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Donnie’s Song: The Inside Story Of How The Social Experiment’s ‘Surf’ Came To Life

For the past two years, writer Jake Krez lived in the house that would become the starting point for Donnie Trumpet & The Social Experiment’s Surfsharing the house with Social Experiment members Donnie Trumpet and Peter Cottontale. Many long days and nights were spent by the group crafting the project, which was released last week on iTunes. As the album neared completion, Krez sat down with Trumpet to talk about the group’s path to the final product. Here’s his up-close-and-personal look at how ‘Surf’ came to be.
CHAPTER 1

A House In Chicago, Winter 2013

It was the beginning of winter in 2013. The stark cold of Chicago in November sent Peter Cottontale and Nico Segal — known more famously as Donnie Trumpet, the creative lead on Surf — down from the attic of the house Peter and I rented just north of the Logan Square neighborhood of the city. Setting up shop just outside my bedroom door in the basement, the two began tinkering, laying out
the arrangements and initial imprint of what Surf, Donnie Trumpet and The Social Experiment’s just-released project, would become.

 

It was a different time for the Chicago music scene. Vic Mensa had yet to crawl onstage with Kanye West, and Acid Rap — the mixtape that put Social Experiment affiliate Chance The Rapper firmly in the national spotlight, thus setting the stage for Surf‘s hype — was only eight months old. At the time, the biggest thing happening was the breakup of Kids These Days, the seven-piece band that started it all. The group, which featured Segal on horns alongside Mensa and Social Experiment drummer Greg Landfair, cut ties shortly after Acid Rap released in the spring. It was a distinct moment in time for the Chicago scene at large; Kids These Days had blazed a trail right to the stages of Lollapalooza and The Conan O’Brien Show that Chance and Mensa would later build upon, respectively, as solo artists.

Segal was perhaps most affected by the breakup. It was while performing alongside Kids These Days at South by Southwest in 2011 that Chance was “discovered,” and Nico had been a big part of his growth, along with the growth of many other local young stars. I remember being invited to join some of the Kids These Days members the weekend after the breakup announcement on a trip north to a family farm in Wisconsin. Sitting around a fire that night, I remember watching Segal, ahead of going on tour with Frank Ocean, shed real tears about the group’s end. His music is his life — his trumpet rarely leaves his side. In that moment, it seemed his passion for assembling and marshaling a talented group of artists had gone forever.

“The end of the band was definitely hard. That group was all I had known since I was 14 years old,” Segal told me, sitting in the attic where Surf began. “What I realized is that I just love making music with my friends, and I’m fortunate enough that my friends are really, really good at what they do. So as much as the breakup hurt, I was lucky enough to be able to find something that I could really understand and enjoy musically.”

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