Australian singer Christopher Whitehall is quite up front about the unique influences that helped shape “Be Impressive,” the upcoming debut album from his tropical-exotic outfit The Griswolds, named for Chevy Chase’s kooky clan in the National Lampoon “Vacation” film series.
A key component is his hometown of Sydney, and its bustling surf and skate culture. “Every time we’re away on tour, we can’t wait to get back home again, just to see the skyline or hit the beach,” he says. “This city has shaped us as much as our musical tastes have.”
Still, Whitehall apologizes for the slightly schizophrenic feel of the record, in songs that bounce from chipper sing-alongs “Beware the Dog” and “Down and Out” to synth laments “Live This Nightmare” and “Thread the Needle,” which the group will premiere in San Francisco this week.
For the first half of the disc, he and co-founder Daniel Duque-Perez decamped to a remote cabin in the Australian outback for six weeks. For the second half, their label, Wind-up Records, flew them to New York City, where they wrote and recorded near Times Square.
“That’s why some of the songs on the album are so different from others — writing in these two diverse places, combined with the temperatures we were in, were just crazy,” says Whitehall. “It was nice and warm in Australia, but in New York, it was freezing cold.”
Before they formed The Griswolds as a duo, and added three members, Whitehall and Duque-Perez had played separately in many other Sydney combos, even heckled one another at each other’s shows. Out of frustration, they moved in together, determined to create something original. They succeeded.
While the group terms its sound “tequila-inspired party pop,” the eclectic “Be Impressive” is a sunny delight with classic Beach Boys grooves, but also with eccentric art-rockers not unlike those of MGMT and Of Montreal.
To perfect the sound, Whitehall had to leave Sydney. He says, “So we found this meditation camp out in the bush, in the middle of nowhere, and we could be as loud as we wanted. We finished seven songs in that cabin.”
Even though Australia has some of the world’s most venomous indigenous fauna, The Griswolds didn’t stumble upon anything deadly in the wilderness.
New York proved scarier. “Just walking to the studio every day, there were so many people, all walking one mile an hour,” recalls Whitehall. “It was like a city full of zombies!”
IF YOU GO
Miniature Tigers, with The Griswolds
Where: Rickshaw Stop, 155 Fell St., S.F.
When: 8:30 p.m. Thursday
Tickets: $15 to $17
Contact: (415) 861-2011, www.rickshawstop.com