Syntax Issue 10
Denver Syntax

I imagine Coconut Beach as the kind of place where everything is permissible. Coconut Beach is a place where the slackers skate hard, live lazily and the girls beek in their bikinis, showing it all to the mighty sun hanging above the coast’s surf. Here, talent buys you drinks. Here, the party never ends.

On the surface, Coconut Beach is only a story told in jest.

But: below the surface, Coconut Beach is a solemn place – the kind of place you tattoo on your leg. Bandmates Ryan Simpson and Mike Katz stand as testaments to this kind of permanent ink. Because while Coconut Beach isn’t so much a place at all – it is an entity that they take personally. It is a source of outright passion and intrigue. Despite their surf-slack front, don’t let them fool you: they take their music seriously. And you would have to: with all the talent between the two of them.

So, let’s say Coconut Beach is a place – because it is when you swim in their song’s waters. Theirs is a cocktail of surf rock and R&B with a tiki parasol that reads: Skate or Whatever.

At Coconut Beach: They talk a little lazily, just like their swaying guitars sing in song. Even some of their lead melodies, where the guitar lines tie the music to the vocal melodies: even they are a bit languid. But, I assure you: there isn’t much else that spends its time lounging on the beach, watching too many sunsets disappear. For, despite the jest, when the sun goes down – there is work being done behind closed cabana doors.

If you visit Coconut Beach you are apt running into the town’s two biggest characters:

Mike Katz, is an unusual breed. Katz is that guy who is good at everything. He wreaks of talent. Much of what he endeavors into: he’s successful at. If he wants to be – if it holds his attention for long enough. Evidence? A lifelong skater, Katz was once sponsored. He has a knack for the written word. He can play guitar and stand-up bass. He has a memory for remembering melodies and pulling apart songs. He was trained, classically, on the piano beginning at age four. In Coconut Beach, he is the band’s primary songwriter. And most recently, he got into pool. As we speak, he’s waiting for the weekly pool tournament to start at the Sundown, in Boulder.

Simpson looks at me with wide eyes and says, “yeah, he wins the tournament all the time.”

Ryan Simpson is the other character strolling down the boardwalk on Coconut Beach, with his board in-hand. Once a sponsored skater as well: Simpson is also multi-talented. He has played jazz drums, bass and guitar. He’s an adroit visual artist. He’s studying film. He records all the drums on Coconut Beach’s work and then, when playing live – plays rhythm guitar and sings.

From jazz to classical to old R&B, Katz and Simpson have a wildly diverse history of influence. But listening to their current songs – you wouldn’t know that at all. For all the talent between the two of these beach bums – the true talent may lay in the distillation of all their influences and talents. The true talent may be in how they have managed to simplify everything. This simplification is something that those undisciplined are not able to accomplish. This refinement is something that is won with heartfelt practice, time and passion. This sophistication is, in the end, a sound – it’s what you’re listening to right now. This simplification is Coconut Beach.

Simpson and Katz met at the skatepark when they were ten. They’ve been close friends ever since. Apart from skating, music has been the tie between them. And that tie is so thick that it sometimes gets in the way: for the duration of the last two years that they’ve been an official band, they’ve been unable to lock down a regular drummer. As Simpson records all the drum parts, he prefers to play out front when playing live, on guitar and vocals. So, the duo has endlessly searched for a drummer to fill that role of playing the third part in their act, but mostly on account of the standard that has been set by their ability to communicate together – as friends and as musicians – that task of filling the role for a drummer has felt impossible. Right now, seeking a conclusion on this front is of paramount importance because:

They are in the studio. They have nine tracks done. There’s more to follow. They will start playing-out much more once the album is complete because: they have to. This is their calling. Because when you can ask either one of them what they really want to do professionally – they both shrug. Then, inevitably, maybe even in another line of conversation and they’ll tell you: this is really important. They want this.

To this end there is that façade that they shine: that they are lazy. They’ll joke about it. Somehow it is a source of pride. But when you look closer – there is a seriousness, an earnestness, something maybe even magical about where they stand. And it’s precisely because of their huge pool of talents that they maybe play everything off so casually and act so unaffected. This could be the press of skate culture and the ideal of a privileged life lead.

Listen: there is a seriousness, an earnestness, something completely magical about this place and this sound called Coconut Beach.