Synonymous with California, reverb drenched, instrumental Surf music has been popular since the early 1960’s, soon spreading around the world. Fast forward six decades and while the music is no longer a radio staple, in soundtracks and especially on the concert stage, the music still reigns, with plenty of practioners emerging regularly. One such band currently making its mark across the globe is San Diego’s own Tourmaliners, featuring guitarist Deven Berryhill alongside a core of top musicians including drummer Jake Najor and guitarist Rob Glickman. Notably, Berryhill is the son of legendary guitarist Bob Berryhill, best known as leader of legendary surf combo, The Surfari’s of “Wipe Out” and “Surfer Joe” fame. Meanwhile, The Tourmaliners recently scored “Album of the Year” from noted British magazine, Pipeline, for their debut release.
The band came together in June of 2018, by a mixture of happenstance and a Surfari’s gig. “A month earlier, I performed at Tio Leo’s Lounge as the second guitar player for my Dad’s band The Surfaris,” Berryhill recalled. “Because of that show, I was able to reconnect with my good friend Frank Scuito the owner of Tio Leo’s. He complimented me after the show on my lead guitar playing on the song “Sleepwalk.” Being a San Diego local, I got a little excited about playing at Tio Leo’s more often. I called Frank a week later to ask him if I could host a regular night featuring a new, local surf band. Frank was on board and agreed to book my new surf band monthly for 3 months. Then it was time to put the band together. I called on a few of my favorite San Diegan musician friends and we got started.” The band performs monthly at Tio Leo’s, including February 18 and March 3, and is also fast becoming a favorite at events such as Gator by the Bay.
As for the band’s name, it is indeed a tribute to a popular local surf spot, but the meaning is a bit deeper. “I really wanted a name that represented something special in San Diego surf culture,” Berryhill said. “About 10 years ago, I got to know native San Diegan and local surfboard shaper, Larry Gordon. You may know his name from famed San Diego surfboard and skateboard manufacturer Gordon & Smith Surfboards.” Berryhill notes that Gordon used to promote surf movie events called “Soul Surf.” “They featured new surf movies and small concerts before the movie. The Surfaris played several times and through that, I formed friendships with Larry and Gayle Gordon, Morgan Miller, Dave Mills, Skip Frye, the Horizon Surf Fellowship and many other surfers at Tourmaline Surf Park. As we started thinking up names for this new band, I wanted to find a name that honored and reflected that amazing spirit I had experienced with these amazing people.” It was Scuito who came up with the name idea. “I thought The Tourmaliners sounded cool because it sounded similar to the current Americana band, The Lumineers,” Berryhill said.
In concert the band includes numerous cover tunes amongst their originals. “We love to sprinkle in surf tunes from the early 60’s surf canon like “Perfidia” by The Ventures, “Baja” by The Astronauts or even Jack the Ripper by Link Wray. We’ve also been blessed by having in the band an amazing vocalist like Ina Soliz. Ina likes to come from behind her regular spot on the keyboards to sing some early 60’s dance numbers like Dancin’ In the Streets by Martha and The Vandellas. We really try hard to keep the music “fun” and “danceable” in every set we play,” Berryhill said.
How did it feel to win album of the year, especially in the UK? “It was one of the best compliments I have ever received on my own original music,” Berryhill said. They originally wrote at the bottom of a review that Tourmaline Dream was a “top contender for Pipelines album of the year, “Simply Superb”. Of course, I was pretty stoked to read that comment. Then about a month ago I received a copy of the fall edition with the announcement that our album had won Pipeline’s Album Of The Year. It felt amazing,” he smiled.
Berryhill is happy with the success The Tourmaliners has seen in it’s short existence. Upcoming plans include a Surf Holiday album and more shows. “I love performing. There is nothing like seeing people respond ecstatically to the music I’m playing,” he said. “Whether it’s on stage playing to a packed house or in my living room playing songs with my kids, I love making people happy with music. The guitar has literally taken me around the world and connected me with all kinds of great people. I am thankful to God to have had so many amazing opportunities to perform for people with my guitar playing.”
He pauses to reflect on the road ahead for the band. “My hope is that The Tourmaliners would continue to faithfully and respectfully represent the San Diego/Tourmaline surfing and music community,” he said good naturedly. “As long as people are willing to listen to us make music, we will keep playing.”