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Hanging ten . . . with Set Waves

Summer is over but the endless groove goes on with the classic sound of the ‘60s created by Gisborne band Set Waves. The band has no gigs in the pipeline, to coin a phrase, but they're always up for a booking and recently performed at a post-dunga dedicated surfing competition in Ohope.

The band and the old-school board-riding comp organised by Dylan Barnfield of Ohope's Salt Air Surf were a good fit. The inaugural West End Wiggle surf competition is part of a growing movement dedicated to the spirit, style and design associated with long, straight surfboards, colloquially known as dungas or logs, of the ‘60s. After the comp, and before the wistful Bon Iver tune used in Corona beer's post-surf, gold-hazy ad could air on the wireless, Set Waves rocked Ohope's Mexican bar and restaurant Cadera with a mix of covers and originals at a shindig.

Made up of Ricky Boyd (lead guitar), Jay Papworth (bass), Dylan Haley (rhythm guitar) and Robson Timbs (drums), the surf band plays instrumental ‘60s music inspired by the jangly-guitar, the rolling drum sound, and the burnished, dioramic, kodachromatic light seen in Super 8 cine film of the era.

The band's original tunes are inspired by the likes of American rock guitarist and surf music pioneer Dick Dale. The King of the Surf Guitar – the title of Dale's second studio album – drew on Middle Eastern music scales and to have experimented with reverberation.

The instrumental Misirlou by Dick Dale and his Del-Tones will be familiar to many from the movie Pulp Fiction.

American instrumental rock band, The Ventures, who helped to popularise the electric guitar in the 1960s, are another influence on Set Waves.

“The Ventures were heavy hitters in the surf music genre,” says Timbs.

The sound and extended tracks of German stoner/psychedelic rock group Colour Haze are closely aligned to surf music of the ‘60s but this is not a flavour Set Waves use in their licks.

“We look back to look forward. Lots of reverb and lots of surf guitar and tom toms. As soon as you hear that surf guitar sound you get a picture in your head.”

A picture in Super 8 soft tones, possibly.

Dave Wronski of instrumental surf rock super group once asked in a GuitarWorld.com column, “will surf guitar be the last electric guitar genre to earn some long-overdue respect?”

“Fender-style guitars with single-coil pickups have typically been the weapon of choice, while vibrato bars are used to help express the rolling of the surf.

“Sometimes the vibrato bar is used very smoothly; sometimes it is shaken to the point of breaking off — enough to make Ike Turner proud.”

The Surfaris' instrumental song Wipe Out, with its gun-rattle drum solo, is the classic, says Timbs.

“We want to sound as if someone walked in and was back in the ‘60s.”


ROLLING IN: Seen here performing at Raglan Roast, Ricky Boyd (left), Robson Timbs, Jay Papworth and Dylan Haley of surf band Set Waves who recently rounded off a 1960s style surfboard competition in Ohope with a shindig at a local Mexican restaurant. Picture by Thomas Teutenberg
C'MON, BABY, LET'S GO! Sally Fields as surf chick Gidget in the TV series of the same name would have dug getting a go-go on to Set Waves after the West End Wiggle surf comp but after turning into The Flying Nun she left surfing behind her and took to the air instead. Picture supplied