The Malibu coastline lay splayed out for miles, its sandy beaches sparkling in the sun. Such serenity struck Forrest Frank and Colin Padalecki on a deeply profound level. It was the last day in their rented beachside house, where the duo known as Surfaces pieced together what would emerge as their fourth studio record. Born out of new-found calm, Pacifico bears a soothing warmth, a particular all-consuming glow emanating from the darkest crevices of their hearts. With the title cut, a plaintive confessional to bookend the album, Frank confronts hard truths about life and wanting to be heard.
I just want to be someone, he yearns. He wields such lyrical simplicity like a medieval dagger. “That’s one of my favorite lines on the project. It just hits,” Frank tells American Songwriter over a recent phone call. “That song is definitely like a deep cut. Even though it’s the title track, it’s not very pop for radio by any means. We were messing around on some weird production and just kind of came out with it.”
The closing track, recorded at three or four in the mourning, bottles up not only their entire music career so far but the beauty of the moment when the Malibu coast dazzled their senses. “It was a perfect moment, and we purposely left that song to record last,” he continues. “We knew that it would be the anchor to the album and that it would be the sum of everything.”
“Pacifico” burrows even further into fresh emotional earth. “We all want to come to the end of our life to know that we fit in and find our calling. This whole music journey for us has been really scary in a lot of ways and really freeing in a lot of other ways,” offers Padalecki, who began uploading his own music to YouTube before linking up with Frank. Frank and Padalecki both went to college for business, studying at Baylor University and Texas A&M University, respectively, but found the pull of music too strong to ignore.
“Our parents had high hopes of us getting nice corporate jobs,” says Frank. “I was really scared to have those conversations. That line makes me think of my legacy, and I want to know that I did good for myself, my family, and my wife.”
Their families eventually came around, but it took nothing but time. “Your parents always want the best for you. Parents want you to be successful financially, mentally, spiritually.” But coming from central south Texas, “there’s just an idea of success, and it’s not really going out to LA and doing music,” he continues. “They’re always looking for something practical. I feel like in Texas, sometimes you need to go to a good college and go to a good business school, get a good business degree, go get a really good corporate job.”
Because Surfaces doesn’t churn out straight-laced, or even conventional, pop music, their creative pursuits seemed hard to fathom. “We were making weird noises and loops and sampling. I think it just kind of seemed like we were doodling on paper with crayons,” he adds.
When their parents came to a show in Austin early on in their careers, it shook up their perspective in a major way. “It was a 400 cap. Every single person in there knew every word and was screaming. It was like a nuclear bomb of energy,” says Padalecki. “I remember afterwards, our parents came up to us and were like, ‘We had no idea. That was just absolutely insane.”
The duo released their first record, Surf, at the tail-end of 2017 with “24 / 7 / 365,” a booming streaming giant (it now has 67 million streams). Such immediate successes simply set the stage for two more studio sets—Where the Light Is (2019) and last year’s Horizons ─and they now boast 10 million monthly listeners and numerous other streaming giants, including “Sunday Best” (666,000,000 streams and counting!).
The stars are clearly aligning in irrefutable ways, a well-earned byproduct of their continued work ethic and hustle-like spirit. But, do they believe fate or destiny is involved? “I feel like we have an optimal path for life, if you step into it. Don’t give into the fear. We could have given into fear,” remarks Frank. “Instead, I could have had the security and the 401k, the insurance, the corporate job, but we decided to risk it. Look at all the blessings that have come from it. You really have to dig deep down. Even if it’s scary, go with that deep gut instinct. I guess, as cliche as it is, you just have to take that leap of faith sometimes.”
Pacifico arrives this Friday (June 25) as an undeniably special moment. They returned to their roots, recording on their own equipment in a living room in Malibu, but have somehow unlocked mightier powers in their songwriting. “We didn’t really have to change our creative process, because we didn’t really ever work with other producers or other writers,” remarks Padalecki. “We did implement some Zoom sessions and things like that, but for the most part, our creative process stayed the same.”
While their third record, Horizons, provided some “really cool, invaluable experiences,” it doesn’t quite plummet to the depths and emotionally probing caves as their newest release. “We wouldn’t change anything about [that album]. But for this fourth album, we thought we would like to take it back to our roots,” says Frank. “We figured we’d have kind of like a creative camp this time around, and just bring all of our equipment─our laptops, speakers and microphones and just set it up in a living room. Luckily, the living room was nothing but windows that were able to open up. We got to take in this beautiful outlook every day.”
From the automobile rumble in “Climb,” a musical introduction to entice the listener into their world, to the slinky guitar moment “Feels the Same,” every moment is conceived with purposeful intention, stepping stones leading through a lush, musical oasis. “We’re always thinking about the flow of the record, and we wanted something to give a feeling where you’re completely immersed in it,” notes Frank of the opening moment. “So, if you’re playing it in their car and with headphones, it sucks you into that high register and frequency, and then it just clicks and then boom, there’s the album.”
“We had this Jeep for two weeks, and we’d always drive up this huge cliff,” he continues. The makeshift instrumental, continuing voice memo audio of the Jeep’s smoldering purr and the crunch of gravel and earth underneath their shoes, is a gem of a tone-setter. Instantly, the duo whips the listener into “Hideaway,” a blustery wisp of a low-key bop, and into the album’s core winds.
Much later, “Time Zones,” steel drum sounds reverberating across the arrangement, circles back to the exhilaration of the present moment. Just for a moment, I can’t feel my mind, sings Frank in almost a whisper. “I feel like that line is the anchor of that song, even though it’s not the hook. We were at Forrest’s house, and the song was just giving us so much peace and tranquility,” recalls Padalecki. “When you enjoy something so much, it doesn’t even appear as a thought in your head, because you’re in this moment, and you’re living in it. Everything is just at peace. That sentence felt like it was the perfect wording to encapsulate that moment.”
Themes of hope, redemption, forgiveness, and peace weave into Surfaces’ bright, inviting arrangements─standing in contrast to the personal work through anxiety and depression. It’s created in such a thoughtful way as to conjure up feelings of happiness and solace, embracing the present and never letting go. “We all have some sort of depression or anxiety or worry that we carry with us every day. All of us are human beings trying to release that weight and find peace and redemption every day,” says Frank. “When it first came around to songwriting, I found myself in those places with anxiety and depression, but there was a release of energy with the music. It made me want to write about better days, and it kind of healed me.
“I think it’s a lifetime of things we went through. There will always be things to work through. Like I used to have kind of a strained relationship with my dad─that’s recently been healed. And it’s that feeling of wanting to release that into the music. I feel like a lot of times our music is the after of letting things go, like some people’s music is talking about the current situation of pain or the blues that they’re in. Our music is after getting through those things. And then the release is the tears of joy. It’s a hug. It’s the ketamine.”