"Create with Your Heart" : An Interview with Surf Curse (Part Two)

December 30, 2017

At the end of October I had the incredible opportunity to see Surf Curse perform live at the 89th Street Collective in Oklahoma City. Their stage banter was just as hilarious as their songs were full of energy and emotion. At the end of their set I was left wanting them to play for at least another hour and with the hopeful feeling of seeing them again someday.

Before their set I spoke with the incredibly kind Nick Rattigan and Jacob Rubeck of Surf Curse about the role of music in their lives, their favorite and least favorite parts of playing live shows, and  advice for picking up an instrument. Read on below for Part Two (and look four articles back for Part One)!

Dissolving Film: Was there a particular moment in your lives that inspired you to start playing music?

Jacob: I listened to Lincoln Park's

(Nick laughs)

Jacob: Hybrid Theory and there's a song on there that has Spanish guitar and I was like, "I want to play guitar!" and then my parents bought me a guitar at Walmart and then I never picked it up again. And then I was also obsessed with Kanye West when I was in elementary school 'cause that was when College Dropout came out and I was like, "I want to be a producer and I want to DJ and stuff" so I begged my parents for turntables. It wasn't until I got asked to be in a band with, actually Nick through this other guy.

Nick: In like middle school or high school.

Jacob: Yeah at the end of middle school like the summer before high school--my friend pretty much forced me to play bass so I picked up bass guitar and I just tried learning it.

Nick: And then you got kicked out at my birthday party.

Jacob: Yeah.

Nick: This guy

Jacob: I got kicked out at the football game.

Nick: Oh the football game that's right. And thenoof that was a rough one.

Jacob: Yeah.

Nick: What happened at my birthday party? I feel like something else happened at my birthday party.

Jacob: This guy that we were friends with was just like a bully and then he was also like our best friend. It was likeme and Nick weren't best friends like we were best friends with this same guy

Nick: this crazy guy

Jacob: this guy who was such a shithead to us. The stuff at the birthday party was just likehe was mean to everybody and like it was Nick's birthday and he was just like one by one picking off all of the people that were really close to Nick and eventually all of us were downstairs watching a movie and he's like, "Hey, Nick, do you want to go upstairs and watch Moulin Rouge?"

Nick: Oh yeah.

Jacob: And then we all were just hanging out like all of the people who have always been close to him and then like this guy who's literally just been picking on every single one of us went up stairs and you guys watched Moulin Rouge.

Nick: Yeah he's a crazy person.

Jacob: It was nuts.

Nick: I started playing music when I was like five years old 'cause my mom always has this thing she tells me how when she was pregnant with me sheor when she was pregnant with my brother she played a lot of Mario and he's like really into video games and like magic cards and all that kind of nerdy stuff and then when she was pregnant with me she would listen to The Beatles all the time. Growing up my mom just constantly played me The Beatles like going to sleep or likeI had like little kids tapes that were like kids renditions of The Beatles so like

Jacob: Oh my god.

Nick: I was just likeever since I was like one years old I was always just hearing music. Then when I was five I started playing my dad's old acoustic guitar all the time--I would be like, "Can I get it out of the closet and play it?" and he's like, "Yeah, sure" and I would literally just like hit it for hours. I just always enjoyed playing music and then I wanted to get guitar lessons and my parents to buy me a guitar but then they got my brother a guitar for his birthday when I was like five so I was like, "Screw that. I'm gonna play drums" and so I just asked for a drum set every year for Christmas and then finally when I was like eight years old I got a drum set and started taking drum lessons. Then, I got really into The Who and would just watch Keith Moon stuff all the time and was obsessed with Keith Moon and like everything about The Who and that's when I knew that I just wanted to playI just wanted to be Keith Moon and do that and then it just sort of progressed into writing songs and doing all of those sorts of things. As early as I remember music has always been a part of my life.

Dissolving Film: What do you like best about live shows? What do you like least?

Jacob: For me it's about being in an environment where likeI've been thinking a lot about it on the road but like being in an environment that has a scene or just like this feeling that like everyone's here for like a really good, positive reason and to like enjoy a show and have an experience and to like have a fun, good night and hoping that this show will effect someone in a really great way, you know, having a night to remember. I love coming to places where it's likewe always play all ages, we're trying to do our best to play all ages, and like seeing what they do and who's a part of it and like why this means so much, you know, just seeing all of these kids who are enjoying it for the right reasons and I think that that's something that I feel so good about. And then especially on this trip the people we are on tour with, which is Jackson Katz and Reed Kanter, it's just all close friendsit's just not like, never really a bad day or like never really getting angry with someone

Nick: It's been so much laughing.

Jacob: It's just a lot of laughing and just a lot of like not getting tired of

Nick: Each other.

Jacob: Yeah. There's times on a lot of tours where you just want to zone out, you put on some headphones. This time we've just been talking and hanging out. We're all into the same stuff so if someone wants to put on something in the car or everyone's talking that's the mutual group thing. So it's cool doing that.

Nick: My favoriteI mean everything about like a live performance is just like being able to connect with someone and I think that just goes back to like archaic performancelike in anything, in like art or music or dance, it's like literally to be able to connect that music or that feeling to someone else who's listening to it, you know, whether someone's dancing to it or just feeling it or like experiencing it. That obviously has been dumbed down or like recreated in a modern sense in a lot of ways of going to a show and paying for it and like paying for this experience that you're supposed to get but I think a lot of times you can cheat that and like actually get a connection with people and I think that's the best part of a live show is if you can reach that connection kinda like put yourself out of the realm of whatever you're going through in your life or like whatever is happening in your own head or if you're in your own head you can get out of it for a second and just be in that thing that is the reason why we're living which is just like this energy or whatever you want to call it. I think that a live show can bring that out of someone and of myself playing one or going to a show and there's that connectivity that just like creates such a beautiful moment for whoever's playing the music or doing a dance or showing thewhatever medium it is. If there's a way to connect and just forget about all the bullshit in the world then that's like the best moment. But the worst time I'm playing a show is when there's not that connection and you're trying so hard to have that connection with the crowd or like with whoever and there's just notyou can't do it, you can't reach it. It feels worse thanthan not doing the show. I don't know it just like such a bad feeling but if you can reach that ultimate connection, that sort of cathartic state with someone than that's like definitely the best part about playing a show.

Jacob: Yeah. Even if no one's thereif there's like one person who you can just tell is having one of the best nights that's what makes it worth it.

Nick: Yeah.

Jacob: I'm not gonna name where we played

(Nick laughs)

Jacob: but we somewhere on this tour and it just felt cold. Afterwards it was just likewe were done playing and you just felt this coldness and even Jackson was like, "Oh my god"

Nick: "This is what"

Jacob: Yeah, "This is what this feels like?" And it's like, "Yeah dude." It's a rare moment whenit's really this eerie, gross feeling but then afterwards when this kid comes up to Jackson and is like, "That was really great!" and wanted me to sign his record and that's like whatthat feeling stopped right there--it was kinda like okay we reached this person and like I can tell and now I feel better about things. I've experienced shows where we lived in Reno where it was like seven people were in the room and all seven people in the room were moved by this one band.

Nick: Yeah.

Jacob: It's just these special moments when it doesn't matter

Nick: How many people come.

Jacob: Just as long as someone's getting something out of it.

Nick: I mean it's likeit's like trying to have a conversation with someone if like music is an emotional language or something and if you're not speaking the same language, then you're not going to be able to have the conversation with somebody and that's frustrating. If everyone can be on thelike speak that emotional language or like feel what someone's trying to portray, then that's like the reason why we do anything we do.

Jacob: Yeah.

(Nick laughs)

Dissolving Film: If you could give any piece of advice to someone who is interested in picking up an instrument for the first time what would it be?

Jacob: UmI mean not even just an instr—just creating in general just do it with your heart. Just do it for the fulfillment of that you're getting this piece of you out there. I think creating is something that's such a huge part of having a soul and being emotional and really feeling and understanding yourself and the world. Don't ever do it for the wrong intentions 'cause if you do it's not gonna be as fulfilling but if you really put your heart on the line, and you practice, and you study, and you experience things, you will start feeling so much that you won't even recognize how you used to feel (laughs). Creating's a really great thing.

Nick: Yeah, I think I'm happy that I picked up an instrument when I was younger because I almost approached it with very little thought and no end goal, no like anything. Almost if you're picking up an instrument for the first time approach it with a sense of childlike wonder like a sense of innocence. I mean obviously there's a lot of technical things like with learning, you practice hard, you practice everyday, and like don't give up on that but just try things that you—you can't approach it the same way you would as like a math problem or something you just have to try things that come from a different part of yourself. Just be completely void of thought almost. Once you learn the technical parts of it, you just kinda have to try out new things.

Jacob: Just push yourself

Nick: —just push yourself

Jacob: to stand out

Nick: But at the same time, don't push yourself (laughs). Push yourself to do it but don't—don't exert the most energy at all. Just find that good energy that you have and put that into the instrument.

Interview by Zoë Bridgwater

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