Interview with The Abyssal Lurkers

Joe Lurker, sole member of The Abyssal Lurkers, started his solo venture into surf rock in the summer of 2019. The Surf Rock Archives spoke with him about how he got started, his specific writing process, where he finds inspiration, and more!


First off, what is your band called? Who are the members in the band?

Abyssal Lurkers. I’m Joe Lurker, and I’m the only member. I do everything myself from composition to mastering, totally DIY.


How did your band get started? What inspired you to play surf music?

I played in jazz, ska, and punk bands when I was younger back in the late 90s and early 2000s, but I always loved the surf sound, especially the more eerie-sounding stuff. My wife and I enjoy going to tiki bars and events, so we saw the Volcanics play at one of those, and it really inspired me to start writing stuff. Then I went to the 2019 Surf Guitar 101 Convention, and I really enjoyed the scene because it reminded me of mature punk rock without the pretension. I convinced a couple musician friends to jam a few times on some songs I had written, but then quarantine hit, so when the jam sessions fell through, I decided to become a one-man band to put out those songs myself.

I think what I appreciate the most about surf is that even though it has that distinct spring reverb sound, there is a lot of opportunity for doing stuff that is outside of the box, like adding a theremin, horns, or western flair. Coming from playing in punk bands, the variety is a refreshing change because in punk, you’re kind of put into a box in terms of what people expect to hear. I’m also a huge fan of clever cover songs, and I love how surf totally embraces that.


Who were some of your biggest musical influences, both within and outside of the surf genre?

Satan’s Pilgrims, Bradipos IV, Volcanics, Dead Boys, Dead Kennedys, and Nerve Agents, to name a few.


What do you think sets your band apart from other surf bands?

Well there is the obvious – the band only has one member, and I do everything DIY. Other than that, I guess I would like to think that the melodies and arrangements are catchy. I also hope that listeners feel that there is variety between tracks and that they can hear the punk, western, spy, disco, and funk influences.


Can you talk about your songwriting process? What inspires you to write songs, and how do you typically go about it?

Honestly, when I decided I wanted to start writing surf, I just listened to almost nothing but surf for a couple years straight, liking the songs I enjoyed the most when they popped up on Spotify. I ended up with a Liked Songs playlist of around 1500 songs, and that is what I still listen to almost all the time when I’m driving, adding more every day, so they all kind of coalesce in my head.

I usually start out with a chord progression on guitar, and then I write a lead guitar melody to go with it. Sometimes I’ll use the recording app on my phone as a notepad, so if I get a melody in my head, I’ll sing into it or play a riff so that I can use it later. When I record, I track anything that pops in my head that I think could work, and then I tweak parts here and there or eliminate parts entirely.

One of the advantages of being the only person in the band is that I have all the time in the world to play around in the studio, and I don’t have to argue with anyone about what works or what doesn’t.


What have been some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced as a band, and how have you overcome them?

I’ve been writing music for a long time, but I had to learn how to write surf, so the biggest initial challenge was dissecting the songs that I liked the most so that I could be inspired by other bands without replicating them. I also had to teach myself a lot about mixing and mastering and the corresponding software that comes with it. I had dabbled before, but I really didn’t know what I was doing until I started working on the Abyssal Lurkers album.


What have been some of the highlights of your career so far? Any particularly memorable performances or experiences?

I’m just excited that I put together an album, and people around the world are enjoying it. Writing music is great, but it doesn’t mean as much when others don’t get to appreciate it, so there is no greater motivation than to know that someone out there is actually listening. I did the first album to prove to myself that I could do it, but now I keep doing it because I love it.


How do you think the surf genre has evolved over the years, and what do you think the future of the genre looks like?

In the beginning, surf was more inspired by traditional 50s rock and roll, and in the case of Dick Dale, traditional Eastern European music. Now, there are all kinds of varied influences ranging from Latin to metal to garage and even hip-hop. Home recording studios, digital music distribution services, and streaming applications have opened up more opportunities for people like myself to share what they have written, and that probably would have never happened back in the day.


Can you recommend any up-and-coming surf bands that you’re currently enjoying?

The Young Barons – those guys can shred!


What advice would you give to aspiring surf musicians? What do you think are the keys to success in this genre?

The tools of the trade are single-coil pickups and spring reverb. With them, you can make almost anything sound surfy. Then, write music that is inspired by the tunes you love without copying them.


Do you have any upcoming releases/projects you would like to talk about?

I have several projects in the works. First, look for a new EP out in May that is tentatively titled “The Kraken Wakes.” I’ve added to my studio toolkit since the debut album came out, so expect some new instrumentation and increased production value. I’m also planning to release another EP of all cover songs sometime this summer, and keep and eye out for a holiday-themed single release around December.


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