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Surf City became one of New Zealand's most buzzed-about bands in the early 2000s with their energetic melange of '60s-style pop melodies, Kiwi indie pop in the manner of the Clean and Tall Dwarfs, ringing surf guitar leads, and noisy indie rock influences such as the Pixies, Pavement, and the Jesus and Mary Chain. In fact, JAMC helped inspire the group's name; founders Josh Kennedy and Davin Stoddard, who met while browsing at a video store, originally named the band the Fibs, but soon changed the moniker to Kill Surf City after a Jesus and Mary Chain B-side. Eager to move away from the monolithic and atonal sounds that were dominating the Kiwi scene at the time, guitarists Kennedy and Stoddard joined forces in 2004 and recruited drummer Logan Collins and bassist Jamie Kennedy (Josh's sibling) to round out the new act.
Using Stoddard's recently purchased four-track machine, Kill Surf City began recording demos while touring around New Zealand. In 2006, after opening several Australian dates on Dinosaur Jr.'s reunion tour, they began compiling a six-song EP from the cream of their home recordings, which was finally released in 2008 by Arch Hill Recordings after negotiations with the fabled Flying Nun label fell through. The self-titled EP was released under the name Surf City when the band discovered a group in the U.K. was already using Kill Surf City, and in homage to Pavement, who they've cited as a key influence, Surf City persuaded artist Steve Keene to create the cover artwork for their EP.
In 2008, Surf City began work on their first full-length album. Titled Kudos, the album was released by Fire Records in November of 2010. After finishing the tour for the album, some big changes hit the group. Josh Kennedy left the band and Stoddard moved to New York City, then back to New Zealand, then to South Korea. These factors meant that sessions for the next album were quite different than in the past and led to their next album, 2013's We Knew It Was Not Going to Be Like This, having a slightly less "live in the studio" feel. By the time of their next album, early 2015's Jekyll Island, the band's lineup had shifted, with Jamie Kennedy joining Stoddard on guitar duties and a new rhythm section of Mike Ellis and Andy Frost.