File under “mellifluous.” That’s how Los Angeles’ Powell Aguirre likes to think of the music he makes as Surf Mesa. It’s electronic, but full of organic texture. It’s rooted in dance, but sounds best by the light of the full moon. It’s sweet, but also thoughtful. In other words, as Surf puts it, “music for good feels.” That phrase certainly sums up his biggest hit to date, “ily (i love you baby)” featuring Emilee, a tropically tinged bop that was born on TikTok, but quickly conquered listening platforms around the world, amassing over820million combined streams to date, topping U.S. and Global Viral Charts, and debuting on Top 40 radio. Early press has included Rolling Stone, Billboard, HITS, Idolator, Soundazed and Fresh Music Freaks.
Though he’s only 20, Surf has logged an impressive number of hours honing his craft. He grew up in Sammamish, Washington, outside Seattle, where an older brother hooked him up with FL Studio –when Surf was in third grade. The summer after his senior year,Surf broke his leg and was bedridden for months. Unexpectedly, that time stuck at home paid off in the form of an EP, titled bedroom, of course. When the cast came off, he wasted no time moving in with musician friends in Los Angeles.
Then one night scrolling TikTok, he came across Batesville, Arkansas’ Emilee Flood playing an acoustic cover of Frankie Valli’s 1967 hit “Can’t Take My Eyes Off You.” Captivated by her honeyed voice, Surf dropped the audio into his DAW and, within hours, had posted his remixon SoundCloud. Soon, label reps were blowing up his phone. He signed with Astralwerks.
There’s no shortage of collaborations in the works, beginning with Surf’s remix of Marshmello and Halsey’s “Be Kind” and his new single, “Somewhere” ft. Gus Dapperton. While the electronic landscape evolves at a dizzying speed, Surf knows what he wants from his own music. He calls it “electronic alternative”–a style that balances digital textures with piano, guitar, and even acoustic drums, and focuses on songwriting as much as sick beats. It’s catchy. It’s chill. It’s mellifluous.
We chatted with Surf Mesa about his music and future in the music industry and much more.
To start off with I’m curious about how you came up with your name Surf Mesa because it’s like the coolest name- one of the coolest names I’ve heard.
Thank you. Yeah well okay. So, Surf Mesa came from a map of a video game called Counter-Strike and I used to play that a lot through high school. Wow, I think I racked up about like 6000 hours in it. Like it is a Steam game and you can like see how many hours you have in it. And that’s where it said like yeah you have 6000 hours. So, I don’t know I guess it’s like a tribute to that game. But within Counter-Strike there’s a there’s a community-made map called “Surf Mesa” and kind of just like adopted it. And like every now and then I’ll get DM’s from people like asking if it’s from that map. But then like I always take my time to like respond to them and say like, “Yeah it is.” Yeah, it’s from that because it’s like they they’re part of that community too and it’s always cool to say.
That is cool. Your song obviously “ily (I love you Baby)” which I mean it’s a version of a classic song. What kind of inspired you to like do your cover because it’s different from a lot of other people’s covers where a lot of other people’s covers are still like that rock soundwhere your version is more mellow and road trip sounding.
Well it definitely started when I mean I first found this artist named Emily on TikTok and she is also Seattle based. And she had a cover of herself just like in her bedroom singing can’t take my eyes off you by Frankie Valley. And that’s when like everyone else on the 4u page I was just like scrolling and found her cover. And I mean I was just amazed because she’s a great singer and like her take on it was really cool but. A buddy of mine Ethan he actually made like this flip of a Claro song where Claro was like another really talented artist. All of her stuff’s like super chill bedroom indie pop stuff. Ethan so we then took this like Claro song and made like a more uppy electronic vibe to it and so that was like the reference track making this IOY song. So, hearing her TikTok like that’s what I thought of. And so, I was in the Starbucks parking lot and like found her TikTok and then I went home and just like downloaded the audio um put it in my software and like I made these cool vocal chops and then sped it up a little bit time for vocals. And then like yeah it just kind of all flowed together and I didn’t even intend for it to be its own song. I just wanted to like remix it and put it again on TikTok. But yeah, we made a release out of it and it’s just been insane I’m super excited with how everyone’s been digesting it.
Wow that is actually insane. Yeah TikTok must be like kind of a weird new way to like make music in a way and also like give new artists like spotlight and music because your song obviously is like massive on TikTok. What about TikTok and like these new upcoming artists do you think click well together?
What about TikTok and the new artists coming…I think that like a lot of people are gaining recognition on TikTok whether it’s like for like modeling or like their music um even just like everything I follow people who do like cooking stuff on TikTok magic tricks. And so it’s definitely giving a lot of people exposure for their talents. So, as far as like the music industry um not only is it changing marketing strategies for tracks, but it’s also giving people you know a really bright beam of light and then allowing them to really like have a realistic more than ever opportunity to really monetize their passion. And just like really just take a swing at what they want to do. So, it’s great for everybody not only in the music industry, but now more than ever you can make a living out of just like doing ASMR videos or like I don’t know just whatever makes you happy. So, I think that’s really awesome.
And then you also have a new song called somewhere which is another great song with Dapperton. Talk about like creating that song as well it was like another like kind of you found him on TikTok thing or how did you guys get connected?
So, I’ve been making music for a long time in my life. And I wanted people to see me as not just like a one song kind of deal like a TikTok kid. But like more of like a serious artist in the electronic scene. And so, making this move with this artist was kind of like a tactic where you know Gus is super talented, he’s dominating the indie scene and he’s definitely having a moment right now. He just came out with a new album. And I think this collaboration allowed me to kind of put my foot in the door into like an electronic artist, but I also you know I know it’s cool and though it’s like on the charts right now. Gus is such a great person he and I met in New York the first time to record the music video which came out yesterday. Yeah, I’m super excited with how that’s been doing it. It was good to make that song not only with Gus but like the whole vibe of the song is very just like ominous kind of for the fall. And its dance but it’s also just liked the vibe of like an old Cadillac. You know it’s like indie, but also like Crystal Castles or like daft punk in a way. So, I don’t know that was that was cool because it’s kind of allowed me to step away from the palm tree kid for a second and all that spotlight press into a world where it’s just like flipped alternative and cool like that you know. But I definitely am going to keep making music that makes me happy and just sounds for good feels.
Yeah, I was looking at some of your old older stuff too like the Warm Snow and White Scene which I think I used when I went to Big Sur. But talk about how like you’ve been kind of like honing in on your sound and like kind of in a way like developing your sound more since then?
Yeah, I mean that whole EP I made in high school. I didn’t go to school a lot in high school I just kind of like skipped out and smoked a lot of weed like chilling in my room and just like made these beats that were cool to me. But I’m pretty like sober nowadays. It’s been like two years or so. But back then was my time to just like really sit inside and like make these songs where that’s where all my music. Like I wasn’t on Spotify or iTunes. I just kind of made it to put it on SoundCloud and like tell my friends like link-in-bio and like all that stuff. But I think that really gave me insight into this whole Soundcloud electronic culture where I discovered these artists that had also been making music out of their bedroom and putting it on the internet where it’s just like very experimental genre. It’s just like really chill good atmosphere or no vocals. There was never like because these producers were just like out of their bedroom. They weren’t in a recording studio or like weren’t collaborating yet. They were just making beats that like had these synthesizers in it and these chords. And so, there’s definitely like a really deep insight into the whole like that space. And so that’s when I started to create music that was like Lo-fi, but also electronic. I thought I had like this niche where um it was just like sounds for good feels. And I kept saying mellifluous which is like pleasant to hear and just like really chill. How that’s developed was like I now kind of enjoy making music with like singers and having it more top line oriented with like in the dance space. And so now shifting that into it being more upbeat than how it was before.
I love that that EP is out now because it’s just like an insight into how it once was in my Soundcloud days like with Warm Snow I would White Sand and outside yeah those are my Soundcloud days where it’s just like chill. But yeah now it’s just I’m just focused on dance music because you know the live space is going to open up soon. I mean, obviously no one knows when but when it does, I want my shows to be fun and I want to play my own music where it’s just like upbeat and everyone has a good time. And it’s just like fun, but I guess the issue is how we’re going to make dance music cool again because it’s a weird time.
Who are some like kind of inspirations you’ve looked up to in the EDM dance kind of music world.
Yeah, I mean so my inspirations my dad’s just always been in a band and so growing up like in the house he’s had just really experimental improv jazz playing 24/7.
When he’s not playing music, he’s playing the saxophone. So, I also learned a lot of bands by him and I actually showed him a band called “The Killers Back” in like 2008 or so and then that’s when like I really got to know every album of The Killers. And that’s like what kind of spawned my like obsession for them. And I’d say they’re a huge inspiration of mine because like every song they’ve ever put out, is literally a masterpiece and there’s so much thought into, it’s so you know beautiful and I don’t know everything about it. Other than that I love Coldplay honestly, I know everyone’s like they’re so commercial and boring. But like seriously Coldplay like it’s cool to like Coldplay in my eyes.
So, yeah, I’d say bands I mean as far as DJs I looked up to obviously Melo, he’s definitely a good friend of mine and Kygo. But man, I don’t know I’m trying to think of like old heads though that I look up to- Base Hunter, there we go that’s a good one.
I do love The Killer’s new music by the way. And then I also want to talk about the music video for Somewhere Too because that was a super fun video to make. Did you fall a lot skateboarding?
I grew up like scootering like with my friends back in Washington. I’ve kind of always been on wheels and that kind of like translates over to skating a bit. Yeah, I can skate for sure.
What was your favorite part about filming the video and how did you get connected? Because I thought this was like really cool to film with GRLSWIRL
GRLSWIRL yeah. There’s a there’s a skate video for Somewhere and then there’s an official video. But yeah, the skate video we uh we drove out like I think an hour and a half northeast of la and met this group called “GRLSWIRL” and the producer of the video and like kind of another director of a video out in this like random like food mart in the middle of nowhere. And we all parked out front and we get out and it’s just like I’m meeting everybody. And out of nowhere was this Cherokee like that walks out from the food mart towards me. And like I never seen a Cherokee like in real life and like it was a hundred and like eight degrees out there- super hot day and I was wearing like all black. But the Cherokee was also like sweating. And so, I don’t know like out of the 12 people that had just been like standing there the Cherokee was just following me and like stood under my shadow because it was cooler. And like if I were to move the Cherokee would like follow me from my shadow and so we like took a picture together. And like the Cherokee was like looking back at the camera. It’s on my Instagram. I’ll find it.
Yeah it was cool to- we like rented an old truck to tow behind like with the rope and uh just like drove down the road and like got a lot of footage of us doing that. And like the whole vibe of it was just to have us all be these like runaway kids just doing like, I don’t know that in the middle of nowhere. But yeah this is the photo.
And then I did watch a little bit of the new video today as well. Very green, so definitely not California obviously it was New York. Yeah talk about kind of filming that versus just like because they’re both very different vibes. How about like filming the new music video?
Yeah so, I flew out to New York met Gus and he and I this was shot in upstate New York where it was just like very low-key forestry area. We went to this cabin that we rented out for like two days and we got to shoot there. And I met like the whole team the director. That was super special because that was the first time, I’ve had like an official music video like for me. And like I’ve been in a few music videos but like four other artists. And so, like I’ve had the experience of like being around you know with the team like having like makeup, hairstylist booths and like camera gear. And just like I don’t know it felt really official. And so, when this happened it was like, “Damn it’s for my song now, so that was really special.” But other than that, the whole team was really cool. I met a lot of people and yeah it was just really fun. And Gus yeah, he’s the boy that was really cool.
If you could set up like a fan of your music to listen to in any like type of setting, what type of setting would that be?
So, yeah if I were to like put my music on and like how would I set up that person who has never heard it before in their environment- I’d probably like fly them to Tulum and then like put them in like some blue ass water with like white buildings behind them and like personally fan them off with a huge leaf and like give them a mimosa and like let them listen to it. I don’t know, sounds for good feels that’s how they should feel.
What’s one quote you’ve heard in life that you want to echo out to the world?
Wow I don’t know… I mean, more than a quote, I guess just kind of a mindset is to just like I don’t know do your best, try your best, do what you love and just keep at it be a good person and things will follow, lead with love; that’s all.