I’m going to tell you up front that this review has very little to do with the new Surfer Blood album, which is very good—real fuckin’ good, if I’m being honest—and sits comfortably alongside their previous work. If you already like them, you’ll like 1000 Palms. It’s smoother and less intense than Pythons, but whatever. You’ll like it.
If you’ve never heard of Surfer Blood, or have been meaning to check them out, I don’t recommend it. Here’s why:
On March 31st, 2012, John Paul Pitts was arrested in Lake Worth, Florida, for domestic battery. His girlfriend of one year described in detail what had occurred: an argument between them had escalated, and Pitts attacked her. He threw her down on the bed, jumped on top of her, and stuck his hand in her mouth. She tried to escape and bit his chest in frustration. Pitts was arrested, charged, and offered a “plea and pass” deal. He accepted and was told not to contact the victim. Pitts was also required to complete a batterer’s intervention program (BIP). Upon successful completion of the program, the charges were dropped in April 2013. That’s how a plea and pass deal works in a domestic violence situation. The charges get dropped later, but only in trade for you completing a program designed to stop you from doing the same thing again.
None of this is news to anyone, although no publication has done anything more than a cursory overview of the case. There were initial news reports — concise click generators that didn’t say any more than they had to — but nothing that has documented the repercussions of what Pitts actually did, as opposed to his clinical guilt or innocence in the eyes of the law. I don’t know if this was because legal counsel for these publications refused to allow them to print anything other than a sanitized list of facts, or (more likely) if the writers working this story didn’t understand it or if they simply didn’t care.1
Fast forward a year, and Pitchfork did a feature on Surfer Blood ahead of the release of their second album. It’s a vile piece of journalism with an embarrassingly obvious goal to portray Pitts in as positive a light as possible, so that his band could sell more records, so that Pitchfork could continue to cover them. (If that wasn’t the goal, then the author is even worse than I thought, because they wrote to that agenda perfectly.) A high-profile publication gave an abuser a platform that he used to generate enough deflection and victim-blaming to give Dr. Drew an aneurysm.
And that’s why I’m writing about it. Given every opportunity to take responsibility for his actions, Pitts just hasn’t. He clung to a pedantic claim of innocence while refusing to admit that he did anything at all. That’s why I’m writing this review about Pitts instead of about his music. If he insists on acting like this, I’m going to insist on telling you about it.
We’re not supposed to look the other way. We’re not supposed to believe the bullshit coming out of his mouth. There’s no mystery about what happened. He took a plea deal and agreed to enter a diversion program. And maybe that doesn’t mean anything. Maybe it was the quickest way to get out of trouble and get back to work. Maybe he was afraid of going to jail, or that his case wouldn’t hold up. None of these things seem likely, because he never once mentioned any of them as an excuse or even a concern. Instead, he’s made simple, straightforward claims like “I’m not guilty of these crimes,” “The idea that I hit someone is definitely not true…I’ve never been a violent person,” and “No charges were brought against me” – the last of which is either a blatant lie or an indication of how little Pitts understands the American legal system.
What’s worse, the author of this fine mess of genital stimulation writes authoritatively, in his own voice, that Pitts was “cleared of any wrongdoing” and “innocent in the eyes of the law.” These statements are so untrue that it burns my fucking soul. As any first-year law student could tell you, the plea and pass is still an admission, regardless of the fact that it ultimately results in dropped charges.
So what could possibly be the point in rehashing all of this? Am I on a vendetta against Surfer Blood? Do I want Pitts to suffer excessively for what he did? No and no. I want him to fucking apologize, confess, own up to it, and be a better person. Not “try to be better,” but actually be better. If he can’t do that, he doesn’t deserve our support.
Editor’s note: probably six of one, half-a-dozen of the other. In order to figure out what happened in the case, you need to dig into the court records that are maintained in a clunky fashion over at the Palm Beach County clerk and comptroller’s website. It’s such a clunky site that we can’t even link to anything directly – you’ll have to search for “John Paul Pitts” yourself. But if you do, you’ll see the plea and pass deal, the information about his entering a BIP, and the charges being dropped in 2013. None of these things are the same as the breezy “no charges were ever filed” or “all the charges were dropped” way that this keeps getting reported. ↩