Surf’s up, Big Kahuna!
Temps are rising again in the Midwest, which means summer’s just around the corner. And that means beaches, boats, boogie boards, and umbrella drinks.
But you don’t need to be a card-carrying member at Edgewater Yacht Club or have a buddy with timeshares on Kelley’s Island or Put-in-Bay in order to enjoy the splendors of the season. Music can set the mood, transporting traffic-jammed commuters and house-bound stay-cationers to the mental destination of one’s choosing.
Palm trees and coconuts? Cold beers and banana daiquiris? Cool waters and balmy breezes? Yes, the proper tuneage can make you feel like you’ve got sand on your toes and a dollop of SPF-30 smeared on your nose.
And no one does oceanic audio like Susan “Surftone” Yasinksi.
Raised on a steady diet of Chuck Berry, Beatles, Byrds, and Doors, young Susan picked up guitar in Rochester and learned to recreate the shimmery, reverberated sounds popularized by The Ventures, The Surfaris, and Dick Dale. Yasinski unplugged long enough to attend grad school in Boston and land a job with the FBI, but law enforcement left her with a creative itch she couldn’t scratch.
So Susan grabbed her ax and formed a power trio. Together, The Surftones released a string of albums (Thunderbeach, Bitchin’, Fluid Drive, etc.) on indie labels in Germany and Italy and contributed catchy surf ‘n’ turf songs to soundtracks, compilations, and one-offs whenever invited to do so.
Another major life change came when Surftone quit the East Coast for the West. Settling outside Portland, Oregon, the string-picker began focusing on solo projects with producer Steve Kravac (Blink 182, Pepper). Susan dipped her foot in the pool with 2011’s Shore, dove into the deep end with 2013’s Too Far, and mastered her breaststroke and butterfly on 2014’s Reckoning.
Since then, Surftone’s been recording dazzling digital singles (originals and covers) for release on iTunes and CD Baby as her schedule permits…and then gathering them later up for bite-size EPs like Blue Light at Midnight (2015) and The Magician (2016).
Now Surftone’s back for 2017 with the aptly-christened EP Making Waves Again.
Collaborating with Rex Studios engineer Brent Rogers, Surftone lets loose across seven sensational tracks that showcase not only her guitar chops, but her vocals. As with her last few efforts, Susan’s newest Acme Brothers disc boasts a satisfying balance of her own material and intriguing interpolations of oldies-but-goodies by other groovy cats. Kravac enjoys a cameo, but otherwise Surftone handles all instrumentation except drums (that’s jazz stickman Brian Foxworth behind the kit).
Susan’s maiden voyage on the mic began with Magician. Here, it’s a more confident Surftone seducing the Shure on hangover-hinged rocker “Bottom of My Glass,” whereon Susan’s regretful debutante seeks forgiveness for her bad-girl behavior.
“Did I make a scene? Did I say things that were mean?” she queries, Danelectro guitar riffs churning to the busy beats.
Single “Up, Down and All Around” pits Surftone’s buzzy lead guitar licks with a catchy c’mon, c’mon refrain whereby she sets herself up as a beacon in the dark—a luminescent lighthouse—for a friend flailing in blackness. Mia Moravis lends her distinct backup vocals to the mix, making for a densely-layered ditty that tickles the ear.
“Mint 471” is a gritty, tsunami-prompting guitar excursion that packs Scottie Moore plectrum aggression with a biting, B.B. King tone and runaway beat. The EP’s other terrific instrumentals include the Doc Pomus-written “A Mess of Blues”— a 1960 hit for Elvis Presley manifested here as a dreamy, twelve-bar ballad—and “Blue Guitar,” an old Chicago blues number long cited (along with other bits by Willie Dixon and Muddy Waters) as being the inspiration for Led Zeppelin’s “You Shook Me.”
Waves’ other covers are equally fulfilling, imaginative, and respectful: Surftone’s vocal delivery and string attack are sharp on “Temptation,” which reimagines the 1933 gem by Nacio Herb Brown and Alan Freed for today’s audiences. Previously covered by such notables as Bing Crosby (Singin’ in the Rain), Perry Como, The Everly Brothers, and Cherry Poppin’ Daddies, the piece is given a guitar-centric reading.
“You were born to be kissed,” sighs Susan. “I can’t resist!”
Neither can we.
So bust out those wetsuits, wayfarers, and water mocs. Susan Surftone’s back with another dose of hula-hoopin’ riptide rock.