Susan started playing guitar after the Beatles appeared on the Ed Sullivan Show in 1964. A number of boys picked up the guitar, bass, or drums, but very few girls did. After law school, and a job with the FBI as a Special Agent, Susan started her first band in NYC in the mid 1980’s. By 1995 she had relocated to Rochester NY and started “The SurfTones”, an all instrumental surf band. Susan and her band were signed to a three CD record deal by Gee-Dee Music in Hamburg, Germany, which later led to four European Tours. After moving and touring in the West Coast, Susan started recording as “Susan SurfTone” in 2011 playing guitar and bass. Susan always loved trying new things so she did some vocal recordings focusing in Rockabilly and Indie Rock. She also recorded two acoustic CD’s and did some performing in Los Angeles with acoustic guitar. In 2020, Susan went back to instrumental surf music to mark her twenty-five years in surf music. Even though Susan did venture out into other genres; she never completely left the beach.
The EP”, your new recording, is your first all-instrumental completely surf recording in quite a while. What inspired you to return to the genre?
2020 marks my 25th year in surf music. My first CD, “Without A Word” was released by Gee-Dee Music, Hamburg, Germany in November 1995 when the band was called Susan and the SurfTones. When I went solo as Susan SurfTone in 2011, I started exploring different genres. I recorded some vocals songs, mostly rockabilly and some indie rock. I recorded instrumentals that leaned more toward rock but always with a hint of surf, sometimes more than a hint. I even recorded some acoustic music, again rock with some surf leanings. I felt it was time to do a surf song, so I recorded “Baja” in March 2020. “Baja” was written by LA songwriter Lee Hazelwood who did a lot of work with Nancy Sinatra and recorded by The Astronauts in 1963. It’s a staple for any surf band. I played guitar and bass. Nick Vincent, who had worked with me previously on some non-surf music, played drums. Jeff Silverman, Palette Studio, Mt. Juliet and Nashville, TN, mixed and mastered. “Baja” did better than I ever expected.
What was the response to “Baja”?
The airplay was the main thing. “Baja” was played several times on Bill Kelly’s Blackhole Bandstand, The Underground Garage, SiriusXM Channel 21. Mike Murray played it often on his show, Whole Lotta Shakin’” on WRUR. Suzy Hotrod gave it a spin on her show, Rock and Roller Derby, on WMFU. The airplay led to some interviews and gave me reason to record another song with Nick and Jeff. I chose “Blue Hammer.” It was on “Without A Word” and was used on MTV’s Real World: Sydney, Season 19. It was popular in Germany too. “Blue Hammer” leans toward more 1960’s garage than surf as many of my originals do. I grew up in upstate New York where garage music was very popular when I was learning to play guitar. We heard surf songs like “Wipe Out” and “Pipeline” but didn’t hear the regional Southern California hits. There is a heavy ‘60’s garage influence in my music. I began to think about an ep at this time when “Blue Hammer” did well too.
What is “The EP” all about?
I went back through the Susan and the SurfTones originals from the three Gee-Dee CDs and picked out four favorites. I gave them each a fresh approach bringing in some of the different styles I’ve picked up along the way with new arrangements. One song, “Hellfire Point”, is so different it warranted a new title. “Cottonwood Beach” is a brand new original. Nick and Jeff joined me for “The EP.” I enjoy playing bass and I wanted to play the bass lines I always heard in my head for these songs. The S&ST recordings were done fairly quickly when we were touring often. I think my guitar playing has developed a bit in the
twenty plus years since these songs were first recorded.
The cover photo is a bit ominous. Can you tell us about that?
I took that photo at Cottonwood Beach, William Clark Park, Washougal, WA on the night of the Blood Moon on September 27, 2015. I was on the beach alone taking photos when the Columbia River started to rise. At first, I thought there was a large ship out there but no. I heard a loud grinding noise coming from the river as the river kept rising. I got out fast but stopped to get the photo. I did some research and found that what I experienced was a tidal bore. However, there is no record of a tidal bore occurring on the Columbia River and the geological conditions at Cottonwood Beach aren’t right for it. The grinding sound was the riverbed churning. People have been drowned by tidal bores. It was scary. Cottonwood Beach, WA is also where Lewis and Clark made camp for about a week toward the end of their explorations. They didn’t have an easy time of it there.
How is “The EP” doing so far?
Very well. More airplay on the shows listed above and a feature on Jeffery Robert Lindholm’s Geezer Rock- PRX. Jeffery has featured artists such as Blue Oyster Cult, Carlos Santana, The Psychedelic Furs, Bob Dylan and Ringo Starr among many other. Jeffery’s show spotlights artists over 50 still recording new music. I’m looking forward to hearing one of the songs on Bill Kelly’s Blackhole Bandstand in December. There’s a follow-up single already recorded. A favorite of mine and Nick’s from 1961.
Listen on SoundCloud.
Stream on Spotify
For more information on Susan SurfTone, please visit her website.