Surf Curse Is Blessed With a Strong Connection to the Source

The platinum indie rock band Surf Curse lets it rip on their career trajectory, creative inspirations, their new record Magic Hour, and how weed can make music a transcendental experience or get you violently stoned.
Surf Curse
Courtesy of Julien Sage

In the beginning stages of their latest tour, Surf Curse (comprised of members Nick Rattigan [lead vocals, drums], Jacob Rubeck [guitar], Noah Kohll [guitar], and Henry Dillon [bass]) is in Manchester preparing for the tour launch. The sleep deprived band is eager to share music from their latest album—Magic Hour—with fans, and their upcoming collection of live shows is positioned to do exactly that.

Hailing from Reno, Nevada, founding members Rattigan and Rubeck have opened themselves up creatively on this record—and with the inclusion of Kohll and Dillon—have delivered a more robust creative color palette than on any of their previous musical numbers.

When we connect over Zoom, the indie group dives into their collective history—from formation to latest record—their creative influences, what fans can expect on Magic Hour, and how cannabis plays a role in their live performances and helps them feel more connected to the music.

High Times Magazine: In terms of the music, did you always know you wanted to be performers or were there other paths along the way that led you to the present moment?

Noah Kholl: I was always set on the idea that I wanted to play music. Ever since I was probably two years old.

Henry Dillon: Probably ten years old for me. But, two? [Laughs]

Nick Rattigan: I always wanted to be a musician, but when I was seven, I remember reading this Picasso book and wanting to be an artist. When I was ten, I wanted to be a chef. When I was twelve, I wanted to be a bartender and own my own bar. And then, I wanted to be a musician.

Jacob Rubeck: I wanted to be a music journalist for the longest time and then I got forced into playing bass guitar. That led to rhythm guitar and writing songs and it all fell into my lap in a nice way.

High Times Magazine: So you all had an interest at some level in being performers. How did you all come together and form the group?

Nick Rattigan: Well me and Jacob formed the group twelve or more years ago when we were in high school and college and started playing music together.

Jacob Rubeck: We were a two-piece and we had people who came and went and then we went on tour with Henry and Noah in 2019 and they’ve just become more and more a part of the band ever since. A part of the family.

High Times Magazine: Was there a moment along your trajectory where you realized you had something special with the group—either as a two-piece or all together?

Nick Rattigan: I remember the first time we got paid for a show—it wasn’t much but it was shocking [laughs].

Jacob Rubeck: The fact that we would be booked on a show meant more than actually getting paid or whatever for the first couple of years that we started. It was insane getting our first real check.

Nick Rattigan: We would go through hell just to get on a show or play a show. We would drive nine or ten hours just for a day to play a show and that was exciting to us.

Jacob Rubeck: Even if we walked, we’d feel cool that we got to do that. It feels great that we have everyone on board now.

High Times Magazine: And now, you’re essentially doing what you were doing then—doing what you love—albeit at larger venues with larger crowds.

Nick Rattigan: Yeah man, it’s also very strange because people are craving the songs we wrote like ten years ago. Ten years ago we were busting our ass trying to get people to listen to these songs—

Jacob Rubeck: Now we’re crafting songs we’re really proud of and exploring a lot more with sound. Especially with these two [motions to Noah and Henry] coming along, we’ve definitely ventured out in a creative way where we’re all putting our efforts into making the best kind of stuff. Their talents are so incredible to have that it’s absolutely [insane] that people are craving the songs we wrote when we were eighteen and nineteen.

Nick Rattigan: There was definitely less effort that went into [those tracks]. “Goth Babe” has become one of our top songs and I remember when we were about to record, Jacob was like, “We can’t do that song for the record, no way.”

Jacob Rubeck: We wrote the lyrics in fifteen or twenty minutes. When we’d play it over the years, every word would really hit with some people.

Nick Rattigan: Whereas, some of the tracks on the new record took weeks to write and we really put a lot of thought and effort into them. When it comes to songs like “Goth Babe,” we had two days to record the album and Jacob was like, “If you want to keep that song on the album, you have to write the lyrics.”

So I got some pancakes, sat down, started eating the pancakes—

Jacob Rubeck: Writing off of a sugar high—

Nick Rattigan: And by the time I’d finished the pancakes, the lyrics were done.

Noah Kholl: Big songs are written on small napkins. Warren Zevon’s biggest song “Werewolves of London” was written in five minutes on a bar napkin.

High Times Magazine: [To Nick] Just think, maybe if you had eaten eggs you wouldn’t have had the same thought process.

Nick Rattigan: If I had eaten eggs, there’d be no “candle wax dropped on my nips,” I’ll tell you that.

High Times Magazine: Very different track that’s born with say, a brioche bun.

Nick Rattigan: You know, pancakes—with the butter and the maple syrup—it can become a very erotic experience.

High Times Magazine: In terms of your new album Magic Hour, what went into it creatively and what do you hope fans take from it?

Nick Rattigan: What me and Jacob have always brought to this project is our friendship and our energy. I think everyone [in the group] brings their own energy to the music. It’s why some bands sound one way and some bands sound another way—everyone has their own energy, their own colors, and their own flavors that they bring into the music. Our color palette [for this album] was just expanded by Noah and Henry. Before, we were painting with some stuff that we’d bought at an art supply store—

Jacob Rubeck: Well, it really started off with finding whatever was around.

Nick Rattigan: Yeah, like colored pencils in a drawer—Jacob, you go grab that. There’s that crayon under the table, go grab that. And now [for this album], we have an entire color palette to play with.

Jacob Rubeck: Everything is flowing now with everyone working together.

High Times Magazine: There’s more tools in the toolbox with your four collective minds, which allows you to be more intentional with what you’re creating.

Jacob Rubeck: We were very limited.

Nick Rattigan: But it never felt wrong, you know? The way we’ve done it has always felt so magical. Because we were limited, that’s how the songs came out. But overtime and with age, our tastes have evolved to want more depth to our songs, to want more depth to our lyrics. We want more “sparkle” around. I think that’s what we’ve brought to the new album for sure.

Henry Dillon: I hope, too, that the audience opens their mind to new avenues they didn’t consider previously. With this new album, hopefully they’ll hear the different avenues we’re exploring, which will then allow them to branch out to what they’re exploring.

High Times Magazine: So sort of deepening their appreciation of their experience with you guys, understanding your evolution, and appreciating that as well.

Jacob Rubeck: And we’re all just big fans of music in general. We feel very selfless when it comes to the music that we’re listening to, whether it’s old music or new music—we take a lot of inspiration from the past and the present and hope to explore things in the future. With this new record we drew inspiration from Sonic Youth, Pavement, and even The Rolling Stones.

High Times Magazine: In terms of inspirations, what role does cannabis play creatively with the band?

Henry Dillon: I remember smoking weed for the first time as a teenager and playing guitar and it was the most profound experience. The feeling of my fingers on the instrument and feeling the connection to the instrument—it just opened up this entirely new path forward of exploring an instrument that I’d already gotten comfortable with and established a new relationship with it.

Noah Kholl: I think there is a time and place for the use of cannabis around creating, and then there’s other times when maybe it’s not the best time to be stoned.

One time I picked up some Acapulco Gold when we were in Denver and was really excited about it from all the songs that had been sung about it and the place the strain has in history and in culture. I remember I sat in the venue and there was reggae music playing and I was rolling this joint and I was so stoked to share it with everybody. We all smoked it and I got violently stoned. I hadn’t been high in a really long time, and when you get violently stoned, all of this fear comes in.

I tried to calm myself down by walking to this gentrified food market and was looking at all of these beautiful things. The nice deli section and all of the wonderful meats were great, but the fear never escaped me. We played the show and then there was this kid who broke into our greenroom and I was like, “This is it, this kid is here to kill us!” He ended up just being a little fucked up, but it’s just funny how certain settings are just not the right time to try something new.

When it is the right time to play music stoned though, it’s spiritual to say the least. It can be trascendental.

Nick Rattigan: Most of this album was crafted while I was in a bout of sobriety from weed, from alcohol, from everything. I think that really colored the record because I was sitting with myself, was introspective, and was looking at a lot of things that people don’t like to look at—things that are easy to cover up with drugs or alcohol or whatever your weapon of choice is. So I think actually the lack of weed colored this record and created a lot of its content. It was me going through that process of becoming sober, being sober, and staying sober.

While smoking weed can be a beautiful, transcending experience, you just have to be careful with it because you can easily tip into the extreme. I’m sure High Times readers know that and will understand it.

High Times Magazine: Anything can become a vice and anything can mask the authentic expression of what you’re trying to put out there. It’s about finding that balance between inspiration and diluting what needs to be said.

Nick Rattigan: I would say this is the most naked and honest Surf Curse record that we’ve made because there were really no masks involved. It was straight to the source.

Follow @surfcurse and check out https://www.surfcurse.com for tickets, tour dates, and their latest album Magic Hour

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