THE SUPERTONES
The Sweet Ride
(Supertones Music)

 

In 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 Tim’s 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, it’s very upbeat, happy music to make you feel good. The Sweet Ride is our 18th album and at the time, I wasn’t 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 we’ve 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, surf-rock sound.

 





mwe3.com presents an interview with
TIM SULLIVAN


mwe3
: How are things in New York this winter 2017? How’s Chelsea doing these days? I really miss New York, especially 23rd Street, but at least thanks to your postings on Facebook, I know it’s 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. There’s 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 it’s 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 2017’s 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 it’s very upbeat, happy music to make you feel good. The Sweet Ride is our 18th album and at the time, I wasn’t 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 we’ve 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.

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?

Tim Sullivan: 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 didn’t get around to doing yet. All the bonus tracks we had recorded in 2013 and we just added them as an extra. They’re mostly old tunes I had written over the years. They’re 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-1970’s, 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, that’s 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. It’s 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. It’s kind of a power pop Byrds meets Fleetwood Mac Future Games era thing.

mwe3: 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. Simon’s on bass and he’s been with us now for 20 years and Seth’s on rhythm guitar for about 12 years. Seth’s 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 Braun’s 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 1962.

Tim Sullivan: “The Lonely Sea” version we do, was written by Don Wilson of The Ventures. I’m 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 Dalley’s first wave band The Surf Raiders. Bob’s 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 didn’t 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. It’s 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: “What’s Up” is an unusual Supertones song. Sounds like there’s 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.

mwe3: How about the Supertones' cover of the Ventures “Changing Tides”? Back to the early ‘60s for that one and what album did it originate on?

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: Bob’s 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, ‘That’s what I want to play!’ Bob ask if we would record “Curl Rider”… he thought it would a good match and I agreed.

mwe3: 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 don’t 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 they’ll be playing surf rock instrumentals in 2099?

Tim Sullivan: Oh yes! I love all kinds of stuff and players but I’m 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… India 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 year?

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 Blondie’s 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.



 

 
   
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