The last thing they want is to become a generic surf band after growing up in conservative Fountain Valley.
To gain some traction and grow a fan base, they decided to move a city over.
It's taken them four years to find their sound, and with the help of the easygoing vibe found in Huntington Beach, it has helped them receive a nomination from OC Music Awards.
Drummer Peter Fontes, guitarist Daniel Tello, bassist Tim Frankeny and saxophonist Michael Belk make up the Originalites, a ska, reggae and punk fusion band from Fountain Valley that is up for Best Surf.
The Originalites are joined by nearly 90 bands —12 from Huntington Beach and Fountain Valley — who will compete in 25 categories this year. Now it'll be up to the OC Music Awards Academy to decide who gets the prize.
The Originalites were surprised, yet honored to be nominated for their category. But they're not your typical surf band. You won't find Dick Dale riffs with this bunch.
"It felt awesome that we're recognized as a surf band strictly because we sing about surfing and we surf — not because we play Dick Dale guitar," Fontes said.
And they're up against stiff competition.
The Growlers, who won the category last year, have the typical surf-band vibe, but Fontes hopes his band's music will make a good impression on people.
"Whether our songs are good enough or not, what I'm wondering is what other people think and how will they react to our style of music compared to the rest of the surf bands?" he said. "Are they going to choose the more simplistic style?"
And simple is not what the Originalites do.
Fontes keeps a steady, fast-paced beat while sitting behind his "Frankenkit," comprised of various drums from different manufacturers, Tello comes in with the ska guitar licks, Frankeny adds melodic bass lines and Belk spices things up with sultry notes from his sax.
An example can be found on the track "Spinning 'Round" off their debut LP, "The Originalites Vol. 1" with 17th Street Studios.
Each member draws inspiration from different genres of music. For Tello, it's the English Beat and various ska bands as well as guitar greats like Jimi Hendrix and Carlos Santana. But he also finds inspiration from surfers like Kelly Slater.
"To be able to make music at a level where they can maybe use it for their surf videos or clips, it's inspiring to get to that point," Tello said.
Belk has roots in David Sanborn and Kenny G because of their ability to hit high notes with finesse and studies Mars Volta when it comes to vocals, he said.
And the band members as a whole realize that as the times change, so must their musical styles.
"It's not OK to do what you used to do," Frankeny said. "You have to change and become relevant in the world that's here today. When we were in high school, the world was completely different, and we're all adults in this whole new world that we're trying to sell our music in."
A band is usually never the same after undergoing a few lineup changes. You can't take Bradley Nowell out of Sublime, and the Originalites feel the same way.
"There's no four guys anywhere in the world that [are] this tight and one with each other," Fontes said. "No one can take any of us away from the band and still have it be the Originalites. It's either us four or no Originalites."
At times, their music can be more than just selling CDs and playing venues across town. Sometimes it's all about finding their identity, even if it means claiming Huntington Beach as their new home.
Fontes and the band didn't like the looks people from Fountain Valley would give them as they walked around the city. Frankeny's long dreadlocks and Fontes' unique hairstyle — a mohawk and beard combo — certainly draw the attention of passersby.
"No one [cares] about Fountain Valley," Fontes said. "I want them to, but it's so bad there that it's way easier to promote [that we're from] Huntington Beach."
He added that most of the band's activities, whether skating, surfing or performing, are centralized in Huntington Beach.
Because Huntington Beach is a well-known spot for bands and artists to build their music careers, it was a no-brainer for the group to head to the coast.
"There's no music scene in Fountain Valley," Fontes said. "That huge difference right there is why the feeling is almost distressing. We're from Fountain Valley, but our heart and soul is in Huntington Beach."
The Originalites have certainly used that sense of displacement to fuel their music, and it has essentially boosted them to a level where they are now nominated for Best Surf this year.
You can catch the Originalites playing at Gallagher's Irish Pub, where they have claimed residency every Monday. Winners of the OC Music Awards will be announced March 9 at the City National Grove of Anaheim.
In the Running
Other Huntington Beach/Fountain Valley artists nominated for OC Music Awards:
Reel Big Fish
Nominated for Best Album ("Candy Coated Fury") and Best World. Best known for the '90s hit "Sell Out," Reel Big Fish continues to bring the ska flavor to Huntington Beach.
The Dirty Heads
Nominated for Best Album ("Cabin by the Sea"), Best Song ("Dance All Night") Best World and Best Music Video ("Dance All Night"). After exploding onto the scene with their debut album "Any Port in a Storm" in 2010, the Dirty Heads are now a household name in the Orange County ska community.
Nominated for Best Song ("Days Go By"), Best Alternative and Best Punk. The veteran punk band from Huntington Beach still hasn't skipped a beat after being in the scene since the late 80s. And try Dexter Holland's hot sauce; just as good as their music.
Nominated for Best Alternative. If you like U2 but with a more pop-driven sound, then Ceasefire will be a good find.
Gospel Swamp Blues Band
Nominated for Best Blues. They have a James Brown feel and tempo; it's upbeat and catchy.
Nominated for Best Electronic. If you're looking to drop the bass, Flinch can provide that for you. With the ever-growing popularity of dubstep, Flinch is another producer to keep an eye on.
Nominated for Best Electronic. Kalva Won specializes in ambient, beatstrumental tracks that have interesting sample choices.
Nominated for Best Folk and Best Pop. As the indie-fold genre begins to take off, don't be surprised if you hear Honeypie playing on your radio. Reminiscent of Of Monsters and Men, Honeypie's melodies are light and catchy.
Nominated for Best Folk. Matt Costa offers simple folk music with some undertones of the Beatles.
Nominated for Best Hip Hop. Mr2theP is trying to bring the beach life of Huntington Beach into the hip hop scene.
Nominated for Best Metal. If you want aggressive guitar riffs and hard screaming, look no further.
Nominated for Best Youth Artist. These 16-year-old musicians offer catchy pop-rock music that will have you nodding your head in no time.
— Anthony Clark Carpio