Sune Rose Wagner – half of Danish fuzz-rock duo The Raveonettes – admits he felt right at home in his adopted city of New York. Like him, every deathly pale hipster in town wore nothing but black, so he blended in perfectly.
But after an anonymous decade there, the scene felt stale. He needed new inspiration, so he packed his bags and joined his bandmate Sharin Foo in Los Angeles, which led to the duo’s latest surf-inspired album “Pe’ahi,” which was released unannounced in July.
It also made Wagner rethink his wardrobe: “I chose to move to L.A. because I was always really interested in Southern California surf history. I thought, what a great place to study it – you can actually go to the beach and read your surf book, while you’re right in the middle of it!’” says Wagner, who brings The Raveonettes to San Francisco this week.
Adopting the board shorts, sandals and garish Hawaiian shirts, the hodad started haunting places where surfers gathered, from Malibu and Santa Monica to Huntington Beach. Soon he was boogie-boarding with the locals and researching the rich history of surfing.
Unlike Jeff Spicoli, Wagner didn’t party with the waves. “I can’t really learn how to surf properly, because I really don’t like being underwater. I have that fear, that tremendous fear of drowning. There’s something about falling off while standing up on the ocean that’s just frightening to me,” he says.
So he kept his distance and resolved to make a Ventures-twangy recording, but with a dark, catacomb-creepy twist. “Pe’ahi” hangs reverb ten, from its ethereal opener “Endless Sleeper” through “Z Boys,” “”A Hell Below” and “Summer Ends,” all sung in the duo’s signature seamless harmonies.
“I thought it would be interesting to take some of my beachside experiences and turn them into something that was a little bit the opposite of what The Beach Boys would have done. And in terms of wordplay, too; I thought it would be great to use the words that describe the culture and the beaches, but put them into a different context,” he says.
While the tracks aren’t surf-specific, they’re inspired in the moments of clarity he achieves seaside, when he drifts into a meditative state and recharges his creative batteries.
Some lyrics concern Wagner’s father, who drank himself to death last Christmas Eve. Grieving, the Raveonette stayed sober for the four-month “Pe’ahi” sessions, and he hasn’t had a drink since. California itself proved sobering. He says,“LA is just different. It lends itself to brighter colors, as well as opening your mind to something different. And I really needed that.”
IF YOU GO
Where: Bimbo’s 365 Club, 1025 Columbus Ave., S.F.
When: 8 p.m. Monday
Contact: (415) 474-0365, www.ticketfly.com