Endless strummers | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Endless strummers

Robert Stern

Jim Thomas is the man behind the Mermen, and it comes to no surprise that he has a long history of surfing and living near the ocean.

“I like to be right near the water,” Thomas said. “That feels right me.”

The magnetic hum of the ocean is what brought Thomas from his native New Jersey to California fourteen years ago with nothing but a surfboard and an acoustic guitar. He lives in Ocean Beach (San Francisco).

While his bandmates have come and gone like the epic south swells, Thomas has continued to morph his visions, inspired by dreams and the ocean, into instrumental bliss. And while some of his earlier works were harder and edgier, his latest release “The Amazing California Health and Happiness Road Show” is surreal. The notes are breezy; the melodies move like the tides; and the jams unfold like a curling point break wave at dawn.

“I spent a lot of time in the ocean, and I spent a lot of time surfing,” Thomas said. “I don’t consciously try to write music about the ocean or about surfing, but I think I have been powerfully affected by the beach and by the ocean. I have spent a lot of time watching the waves. It is an organic natural order, and it has formed in me some undercurrent that affects my sensibility. Whether my music is truly related to that I can not say.”

For anyone who has ever lived near the ocean, The Mermen induce the pungent smell of saltwater, visions of palm trees and surf. It is a massage for the ear drum.

The most obvious description of the Mermen is somewhere between the punchy percussive riffs of Dick Dale and the psychedelic sounds of Jimi Hendrix, especially his 1968 album “Electric Ladyland” with the song “1983 . . . A Merman I Shall Turn To Be” – from which the band got its name.

But, while Thomas agrees with these comparisons, he said it was the soundtrack from the classic surfing movie “The Endless Summer” that really caught his ear and motivated him to play music.

“Sometimes you just pick up a guitar and the song is there,” He said. “I think the sense of the music is from being at the California coast.”

But Thomas eschews suggestions that his music is purposely composed to sound like the ocean.

“The idea of making music for a metaphor is absurd,” he said.

The Mermen have followed an evolution from extremes on a spectrum that span from the raw charge of muscle punk to the tranquil sounds of eastern influence.

“Every record really has its own kind of identity, the latest is a more mature adult record,” he said.

But that does not mean fans of his older, crunchier riffs, full of distortion and feedback will be disappointed by his performances. When it comes to his own music, he does not discriminate.

“You can’t just do the same music all the time,” he said. “You’ll go out of your mind.”

The Mermen have toured the nation, but concentrate most of their performances in the Bay Area – where they play venues such as The Wharfield, Maritime Hall and The Fillmore.

Breakout Box:

Show is Sunday @ Sierra Vista Lake Front, 700 North Lake Road in Tahoe City

Doors: 9 p.m./ Show: 10 p.m.

Tickets: $12 advance/ $15 day of show

21 & over

Tickets are available at Mad about Music and Tahoe Records Unique Boutique

Credit Card Phone Orders

(530) 583-2801

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