It is a pleasant, sunny Sunday morning at the New Apartments. Ben Weinman ’21 lazily strums a few chords on his guitar, soaking in the light coming from his bedroom window. The image is perfectly emblematic of the music Weinman likes to make: loose, fun and carefree.
“I just like to have fun with it,” he says between chords. His modest tone is an understatement, however — Weinman is one of the most prolific working musicians on campus: he is the musical director of all-male acapella group the Kokosingers, a studio manager for WKCO and a member of Kenyon’s jazz band, where he plays the saxophone. Now he is known on campus for his greatest achievement yet: being Kenyon’s mythological surf-rockstar.
Two years ago, Weinman’s hometown friend Andrew Berg approached him to teach him how to surf. Weinman and his other friend, Nate Hollander, set out on a mission to teach their friend how to surf. Their method? Music.
“Berg asked Nate and I to teach him how to surf and so we were like, why don’t we write a song about it? And that developed quickly into an album, which has now turned into a whole band that dedicates itself to writing music about surfing and Andrew Berg and any permutation of those things,” Weinman said.
The band’s name is Surf Party, USA, and over the past two years they have released over 10 albums and EPs, two music videos and a feature-length musical movie, all of which are dedicated to Berg and to the group’s collective love of surfing. “It was a lot of fun at first, and so we kept doing it, putting out more songs, albums, and playing a few live shows,” he said. “It’s pretty ridiculous.”
Their lyrics range from the mystical to the absurd. In “Surf On,” Weinman sings over jangly guitar strings and upbeat vocals: “Picture a wave while you’re riding a wave and your hair has wave, it’s a really cool wave… surf on!” In another of their hits, “Summertime,” birds chirp in the background as a piano swoons. Weinman sings, “I’m gonna go for a swim… I’ve got nothing to do, I’ve got nothing to do.”
Most of the songs have no real intention or purpose behind them, Weinman said. They’re just fun and frivolous and a way for him to release a constant stream of music. “It’s freeing to write such silly songs. I often struggle with writing serious lyrics, I’ve tried it before, and it’s just hard to take myself so seriously… so I find it easier to write dumb songs that are fun for me,” he said. “Because at the end of the day it’s just something that I enjoy doing and that is fun, so why not keep it that way.”
Although Surf Party, USA has always been a joke for Weinman and his bandmate Nate Hollander, he hopes to take on newer, more serious projects in the near future. Surf Party, USA played a live show in the New Apartment parking lot last semester and this semester Weinman hopes to start a band with drummer Jesse Glass ’21, vocalist Emma Spivack ’21 and guitarist Brian Sellers ’21. They’re still in search of a name.
Whether it’s with surf rock, the Kokosingers or this new band, Weinman brings a positive, lighthearted energy to every project he’s involved with. “Just give us a guitar, and a stage, and we can entertain,” he said and paused for a moment. “Ourselves, at least.”
You can surf through the numerous Surf Party, USA songs on Spotify and iTunes. Their new album, Anyone Can Surf, is out now