Up front at Baby’s All Right on a freezing November night, I was there to check out Habibi. I came in expecting a chill night of jangle pop, but I left with my senses pummeled to death by some of the most chilling, grin-inducing, and batshit crazy punk performances I had ever seen, courtesy of Surfbort and Diet Choke.
Diet Choke and Surfbort, are both unstoppable forces not to be fucked with onstage—at least, until they hand you the microphone to join in. Like a witch from the gutters of Brooklyn, Ruby Aldridge screeches, growls, and flails about to chants like “NAIL POLISH” and “I DON’T WANNA GIVE YOU HEAD,” eventually dunking thick, brown mud down her white-painted face. Dani Miller wails into the mic, staring the audience down like she’s ready to rip your face off, but pulls her mouth away and lifts into the sweetest smile in punk.
These chaotic punks share the same goal: Wake the fuck up and freak out! They cheer each other on from the front of the audience and dance harder than anyone else in the audience, even jumping on stage to assist their friends in the revelry. Since they have such a unique camaraderie, Aldridge and Surfbort hung out and shared with us the discussion that transpired.
Ruby Aldridge: Do you remember the first thought you had when you woke up this morning?
Sean Powell: My first thought was, “Oh, god. Not this again.”
Dani Miller: I was pissed this morning. I think my dreams were so fucked up and I was sleeping at my mom’s house so it freaked me out. I dream every day. I always have dreams of swimming. I don’t have wet dreams. I have wet dreams in the dream. Making out while I’m swimming and I’m swimming through New York streets.
Sean: The last dream I had was a dream about trying to use drugs and not being able to. It’s a reoccuring dream. Getting to the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow and then it disappears. It’s annoying.
Ruby: Well, I seriously love watching you guys perform. You guys are actually my favorite band in the world to see. When you’re on stage, do you have any thoughts? Do you think anything?
Dani: Well, the second before I get on stage, I’m like, “Why the fuck am I doing this? I’m gonna go home. I’m running away. This is really scary.” But as soon as my foot steps on to the pavement of the stage, I’m like, “Oh, I’m so ready. I’m ready to rock. I see all my friends. I see random freaks who want to let loose!” And, then, that’s the point I just start laughing and yelling.
Sean: I’m usually wondering if I’m gonna have the strength to make it through the set. I’m old.
Alex: I’m trying not to think about breaking strings.
David: Right when it’s about to start sometimes I have a moment where I can’t remember how the first song starts. But then it just starts and it’s ok. After that it’s like communing with the void
Dani: Yeah, I have panic attacks. Also, I don’t get fucked up before.
Ruby: Me either. I’m actually getting nervous thinking about it. Kind of. How do you deal with nerves?
Dani: Sometimes, I meditate, but that doesn’t work right before a show. Everyone is excited to see you and they start talking to you like, “How’s your cat? Blah blah blah!” And I can’t think. That’s scary, but I like it. I can’t calm down, but, sometimes, it helps me relax. I’m like, “My cat’s great,” even though I feel like I’m gonna die. But then, I go, “Let’s talk after the show and hang out.”
Ruby: That’s what you pretty much say to everyone.
Dani: And then you just party and have fun.
Ruby: That’s a good tip. I think you told me that and I’ve used that. Sean, do you get nervous? Do you eat before a show?
Sean: We eat after the show. I eat a meal for two people. Tuna melt, cup of borscht, apple crumb cake. Fuckin’ a la mode.
Alex: I started calling him Death Row—his post show throw down is like a last meal.
Dani: I don’t eat before a show because—well, classic story of how I met Sean. This was at Don Pedro’s and I ordered a burrito before I went on. I ate the whole entire thing, I didn’t drink or anything, I was just dead sober. I go up there, start raging, and all of a sudden, I get this crazy feeling all over where I’m like, “Oh, no, no, no. I’m gonna puke. I feel so sick.” I just looked at everyone and the band kept shredding. And I ran off stage, puked, and I came back and the band was still playing the same part. Then, we went back into the song. Sean was in the audience before he was in Surfbort and he was like, “Wow! Now we gotta hang out.”
Ruby: That was a beautiful story. So your band’s name is Surfbort. Would you change your band name?
Dani: At first, we started it as a joke. It’s inspired by Beyonce. The idea of it started the day “Drunk In Love” came out. To me, it means a bunch of different things. “Surfbortion.” Pro-choice. I don’t really like new age surf pop, so it’s like, “Abort surf pop.” One time, we got asked to play a surf opening and they thought we were gonna play surf pop. They were really surprised and stoked. They liked it.
Sean: I like the name Surfbort because our band doesn’t sound like it fits the name.
Ruby: Would you quit your band for a billion dollars?
Dani: Yes, money is everything to me. I would quit for $500.
Sean: You got $5?
Ruby: This is a horrible question!
Dani: Hell no! Surfbort is life! Surfbort and the community that we’ve built and all of the friends and the songs…I would never trade that for anything in the world.
Sean: I would quit for five billion dollars and then I would reform the band.
Ruby: I would take that money and then make a super Surfbort band to take over the fucking world. Surfbort Extreme. Surbort 6900. Mega Surfbortion.
Sean: Superbort. Megabort.
Ruby: I’m glad that music is a priority, but you would take the money also. I know that you guys write songs together a lot—what was the first Surfbort song?
Dani: The first Surfbort song was probably “Tripping Over Babies.” It’s about living in family-oriented neighborhoods. Even though we’re white and could be gentrifying neighborhoods, there’s neighborhoods where it’s all rich family people moving in and then they pack the streets with baby carriages and just keep fucking and having babies. Then, you’re walking around and you’re like, “Ah! Tripping over babies!” But we don’t play it. That was with the old band.
Ruby: What was the first song you guys wrote together?
Sean: I think the first one I can think of is “Fetus.”
Dani: It’s about, “Fuck Donald Trump, fetishizing fetuses, race, gender, and the war/Make an evil clown of the President, Calling humans whores.” This was around the election. We were really angry.
Alex: For me Dani and Sean that would probably be like “New World Hoarders” or something. The first time Sean and I jammed before he was in surfbort Dani came and screamed the words to what became “Hideaway.” The lalala song. I was embarrassed by how many times I listened to that shitty recording on my phone. I wish I still had it.
David: First Surfbort song for me is what became the second half of “High Anxiety.”
Ruby: What was the last song you wrote about?
Dani: We’re writing love songs right now. We’re putting out Romance 7” on Cult Records soon.
Ruby: You guys just got signed to Cult?
Dani: Yeah, I’m very happy. Cult is family. Nasa, the manager of Cult, we connected through The Growler’s fest and ever since then, she’s my rock. She rules. We have the same ideas of pushing Surfbort forward and forming a community of friends and music lovers. And Julian rules.
Ruby: Talking about what you’re doing with your futures, what is Surfbort doing in five years?
Sean: I hope that we’re just still going. Making stuff.
Ruby: And you’ll have an album out! You have an album coming out soon! What is the album going to be called?
Sean: We were talking about calling it Friendship Music.
Dani: Our first full release! Friendship and music. Classic Surfbort. From day one, that’s all we’re about. Getting you through the day in a fucked up world.
Ruby: Beautiful. That’s another question. What is Surfbort about?
Sean: Surfbort’s about the underdog. Surfbort’s like a true underdog band. It’s three 50-year-old dudes with some Dracula chick that’s the singer. It’s a weird band.
Dani: And the rejects. We just welcome everyone. If anyone needs us to hang out, be our friend, dance, we’re here for you.
Alex: We are about inclusion, not exclusion.
David: Surfbort for me is about music and friendship. And love and freedom.
Sean: We made a shirt that has the suicide hotline on it and it’s Dani’s phone number.
Ruby: I heard that nobody called it.
Sean: That means everybody’s doing good, though.
Dani: Or they don’t want to talk to me and they think I need someone to talk to. I don’t know. I also felt kind of bad putting the responsibility on my number. But I have a bunch of suicide hotlines on a piece of paper that I can pass out, too. If you don’t want to talk to me, there’s tons of people that you can talk to instead of me.
Ruby: What a beautiful service. I guess this is an irrelevant next question. Are you happy?
Dani: No, I’m very suicidal. Yeah, things are great. I mean, there’s anger and sadness that is always coming, but my friend just told this to me: If you’re a really emotional person, you’re always going to have anger and sadness and you can turn that around for art, but the only way it starts getting really bad is if you start getting bitter. Bitter’s just messed up and it messes with you.
Sean: I think that I’m a normal person that experiences emotions like how you’re supposed to. Sometimes, it’s extreme highs and extreme lows. I try to get it where it’s like in the middle.
Ruby: That’s a great place to be. I didn’t even know it existed actually. Basically, I love you guys. I love your band. What do you want the world to know? One sentence.
Dani: No periods. This is a run on sentence. Let’s have some fucking fun, the government sucks, let’s keep working hard to dismantle it and hang out together and really hold each other up and stick up for each other, eat some food together, laugh a lot together, I love you, and I’m gonna tour Europe and Australia and Japan, so, I’ll see you soon, I love you, love you, love you.
Ruby: I’d have no idea how to answer that question. So you know we’ve played shows together and, obviously, there’s a performance aspect when I play or when you play. Do you plan any of that or do you just play music?
Dani: No, I just play music. Sometimes, whatever is just sewn into my body and I’ll just fall or do the same movement and I’m like, “Whoa, I already did this at another show.” But I just freak out. I like when people in the audience want to say something or sing or dance. I also freaking appreciate your projects.
Ruby: Thanks. I just love putting on shows. I love performing. I love new friends. I love making music. The show we played at Baby’s was fucking awesome. It was a magical show. My band, Diet Choke, played and you guys played and Habibi played. It was really fun.
Dani: That was a really magical show. One weird thing that happened, it was the freakin’ cowboy revival. Ruby and Diet Choke all show up with cowboy hats and cowboy gear. That was their theme. And I show up, not even knowing, with my pink cowboy hat. Then, the projectionist for Habibi shows up with cowboy projections. Rodeo projections. And we’re all like, “Howdy.”
Ruby: Basically, we’re just all not that original.
Dani: Well, originality is not important. I mean, it is, but, for the themes, that’s a classic theme. What inspired you to cover yourself in shit?
Ruby: I wanted to cover myself in mud. It ended up looking like shit, which is a thought I had when I started covering myself in it. But I was desperately trying to find mud all day. I was digging dirt out of tree planters on the street and mixing it with water. I went to my friend Kay’s house because she’s really good at this kind of thing and I was like, “Kay, I need you to make me mud.” She made this giant vat of mud, but it was too gritty. I even took a picture of someone covered in mud into the hardware store and was like, “Hey, I want to look like this. Do you have anything that can make me look like this?” And the guy was literally like, “Nobody ever in my history of working here has ever asked me anything like this. You’re a crazy person.” So I ended up using cocoa powder, water, street dirt, and flour.
Dani: No wonder it tasted weird! I thought it was chocolate so I was tasting it.
Ruby: Yeah, that was street dirt.
Dani: Oh, my god! I regret asking you this question! I was eating it and thinking it was dark chocolate!