It’s early morning in New York and you can still hear the signs of a good night’s sleep in the back of Dani Miller’s throat. Whilst she might not have even had a sip of coffee before speaking to The Forty-Five, the enigmatic frontperson of Surfbort is full of beans. “The album cycle has fully regenerated me. I was depressed during the apocalypse wondering if I am ever going to do music again. Do I even exist anymore? Now I’m putting out an album, I feel really excited about life,” she beams. Surfbort’s raucous debut – which lead to Dani being the face of Gucci in 2019 – might’ve seemed like a fully-formed mission statement, but its follow up ‘Keep on Truckin’ displays a resilience that can only come from a band whose sole mission is to carry on moving onwards and upwards.
At what point during the years did you realise that music was a deeper calling rather than just your teenage hobby of going to shows?
The more I was getting recommended music and invited to shows, I finally felt like I belonged somewhere; I was attracted to the energy of shows. In school, I was such a redheaded dork, but for the most part, at shows, everyone is accepting of each other and you can just show up like a freak. Patti Smith started by screaming her poetry on stage and I kind of did something similar. You get to exist as a human and connect with other humans by screaming at the moon and dancing. Once I discovered that, I went from there. I don’t shred or anything – I just sing – but over the last seven years I’ve really connected more with singing and it’s amazing.
It seems as though the album is a reaffirmation of your place in the world. What kinds of things were happening in your life during the writing process?
The album is a mix of songs that have been formed throughout our whole life experience. In the beginning, I was 21 and living off one-dollar pizzas in New York, and I had so much angst – that’s where that sound is coming from. The band were less about perfecting their craft so it was all chaotic and I couldn’t get my voice to go over the music. I would just be screaming and not knowing how to sing. We still have that same freak energy now, but Linda Perry is giving me my own voice; letting me be a total psycho freak and letting me evolve on my journey. I’m singing and finding myself on this album, but I’m still screaming and it’s awesome.
‘Big Star’ feels like a full-circle moment. What were the steps you took to move into a more assured version of yourself?
On the last record, the only song where I got to be vulnerable was on ‘Dope’ so on this one, I wanted to be more vulnerable, talk about taking heroin, and play it like I’m hanging out with Kurt Cobain and L7 in Seattle in the ‘90s. I wanted to say what’s in my heart and have my vocals heard over the music. My favourite lyric in that song is “when I’m laughing I know you’re my only friend, and when my day sucks, you promise that the world won’t end” which is such a vibe for the apocalypse where you’re stuck in a house but hopefully you’re laughing and getting some relief.
Thinking of the tortured artist using art as a form of release, how has Surfbort helped you move through your own struggles?
Drugs are so dark, gnarly and dangerous at a certain point. That why I don’t like the whole ‘sex, drugs, rock and roll’ thing. I don’t want to glamorise drugs ever, and I don’t judge people who do drugs, but man, you can party your ass off sober and have a blast. I’ve been on that journey with Surfbort and during the time we were touring the world, I was definitely popping champagne and being the fattest stoner ever. But during the apocalypse, I fully got sober and Oh, my God, it’s a whole other journey with Surfbort and it’s really cool. I just want to send the message out that you can still party and be a badass whilst not being fully obliterated, or doing endless coke.
The word ‘freak’ follows you everywhere you go, and whilst the term has historically had negative connotations, you use it to your advantage and promote it as a positive thing. What exactly does being a freak mean to you?
I think it’s beautiful to be a super freak. The whole band are total weirdo rejects who were shunned from their communities. I was ashamed of being a freak at first, but once I realised that there’s always gonna be haters and there’s always gonna be people bringing you down – even today – you find that there’s so much more power and beauty in just being your true self. If you’re feeling alone at home, thinking that you’re too weird, just know that you’re actually super cool. You have to find your tribe and the people who appreciate you.
Surfbort’s new album ‘Keep On Truckin’ is out October 11.