Family Portrait: Lee-Ann and Tom Curren enjoying their time in Hamburg. (photos © by T. Zielinski)
It´s anything but usual to see those people in a country like Germany: she, pro surfer and passionate musician, touring with her band Betty the shark accompanied by him, 3 times world champion in surfing, a living legend and a passionate musician himself. We´re talking about Lee-Ann Curren and her father Tom Curren with whom we had an interesting conversation about music and surfing – during a nice sunset on the terrace of the Übel & Gefährlich after finishing their last set of the tour, which was organized by Nouvague.
How does it feel being in a country like germany,
without any contact to the ocean?
Lee-Ann Curren: I felt that we are getting closer to the ocean when we drove from Berlin to Hamburg, so I am feeling pretty good here. It´s a beautiful place, there is a really good music scene, lot of bars, lot of shops. It´s nice to see that.
Tom Curren: I guess probably the main reason I have never been to Germany is because there is not really any surfing here except a couple of places so we didn’t get to go there this time , but still it is a good trip. We went all over the place, we went to Jena, Berlin and now here. Its been really nice, really good.
How did it come to the name „Betty the shark“?
Lee-Ann Curren: I never thought about this. Actually we came up with that name at HighSchool with Phil and his sister we started this band twelve years ago. We wanted to change it a few times but it just stuck with it.
What are the main lyrics of betty the shark about?
Lee-Ann Curren: The lyrics are a lot about like finding a good balance, like mentally. I should say something really interesting right now…
Tom Curren (interrupts): She doesn’t know – I know! It´s all about dance floor stuff right? Its like Boom Boom, it´s like dance floor.
Lee-Ann Curren: Yeah, its dance floor and… and clarity at the same time.
Playing in front of a perfect sunset: Betty the shark.
Which musician would you pick to play along with for one evening?
Tom Curren: I would like to play music with Paul McCartney if I could. It could be many different ones but he plays guitar, he plays bass and piano. He is one of the amazing songwriters. Because of his bassplaying he could find a melody with a baseline and then he is able to be creative, and very accessible I think. I would pick Paul Mc Cartney.
Lee-Ann Curren: I would say doing garage rock jam with Courtney Love. Yes, thats what I would say.
Whats your favorite band at the moment?
Tom Curren: Paul Mc Cartney. (laughs)
Lee-Ann Curren: You can’t say Paul Mc Cartney every time.
Tom Curren: You know, there is guy called Hein Cooper, who is an artist out of Australia and I got to hear his music a few times, last week in Berlin, I really like his voice, I think his songs are really good too.
Lee-Ann Curren: Yeah, he´s really good.
What´s your most influential band or musician?
Tom Curren: I have really a lot of influences but I play an open tune on the guitar and so I like hearing guitar players that play in an open tuning. For example Keith Richards and Ry Cooder. Now I really like a lot of african music from all different parts of africa with their different sounds. My favorite Group is from South africa called Mahotella Queens, they are a singing group. One of my favorite singers is from that group.
And I like the Scorpions.
The Scorpions? Really?
Tom Curren: Yes I like the Scorpions and I actually learned to play that song wind of change on the guitar. And whistling.
Can you whistle it right now?
(For sure he can and so he does)
Lee-Ann Curren: The name that I was looking for was Neil Rogers, he is a big influence on our music as well.
What does it mean to you sharing the pure passion
with your own flesh and blood?
Lee-Ann Curren: I think its different like I´ve been sharing anything else. When you find that chemistry playing music, or even going surfing or you have a good session, it´s stronger than talking or like hanging out and drinking a coffee. I am very grateful that we have that. Also with my brothers and my mum too.
Tom Curren: Yes, I agree. I recently met a distant cousin of mine who I found out that he lives in Boston and I went there to see him and it turns out that he is a musician, so its the same thing – it´s DNA, you feel that when you play together.
Lee Ann and me we played a bit in Hawaii, we played in Africa and a few other places like Australia and yeah its really true. You can feel it, its really nice. Its a connection thats kind of hard to describe.
Are there similarities regarding playing live on stage
and riding a wave?
Lee-Ann Curren: There are similarities like the hard work you have to put in to get better and I think being relaxed its the key to be good on stage and on the wave. Like I go with the flow and listen to everyone else sort of feel like what the wave is doing. I think thats kind of similar.
Tom Curren: Yes, its a totally different art form. But they both take a lot of discipline, a lot of focus. The difference is surfing happens in the daytime, music happens at night. I recently found out that music sounds different and better at night, because the light blocks the sound waves from traveling. Its fascinating. Like in surfing you have to be focused, you have to be determined but at the same time you also have to know when to rest, right?
Music is interaction between people on a level thats a bit different of surfing but its a kind of think you kind a get drawn to it, like surfing.
What does the ocean mean to you?
Lee-Ann Curren: Its a place where I can go to and feel good no matter what is going on in my life. I just go and it seems like the ocean soaks all the bad JuJus. That´s the ocean for me.
Tom Curren: The ocean for me is a great resource but also I think surfers and people that chase waves they´re always kind of equal in front of the ocean, I think thats important. Surfing gives you a good attitude on being in harmony with other people.
One guy can have a bad attitude but the ocean doesn’t care about that, the ocean treats you the same, the oceans knocks you over so it makes you to have a better attitude I think. And I compare it to soccer. Soccer is great, its a good sport and a good thing to bring countries together. But there is sometime a kind of a problem, because if the referee makes the bad call or if somebody plays unfairly it can really escalate.
So for me the ocean is so great, because it gives us a reminder that people of different ethnicities or culture – in front of the ocean we´re all equal.
If your music would be a wave, which wave would that be?
Lee-Ann Curren: Four our music I would take Velzyland in Hawaii. Its really fun and quirky. Small, fun and hollow.
Tom Curren: My music is not really heavy so I wouldn’t say its Teahupoo or Mavericks. My music would be like a hollow point break.
Lee-Ann Curren: Mundaka?
Tom Curren: Yeah, Mundaka. Ideally I can aspire to that.
Thanks to Stefan from the surfblog Travelonboards for helping out with filming.