“Music is the complement to surfing for me.”
Between surf trips to Iceland and musical adventures of Ivory Coast, starting the Surf and Hope Foundation to help underprivileged kids, and collaborating on Andrew Kidman’s soundtrack to the movie Spirit of Akasha, Lee-Ann Curren is much more than just the daughter of surfing’s enigma Tom Curren.
“Growing up, the biggest reason I wanted to learn an instrument was so I could write music! I have a little book and every time I have a good idea I just write it down. I think you have to write every day, even if what you write isn’t any good. You can have a whole page of bad stuff and maybe there is just one sentence in there that you keep. I write a bit around the surf events. There is a lot of waiting around in surfing so having something creative on the side is really complementary. A lot is going on in your head when you’re nervous. I reckon you can be the most creative just before your heat.
“I did backup vocals for my Dad on a few of his demos but mostly I just jam every time I go to California. My little brother Pat [Curren] plays the drums in an indie rock band called Clean Spill so we all just play together. Steph [Stephanie Gilmore] plays guitar really well so we sometimes jam when we’re at events or on Roxy trips together. On my last trip to London I met Tony Alva and we talked a lot about music, I think one day we’ll probably play together, he seems like such a fun person to jam with!
“I met Philip and Christina [siblings and original band mates of Betty The Shark] when I was in high school. We were 15 when we started the band. They’re half American half French and they moved back to New York when they were 18. I started doing a lot of contests at that time so we put the band on hold. I went back to New York in 2011 and we just decided to start up again. Christina isn’t in the band anymore, but we’re still really good friends and she’ll always be part of the family. When Philip and I were apart we still did a lot of our own recordings and when we got back together it was cool to see how he’d evolved as a musician.
“We play a lot around the southwest of France during the summer. We did a little tour of the east coast of the States and played in bars and stayed in the van. Last year we did a trip with my dad to Ivory Coast, which was pretty cool. The crowd there was awesome, so open-minded and they just loved music.
“We were playing this one concert and when we got on stage we saw they hadn’t set it up straight, the whole thing was leaning over at an angle. That was sketchy enough but then a massive storm came blowing in and the electricity went out and we had to go and take shelter in a nearby hotel. The guy who was scheduled to play after us just started jamming on his acoustic guitar in the lobby and then it just turned into an acoustic concert.
“I love when kids come to our gigs; they’re the best crowd because they just dance like crazy and tell us we’re really good! I was with my goddaughter the other day and there was a punk band playing at a surf shop. All the older people had left but she was just dancing with her friend, getting wild and throwing tee shirts around. She’s only one and half yet she completely understood what punk music was. It just came naturally to her.
“Recording is one of my favourite parts of the whole process. With music, you get something in your head but sometimes when you go to record it, it sounds totally different. It’s like you get these little surprises while you’re waiting in the studio and working on new things. It’s pretty nice at the end to have a recorded song that you can listen to. There is a recording studio at the Quiksilver offices in France, we were super lucky that we got to use their studio and could relax making the record. They definitely spoiled us.
“In California I created a music label called Summer Bizarre, so we made our CDs in America, but in Germany, we did vinyl. We had such a short amount of time to get the vinyl done and a German company was the only one that could do it in a three-week turn around.
“We’re back in the recording studio this year and this time, it’s going to be something different. I’m really excited to be working on some new songs. It’s hard to always be looking for a new riff or melody. I think if you concentrate too much on trying to find something new you loose yourself a bit, you just have to focus on what is natural. A good song is a good song. Think about it, if you listen to blues every chord is the same but each time there is a new voice and a new emotion.
“Some people are really fulfilled with competitive surfing and just surfing all day with little projects on the side, and some people want more of a balance. I know for me, I tried to just surf for two years, surfing and training and doing the events, but something was missing. I was living the dream life on tour yet I wasn’t completely happy. Music is the complement to surfing for me.”
Betty The Shark’s first album, Shepard of the Moon, is available now digitally through iTunes or on vinyl and CD at http://www.bettytheshark.com