I asked Zack Arnett to tell me a story…his story.
“Over a year ago…in L.A., going through some shit, and kinda got stuck in a rut, and wasn’t feeling right. So, I needed to venture out and me and my boy went out, and traveled around different national parks, and wherever the fuck we could go, and parked this RV we had. And I had a studio in the RV.
We were kind of bold; we had this opportunity, so I brought my studio in there and we – without an agenda of, “What the fuck we’re gonna make?” – we kind of made this very loungey, vacation style music. And then at night, when he would go to sleep, I kind of started formulating what SUR is, without even knowing it, just kind of crafting these songs, really late at night.”
This ‘vacation style’ music was coming from a man whose last band was a synth dance party, but whose musical foundation was deeply rooted in the West Coast hip hop of Freestyle Fellowship, Hieroglyphics, and Quanuum collective’s DJ Shadow, Latyrx and Blackalicious. And Rage Against The Machine, of course.
In this day and age of eclectic and the pigeon hole of genres being almost pointless, Zack succinctly sums up where he’s musically coming from as native electric rock music. Native because of its drum patterns and tones while loud, fuzzy, distorted and gritty guitars bring the electric.
“Not knowing what it was for, or what it was…it was a departure of sound, and it was just more authentic to me at the time. And it spoke to where we were and what we were doing, which was just…kind of, bein’ free, and soakin’ up the beauty of nature, and all the other nonsense that came along with it.”
Musician. Producer. Visual artist. Poet. Apothecarian. Zack is those things and more all which coalesce into SUR and he possesses a headspace as expansive and wide open as the Central California region from which he derives his musical name: Big Sur. It’s a place that’s near where he grew up in Monterey, CA but infinitely nearer to his soul.
“Big Sur is the first place that I kind of felt a spiritual connection to this world and it fixes me.” So, now, I have to go there to get right. To get out of the city, I gotta go to Big Sur. It’s my sanctuary. It’s my spot where I feel the most at home, and it’s a very inspiring place for me to go. And I’ve always wanted to make music in Big Sur.
Because we went on this journey, I was able to do that for the first time. And it just so happened that it spawned SUR. So, without knowing it, I kind of created this fantasy I had in my head – of reality – taking the RV out, putting a studio in it and we would just park next to the river there and got to wake up in the morning, and write tunes, and fuckin’ just be there. And it’s a magical place.”
“They told me that I need a gun to be a man, but if I hold it in your face I get the 1st / That’s a poor man’s curse”
In September came the first SUR single, “Lean Back”: beat heavy, tribal, earthy with a social urgency that he shares with a heart’s intent “to shed light on disenfranchised people, the people with no voice and little hope.” Through the song you hear Zack thread elements that seem diametrically opposed: the beauty of a lake, gun violence, hope. As if it’s all beyond what the mere flesh and bone can battle, yet we – as individuals and a collective – are bigger than and an indictment against the pervasive state of division that we find ourselves in, no matter who or what the cause.
As far as stories go, it’s a good one that is to-be-continued with his forthcoming Savage Beast EP (via Interscope Records) waiting to be unleashed. In the meantime, Zack will bring his live SUR experience in Los Angeles and New York these select dates in November.
Perhaps what was most illuminating was that the storytelling ended in the most SUR way possible: with gratitude.
“Thanks for giving a shit.”