2015, The Supertones released Going To A Rock & Roll
Dance Party, a CD which featured a range of party music covers
all played instrumentally, Supertones style. Now in early 2017, guitarist
Tim Sullivan and Company are back with a new Supertones CD
called The Sweet Ride. Packed with 27 instrumental
rockers, The Sweet Ride features 17 freshly penned Sullivan
originals, along with some lesser known covers by Don Wilson of The
Ventures, J.D. Loudermilk, and several bonus cuts featuring Supertones
tracks from the vaults. As usual with Supertones albums, the recording
sound is amazing, the originals are stellar and the classic surfing-inspired
cover art concept knocks you off your feet. Many listeners are surprised
to learn The Supertones are from New York City but, considering their
extensive surfing knowlege, NYC is just their physical whereabouts.
The Supertones are based in Chelsea area of Manhattan, although it
may sound like Tims heart is surfing off of the sands in Rincon
or some rare wave in Maui or Australia. Speaking about the big beat
instro rock sound of The Sweet Ride, Tim Sulllivan tells mwe3.com
"Well, yes, its very upbeat, happy music to make you
feel good. The Sweet Ride is our 18th album and at the time, I wasnt
sure if it was going to be our last record or not. We do have about
two albums of live material that we will release some day, but when
I started to write these new songs I had an epiphany. It just flowed
out, one song after another, as if some thing or somebody was writing
them so, I just opened myself up and let them come. 17 new songs and
I must say, this is my favorite album weve done. There are four
cover tunes, two songs by The Surf Raiders and two by The Ventures,
which were my inspirations for doing this album." With eighteen
albums in the Supertones catalog, group guitarist Tim Sullivan is
a legend of the downtown NYC music scene and The Sweet Ride is
the album that defines the essence of The Supertones and their big-beat,
mwe3.com presents an interview with
How are things in New York this winter 2017? Hows Chelsea doing
these days? I really miss New York, especially 23rd Street, but at
least thanks to your postings on Facebook, I know its still
there! What parts of NYC are your favorites?
Tim Sullivan: Sure, things are pretty okay here. I am still
living in the Chelsea hotel. Theres still 55 of us artists still
living here and the new owners are on the right track with what it
should be. They plan on it opening up again in 2018 as a Hotel so
we will see but NYC seems to be going through a new renaissance. 23rd
Street is full of people, where 20 years ago it was empty. Up here
now its the new place to go to, mostly good stuff but it is
very alive. These days my favorite part of town is the Chelsea, great
place to live and West 23rd Street between 8th Avenue and 10th Avenue
are my favorite parts of NYC. The old brownstones are just magnificent
on 23rd street.
mwe3: With Going To A Rock & Roll Dance Party you
said you wanted to make an album that people could dance to at a party
and then with the album before that, Mysto Incognito you said
you wanted to make a heavier and darker album so where does 2017s
The Sweet Ride fit into the Supertones sound? For the most
part, Sweet Ride is a very upbeat album. And I remember you
told us in 2013, The Sweet Ride might be the last or final
Supertones album or have things changed?
Tim Sullivan: Well, yes its very upbeat, happy music
to make you feel good. The Sweet Ride is our 18th album and
at the time, I wasnt sure if it was going to be our last record
or not. We do have about two albums of live material that we will
release some day, but when I started to write these new songs I had
an epiphany. It just flowed out one song after another as if some
thing or somebody was writing them so, I just opened myself up and
let them come. 17 new songs and I must say this my favorite album
weve done. There are four cover tunes, two songs by the Surf
Raiders and two by The Ventures, which were my inspirations for doing
mwe3: It sounds like you were going through a prolific phase
writing most of the originals on The Sweet Ride. When were
the new originals written? Are they all new or did you have some tracks
from your archives that needed to be brought back and/or finished?
All the new tracks I wrote in 2016. I was trying to write a new song
everyday and these tunes were the ones we worked out the arrangements
to. I still have a few we didnt get around to doing yet. All
the bonus tracks we had recorded in 2013 and we just added them as
an extra. Theyre mostly old tunes I had written over the years.
Theyre just different versions of some my older tunes some from
1989, like I Surf In Black.
mwe3: What can you tell us about the title track The
Sweet Ride and also what can you tell us about the great cover
art that matches the title? Is The Sweet Ride a new track
or a song you wrote earlier? I think this album has the best album
artwork yet on a Supertones CD. It has a bit of a vibe from the early
Dick Dale era Crescendo Records covers.
Tim Sullivan: Yes, The Sweet Ride was an older
tune that we redid and it was the reason, direction and inspiration
for all the other new songs. As you know I am big fan of early surf
stuff, from photos to art work, surf ads, surf mags and surf music
album covers and, when I was doing the artwork for this, I wanted
to really capture the essence of what surfing, surf art and surf music
were all about pre-1970s, the golden ages of surfing and the
resurgence of classic surfing and surf music.
mwe3: Speaking about cool originals on The Sweet Ride, what
can you tell us about your original called The Gorgon?
Wow, thats an instro that seems to cross generations, almost
has a bit of a late 60s Fleetwood Mac sound.
Tim Sullivan: This was the last tune that was recorded. Its
a song I wrote only a few days before we went into the studio. I had
to teach the guys the song on the spot. We learned it and did it in
only one take. It was really only supposed to be a demo and not a
cut for this album. But, when we listened to it there was something
really cool about it, so when we went in to master the album I said,
let me figure out a melody for it and use my 1963 Ric 12 string on
it and it turned out to be a favorite of mine. Its kind of a
power pop Byrds meets Fleetwood Mac Future Games era thing.
Tell us about the current band with Simon, Seth and Tommy. Is this
the definitive Supertones lineup? Tell us where The Sweet Ride
was recorded as I see you list two different studios and was there
a different approach in recording between the first 18 tracks, including
The Gorgon, recorded in Brooklyn and the other tracks,
including the bonus cuts?
Tim Sullivan: Yes, this is our main group. We do have different
drummers we use but our main guy is Tommy. Simons on bass and
hes been with us now for 20 years and Seths on rhythm
guitar for about 12 years. Seths brother Marc was the original
bass guitar player and Marc and I go back to 1986 and back in the
day, Seth use to come all our gigs so he almost an original member.
On some of our live shows out in Rockaway Beach we will use percussionist
Ralton Lewis. Oh yes, we first recorded the remake of the song The
Sweet Ride and the bonus tracks in Jay Brauns Studio 2013
but he had to move out of his studio and then we moved over to Cowboy
Technical Studio 2016. I felt, since this was the song title for the
new album, that we should redo it so it would sound like the new songs
on the record. It was a complete different environment. At Cowboy
Technical they had a great set up with a Fairchild compressor, great
equipment. These guys were masters at recording a live sound. Our
engineer Mario was the best I have ever worked with. He also mastered
it. I am beyond pleased with it. My approach with these 18 new tunes,
first was I was going to use my new Quilter Steelaire amp with an
echo plex and my Jazzmaster. Simon on his Tele bass for the basic
tracks. We added upright and 12 string later but I wanted a real straight
ahead sound, really pushing the beat unlike the bonus stuff where
I used my 64 twin on those tracks and it was a little more laid-back
in performance. You can really hear the difference.
mwe3: The originals are great but how did you decide on the
covers this time? I had forgotten the Ventures song The Lonely
Sea which The Supertones revive here as an instro on The
Sweet Ride. What brought that one. I originally got it mixed up
with the Brian Wilson composition of the same name that the Beach
Boys did on their Surfin USA album from the Summer of
Sullivan: The Lonely Sea version we do, was written
by Don Wilson of The Ventures. Im not sure which song came out
first but the Ventures version came out in 63 and it is from
their Surfing album. The Lonely Sea, Windy
& Warm and Changing Tides are all from that
1963 Ventures album. I am a huge Ventures fan and this is my favorite
Ventures album of all. Most of the tunes on it were written by them,
and I have been listening to it since 1964 and it's a major influence
on this record. The other two are tunes by the Robert Dalleys
first wave band The Surf Raiders. Bobs a good friend. He wrote
the book Surfing Guitars and asked me if we would record Curl
Rider and I said hell yeah! I love that song. Lots of cool blimping
on it and I loved Point Conception 63 so we recorded
both of their tunes. Those two cuts are my favorite cuts on this recording.
mwe3: I had no idea JD Loudermilk wrote that many great songs.
Thanks for the reminder. I guess the Chet Atkins version is the most
popular of Windy & Warm. I didnt know Loudermilk
died near the end of 2016.
Tim Sullivan: Yes we got this one from the Ventures Surfing
record. I have always loved it. Its got lots of musical challenges
on it. I think he wrote it for Chet and Nokie arranged it for The
Ventures. I learned it as a kid and always want to record it.
mwe3: Whats Up is an unusual Supertones song.
Sounds like theres a Santana influence. Another song with a
very upbeat sound is Bajo Blanco which has a bit of a
Latin vibe to it too. What can you tell us about those two songs.
Are there vibraphones on Bajo Blanco too?
Tim Sullivan: Tommy, our drummer, is really into Latin music
and said we should try to cover this famous Salsa tune so I tried
to learn it! I learned the chords. It was basically a minor blues
progression but it was not a good key or melody for the guitar so
I came up with a new melody and turned it around to come up with this
interesting track. My Latin friends love it. Now "Bajo Blanco"
is named after a white sand bottom sand bar in Rincon, Puerto Rico.
I sat in with this Latin band in Puerto Rico and they played this
modern Puerto Rican ballad. I liked the changes so I put it into a
guitar key, came up with a melody, added a bridge and a turn around
and pushed the beat and volume.
How about the Supertones' cover of the Ventures Changing Tides?
Back to the early 60s for that one and what album did it originate
Tim Sullivan: Also on the Ventures Surfing album.
mwe3: The Sweet Ride also features a cover of Curl Rider
by Robert J. Dalley. What else can you tell us about that song and
Dalley? I see his band, The Surf Raiders actually started in the 1980s
although he grew up in SoCal during the early 60s.
Tim Sullivan: Bobs a good friend and a huge influence
on The Supertones. Both him and John Blair of Jon & The Nightriders
were the first guys in California to bring this music to its next
level as New Wave Surf Music around 1980. I believe The Surf Raiders
were the first retro surf band to do a surf album. I got it when they
put it out and said, Thats what I want to play!
Bob ask if we would record Curl Rider
it would a good match and I agreed.
Speaking about cool instro covers, what can you tell us about
tracks 24 and 25, Paradise Point and Moonshot,
two of the bonus track on The Sweet Ride CD? You dont
list the writing credits on the bonus cuts?
Tim Sullivan: All those bonus tracks, except The Lonely
Sea are mine. Paradise Point we have recorded about
four times with different arrangements. This one is more heavy. Moonshot
as well is just a take on one of my older songs with more punch.
mwe3: Are you listening to new music these days or mostly the
classics? Do you think theyll be playing surf rock instrumentals
Sullivan: Oh yes! I love all kinds of stuff and players but Im
not into Hip-Hop or Rap or this auto-tune pop music. Any thing that
moves me is what I look for. It can come from anywhere
or Poland. If I can make an emotional connection with it, it just
takes three four notes to do it.
mwe3: If you could make any type of album with The Supertones
what would it sound like? And what other plans do you and The Supertones
have for 2017 as far as performances, writing and recordings this
Tim Sullivan: Good question
what would that sound like?
I would love do an album of new wave hits like Blondie, The Ramones
and have it sound like Blondies Parallel Lines. (lol)
That, would be interesting. Well we will
be playing all around NYC, Rockaway beach, Jacob Riis Park and we
would love to get back into the studio. The guys are after me to write
some more tunes. I already have a couple of new tunes in my pocket
so I am sure at some point we will be working our next project.