Posted July 6, 2014 by Jeff in Tunes

Susan SurfTone: More than cool riffs

Susan SurfTone
Susan SurfTone

Both surfing and surf rock are commonly associated with, well, dudes. But Susan SurfTone, who’s played guitar since age nine (she picked up her first one in 1964), has been a figure in instrumental surf rock for the better part of 40 years now. She certainly holds her own against surf rock icons like Dick Dale. In fact, her style of playing is perhaps a bit more fluid and smoother than Dale’s. Formerly of Susan and the Surftones, the garage/surf band that she formed in the ’90s, SurfTone went solo in 2009 and has continued to record and tour. Her latest endeavor, Reckoning, is another strong effort.

The disc opens with “Mojo Junction,” a number that features gritty guitar riffs interspersed with more melodic moments. Played at a slower tempo (at least for its first half), “Circles” has garage/psychedelic overtones but still includes Ventures-like twangs that keep it firmly in the surf rock category. With its pounding drums and reverberating guitar riffs, the title track has an epic feel to it while “Secrets” has a cool, vintage rock ’n’ roll attitude that seems perfectly suited for a Quentin Tarantino soundtrack. The brisk “Vortex ’59” has a jangly quality to it and album closer “Mystery Train” is the poppiest of the tunes and provides a nice way of closing the disc. SurfTone has said she doesn’t think of herself as a pioneer but her intricate guitar work and good ear for melody certainly distinguish her in the surf guitar world and suggest just how talented she is on the instrument. While surf guitar heroes often settle for making background music, SurfTone makes music that engages the listener. She doesn’t just settle for unleashing cool riffs; rather, she pays close attention to melody and harmony.


Jeff started writing about rock ’n’ roll some 20 years ago when he stood in the pouring rain to hitch hike his way to see R.E.M. on their Life’s Rich Pageant tour. Since that time, he's written for various daily newspapers, alt-weeklies, magazines and websites. Feel free to comment on his posts or suggest music, film and art to him at [email protected].