A&E Review

Hidden Gems: West 22nd 

“West 22nd” Album cover courtesy of Genius

There’s a distinct sound and style when it comes to surf rock. Now I’m a self-proclaimed R&B, rap and soul guru, but I feel confident enough to say I’ve identified what it takes to be a successful surf rock band even if I’ve only been listening to the genre for a short period.

You need to sound grungy enough that people will think you record out of your garage, but smooth enough that it still sounds professionally done. The lyrics need to be about getting into trouble, exchanging smiles with pretty, tan girls and skipping all of life’s responsibilities for a good day at the beach.

San Diego’s Sunroom has mastered this combination of cliche lyrics and fuzzy-sounding production so they don’t give off the impression they’re trying too hard. Melbourne, Australia’s rock band, The Grogans, is another group that paved the way for other bands to take on this musical approach that embodies what it means to be a reckless, carefree teenager by the beach.

The bands finding the most success in this niche realm of music are not surprisingly from the areas they usually sing about — coastal cities with nothing better to do but surf and bum around. However, in the summer of 2023, a new surf rock group emerged, and they weren’t performing their songs with their toes in the sand.

West 22nd, hailing from Austin, Texas, is surf rock’s newest band made up of five college students from the University of Texas (UT). The five-man squad resides on 22nd St. on the West Campus of UT — hence the name West 22nd. Gigs at local bars and fraternity events have propelled them from a dorm band to an established group with 64,000 monthly listeners on Spotify.

Their top two songs, each of which has an incredible mix of rock tones and indie instrumentals, both remain under the million-streams mark. “Sunburns” and “Sunny Jones” incorporate witty lyrics and a plethora of instruments, which is all the more impressive when you consider they are inserting themselves into a genre known for its simplicity. 

West 22nd hasn’t left their home state of Texas, are still covering songs like Tyler Childers’ “Charleston Girl” and have homework due by 11:59 p.m. just like the rest of us — ladies and gentlemen they are the quintessential example of a hidden gem.

The original trio of Logan Madsen, Gabe Acevedo and Jeremy Ancheta are the men who drew up West 22nd. While they have no intention of being considered underground for much longer, they’re still full-time students and shows at frat parties and school events continue to be what’s most accessible to the growing band.

Come graduation in the spring of 2025 for the rising seniors, I’d expect to see West 22nd spread their wings and expand out of Texas. Their newest duo of singles they released in early March of this year proved the band isn’t going to let assignments and college life handcuff them. “Sleeping Alone” and “Let Down” were a masterful rebound for West 22nd after they dropped their successful 2023 EP at the backend of summer. 

Between their recent singles and their EP “All The Way Home,” any listener can hear the potential West 22nd has. The sample size is small, but the sky’s the limit for this Texas-based band.

They are an American-sounding version of The Backseat Lovers and a far more laid-back Cage The Elephant, so don’t think West 22nd is just going to blend in with the rest. Their personal style has been established, and it’s what will continue to set the group apart. In just a few songs I already appreciate their lyricism more than what Sunroom has had to offer, and they’ve impressed me with their ability to mesh four instruments together when they are likely making these songs in the living room of one of the guys’ dorms.

This may sound bizarre, but I think entering the surf rock genre and not being in an area where people surf has done West 22nd very well. They aren’t the first group of 20-something-year-old guys singing about girls and the sun — and they definitely won’t be the last — but West 22nd’s approach to the genre comes as a first. They don’t sing about superficial things in an even more superficial-sounding way, and it’s because they don’t have a clue about half of what goes into the Southern Californian lifestyle.

As a listener, I feel like everything is done a bit cleaner and more intentional. It may not be the most popular mentality for this genre, but it’s also the reason there are so many grungy, surf bands in Southern California that will be forever stuck performing on a street corner in Ocean Beach for some tourist’s pocket change. You can tell West 22nd wants to go mainstream with their music, and I think that goal is more than doable in a genre full of underachievers.