Surf Mesa, a 21-year-old LA-based DJ, has released his new single “Losing the mind“—With artist Bipolar Sunshine — June 4. Since its release, the song has gained traction as Surf prepares to perform live shows again. To discuss her recent single and how it is First entering the world of DJing, Surf spoke to the American songwriter.The 2x Billboard Award nominated artist certainly didn’t disappoint, wearing his eagerness on his sleeve.
American Songwriter: Tell me first about your most recent single “Lose My Mind”. Where does inspiration come from?
Surf Mesa: “Lose My Mind” came as a demo written by these British writers, but it was a very deep house demo. It was minor and dark, so I downloaded the files for it and produced it in that more upbeat atmosphere. I also changed the chords. All the inspiration for the song was to be kind of like a summer vacation song, and so I really wanted to be able to play something like that. And for my sets, I’m a DJ for those college kids who bring those good vibes. And so I was really excited about all the energy that came with this track. With the singer in the demo, I just thought Bipolar Sunshine was very good with its EDM features. So I told him I was a fan and I said, “I’m really into your thing, and always have been.” And then it happened.
AS: Some have described your music, and this track in particular, as a breath of fresh air and embodying a surf / beach life. How did you find this sound? And why is that the sound you gravitate towards?
SM: I think what initially inspired me in my life about dance music was the fact that it made me feel so inspired and young. Honestly, I think there is a piece of dance music that I thought kind of got lost because of it. I think a lot of things that people post now (and I don’t want to belittle similar artists) kind of displease me… and part of me misses what it was before. And that includes that as really feel good music. I think dance music on the radio is a bit dark now. I just grew up listening to a lot of House Progressive music and it was the Swedish House Mafia and Alesso and other people that made dance music feel really good, like Galantis. I think to myself, I just really want to capture what I was feeling hearing it at the time. And so with Surf Mesa, I want to bring this youthful energy back to the world of dance. I just wanna spend the rest of my life doing this.
AS: You are a producer and multi-instrumentalist, would you call yourself mostly a DJ?
SM: DJ, but I also play piano and guitar. These are my two main instruments.
AS: How much of your music do you do on these instruments? Are most of them electronic?
SM: Yeah, I just programmed my instruments in my software. And then a part is recorded, like in the second chorus of “Lose My Mind” just before the drop, there is this electric guitar that we can kind of hear. I think I can use my instrumental ability to brainstorm. And it’s also cool if you have the skills to play a piano. And when you hit a writer’s block a bit, you can just start playing the song on the piano, and then you can naturally hit some notes that can sound cool.
AS: Gotcha. Are you working to develop yourself as a musician and a DJ simultaneously?
SM: Yeah, I think for the musician part, it’s still going to be about practicing the music and just going into those studio sessions and writing it. But the DJ part, this version is for fun. It’s just when I’m bored or when I’m training for a set.
AS: When did you start producing all this music?
SM: Yes, I started producing when I was about 11 years old. I come from a very musical family; my dad has always been in a jazz band and plays the saxophone. My mother plays the violin. I also have older siblings, and they were always showing me new music. And then one of my brothers who was very interested in computers showed me this software called FL Studio, and that’s how people made music. It was so cool to learn, and it marked me. And then I started making little electronic beats, and it wasn’t until high school that I took it more seriously. That’s when I really dove in and had fun with it.
AS: Did you post your stuff on SoundCloud at the start?
SM: It was all SoundCloud. At first I Skype my other friend in sixth grade and we would have this one hour challenge to do a song and then email it to us. I still have these emails. It’s really cool to go back and hear these songs. But like in high school, that’s when I really started to take it seriously. Then I was based in Seattle and moved to LA to try and make it work. And now I’ve been living here for about two and a half years.
AS: Before COVID, I guess you played a lot of live shows? Do you have any upcoming shows?
SM: Yeah, some early gigs in New York and LA It’s like a real mini tour. And then next to these shows, in September, there is the Life is Beautiful festival in Las Vegas. I look forward to this little tour.
You can buy tickets to see Surf Mesa live, here.