Interview & Photos by: Orchee Sorker | June 6, 2022
Originally from Seattle, Los Angeles based Surf Mesa sits down with Hazze Media to chat about the origin of his stage name, collaboration with Nitti Gritti on "Marching Band", success on "ily baby", and how TikTok is changing the aspects of the musical process.
Why did you choose your stage name Surf Mesa?
S: “Surf Mesa” comes from the video game Counter-Strike: Global Offensive. In high school, I would play it all the time. Surf Mesa is a map in Counter-Strike that you can play on. I didn't have a stage name before. I would just release music on SoundCloud as Powell Aguirre, which is my name. It was interesting. Back then, I thought of having a stage name because I didn't want my friends in high school to think I was taking it seriously because it's like you can get a little insecure when you're releasing music. It's kind of a statement when you're saying, “Oh, go stream” when you have like 300 followers who are just like your hometown friends. “Surf Mesa” was kind of like still a gimmick while also pursuing it. It definitely grew on me, and now I like how it keeps a foundation of where I came from..like from the gaming world. I think it's here to stay.
Your latest single “Marching Band” with Nitti Gritti. I love the soft trumpet in it. What was the creative process behind that song and really any of your other songs? Do you usually begin with the rhythm and then work on the lyrics?
S: So, the writing process gets formed in all ways. My friends from Loud Luxury (Joe and Andrew) say it all the time about how it's like a Frankenstein process. You can have a beat first or vocal first. You can form a song around that thing.
Traditionally, if I'm the studio, I have a lot of chord progressions that I saved, like mini packs. I just kind of get like a good group. I'm thankful enough to be in the room with really talented writers who have written some of the best dance songs. That's like something I don't take for granted.
When it came to “Marching Band”, this writer, Lowell, sent me this crazy horn sample. Then, it had a vocal around it saying, “your love is like a marching band”. I just started to produce this chorus around it and then. They wanted it to be a DJ collab. I made a version with Medicine. I made a version with Jaws, and then I made a version with Integrity. So, Nitti and I have been DM-ing for a little bit. He was in town from Miami to LA, and then we got in the studio and that was one of the first ideas that I opened up. We made something of it. He and I are very proud of how it's been digested…the live reaction and what it sounds like today.
Congrats on all the success on “ily”! How do you think TikTok is changing the industry? Were there any things you did to push that song out on the platform?
S: Yeah, definitely. TikTok really changes the direction of music. Obviously, there's so many songs released every week. The objective of these songs usually involves an audio piece of this track that you can create like a video too…like a transitional moment, or some sort of gimmick that can go along with a piece of content. It definitely changes the climate too. I mean if you listen to a lot of songs nowadays, you can tell. Remember, Drake's Tootsie Slide where it's literally a dance as the chorus. I believe that if Tik TOK wasn't around, there'd be less gimmicky noises and moments in songs. It's really interesting to kind of see how that takes over.
I think the attention span is just so short nowadays with people just scrolling, scrolling, scrolling. Then, your goal is to keep the audio on a video to enjoy whatever song is playing in the background. That definitely gets affected when it comes to writing the song in the studio. People just want that moment and they want that to stick.