There aren’t many artists in the early throes (or, in fact, at any part) of their career that can say they’ve collaborated with Elton John. But for one Texas-hailed duo, it’s an accomplishment altogether unsurprising and deserved when you clock their brand of boundary-pushing cheerful indie-pop. Introducing Surfaces – comprised of Colin Padalecki and Forrest Frank – imparting their olio of far-ranging influences from reggae, jazz, soul and even calypso for the brightest, most buoyant tunes.
One such example is their latest drop “Sail Away” – a heat-soaked bouncy banger meant to be enjoyed while the sun is still roaring overhead. And the music video is a tongue-in-cheek homage to Wes Anderson (think major The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou vibes).
The pair met over the internet five years ago, and began collaborating over Soundcloud, honing their addictive sound over iPhone memos. Fast forward, and their hit single “Learning To Fly” saw them achieve their life-long dream of collaborating with none other than Sir Elton John, which they described the experience as “like winning a Grammy”.
We caught up with Surfaces and talked about their new single, their journey so far and what’s coming up for them in 2020…
Hey Surfaces! How are you? What have you been doing this lockdown, has it affected your creativity?
We’ve been doing well! Hard to complain when you get to do what you love to do everyday and have the best fanbase in support of it all. We’ve been consistently working on bringing ideas together for our next album while still trying to enjoy the little things aside from music (working out, cooking, getting outside) to keep the creativity fresh. The lockdown hasn’t really affected our workflow since we’re bedroom producers but it has been challenging keeping songwriting fresh with limited experiences to choose from now.
How did you guys come to form Surfaces?
In 2016 we met through Soundcloud and found out we were going to colleges pretty close to each other, so we decided to get together in person to show each other ideas and jam every other week. Around a year later we finally started to song write with each other and work towards our first album, Surf.
Your single “Sunday Best” was certified platinum which is incredible! What was your reaction to that?
We were freaking out. We never thought a song we made in a college bedroom closet would ever reach so many people. We made Sunday Best hoping that our friends and family enjoyed it just as much as we did, so the fact that it went on to achieve anything more beyond that is always amazing to us.
Congratulations on your new single “Sail Away”, what was the inspiration behind this tune?
Thank you! It’s definitely a little different from the rest of our discography, but that sound just naturally came to us and it would be hard to just ignore it and limit ourselves to what our sound “should be”. We’ve always made music that people refer to as “sunny” and “beachy” so we felt like going with reggae chords for once wasn’t too much of a stretch. As far as the lyrics, the message is mostly about feeling stuck in a routine or being held back from your aspirations, which is a feeling that’s probably common with most of today.
What is your creative process like in the studio?
With us it usually starts with how the chord progression feels and listening if any chords feel forced or don’t invoke enough of a feeling. From there we’ll beef up production until the chorus gets thick enough to wanna experiment with vocal melodies over it. When we land on melodies we really like we’ll start bouncing words and phrases off each other until something sticks. From there, if the chorus feels worthy enough, we’ll start writing verses!
You’ve had a collaboration with your idol Sir Elton John, what was this like and how did it come about?
Earlier in the year we had finished a demo of “Learn to Fly” at home after tour, so our managers and publishing started sending it around to see if anyone would want to collaborate. We had never really collaborated with anyone until this point and our major concern has always been to make sure it never feels forced. Later on, Elton got ahold of the demo and got in contact with us about being involved with it since he admired it so much. Knowing his love for the song made the collaboration so seamless and special even though it was made over Zoom sessions to keep us all safe.
You’ve had massive success on TikTok, has this influenced your music at all and what was your reaction to seeing all these dance videos?
We’re not really on TikTok so the success came as kind of a surprise! We’re so grateful that so many people are dancing to it and having fun sharing it. It hasn’t really influenced decision making in our music since we try to stay true to ourselves and let people appreciate the music for what it is, in whatever ways they decide to.
How would you guys describe the progression between each album?
Honestly our first album Surf was us just trying to figure out our sound and just having fun with it. There’s a lot of lo-fi presence in that album but you can definitely hear the roots of the sound that we were eventually going to start gravitating towards. With Where the Light Is, we wanted to bring more upbeat production and uplifting songwriting to a more concise, bright sound. Then on Horizons, we wanted capture a more older sound while still infusing modern production while splitting the album into a “sunrise” side a and a “sunset” side b tracklist.
Who would you guys love to collaborate with next?
There is always going to be a ton of artists we admire and connect with, but like we previously said, we just want to make sure it comes naturally. So our plan as of now is to just keep doing what we’re doing and letting the rest fall together, like our experience with Elton.
What’s next for you guys and what are you most excited for?
We’re really hyped to get cracking on season 4. The pieces are really starting to come together. Also super ready to get back on tour again, whenever that may be!