Jax-native and garage rocker wants to make Florida Winterland again.
“Know Your Rights” is a semi-regular column featuring profiles of and conversations with local surfers whose love for the ocean fuels their passions, in turn inspiring a deeper connection to the Northeast Florida community and making the RIGHT coast the BEST coast on which to live.
It looks as though 2018 will be a big year for Glenn Van Dyke and her band, Boytoy. The grunge-y, fuzzed-out, garage rock trio (sometimes quartet) put the finishing touches on their first full-length release since the band’s 2014 self-titled debut. Due out this spring, the new record was recorded in Topanga Canyon, where Jacksonville-native Van Dyke (guitars, vox) and fellow founding member Saara Untracht-Oakner (guitars, vox), along with new drummer Chase Noelle (formerly of Thelma and Sleaze) and La Luz’s Lena Simon (bass) enlisted noted psych-rock sage Kyle Mullarky to capture the noise.
Adding to the band’s momentum, after a raucously successful tour of Europe, Boytoy shared a stage with a relative who’s who of garage rock at Southern California’s Growlers 6 festival (formerly Beach Goth), and were also given glowing reviews by a smattering of noteworthy publications, including hipper-than-though surf/skate/art/music mag, “What Youth.”
As Boytoy’s distinctive soundscape of distorted guitars and melancholic harmonies seem drawn from the grit and urbanity of the band’s longtime home base of Brooklyn, it’s noteworthy that the band’s members are set to embark on this new era while each living in different cities.
Untracht-Oakner resides in Brooklyn. Noelle and Simon live in Nashville and Los Angeles, respectively. Meanwhile, Van Dyke — a graduate of the Episcopal School of Jacksonville — recently purchased a house in the resurgent Springfield neighborhood. High rent prices certainly hastened Van Dyke’s NYC-exodus. But more importantly, a long-held desire to create something distinctive in her hometown eventually wrested Van Dyke from Brooklyn and deposited her back in Northeast Florida (a lifelong surfer, it’s also quite likely she missed the region’s warm water and proximity to quality surf).
With January’s Winterland Festival, Van Dyke will try out the role of Northeast Florida impresario when she hosts a remarkable lineup of touring and local bands — including Jacuzzi Boys, Gringo Star, Plastic Pinks, The Young Step, seminal Tampa garage band The Tropics, as well as Van Dyke’s own bands — for a first-of-its-kind, two-day garage rock festival at downtown Jax DIY art venue, The Space Gallery.
We recently caught up with Van Dyke and asked about her musical influences, the formation of Boytoy, and what this Winterland thing is all about.
How’d your experience growing up in Jacksonville influence the kind of music you were into?
I grew up in Ortega Forest, on the west side of Roosevelt over the railroad tracks. I don’t know how aware everyone is of this, but Florida has quite the reputation when it comes to musical taste. And it’s all true [laughs]. A lot of bands that get hated on now were definitely the bedrock of live entertainment growing up here. Jacksonville has always had its own scene. I think Yellowcard released “Midget Tossing” when I was in fourth or fifth grade. I remember ripping that album off Napster with my two best friends in the neighborhood. Yellowcard was thrash-y back then. We’d put it on full blast then go skate the parking lot of Stockton Elementary.
Then there was Inspection 12. They were the coolest and got gigs at The Yacht Club and birthday parties and then went on to do their annual Christmas show. There was Whaleface, who kept the punk rock alive, and The Black Kids came around with the indie scene. We had Pepper and Slightly Stoopid through here a few times. Pepper is probably the most-hated band in Hawaii. I saw them three times here in high school [laughs]. I also saw AFI and The Distillers at Jack Rabbits, Billy Idol at the Florida Theatre and attended multiple Warped Tours dressed in all black while it was 95 degrees. Jessica Simpson did a mini festival here one summer and had O-Town with her — I was totally there [laughs].
I’ve always listened to everything, which was a struggle in middle school. Everyone identified so hard with their musical tastes and I floated everywhere. I love Mike Jones and Paul Wall, Black Flag, The Minutemen, Sebadoh, The Spice Girls, CCR, The Grateful Dead, Richard Hell, Santana. I mean, I can bore you with a long list, but I think essentially the takeaway from growing up in Florida means you learn how to appreciate a little bit of everything.
When and where did you start surfing?
I started surfing in about third grade. My brother had this old surfboard from Sebastian Inlet that I learned on and my dad would push me into waves. It was a super ‘80s 5’7” thruster with almost no rocker at all. My friend Tucker and I were neighborhood surf buddies and his dad would take us mostly to The Poles but sometimes to 18th Street or The Pier. Then later, my parents started going to Serenata Beach Club in St. Augustine. So when I got older, I mostly would go out there. Blue Sky Surf shop was my unofficial grom-sponsor. They’d give me rash guards and make fun of me for wearing sun goggles. Until I was like 14 I wore UV goggles when I surfed. Sunglasses of the sea. I might start doing that again.
What took you to New York City?
I got into NYU. They have a program there that I was so beyond stoked about. It was an all-immersive audio engineering and music business program that basically threw you in front of a ton of really nice gear and said “have fun.” I took a studio class from Nick Sansano, who to me was the ultimate guru. He recorded Sonic Youth’s “Daydream Nation” and “Goo” and also did a lot of the Public Enemy, Run DMC and Rob Base stuff. I took a music law class from Lauren Davis whose dad signed Janis Joplin. Ultimately though, I realized all these people got to be where they are by doing it and I got real antsy spending time in the classroom.
How did Boytoy come about? How long you been together now? Highlights?
Boytoy started when my college band broke up and Saara decided to move to New York from Boston. She played in a band from there, and I had met her bass player at SXSW one year. He did video stuff for Converse who was sponsoring my old band at the time. We ended up touring together, and when she moved to NY we got drunk one night after seeing Micachu and The Shapes. We went into my old practice space and started jamming. It’s been about 5 years now. We just recently had Chase Noelle join us on the drums. She used to play in a band called Thelma and The Sleaze from Nashville. We’ve toured Europe twice together, toured and surfed Puerto Rico and California. We’ve driven across the country a few times now and still manage to get into some trouble. We like to find nature in new places. On the last U.S. tour, we got to snowboard in Utah because they used one of our songs for a video edit. That was pretty epic. We’ve been very blessed and I feel lucky to get to do what we do.
Did surfing remain a part of your life when you were in NYC?
It was always a part of my life, but I didn’t surf in New York until probably 5 years ago. I hadn’t met anyone else who actually surfed and I kept all my boards in Florida. Also the water got too cold, too fast [laughs]. I’ve got that Florida blood. I would just fly down to Puerto Rico for a week or two in the winter. When Saara and I met, she had a car and was like, “Dude, it’s pumping.” Then I started going to Rockaway all the time. I finally bought a 4/3, which was solid until December. I’ve been toying with pulling the trigger on a 5/4/3 with hood and gloves because I like to be prepared, but it’s hard to find the motivation since I’ve just moved back here. I might just use that money to a get a fat lil’ twin fin to do the surfing on these Florida waves.
When did you start to feel Northeast Florida pulling you back?
Every time I came down here it got harder and harder to leave. I love the vegetation and the humidity. Palm trees and Spanish moss and Live Oaks and lizards. I was craving the green and I saw a little scene starting to happen that I really wanted to be a part of it.
What factors made moving to Jax an ideal scenario for you? What do you hope you can do here that you may not have been able to do there?
Being close to the beach, and able to afford a whole house with space to put in a studio is probably the most ideal situation I can think of. It’s so nice being down here and having the time, energy and space to create. There is room here for the music scene to grow and there are some really deep rock and roll roots in Jacksonville.
How does surfing, or surf culture, inform your approach to creating music?
I think the fluidity of surfing carries over into art. Whatever the form, it’s pretty easy to spot a surfer. Music is visceral and evokes emotion on a subconscious level. You don’t have to think about it to feel it. It’s like a vibration from another realm. For me, the best songs always come from letting the music take you, not trying to force it or inform it too much — letting it fall out and then cleaning it up later. It’s kind of like, “Hey, you don’t have to fit all of your moves onto one wave. Just let it take you and then catch another.”
Surf music/culture played an outsized role in the early to mid ’60s in bringing rock ‘n’ roll to mass audiences. What is it about surfing that mixes well with rock ‘n’ roll?
Sex [laughs]! It was sex, but in a safe, easy-to-swallow pill for an era coming out of the ‘50s. Surfing is sexy and so is music, and they both are heavily romanticized. They both come from the underground, and when you’re cut from the same cloth, you gotta stick together and look out for each other. There are also a lot of other branding and business factors that I think it could be analyzed into a whole thesis, but that language isn’t as pretty.
Tell us about Winterland. What inspired the idea? What goals do you have for the venture?
Winterland has been on the horizon for probably 7 years. I’ve thought about it in several iterations, and I’m so happy to see it finally happening. Florida, before and during World War II, was an epicenter for the entertainment industry. Jacksonville specifically had more movie studios than Los Angeles and it was an arms race of sorts for what state would end up with the industry. They called Florida “Winterland.” There is a lot of really rich culture born from Florida, and I want to see more of that side of it. From design and architecture to rock’n’roll to screen printing, there is a ton of history here, and I hope to shed some light on it by curating events and bringing together some old with the new. Hopefully we’ll be able to make it an annual thing with a few other shin-digs popping up within the year.