Riding the Wave: A Deep Dive with Surf Mesa

May 14, 2024

Photo of Michela Iosipov

Michela Iosipov

7 min read

Surf Mesa, born Powell Aguirre, has become one of the most intriguing figures in the contemporary house music space. From humble beginnings in Seattle to selling out stages worldwide, Surf's journey is shaped by a mixture of youthful exuberance and a mature approach to his skills. Known for the double-platinum success of his breakout hit "ily (i love you baby)," which catapulted him into the spotlight, Surf has not only amassed billions of streams but also created a sound that resonates with a diverse audience.

Now based in Los Angeles, the young artist continues to evolve his style, drawing on a variety of influences that range from The Killers and Coldplay to dance music icons like Duke Dumont. His recent performances at high-profile venues such as Red Rocks and MGM Music Hall, along with his appearances at major festivals like Lollapalooza, underline his rising status in the industry.

In our exclusive interview, Surf Mesa discusses his process of cooking up heat in the studio, the impact of relocating to LA, how he got his stage name, and his responses to both fan admiration and critical acclaim. He also sheds light on his future aspirations, including his desire to bring more personal and communal experiences into his performances. Join us as we delve into the world of Surf Mesa, where the convergence of technology, music, and passion paints a vivid portrait of a rising star.

What was the moment you realized music was more than just a hobby for you?

In 6th grade, my school had something called recorder karate. You play a song and you earn a belt to tie at the end of your recorder. I was pretty determined to earn the black belt and so I went hard on the recorder and was the first one in my grade to earn it. It was at that moment I knew I was going to be a DJ. Just kidding. But also, my dad would tell me he thinks it’s special that I have an interest in technology and music, so I’ve kept that close to me and worked hard with those words in mind.

Can you walk us through your typical songwriting session?

After I’m done bashing my head against the wall, I like to feel optimistic in the room. I ask around what’s inspiring people and get a feel. It’s important for the people in the room to feel comfortable and transparent. So from there, we find chords, a hook, and just vibe out. Every session is different and I love it.

How has your move from Seattle to Los Angeles influenced your music style or career trajectory?

I moved straight to the beach and have been making melodic stuff all my life, so it was pretty good given that the music I made was feel-good, vibey stuff. But also, being in LA and around driven creative people made me push forward more into it. It’s important to carve your own lane and stay at it.

What has been the most surprising reaction to your music from a fan or a critic?

Benny Blanco told me to my face that he thinks my music is special. Mic drop.

Who in the current music scene do you see as a role model or inspiration?

There are such obvious answers like the big names and whatnot. But some to me include The Magician, Medasin, and Nora En Pure. So many to name, but those are three great names.

What's the story behind the choice of your stage name, 'Surf Mesa'?

In high school, I got really into a game called Counter-Strike, and I played it with a fellow classmate who also made music. The two of us made our music aliases references from Counter-Strike, so I made my name Surf Mesa, and he made his name Dust 2. Both names are maps from Counter-Strike.

With your career taking off at such a rapid pace, how do you manage the pressures that come with fame?

Have fun with it, work hard, believe in the best of the people around you, and most importantly, believe in yourself. This slows things down to take it day by day and it will feel like a blessing.

Can you share a memorable experience from one of your live performances on tour?

During a show in Vegas, I brought my dad on stage and we got to jump around and dance. The next day, I brought my mom on stage at a day club and it was awesome. The parents loved it!

What are some challenges you've faced in the music industry, and how have you overcome them?

People calling me a one-hit wonder. Lol, it feels weird but I mean, I did get super lucky but yet I’m even more stoked on the new stuff I’m making than having a very successful song. To me, that beats it.

If you could collaborate with any artist, living or dead, who would it be and why?

I’d love to make a song with Duke Dumont. His song “I Got U” has changed my life. I love it.

Are there any emerging artists on your radar that you believe people should pay more attention to?

I love seeing people make music that feels true to them. To me, that’s Pluko, Daniel Allen, and others.

Looking ahead, what are some goals you have for the next few years?

I’d love to play shows across the world and travel to experience more culture and share music that feels true to me. I want to bring my family and friends to amazing places and things that evolve around the opportunity brought by music. Everything that happens between us is a blessing.

Do you have any side projects or hobbies that influence your musical creativity?

Every night the boys and I hop on Counter-Strike. Gaming is spiritual. When the Discord server is stacked, it’s priceless.

If you weren't pursuing music, what profession do you think you would have gone into?

I genuinely love what I do so much I can’t even think about anything else I’d rather do. But if I had to choose, probably something in real estate and be involved with interior design. I think I have an eye for that stuff.

What do you find yourself obsessing about most in the studio?

I get really into making sure the song feels like me. That includes the chords and melody. I’ll spend all day rewriting chords. It kind of kills me though.

If you could set up a dream concert lineup, which artists would share the stage with you?

Nora en Pure, Duke Dumont, Rufus, The Magician, and Kygo (throwback set).

For a bit of fun: if you could only eat one meal for the rest of your life, what would it be?

Chipotle burrito bowl, with hot sauce.

And finally, an intimate night club or massive festival?

Massive festival. Sorry, I can’t not vote for that. It’s obvious. I know some people will say nightclub, but let’s be real, dude.

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Surf Mesa [Memorial Day Weekend]

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Surf Mesa is on the lineup

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