John Paul Pitts hasn't returned home to West Palm Beach for a while, but when the Surfer Blood frontman eventually does have his homecoming, he's counting on the local fan reception to be anything but warm. In March 2012, police arrested Pitts for domestic battery on the singer's then-live-in girlfriend, prompting an immediate Twitter bashing, which included such scornful rebukes as "I'm genuinely upset about JP" and "Maybe you should go touring with Chris Brown."
"I feel awful about everything that happened, and it's something I'm thinking about every damn day," says Pitts, speaking by phone from a tour bus outside Lincoln, Neb., adding that he prefers not to elaborate on the incident because "my parents read the Sun Sentinel." "I don't think anyone in my band was happy about this. I just want people to suspend judgment and just listen to the music."
Although charges were dropped in April, the fallout, Pitts says, came swift: Several bands ("I'm not going to say which") refused to tour with Surfer Blood, which this week releases its second album, "Pythons." Still, the public reaction was at once unfamiliar to a band that went from recording songs in Pitts' West Palm Beach bedroom to releasing a breakout 2009 single, "Swim," signing a record deal and producing a triumphant debut album in 2010's "Astro Coast." But if the pop-rock quartet that also includes guitarist Thomas Fekete, bassist Kevin Williams and drummer Tyler Schwarz is keen on moving past the backlash, Surfer Blood's new release, awash as it is in catchy surf rock, may be the escapism the band wants.
With help from producer Gil Norton (he of the Pixies' "Doolittle" and "Bossanova" albums), "Pythons" contains chipper melodies, sunny guitar hooks and zero references to the band's present difficulties. Still, Pitts says he won't be surprised if fans hunt for veiled meanings in tracks such as "Squeezing Blood From a Stone" and in lines such as "Damning allegations have come to light/Stapled to the background in black and white."
"I mean, look, I'm resigned to the fact that people read into these lyrics searching for me to admit fault or assign blame," the 26-year-old singer admits. "But most of these songs were written before the incident last year, like at least two months before, and we'd just started demoing and never looked back.
"Many of these songs are cryptic on purpose, but they're also forthcoming," he adds. "Because how often do you get to be perfectly honest with people if you can't do it in your songs?"
Pitts, who with the band recorded “Pythons” over an eight-week blitz in California, and who borrowed “amplifiers and guitars” from Pixies guitarist Joey Santiago to do so, says the new album is indebted to the alt-rock icons.
“I love the Pixies,” Pitts says. “There’s something really unassuming and yet something very intense about that band that rubbed off on us. I think that’s something great to aspire to.”