Pro­fessor Ivan Pon­gracic recently reunited with his band, Lords of Atlantis, to release a new single. Kallie Darymple | Col­legian

For three days, in the middle of July, Ivan Pon­gracic and his friends Jeremy DeHart and Dane Carter gathered in the empty McNamara Rehearsal Hall to revive the spirit of their band, Lords of Atlantis.

Though the band began recording with no intention to release any­thing, this practice session was not any ordinary one. Lords of Atlantis released a fin­ished track on Sept. 18., titled  “Long Live the King.”

The song is a tribute to and named for a man known for being the main inspi­ration behind the birth of surf music in the 1960s: Dick Dale.

Ivan Pon­gracic, pro­fessor of eco­nomics, has taught at Hillsdale for  the last 20 years. For as long as he can remember, Pon­gracic loved two things: Aus­trian eco­nomics and “surf music,” an instru­mental genre fea­turing reverb-heavy electric guitar, which Pon­gracic said orig­i­nated in Orange County. He has played this variety of music with a band since he was 18 years old.

Surf music is a union of reverb and Mediter­ranean tonal­ities. The lack of a vocalist gives the mind free-range over its emo­tions and allows the lis­tener to be whisked away by their imag­i­nation without being con­strained by lyrics.

“Surf music orig­i­nated from Southern Cal­i­fornia in the 1960s, pio­neered by native Cal­i­fornian gui­tarist Dick Dale,” Pon­gracic said. “The Beach Boys came out of it but they sang about surfing. The scene itself in Orange County all started as an instru­mental scene. This means it was without vocals. It was guitar driven.”

According to Pon­gracic, Dale’s father came from Lebanese descent and his mother’s family was Polish. Growing up, Pon­gracic said, Dale was exposed to a variety of old-world European and Middle Eastern music. These sounds inspired Dale to create a het­ero­ge­neous type of musical tones that resulted in a Medit­er­anean-esque sound.

This summer, Pon­gracic got the band back together to play some surf music and lift the members’ morale fol­lowing the coro­n­avirus pan­demic. Lords of Atlantis con­sists of Pon­gracic and two friends, Carter and DeHart, both past band­mates. Carter plays the drums and has been in various bands with Pon­gracic over the last 20 years. DeHart, who toured with Pon­gracic, plays electric and bass guitar.

Senior Trevor Vogel said music has always played an important role in Pongracic’s eco­nomic lec­tures.

“He’s well known in the genre he plays,” Vogel said. “He’s very pas­sionate about it and he’s tal­ented, so this doesn’t sur­prise me.” 

Lords of Atlantis released “Dick Dale” on Sept. 18 to honor the eigh­teenth month since Dale’s death. Pongracic’s music is heavily influ­enced by Dale, and in 2014, he opened for him.

Pon­gracic opened for Dale with his former bands The Space Cos­sacks and The Madeira. The Youtube video of the band’s new release fea­tures a picture of young Pon­gracic and Dick Dale himself.

During Pongracic’s time at George Mason Uni­versity pur­suing his Ph.D, he met econ­omist Larry White. White enjoyed surf music and Pon­gracic realized they had a passion in common. White became a mentor for Pon­gracic in the world of surf music and even helped him come up with the name of his first band, The Space Cos­sacks, which pro­duced two studio albums. 

In 2004, Pon­gracic started another surf music band known as The Madeira, which is cur­rently on hiatus. In 2014, he was asked to go on tour with well-known surf musician John Blair. At first, they played in Spain and Italy, but ended up playing in the U.S. in 2015 and 2016 as the Blair-Pon­gracic band. Pon­gracic became espe­cially close with the members that would make up Lords of Atlantis — Carter and DeHart — while playing on these tours. 

An NPR article pub­lished in 2019 about Dale’s death noted that he fre­quently col­lab­o­rated with “Ein­stein of the guitar and the ampli­fiers,” Leo Fender. This allowed Dale to achieve, according to Pon­gracic, “a heavy-reverb guitar tone which formed the general char­acter of the sound ‘surf music.’”

“The instru­mental nature of it is very evocative,” Pon­gracic said. “It unleashes your imag­i­nation.”

“Dick Dale” is available to stream on YouTube and many of Pongracic’s older tracks can be found on a variety of dif­ferent music streaming ser­vices like Spotify and Pandora.

The track is worth lis­tening to, said Vogel, and in his words, “Nothing makes an eco­nomics department function as fun as Dr. Pon­gracic playing solo surf rock on his guitar.