Q&A With TJ Thran!
Thump is the latest release from TJ Thran of the CVRRENT with the world famous Malibu Surfrider Beach setting the stage. No better way to kick off summer than with an edit featuring Kassia Meador, Jonah Reimers, Grant Hilling, Saxon Wilson, and Ryan Conklin all captured navigating their way through the dense seasonal crowds of this legendary spot. The surfing and the music are damn near transcendental with the combination of smooth, stylish surfing and grinding sitars (even some self produced synth/Kraut inspired jams by TJ). It’s a mood. Some might even call it a “vibe” but whatever you want to label it, it’ll make you want to surf. Enjoy! - Bob Loblaw
Hey TJ! The music and the surfing really compliment one another. What came first? Do you try to match the feeling of the footage?
I generally try to start out with at least some sort of track to work with while editing. The dude Giles who I initially learned to edit from used that method and I always loved the way his videos cut to the beats and rhythms of the music and I wanted to try to achieve a similar vibe with my videos. So for this one in particular, I started out with a different first song than what is in there now, and actually ended up with the Nicola Conte track as a suggestion from Jonah who is in the video. I think the track he picked is killer and works really well for his and Kassia’s parts. The second song is actually a little soundscape track that I made on Garageband during quarantine and I think the vibe worked out well. I kind of like how rhythmic and mysterious it sounds, like unlocking the deep mysteries of the Bu.
When was it filmed? Why did it take so long to be released?
I initially filmed the edit in July of 2019 while on a short trip out to California for a different gig. That was my first time meeting a lot of the crew there, including Saxon and Ryan, both of whom I’ve watched surf on the interwebs for a while now. I thought it was so sick there were other east coast loggers there. They were all really nice and genuine when I introduced myself as well and it just stoked me out and I felt like I was creating new important friendships. I had made the initial cut of the edit when Covid started, and was going to drop it in the spring, but realized the political and social climate of the time (everything happening with the Black Lives Matter movement) made surfing and surf videos feel so petty. It just didn’t feel right to drop it then, and so it went to the back burner so we could focus on how to play our part in educating ourselves on social justice, specifically in surfing. In the end it worked out, because since that first cut, so much of the video changed including the music and parts and the title as well.
How do you normally secure rights/permission to use a song?
Music is such a tricky subject. Obviously I would love to be able to afford the rights to more well known music we all vibe to, but since this is a passion project and I don’t make any money off of these films, it would be impractical to pay for music like that. So in general I try to use music that is made by friends, or friends of friends, or bands or producers I find on bandcamp. Typically I just reach out to these smaller time bands and musicians and express my love for their tunes and how they would go great in a surfing flick, as well as my financial picture. Out of all the times I’ve asked smaller time bands for music, I’ve only been turned down once. I think in general everyone is just stoked to collaborate and share their art. I also always make sure to purchase the music or album myself as a small way to show some financial support. And generally it is so worth it, because the bands I’ve found end up being so, so rad and are just out there pursuing their passion like we are with CVRRENT. It’s kind of a “rising tide lifts all ships sort of mentality.”
Filmers are a unique breed. How do you deal with seeing perfect surf and feeling content on the beach? It sounds like a sunburn and a fair amount of FOMO.
That’s always the question I get asked… “how do you just sit there and film when its firing?” In general I am up pretty early when the waves are good. Often times, I’ll just paddle out before the sun comes up and before everyone shows up and catch a handful of waves, especially if I know I am going to be filming a lot that particular swell. But days end up being long and I couldn’t possibly surf for 12 hours straight anyways, so usually I end up filming for 3 or 4 hours and surfing for 3 or 4 hours each swell. I also don’t mind surfing when it’s a little choppy or funky. In the end it's worth it to me to stay on the beach and document my friends shredding. The real reward happens when I get to drop a video and do an in-person premiere and hear the hoots and hollers from everyone in the crowd. Those few minutes watching everyone watch the video that took so much time and effort never gets old and is worth the missed waves every single time.
What is the CVRRENT?
I’ve kind of struggled to describe CVRRENT over the years. I think the best way to describe it is a “passion project.” Our main focus is making surf videos and doing art shows and premieres to show the videos and highlight some of the talented local artists in the surf community. A goal of CVRRENT has always been to create an intersection between art and wave sliding. Through art shows, videos, photos, events, and limited gear runs, we are able to do amazing work with a lot of amazing people. A lot of the value in CVRRENT is just the worldwide community that we have been able to tap into. It’s wild to show up to some far flung break and find out a few of the local surfers already know about what we’re doing. It allows us to make all sorts of new friends and share in the pastime that we all love so much.
I understand you’re on a roadtrip. Where are you currently and what has been playing on the sound system?
Yeah so I just started a 5-month long roadtrip with my main focus being hiking, camping, surfing, snowboarding, and exploring new zones. I just got out to Washington state a few days ago and I had a blast surfing with a really amazing local crew out here. I always end up playing a lot of older country music on roadtrips, especially when in the midwest, desert, and mountains. So I’ve pretty much been listening to a lot of Waylon Jennings, Johnny Cash, and Hank Williams, and stuff in that vein. But I listen to just about every type of music, so if I need to change it up I have plenty of go to’s that I love to jam out to.
You throwdown on a snowboard. Any snowboarding in the mountains or glaciers while you’re traveling?
I actually got my 100th day on a snowboard this season when passing the Continental Divide in Wyoming. It was a tiny little hill and we just took a few laps but it was a really cool experience for day 100, and one that I probably won't be forgetting anytime soon. Other than that I hope to get out to Mount Hood for a few days and ride some terrain parks with some buddies out there. I’ve always dreamt of summer riding at Hood and i think it's finally going to happen this year.
As a LogWrap team rider, what do you like to blaze before or after the beach/mountains?
Sometimes I burn before I snowboard and surf but it all really depends on the vibe. If I am just cruising groomers and mellow woods, or riding knee high waves on an old longboard, I like to roll a doobie beforehand. Living in Vermont you end up knowing a whole lot of people who grow amazing buds, so I was just smoking stuff from friends. I typically go for a nice Sativa or hybrid though to keep the energy levels up. When I’m coaching or riding the park, or riding deep powder deep in the woods, I try to keep a straight mind. Like everything, it's a balance.
Any shoutouts? Any other project you’re working on.
There are way too many people to shout honestly, but foremost I gotta shout out RC for doing what he's doing for the surf community through Lograp, and the greater boarding community through LogWraps. Out of all my years filming surfing I’ve only been offered to be paid for my work twice, and one of those times it was Ryan. I know he is just scraping by like the rest of us trying to make something out of filming surfing, so to be offered some money, it just blows me away. He really is the real deal as a filmer, entrepreneur, and friend. I am downright lucky to have Ryan as a close friend. I think everyone else who I appreciate knows it. I try to tell my friends how much I love and appreciate them as often as possible, either through words or actions. I have so many chosen family members and I am so grateful for all of them. You all know who you are <3.