Small Sur

Artist Info
Baltimore's Small Sur, lead by Bob Keal, has been quietly building a fan base for several years with their summery, breezy sing-along songs. They make the best seventies California music that never was. Small Sur offers their out-of-print first album here at the Secret Stereo.


March 2007
Tell the story of this EP. How did it come about, and where did it go?
I lived in El Salvador for about four months during 2004 and while I was there, I started writing songs. Most of them were reflections on my environment, life, and relationships in southern and central California, where I was in college at the time. After my trip, I kept writing songs, wrote a few songs with friends, and decided that I wanted to document that period of my life by making some recordings.
After moving to Baltimore I hooked up with the Beechfields Record Label, and they helped me release the EP as a limited edition pressing. Only 100 were made, and they're gone. There aren't any plans to press any more, although a few of the songs will be re-recorded for an upcoming release of some sort.
Lyrically and musically, Small Sur is so California , yet you are a Baltimore band. Explain.
California will always be my muse. I love being there, but I love it even more when I'm away and nostalgia kicks in and gets to work. I miss my friends, the food, familiar neighborhoods, the central coast, everything. Small Sur is my vehicle back to those times spent with friends, and as my roots grow stronger here in Baltimore , I'm sure that the music will find a face here, too. I've also written a handful of tunes about my home state, South Dakota, of late, so they'll start to trickle into our releases, as well.
What is happening on your record cover?
The cover is Kyle Field's interpretation of a trip that a bunch of friends took to Big Sur during the early summer of 2005. It's a diorama of everything that happened that week, and also includes a few nostalgic references to times gone by.
What do you try to achieve with your songs / performances?
We try to create a distinctly patient mood with our music. The goal is always for people to actually visualize and experience the things that I describe in the songs.
What inspires you?
I love spending time with friends, learning from them, and working with them on ridiculous projects. Those are the best things in the world. Also, the out of doors, women, and my kindergarten students.
When was the last time your were rendered speechless?
This past Sunday afternoon my friend Liz and I bought a rubber raft at Target and paddled around Pretty Boy Reservoir, which is just north of Baltimore . The sky was perfectly clear and the sun was beaming. We even got little springtime sunburns! All of that was great, but what really had me speechless was running away from the huge, pissed-off goose that was tired of us tromping around on his island. Apparently they can open their beaks super wide when they're upset.
What are you reading these days?
Mostly textbooks for grad school and books about the ocean to my students. However, I'm almost always in the middle of Richard Bach's classic, Jonathan Livingston Seagull.
Describe a perfect day.
Can I re-use the day that I talked about for the "speechless" question? If not, the song " Big Sur," which is on the EP, pretty much describes the perfect day. You can't really beat an afternoon hanging out on Andrew Molera State Beach with good friends.
What music do you always come back to? What's on your stereo / iPod / car, etc?
Anything by my friends: Miguel Noche (he wrote the hook to our song "Yosemite"), Dash!, Recorder, John Sandberg, Little Wings, etc. I always come back to: Will Oldham - Western Music, Califone - Sometimes Good Weather Follows Bad People , Low - Things We Lost in the Fire, Vetiver - S/T, Mick Turner - Moth , Phosphorescent - A Hundred Times or More , and anything by The Band, Creedence Clearwater Revival, Mississippi John Hurt, Nick Drake, and Simon & Garfunkel
What visual artists do you like?
Again, my friends: Elena Johnston (, Kyle Field ( ), stuff that happens at the Current Gallery here in Baltimore ( ), Scott Dennison, who is our bass player and show poster artist extraordinaire, Liz Ensz, and Andrea Boravong, who is one of my students. Her family is from Laos. She draws the most amazing pictures of herself with huge, colorful, wavy hair. I'm also into Rodin's sculptures, although I don't know much about them, Ernst Haeckel, and Craig Thompson's drawings and books. Mother Nature really pulled it off, too, although we'll probably have to wait until she dies for her work to be truly appreciated.
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