Surf Curse talk us through their recent TikTok success, the reality of life in LA and much more!
Surf Curse is the indie/surf rock outfit is the brainchild of two friends Nick Rattigan and Jacob Rubeck, who originate from Nevada but now reside in Los Angeles. Since their beginning they’ve released multiple singles and EP’s, as well as three LP’s, however, the band has found a new wave of success due to their 2013 single ‘Freaks’ gained popularity on TikTok. Now, they’re signed to Atlantic records and continue to go viral on the app, bringing a whole new wave of fans. In fact, the single has now been streamed on Spotify alone over 200 million times.
We recently caught up with Nick and Jacob to talk about their recent viral success, life on tour, the reality of life in LA, and much more.
Kieran: Hey guys! Thanks so much for joining us today, how have you been?
Jacob: I’ve been good – it’s been nice being busy with music.
Nick: Yeah, it’s been a hard time, but we’re good!
Kieran: How has life been stateside during this bizarre time?
Nick: One of easily the worst times of my life, but very informative.
Jacob: Yeah it’s been a little miserable but at the same time, you’ve got the people around you – the friends that you love – so that’s very comforting. That makes up happy, just to hang out with the real homies.
Kieran: How have you been staying occupied? Have you picked up any new hobbies?
Jacob: I’ve been watching a lot of really stupid YouTube videos, and I’m pretty addicted to YouTube right now, generally I just watch a lot of videos in my off time. I’ve been getting back into walking lately and eating healthier, and I’m on a no drinking break right now so things are looking up for me.
Nick: Yeah I’ve read a lot of self-help books, I’ve actually really dove into the marvel cinematic universe pretty intensely… I’ve found myself watching a lot of YouTube videos as well but mostly on marvel things – like ‘Spoiler’, if a new a new trailer comes out I will watch the YouTube video explaining everything that happens in the trailer, or recaps on episodes – it’s usually a lot of people with those like POP toys in the background of their room. Meditation, writing a tonne of music, you know, surviving.
Kieran: As someone from the UK when looking at life in California, I feel we do so through a Hollywood haze. What has been your experience of life in California and what’s the reality of it?
Nick: Reality is always bleaker.
Jacob: Yeah, I mean I walk around a lot – I don’t drive here – so I really get to see like what the environment is, after living here for like five years it’s just like, especially the area that I lived in – Silver lake and Echo Park, Filipinotown, even in Hollywood it’s just like a lot of garbage. More recently it’s a lot of people like smoking drugs in the street – it’s just like, it’s not a fun vibe, but the people here, our friends, the people we hang out with, they’re the ones that keep the place alive and feeling alive, otherwise it’s a pretty depressing environment.
Nick: Yeah it’s a dump and there’s some pretty beautiful things about it much like any place, but the first month of the pandemic – I was just thinking about this the other day – the skies were so clear, the clouds looked like Disney Pixar clouds, and it just shows you what the city/area would look like without so much freaking pollution and destruction of its own environment – it’s an interesting place to live.
Kieran: Did this affect your music or your sound do you feel?
Jacob: Not really, as far as for me, it’s kind of like a home is where the heart is situation where it’s like you’re not really inspired by the environment as much as you’re inspired by the people in your life or whatever’s going on, especially time on the road, it’s like you meet new people, or you reunite with old friends, and that becomes the narrative and the heart of everything – as far as for what I do at least.
Nick: I think it definitely does, I think that it does affect the music but I can’t necessarily say how or why, I think we all walk around like SpongeBob in bikini bottom and we’re constantly soaking up everything around us whether we like it or not subconsciously, and then when you go to write music that iceberg flips on its other side and then you shoot it all out and then become the decrepit un-moist SpongeBob – I don’t know if the SpongeBob metaphor is really working – but yeah you just soak up your environment wherever you are, so it has to do something.
“There’s an isolation to Los Angeles that’s different to say New York or other cities where you’re constantly surrounded by people”Nick – Surf Curse
Jacob: I think you’re right about the subconscious thing.
Nick: Like if we lived in Paris we would probably make something that sounded different – I don’t know why or I don’t know how – but your environment and your whole world is subconsciously being structured every second. You are taking in so much information every single second – here we’re taking in a lot of billboards and traffic and sitting in a car so just those little things alone – there’s like an isolation to Los Angeles that’s different to say New York or other cities where you’re constantly surrounded by people – so I think that is has to affect the music in some way.
Kieran: When did you form Surf Curse and what was the initial plan?
Jacob: we started off as a band in high school called Buffalo 66, and then went to college and there was a show happening in Los Angeles at a place called The Smell, which is an all ages music venue. We drove down for the anniversary show and after we experienced that, seeing all the bands that night, we were so inspired that we were like ‘we need to start a band! We need to play at The Smell!’ And that was like the whole intention of wanting to do the music thing again with each other, it was to hopefully eventually play there – which is what we did – and then we just continued making music.
Nick: And so much more!
Kieran: Did you ever see it growing into what it has become today?
Jacob: Not at all!
Nick: No way.
Jacob: When we first started, the intention was just to have fun with music and to hopefully reach that goal of playing at that venue, and who knows? At that point we could have been like ‘well, we did it!’ But it just kept going, it kept becoming like ‘well maybe we should do this? Maybe we should do this next?’. There’s never been an intention of wanting to blow up or make it a huge thing, it was just fun in the moment.
Nick: Yeah I think I can attribute most of the success to not having an intention because I’m sure if we made the band through ulterior motives that we would just get jaded and bummed that things weren’t happening, which was often the case haha, and stop. I always tell bands who are like, you know, people who are starting that you need to really be careful with what your intentions are, because this is a cruel industry, and the less you care about it, usually more the universe rewards that in some way.
Jacob: Yeah it’s really like you gotta believe in yourself, in the work, and not really care about jumping 10 steps ahead. ‘I want to be famous’ – like why? What’s the point? Wouldn’t it be better if you made things that you love and not give a shit? Just be yourself, that’s the truest thing that you could possibly do. Whenever you’re really truly yourself and you share that, people see that specialness and it just organically grows, and even if it doesn’t, you’ve still got yourself and you’ve got your worth and life goes on!
Kieran: Your track ‘Freaks’ came out in 2013 but had a massive resurgence recently thanks to TikTok, how do you feel about this, and what’s your stance on platforms such as TikTok?
Nick: We’re pretty stoked on it – it’s been nice for us. It’s definitely made things a lot more interesting. I love TikTok – I’m not on it I don’t use it – but I am really into just the idea of it, you know, I like the decentralisation of social media and just like how the algorithm is very non-rewarding in a way. I still think it can become severely addictive, like anything, but it does have like a more humanistic intention to it – it is like a very… it feels like a humanistic way of using the Internet that’s different from most other social media and is an interesting way of connecting people on a more sincere level and an educational level, and to just go into other people’s lives in such an interesting way.
Jacob: I’m biased, but I will say that the algorithm is getting a little screwed up with stuff like that. The thing that I like about TikTok is that anyone’s point of view – you can really watch the world – you’re seeing people post in the UK and in Russia and you’re like ‘oh this is what’s trending, this is what’s happening, this is like the humour or the comedy’, and now I’m pretty much seeing a very biased liberal way of thinking, the algorithm is turning into this very left wing thing, which isn’t the worst thing, but it isn’t the reason why I like experiencing it because I like experiencing what is actually happening in this country and all over as far as what’s going on.
Nick: That is the very toxic thing about it – the self-algorithmic nature of it how it like adjusts to you. I think it would probably be healthier if more people did not isolate their worlds much but that just happens.
Jacob: It’s a lack of communication.
Nick: And comfort.
Jacob: As far as me, an American, experiencing TikTok and seeing what I see now it just takes away that communication that’s dividing your country in the first place, and now it’s doing it with the app again, another app or another internet way of communicating with each other and getting different perspectives.
Nick: But we’re stoked that it blew our song up! Despite the political motives of TikTok…
Jacob: I couldn’t sleep last night and I was looking at the surf curse TikTok and it’s all ‘Freaks’ stuff, and just seeing how it’s taken over the world – a lot of them were from out of the country, kids from Mexico, kids from Russia, kids in the middle of the freaking country – it’s really just speaking to a lot of people and it’s a really special thing to watch.
Listen to ‘Freaks’ here:
Kieran: Now that live music is making a return across the globe do you have any plans to hit the road and go on tour?
Nick: I am going on tour with my band, Current Joys, next year. We don’t have any Surf Curse plans yet… but we are recording, we are playing two shows in LA and New York next week, but yeah no plans as of yet – we are in writing and recording mode.
Kieran: What are you most looking forward to about playing live shows again?
Jacob: It feels good to be with the band and the people were with on stage – it’s nice to be with Nick and it’s nice to be with our new members Noah Kohll and Henry Dillon. All of us playing together, looking at each other on the stage, it feels good and connected and the fact that we can be able to connect through music and play in front of a crowd and they’re vibing with it. It’s such an exciting and alive feeling that we’re all gonna be in the same room together just feeding off of each other, whether we’re connected intimately with our friends or playing in a band with the fans and strangers in the crowd.
Nick: Yeah, I think we as a band and the people who we play with are all very intimate with each other and especially over the last year we’ve gotten so intimate with each other and playing is like a very immersive experience for all of us, and that’s just playing by ourselves, so it’ll be interesting to see how that energy changes. If you put a crowd in front of anything and it definitely sends a lot more energy into the room so it’s exciting just to see what that experience will be like sharing it with other people.
Kieran: What are the five essentials you take with you on tour?
Nick: That’s a good question. A book, headphones for the car (because whoever has the aux is not necessarily what you’ll want to be listening to), I might start taking my Nintendo Switch which I think will be crucial, my sleeping bag because I like to sleep on the floor – there’s something comforting about it on tour.
Jacob: My tote bag, my phone charger, I usually buy a book on the road because I do that anyway and then I’ll have like three books that I’ll never read that whole tour, sunglasses – I always buy a few pairs of sunglasses and phone chargers cos one gets lost every single time, and my headphones. That’s really it! You kind of learn on the road what you actually need to bring – I’m going to start bringing my iPad actually because I wanna watch some movies on the road.
Nick: A head lamp! A head lamp that you put on your head is very useful for packing or finding things in the van, merch, all that stuff – a head lamp is crucial.
Kieran: Lastly, we like to end with a story can you tell us something funny that has happened to you recently?
Nick: Nothing really funny happens in our lives, it’s all miserable!
Jacob: Oh this is funny, I’m not sure if it’s gonna translate well on paper but we were leaving band practice, and Henry who plays bass in Surf Curse, we were leaving the parking lot and our guitarist Noah was talking to a guy that he knows but I’ve never seen before, so whilst we were passing by, Henry goes ‘see ya Noah!’ And then he points at the guy next to me and goes ‘and I’ll be seeing you later!’ And then we drive off and I go ‘do you know that guy?’ And he’s like ‘no.’ Hahaha, it was pretty chaotic.
Nick: Yeah Henry does all sorts of crazy things.
Jacob: Yeah he’s kind of like the beautiful maniac who does things spur of the moment, he brings things to life at least. Otherwise, life’s not that funny right now – it’s sweet and it’s tender, but I’m not cracking up at the race horses.
Nick: Yeah definitely small moments of peace and serenity, but I can’t think of anything huge.