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The Madeira: between the coasts, surf rock lives on

Ivan Pongracic, lead guitarist of The Madeira, is such an expert on surf music, he can school a neophyte to the genre in minutes.

“Everybody’s heard of it, you just might not know what it is,” he says. “Think Pulp Fiction.”

And think Dick Dale’s “Miserlou,” perhaps the surf rock classic, and the soundtrack to Travolta and Thurman’s dance at Jack Rabbit Slim’s. It’s all about Dale’s “wet” guitar, for Pongracic: “The reverb guitar is a very specific sound. It’s that washed-out, bottom-of-a-well sound.”

Pongracic and the rest of the four-piece, Indianapolis-based surf band The Madeira will headline “Indiana Surf Explosion!” at the Melody Inn this Friday. Also on the bill are The Troubadours, Destination: Earth!, and The Space Cossacks. Pongracic plays lead guitar for three of the groups: The Troubadours, a tribute band to the British pop group The Shadows (“Apache”), The Space Cossacks, his first surf band to play originals and The Madeira.

Pongracic admits that “it’s completely insane to play in three bands in one night,” but he’ll have help from the rest of The Madeira: Patrick O’Connor on rhythm guitar, Dane Carter on drums and Todd Fortier on bass.

The Madeira most recently toured in California and Italy, where they headlined the Surfer Joe Festival in Livorno, Italy. Pongracic explains: “Surf music’s roots are in California, but it’s really worldwide at this point.”

He says the Surfer Joe Festival in Italy, now a major surf music festival, was started inconspicuously by a guy who loved surf music and decided he wanted to put together a festival.

“It’s the way anything happens with surf music,” Pongracic says. “A handful of individuals who are passionate and make things happen. It’s a highly underground genre, but people who are into it are really into it.”

After Friday’s show, The Madeira will head to Dayton, Ohio, for another festival, Surf Ohio FesTiki, where they’ll be playing along with several other bands, including The Space Cossacks.

All of The Madeira live in Indianapolis but Pongracic, who commutes from Michigan for practices. “We’re definitely an Indy-based band,” says Pongracic. “The only problem can be the frequency of our practicing, but we’ve been able to make it work.”

Since Pongracic started The Madeira in 2004, the band has released three albums (two full lengths and one EP), all recorded at the Pop Machine in Broad Ripple. Their most recent album, “Carpe Noctem,” was named Album of the Year by the British rock instrumental magazine Pipeline in 2008. According to Alan Taylor’s review from Pipeline, it’s “an album that will delight for many years to come with its scintillating lead work and oh-so-effective real rhythm guitar throughout.”

Other audio-visual projects are in the works: The Madeira are featured in an upcoming surf rock documentary, “Sound of the Surf,” and are working on a new album. Pongracic says they performed a handful of songs for the documentary, which has been in the works for about two years. And as for the new album, O’Connor says, “I don’t want to say too much, but it’s a jungle vibe.”

This Friday’s show will be a family affair for Pongracic, whose dad plays rhythm guitar for The Troubadours, the Shadows tribute band. “I got into this music because of my dad,” Pongracic says. “The Shadows were huge in Europe, and everywhere else really but the U.S.”

The Shadows’ music is one of Pongracic’s earliest influences and music loves. He describes it as “haunting, aggressive, high energy rock and roll.”

“Being able to share this with my dad has been a blast,” he says. Although there are Shadows tribute bands everywhere, he says, The Troubadours actually got to play in front of a couple of the original Shadows’ members in the early 2000’s. “It was a great thrill.”

Alison Hamm
Indy's Alternative Voice

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