SAN FRANCISCO, Calif. (KRON) – Some say the hum of the Golden Gate Bridge drives them crazy, but San Francisco State University alum Nate Mercereau was actually inspired by the noise.
The bridge started emanating the loud hum following a retrofit last year of the sidewalk safety railing on its western side, and engineers are hard at work trying to stop the noise.
Nate has worked with some iconic names including Lizzo, Sean Mendes, Jay Z, and Leon Bridges, but this time his duet partner wasn’t a person.
In a musical endeavor, Nate and Bay Area producer Zach Parkes created four instrumental duets that feature the bridge’s “hum.”
Read our full Q & A below:
What inspired the idea?
“The idea actually came from an article in the SF Chronicle. They released a headline that was something like ‘The hum of the Golden Gate Bridge is driving people crazy, when is it gonna shut up?’ I personally found the sound to be not terrible. I actually really liked it. So I felt like there was an opportunity to frame it as something different.”
How long did the entire process take?
“Within 48 hours I had called Zach Parkes who’s an engineer and producer in the Bay. We had been making inspired plans on the phone together to record this and figure it out. We scattered a bunch of locations at first. We were originally gonna try to take a boat under the bridge. But it’s the largest shipping channel, one of the largest on the West Coast, so it was not possible to do that. As we were doing that we were just starting to find all these different locations. We scouted for about like a day and a half before we really found the spot.”
Where was that?
“We landed in the Marin headlands, found a trail that took us down the hill to this old military bunker, which has this really great flat concrete surface that was perfect to set up on. It had a great view of the bridge. It also was a bit of a cove. So the wind speed that’s required to make the bridge make the sound wasn’t really hitting in the cove. So it was really an ideal spot. It was worth all the time it took to find it.”
What kind of challenges did you face?
“We went in kind of knowing that this might not even happen. So everything was based on the weather report. If this turned into a weekend of us just driving around San Francisco, looking at the Golden Gate Bridge trying to hear it – if that’s all that happened, we would have been okay with it. So we had low expectations, and that allowed us to just be creative and react in the moments where we could actually make this happen.”
What was recording the bridge like?
“In terms of recording the bridge… that is difficult. The wind has to reach a certain speed in order to make the bridge make a sound. Recording wind is like one of the most difficult things to do. It usually just overdrives the microphone and makes that sound that you hear in phones all the time. So we had to really focus on finding the right spot. Also we did a lot of field recording where we would walk around with the microphones in our shirts to block the wind and to make sure we found the best location.”
What was it like being back in the Bay Area after going to school here?
“I used to drive across that bridge all the time, to play shows or to travel around. It’s a massive historical landmark for so many people. Everybody who has spent time in the Bay has a relationship to that bridge. The fact that it’s making sound is relatively unbelievable in the first place. Yes I do understand that it can be very difficult to be immersed in that sound so constantly if you live in San Francisco. So I’m not sliding the people who do have to deal with that, but I am choosing to live my life and live my creative output life in a way that looks at things with a positive spin.”
How have your past projects helped you with this one?
“I feel this way about all the music I make. It all comes from the same source. It doesn’t really matter if it’s with a pop artist, or the Golden Gate Bridge, or anywhere in between. The only difference comes in when you sort out what the music needs to do in the world. What’s unique about this project is the pace that it happened. I try to live my life following that inspiration whenever I can, whenever it’s available. And this was a true exercise in that from the beginning to now. It all happened fast with positivity and creativity. It actually opened up a lot of future ways to look at making music. I don’t know if I’ll make another project with a bridge, but just looking at sound in the world in this way now is gonna be a part of my life.”
I saw that you called the bridge the ‘largest wind instrument in the world’? Will you elaborate on this?
“I consider anything that makes sound an instrument. I’m not the only person who has said something like that. That’s an idea that’s been around for a while. It’s very obvious to me when the bridge is doing it because it’s truly creating like tones that are reverberating out. From our location, it was playing in C Major, but I also have some friends in the Bay who had noticed that it was kind of fluctuating in pitch and also depending on the wind speed. I think all of that affects the sound.”
Nate Mercereau’s “Duets / Golden Gate Bridge” is now out on all streaming platforms, including Youtube where you can watch the full video.
Nate also announced an upcoming album SUNDAYS which is due Sept. 24. You can pre-order it here.