A couple of weeks ago I ran into Raymond Raposa, a.k.a. Castanets, at Spuyten Duyvil, a beer and wine bar in Brooklyn. Always on the lookout for musicians with day jobs, I asked him a bit about his work history over some dark stouts, and found out he’d been a bona fide surf instructor before entering the more prosaic waters of record store clerking. In honor of this post-Memorial Day Quit Your Day Job, I thought it made sense to talk with Raposa about dropping in and hanging ten even if at this point he’s only, well, California dreaming.
Adding some storm clouds to this idyllic beach scene, Asthmatic Kitty passed along a very non-summertime track “Into The Night” from the equally winterized First Light’s Freeze. No worries: the break from humidity’s well balanced by the California-emblazoned sailboat shirt and Big Kahuna beaded necklace Raposa’s sporting in the accompanying image. Currently looking for a new job (while wearing a beard that rivals Oldham’s) he’s at work on Castanets third album, due out this fall on AK.
STEREOGUM: How’d you get work as a surf instructor?
RAYMOND RAPOSA: I was living in Mission Beach, San Diego in a temperate haze. Days bleeding into days like nothing. Ambling about barefoot and easy. It’s a nice enough neighborhood if you tune certain elements out. House was half a block from the beach; sandbars were generally pretty solid out front. I had a bunny. One of the guys a few houses down started a surf-instructing school with private winter lessons, and full-on camp style in the summer. Pretty much rounded up every free time surfer in the neighborhood (there were many) worth their salt and put ‘em to work.
STEREOGUM: What was your rabbit’s name? What happened to him or her?
RR: A girl I was living with for a while had a professor who was going through a bad breakup in which neither partner could bear to maintain custody of their rabbit. She took him and we built a little chicken-wire enclosure around our patio for it. We never put him out there. He was a total house bunny. Fahey Kirkwood. I’d take him for walks up to the sand a lot. He was really into knocking over stacks of cassettes and licking peoples noses. In the inevitable and arduous split between girl/me we went joint custody with him. I kept him for about a year, he moved to Golden Hill with her afterwards. It’s been about four years since I last saw Fahey and I can only assume now that he has gone the way of all bunnies.
STEREOGUM: What were you tuning out of the neighborhood?
RR: Just general upwardly mobile Southern California stuff. The specter of the OC. The MTV Spring Break house being a couple blocks down from my house. The X Games being a block past that. When I was growing up in Mission Beach before moving away and back, it was a really weird environment. Pretty well localized. Lots of pride in itself. Those kinds of places are pretty much impossible to find out there anymore. By the time I was living there in my teens it was well on it’s way to being any other well-to-do beach town. Edge lost.
STEREOGUM: And what was the camp’s name?
RR: The camp was called Surfari. I kind of have a rule about puns in general especially in the context of a business and triply in the context of an employer, but pick your battles, right?
STEREOGUM: Did you enjoy teaching?
RR: I’ve worked quite a few jobs but this was satisfying like no other. Success rate for a two-hour lesson and session was pretty much 100% and folks’re pretty stoked after that. Vibes was right. In the summer time I would wake up sometimes with a fair enough hangover and hustle down with a cup of coffee in some mood or another, but on the second of hitting water with a couple dozen amped kids, all was right. Camp would wrap up at 1:00 so I had plenty of time after to work on songs. Started writing the first Castanets album around this time. The winter more than the summer I guess. A couple years of this work got me pretty far on the easiest of schedules with the rewardingest days and the worst of sunburns. It could be said that thing went downhill for a little while after that but that’s something else.
STEREOGUM: How old were the students, on average?
RR: The kids in the camp were about 5 to 15, all in one group. Average was probably 7 to 12. Lots of yelling. Lots of dodge ball. The private lessons were all ages and ended up being usually about half adults. They were a little bit heavier and a little less flexible so those ended up being the more challenging hours.
STEREOGUM: How long have you been surfing?
RR: I was in the ocean young. I was surfing competitively up and down the coast from maybe 11 through 17.
STEREOGUM: Ever plan to go pro?
RR: Sponsors, photo shoots, etc … I had kind of a little freak out about taking that part of my life in that direction and ended up moving to the Virgin Islands for a little while in a bit of a panic. Came back a few months later and didn’t talk to any of my sponsors and didn’t do another contest. It was a close call. I can still pick up surf magazines in Borders or 7-11 or whatever and pull the old man trick of “I used to beat that kid all the time. He ain’t shit.” No one listens.
STEREOGUM: If we listen closely to a Castanets record will we discover any surfing references/references to these experiences?
RR: Doubtful. Maybe a little, little bit on this next one, but there are parts of your life and then there are other parts of your life I guess. I don’t think the songs would serve it very well. There’s little in it to work out. It’s perfected itself.
STEREOGUM: Jana Hunter mentioned to me that sometime when you play, you stand on one leg. Is that surf related?
RR: Ha. I hadn’t thought of that. Maybe a balance thing. A need to be re-centered. You can only play so many shows on two legs before you start to feel that there could be something else out there for you.
STEREOGUM: Do you enjoy surf rock?
STEREOGUM: I’ve heard you love the show LOST. Are you drawn to the show’s proximity to water?
RR: Haha. Probably a water thing there yeah. I get super wistful with the beach scenes to the point of occasionally missing dialogue.
STEREOGUM: When did you stop the surf instructing?
RR: Kind of tapered off when I moved down to Ocean Beach.
STEREOGUM: Did you work anywhere afterwards?
RR: I worked at a coffee shop for a bit before leaving San Diego entirely, and then a record store/cafe here in Brooklyn.
STEREOGUM: Where in Brooklyn?
RR: Sound Fix on Bedford. Regular record store stuff. Getting bummed out on independent music. Talking people out of buying things. Worked there for a year and a half or so but it was getting to be kind of a chore for everyone to re-do schedules after every tour. Asi es la vida transeúnte.
I am without money entirely now and will take anything any of your readers can offer me.
STEREOGUM: Now that you’re a New Yorker, when summer hits do you get surf nostalgic? Ever try to surf the East River?
RR: I’ve been able to surf Nassau county out here a couple times. Beaches up there. I still kind of worry about spoiling spots so I’ll just say it was terrible every time. Don’t go.
First Light’s Freeze is available on Asthmatic Kitty.
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