Sounds: Bill Sly // “Still Don’t Know How to Surf”
Music writers steeped in the scene throw around words like lo-fi as if they are euphemisms for the lack of production talent. Where one might easily write off lo-fi elements to a track as a lack of production, laziness or haphazard, others can recognize the boldness and brilliance in putting together a song that gets straight to the point without all of the frills.
Bill Sly’s “Still Don’t Know How To Surf” is an example of this, being both lo-fi rock and sweet tunesmith. The Boulder, Colorado-based collegiate artist makes underproduced tracks that challenge the importance of acumen and technique that could be found in a more prolific guitarist. This lack of finesse provides just the right amount of innocence—giving the track, and the artist, the space and simplicity to grow. It’s fun, funny, and awkward in all the right places, like an outsiderish Talking Heads that’re ready to turn around and give you a pure pop song rather than a chin stroking art-piece.
Lyrically, the song is simple rock wording that blends his youthful innocence with love song angst and poetry. Sly puts it in “punk rock prose” with lyrics like ‘you said don’t try to talk to your stupid friends/ I said that ‘just cause it’s over doesn’t mean that it has to end’. Is he turning the screws on the subject of the song, or just fucking with the expectation of what a listener thinks should be neatly-crafted lyrics? Either way, the experience is both edgy and fun—something that is often lacking in contemporary lo-fi songs. This song was written seven months ago and from then to his most recent release “Underwater, Over Eager” the artist has pushed the punk rock envelope even further, finessing his fuzzed out guitar and vocal assault.
“I wrote a bunch of these songs late in the summer and this fall. I broke things off with a girl and that compounding with my already existing depression kinda set me over the edge. Shit is dark but also hopefully funny because I like making funny music.”
2019 was a year of urgent songwriting for Bill Sly, proving that his brand of lo-fi bedroom punk has humor as well as the potential for some serious evolution.