the Phone.” The first song Drake wrote for the new album, “Pretty,” is a girl-power anthem, one woman telling another: “Who cares about being pretty?” More woman-to-woman mentoring is evident on “Lost Girl,” with Drake in full Petula Clark mode.

Drake says all of the songs on “Native Echoes” are aimed at a similar place.

“I feel like there's a theme. I think of it, like, romanticism. Romanticism of friendships. That’s the way I look at this record,” she says. “There’s no love songs, but the whole record is about friendships.”

Drake lost a friend last year when Beach Day bass player-vocalist Natalie Smallish left the band after a release concert for “Trip Trap Attack” on Hollywood Beach.

“I don’t really want to talk about that,” Drake says firmly. “It ended badly.”

Beach Day, in the middle of a “Native Echoes” supporting tour from Mexico to Houston to Seattle, will go on as a duo. There are no plans to add a permanent bassist, Drake says.

“Skylar and I have such a commitment to the band. We’re going all out,” she says. “It takes a big commitment. You have to be willing to have part-time jobs in between stuff, and it’s really hard. It’s definitely a lifestyle choice.”

For more on Beach Day and the album, go to

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