CS: Garage rock, with elements of pop, psychedelia, punk.
PB: Yeah for sure. I do think we do a pretty good job of warping traditional pop ideas, though. You know, making them a bit more unconventional.
CH.89: Where do you draw your inspiration from?
PB: Mostly from our friends’ music and what we listen to as individuals. We are all separately musicians, and are interested in pretty different types of music. I feel like these influences tend to seep through when we play.
CH.89: What made you all want to start a band and how did you come up with the band name Surf Harp?
PB: This name was taken from a Gameboy game I would play as a child. Link’s Awakening. Upon beating the final boss in Angler’s Tunnel, you are rewarded with the Surf Harp. This game has particular significance to my life, as it tended to get me in a lot of trouble. One time I ruined a family reunion because I couldn’t get the hookshot from Catfish’s Maw. I would also help kids at school beat the game, and they would call our home phone when they got stuck. Once a kid dropped his Gameboy in the toilet while I was helping him. I also got a kid kicked off of the school bus in third grade for showing him how to navigate through Bottle Grotto.
JK: I have never played the game Phil is talking about. But I have played Oracle of Seasons/Oracle of Ages, and those games are pretty difficult.
CH.89: Can you talk a little bit about what your creative thought process is like when starting a new album?
PB: Most of these songs start as brief memos that are often part of a much longer recording. Messing around with a live mic in the room is a great way to capture melodies and phrases, even if they make up a few seconds of the entire recording. A few of our songs have been built around melodies that were played accidentally and organically during this process. Afterwards, it allows us to go through the recordings and pick out sections to develop.
JK: Usually at the beginning of the writing process, it is difficult for me to envision the end goal or overall aesthetic. I write several riffs or parts and try to create a cohesive sound. When half of the songs are completed, it is easier to determine what direction I am headed. I just let the songs speak for themselves without forcing an image or projection of what I expect or want them to be. Does that make sense?
CH.89: What would you want people/ the listener to take from your music?
PB: Something that sounds unique, but with familiar earworms. Giving songs a fullness, until it becomes difficult to discern what things are sonically. Lots of percussive movement.
CS: That the songs have a lot of detail, that even the weird-sounding stuff has something unique and creative about it, and that it’s ultimately enjoyable and not just ‘arty’ or something.
DM: Like many bands, we’re pretty much trying to make music that we think is cool. When we’re working on songs and practicing before shows the stuff that sticks is the stuff that gets the best reaction from someone in the band. So I’d say we’re just hoping the people who eventually hear our music think it’s as cool/fun/enjoyable to listen to as we do.
PB: Our lives are all pretty average. We are all either working full-time or going to school. I see this as an outlet for us to continue to engage musically. It’s a great feeling to play a show after sitting in a cube all day.
CS: I don’t consider myself an artist. But as for my insight into what it’s like to play music semi-regularly in a setting that is somewhat ‘professional’ (i.e. not a basement or warehouse, etc.), I would say that it’s fun to be around people who are not nine-to-fivers, to be in a community of people who care a lot about things like music and art, etc.
CH.89: When starting out an artistic task, do you think it is better to have a particular direction/set plan guiding your way? Or, is it better to act on impulse and go from there?
PB: Set out with no particular direction. No sense limiting or eliminating an idea because it doesn’t fit. It’s always cool when an idea can stray drastically from what the listener anticipates. It becomes easier to challenge structural things like that when there is no plan guiding the writing process.
DM: Yeah, I agree. We also just talk about music a lot, and then stuff we like ends up in the songs.
CH.89: What is one major lesson you’ve learned as an artist?
JK: You can’t force a song. If it’s not working, it’s not working. Come back to it later and maybe you’ll be able to salvage a good idea or two.
CH.89: Do you regard personal style & taste to be of highest importance?
CS: No, not at all.
PB: Yeah, no way.
DM: We respect everyone’s personal style and taste and do not ask that others do the same for us. We all have that tattooed somewhere on our bodies.
CH.89: What do you consider to be the hardest thing about being an artist?
PB: Being satisfied with a finished product, especially when you are self-recording it. Too much time and flexibility can become a disadvantage, especially if it takes away from the organic-ness of an idea. Sometimes demos recorded on the spot end up sounding better than the final version.
CH.89: What is one thing you love about being an artist?
JK: I love the writing process. It can be really gratifying listening to a song when it’s complete and think, “Did I really create this?
CH.89: Is there anyone in particular, any artists that inspire you in any way?
PB: Most of my inspiration comes from the art that my friends are making. Baltimore is an incredible place to create, and the inspiration and support is ridiculous. People are either doing something way far out, or challenging something familiar.
JK: I have really been into Haruomi Hosono lately. He just brings the grooves and never fails to impress me. In particular, the album ‘Tropical Dandy’–that one is real magical. Oh, and of course, I have had a several-year affair with all things Scott Walker (musician).
CH.89: What do you think of technology in terms of being a useful tool for artists today?
PB: Absolutely. There’s no sense in abandoning the resources that we have at our disposal. Even if artists are against the use of technology as a way to maintain the integrity of their art, there is always an opportunity to use technology to one’s advantage–whether this is merely as a means to develop an idea.
DM: Having a Bandcamp and being able to throw songs on the Internet so easily is good in the sense that our music is extremely accessible to anyone that wants to hear it. However, because everyone has a Bandcamp (or a SoundCloud or whatever) and there is so many bands that exist and are created everyday, it’s even easier to get lost in the endless sea of new music.
CH.89: Do you think being an artist allows you to view the world differently from those who don’t follow creative paths?
JK: It’s tough to say. As a musician that has decided to go to school for accounting, I spend most of my days in an office. I feel as if the experience of being an artist and working full time gives me some additional perspective than someone who is solely focusing on their art or their academic/professional career.
CS: Differently, yes. Not better, or more ‘enlightened’ or anything like that. But being around people in the arts community gives you a different perspective on things, a different attitude toward life and what’s really important, etc. But what’s really a ‘non-creative’ path? Anyone can be creative in any walk of life, not just in the arts.
CH.89: Do you enjoy traveling? If so, do you have a favorite city?
PB: I wish I traveled more. New Orleans is pretty cool, though.
JK: I really loved Tel Aviv when I was there back in April.
CH.89: Do you have a favorite author or book?
JK: I enjoy reading old Nintendo Power magazines. I found my old collection at my parent’s house, and I read the one with the Golden eye cover front-to-back. There are a lot of gems in those old video game publications, plenty of exciting fan mail too.
CH.89: Any future goals or plans for your music?
PB: We will be releasing a full length album in the next few months. It has been a long process of writing, self-recording, and mixing, but things are finally getting wrapped up. Very exciting things to come.
JK: I am constantly writing demos and shooting ideas at Phil. Hopefully the music will keep on coming. I must have about an album and a half of potential song ideas sitting on a hard drive somewhere.
CH.89: What does being an artist mean to you?
PB: Making something unique, whether this is something that no one else has done before, or just an interpretation of something in existence. Sure, there are lots of other bands out there. Hopefully, we have succeeded in sounding a little different than them.
CH.89: Any last words on the aesthetic of your music?
PB: Movement, grooves, and a general fullness. Tons of percussion. Wonky instruments. Thick vocals. Sounds like a carnival coming to town.
JK: We want you to sit down with a glass of wine or a couple beers and just kick off your shoes. Enjoy a conversation with a friend about something important or exciting. Put on our new record and just really vibe with the night while feeling challenged. By the end, I hope you feel empowered.
DM: We seem to like it. Maybe you will too!
CHECK OUT MORE ON: SURF HARP