Story by Jed Smith
“Do what you love, love what you do. With all the elements combined there’s simply no better feeling.” And with that, Joe Turpel, lead singer of LUN (pronounced Luh-n), signed off. Never have truer words been spoken. Joe has the most consistent tone on the entire WSL webcast, and is one of the friendliest men you’ll likely ever meet. Stab dialled in the punk frontman-turned-World Surf League commentator to find out a little more about his previous life…
STAB: Hello, is this Joe Turpel, formerly of LUN?
Joe: Yeah, yeah, that’s ah, speaking. May I ask who’s calling?
It’s Jed Smith from Stab Magazine here. Ah, yeah, what’s happening?
The internet gods gave us some gold today and we wanted to make sure you got the accolades you deserve. Ahhh, right on. Thanks for the call. Awesome.
Tell me everything about your forgotten career as a punk hero from Redondo Beach. Yeah, um, oh man, that was a really fun time. I lived in Redondo Beach I was, oh my god, we started the band when I was 18 and 19, we were all going to college and we had this small two bedroom apartment, five people living there at the time. I had a roommate from Manhattan Beach, Kevin Olson, he played guitar and he was a South Bay LA guy so he grew up listening to Pennywise and 98 Mute and bands like that. And then we had a drummer, Luis phillips from Ecuador, who came out. He used to surf Montañita, he still lives in Cali now, and he was super into all the Taylor Steele movies and that kind of punk music. I listened to Strung Out and AFI, all those kind of bands from Taylor’s movies. Then we started making up songs. Our first album had songs about Burritos and stuff, super deep. And then, I dunno, we were a college band, we’d play at parties and schools.
Career highlight? Yeah, well the name LUN is interesting. It was my room mate, his name was Lun Liu, he was a Chinese American guy but he was so shy I called him Loon for two weeks and he never corrected me. One day I actually asked him and he was like my name is Lun, and I was like, this whole time you never told me! He was such a classic dude, pretty sheltered, didn’t have his drivers license, had never been on a plane and by the end of it he was announcing us on stage, like, ‘This is my band,’ you know, and totally talk about these songs as if he’d wrote them. He wasn’t so shy anymore.
What happened to Redondo Beach’s favourite punk band of the early 2000s? We thought we were good but I don’t think we really were. I found a CD the other day and I was like, wow that sounds really bad. We played then a couple of us moved away, two friends moved to San Diego. Nick Hess, the bass player, was already working as a mechanic in LA, I moved to Santa Barbra, two guys moved to San Diego, we did a couple crazy drives to do practice and then after that we realised it was kind of ridiculous.
Why has this secret double life of yours never made it into a WSL broadcast? Uuuumm, I dunno, that was a long time ago. I always travel with the guitar but I just make up songs. Now everyone is participating, making songs on every trip, but the old LUN days, that was before the commentator life. I never had an organised band after college, but gosh the memories travelling around to parties playing punk music, it was a massive blast. We got paid twice to play, 300 bucks, but since our drummer was late to practice we didn’t give him his portion. He still brings it up but he kinda knows he didn’t deserve it.
Yeah, Joey doesn’t have a bad time doing his job.
When did the surf commentary dream begin to take shape? That was while I was in Santa Barbara going to school. I went to UCSB and we were watching those early webcasts. I had a job at the local TV station working in the local sports department. I had a job doing beach announcing through the NSSA events ’cause our college had a surf team, too. Once I graduated I was on the job hunt, and started picking up commentating. I did that for a year, announcing scores on the beach before my first webcast at a Billabong girls event in Bahia, and that’s when I started realising I could maybe pick up more of those events and eventually turn it into a full time job. But the first couple of years I did that, I was definitely barely surviving, but it was fun.
How’s the job been since the WSL changeover? Yeah, I think it’s been great. Right before the changeover it was sorta like having eight different people you work for, just different brands. There were good parts of that ’cause it was really fun, with a variety of events with different flavours. The cool part when the WSL took over was it was one organisation driven to making everyone’s life easier. It was the same person telling me where I’m gonna stay, what car I’m gonna have, they can look down the stretch and really take care of you all year long. Then you’ve got the same people who you’re always with, travelling, sharing places, the bonds on tour become stronger, and you make real solid friendships.