Susan SurfTone has maintained her well deserved stature as
a vital force on the guitar instrumental scene for the better part
of the past decade, she really hits a new artistic height with the
2012 CD release of Shore. An album that shines
a new light on the 21st century American instro rock guitar scene,
the 12 track Shore combines all the best elements of her earlier
CD releases with Susan & The SurfTones and then some. While tightening
up her image and even shortening the name of her bandjust calling
herself Susan SurfTone for this CDSusan puts it all together
with style and clearly, theres something about the sound of
Shore that easily wins over the listener. With her rugged guitar
stance and a 60s style guitar sound that echoes through time,
like an instrumental mix between '60s surf-rock and The Velvet Underground,
Susan expertly revives the instro rock sound of guitar giant Link
Wray with a little bit of Duane Eddy and Hank Marvin mixed in for
good measure. On Shore, the overall sound is quite accessible,
toe-tapping and easy on the ears, while retaining a decisive cutting
edge. Recording in Portland, Oregon, and working with producer
Steve Kravac, Susans nimble fretboard work receives solid
support from her band including Stephi SurfTone (drums), Lynn
SurfTone (bass) and Avory SurfTone (organ). Guitar instrumental
fans who dig the '60s instro beat of The Ventures and Duane Eddy will
flip for Shore, which ends an album worth of new original instrumentals
with a CD closing Susan SurfTone cover of the Doors 1971 classic
Riders On The Storm. Played as a spooky, slightly slowed
down rock instrumental, Susan's guitar literally sends shivers up
pleasure up and down your spine. After cutting a number of bouncy,
rockin instrumental CDs over the past decade, perhaps Shore
will be the one that puts Susan SurfTone on the guitar map for
mwe3.com presents an interview with
mwe3: The new album, Shore is being called your best album
yet. Why did you release it as a Susan SurfTone album and not as a
Susan And The SurfTones album? How did the album evolve and how would
you compare the overall sound and vision on Shore with your
earlier CD releases?
Shore is a solo effort with the exception of the
drumming. Steve Kravac (Stephi SurfTone) played drums. The album really
started when I got my Hofner bass and decided to learn to play it
by focusing on McCartneys bass lines on Beatles songs. Then
I started recording entire Beatles tunes with Audacity at home. After
90 Beatles songs were completed (yes, 90) I started working on some
new original material, bass lines first. After home recordings of
the first versions of the originals that found their way to Shore
I moved on to recording some early Rolling Stones material, then Muddy
Waters, then Robert Johnson, then Elvis Presley. By this time my guitar
style had changed somewhat and those changes were brought out after
a meeting with Steve in LA. Steve had listened to the first versions
of the original material and made some insightful suggestions. During
the six weeks before we went into Jackpot Studios I rewrote the originals
and those are the versions on Shore.
As compared to my earlier recordings, I think Shore has a much
broader reach in style and influence. The songs are fleshed out more
and the production is at a truly professional level. While rooted
in surf, I think Shore has a broader appeal than my earlier
recordings did. Maybe a few steps away from the niche.
mwe3: The Shore album has such a bouncy kind of 60s flavored
innocence to it. How did the sound of the 1960s change your
musical life and what bands and artists made a big impression on your
early musical upbringing, both pop and rock and instrumentally guitar-wise?
SUSAN: My musical life is rooted in the 1960s. It was a great
time to learn to play guitar. There was just so much great innovative
music and rock music was expanding at a pace never matched again.
I also have been a lifelong fan of rockabilly and Do-wop so there
are some 1950s influences in there too. The Beatles and Elvis
Presley were the major influences that caused me to pick up a guitar.
The Rolling Stones, the British Invasion, The Doors and the American
garage one-hit wonders loom large. The Myddle Class stands out as
a major garage influence.
Instrumental guitar influences were The Ventures and to some degree
Duane Eddy. Link Wray came later...
mwe3: I havent
heard an album, in a long time, that evokes the instro beat sound
60s as skillfully as the Shore album, yet you close the
album out with an instrumental cover of Riders On The Storm
originally released in 1971. Why did you choose that Doors track to
close the Shore CD with? How did you approach Riders
as an instrumental and can you describe the influence of that song
and the overall Doors sound and the influence of Robby Krieger on
your guitar playing as well? Did Robby hear the song yet?
SUSAN: I usually covered British bands on my previous releases. This
time I wanted to cover an American band. I chose Riders On The
Storm because most of the original was instrumental and the
interchange between the guitar and organ was very distinct. Its
also a great song with a great but simple melody line. The lyrics
are memorable and even though my version is instrumental you cant
help but hear the lyrics. My approach to the song was to remain somewhat
faithful to the original yet put some of my own stamp on it. The organ
was a leap of faith because its not my instrument but I always
love a challenge. Over the years I have been playing Ive been
told people hear The Doors in my guitar style. I did listen to them
a lot in the 1960s and I think I may have just picked up some
influences in my playing. I think Robby Krieger is a fantastic guitarist
and he contributed greatly to the success of The Doors. I dont
think hes heard my version of Riders yet.
mwe3: Can you say something about where youre from originally
and how you ended up living and recording in Oregon? Do you miss New
York and can you compare the energy and artistic nature of New York
with the more rugged, individualistic Pacific Northwest? Theres
something to be said for having a unifying musical force in America
originally from upstate New York and I ended up living in Oregon much
to my amazement. I will always be a New Yorker and I do miss it. Susan
and The SurfTones developed in New York and I always appreciated the
New York edge we had. Ive tried very hard to keep it here in
the Northwest. The Northwest has a great 1960s garage history
but its not as visible today as I wish it was.
mwe3: What other musicians play and record with you on the Shore
CD? Can you describe the chemistry with your band mates on this new
album and also what was it like working with producer Steve Kravac
and what did he bring to the table, musically, so to speak for the
SUSAN: Steve played drums. I played guitar, bass, and organ. Working
with a producer of Steves caliber was a new experience for me.
The record truly was a collaboration between me and Steve and it worked.
Musically Steve gave a lot of the material direction. He had an insight
into what I was trying to get at with the record that contributed
substantially to making the record come alive. Steve is a great producer
as well as being a great drummer. I was comfortable with him in the
studio and that made the project fun.
mwe3: How about guitars? What guitars are you playing on the Shore
album and how has your choice of guitars changed over the years? Also
can you remember your first guitar and what excites you mostly about
the guitar world, musically and gear wise, these days?
SUSAN: I played a Fender Stratocaster on the record. Mexican-made
from the 1990s. My choice of guitars has recently expanded to
include Gibson and Gretsch. Ill be playing a Gibson Melody Maker
on my upcoming West Coast tour. My first guitar was a $30 acoustic,
no-frills model. My first electric was a blue Kapa. I wish I had kept
it. Im excited that more women are being recognized for being
the great players they are. Im happy to see girls being encouraged
to play by companies like Daisy Rock Guitars.
What are your plans for 2012 and beyond and what are you hoping listeners
will come away with after listening to your new Shore CD?
SUSAN: In February/March 2012 two east coast SurfTones, Kim13 (organ)
and Brian Goodman (drums) are joining two west coast SurfTones, Dan
Ferguson (bass) and Avory Gray (organ) and myself for a short West
Coast tour. I expect I will start writing some new material in 2012.
I hope listeners come away with a positive feeling after listening
to Shore. I think we all need a bit of a lift these days and
people have always turned to music for that.
Thanks to Susan SurfTone @ www.SusanSurfTone.com