DREW ANDREWS / BIT MAPS

Bit Maps: Facebook / Twitter / Instagram / SoundCloud / Bandcamp

1. Tell me about your primary rig – what do you use the most? And do you have a live rig vs. a studio rig?

My main live rig consists of two key components – a 1976 Mark 1 Fender Rhodes piano and a ‘65 Reissue Twin Reverb. After many years hacking Rhodes sounds off of computers/soft-synths, in 2013 I came across the opportunity to purchase a Rhodes that a buddy of mine was looking to unload. I think you can get a very decent Rhodes sound out of a Nord Stage/Electro, but nothing compares to the warm bell structure of a real Rhodes piano. You hear it – you feel it. It’s a great example of how analog sound structure most often just can’t be replicated in the box. Just sitting down and letting the tone take you away has been a part of writing many of these new songs, it’s a continually inspiring instrument to write at. My studio setup for the Rhodes is the same, I play with mics and placements, but the Twin Reverb is a must-have component to give my Rhodes the extra punch it needs. I blend one stock speaker with one Eminence Patriot Series Cannabis Rex speaker. Hemp-coned, killer ‘70s warmth. Other amps, like the Roland JC-120 we utilize, the modded Fender Blues Junior we use, or our MusicMan amp (all super cool in different, mostly guitar-based applications), don’t have the low end that I like to adequately get the full tone together out of the piano.

2. Bit Maps has a new album out – how would you characterize the differences between You & Me & Dystopia and the first record? Is there anything you’re doing differently, style-wise/gear-wise/songwriting-wise that you weren’t doing for the first album?

The first record, On-Demand Living, my presence was pretty heavy-handed. A lot of the arrangements, song structures and instrumentation were my own personal journey into finding a new sound while we were dismantling the acoustic guitar-driven (via my ol’ Blueridge dreadnought) remains of my solo project, playing with the same dudes. Recording On-Demand Living, we were ON to a new sound, but we were very much still finding what that sound/direction was during the first record – my approach for that album was to use the studio to tip the scales towards our new direction. After we finished that record, we had a major burst in song ideas, and they never stopped, up to the very days we had blocked out for recording to lay down the basic tracks for the new record (“I Keep Bringing It Up” was recorded live, on the spot, quickly arranging the song structure and pressing ‘Record’).

This new album is much more of a reflection of every member’s talent and style. We tracked bass, drums and Rhodes first, live, no click track, take after take until we felt good about each song’s vibe. Our bassist and gear whiz kid, Erik Norgaard, had bought a ‘busted’ Radar recording unit off of Chris Walla of Death Cab For Cutie for a steal – Erik fixed it up in 4 hours one afternoon (he may or may not have extracted buried demos from 3 major indie-rock bands, can’t confirm that). We tracked all main instruments on the Radar (which I didn’t even know how to turn on properly), so we couldn’t really even get into a standard DAW (Reaper is our preferred choice) to start cutting and pasting and treating tracks. Basically we worked with this idea: Come in, nail your take live, or keep playing it ’til you land a good one, no overdubs, no drop-in. It was more of an old-school approach than is popular today, it gave us great limitations, but it ultimately captured a unique, human vibe, sounding just like we do live as a band, cutting back on studio tricks. We may not do it again in the future, but it was really fun to push each other (I hope it was fun for the other dudes!).

3. What song on the new album do you think is a good representation of your favorite gear and why?

I really like the song, “Assault and Battery.” It’s clean, complex and layered, and shows each player’s styles in a song that is always really fun to play live.

4. I doubt you’re able to cart that old looking organ around for shows – how do incorporate it into your stuff? 

I have the great fortune of owning two antique pump organs, one built in 1876, and another from 1889. I scored the first one in a steal from an estate sale. It was way underpriced, bought it for $50. Needless to say, it’s worth much more. The other was a recent acquisition from a lady who had kept it in storage as a family heirloom since her father’s passing 20 years past. She just wanted to give it to someone who would value it. When we were loading it up, she had a wave of peaceful nostalgia wash across her face, and said:

“You know, I guess I got to fulfill one of my father’s last wishes.”

“Oh, that’s great….what was that exactly?”

“Well, he made me swear to him that after he was gone, no matter what I did with this, under no circumstances was my Mother supposed to have this. It was divorce payback.”

We almost dropped it out of the truck from laughing so much.

I use these organs to meditate. They are a portal to past lives.

5. You’ve got some cool looking synths (and of course that drool-worthy Rhodes) – a lot of folks are split between analog synths vs. digital synths, etc – do you fall into one camp, or does it not matter to you?

I love analog, I think you feel it more. But, more than that, I am an ‘end justifies the means’ guy when it comes to recording songs. I really don’t care if a dude made a whole electronic album using Reason, or Ableton, or Fruity Loops, or whatever. I just wanna like the songs. Personally, I do prefer utilizing analog gear to immediately get to a warmer tone – I just don’t often sit around and pick apart others’ gear – I wanna hear hooks and weird sounds and good rhythm way more!

fullsizerender-3

6. Are there any musicians local or otherwise that are particularly inspiring to you gear/sound-wise?

Certainly John Reis is a force of nature where tone is involved. Name a band, it sounds great. But, I do have to tip the hat here to Jimmy LaValle of The Album Leaf. After playing alongside him for 8 years, I really gained more of a blood lust to get my own Fender Rhodes. I’ve now stripped down my live setup to basically just the Rhodes for me, but I did originally steal his idea of putting little keyboards, samplers, etc. on top of the Rhodes, creating a sort of live workstation with more options. Watching him juggle instruments all those years was inspiring and laid a gauntlet down for musical ability, and I try to still keep that in mind always, to challenge yourself, find new plateaus of sound.

Another band I liked for many years was a little band out of Phoenix called Colorstore. The main dude in that band also had a Rhodes that he would lay a guitar across and then sort of play like a pedal steel. Really trippy sounds came out of their shows. This left an aesthetic impact on me that I brought into Bit Maps.

7. What’s coming up for you?

Bit Maps is like a light in the dark for me. Whenever things are too crazy around me, I can always count on the band to inspire and bring out the best parts. We are working on covers right now, which we never have done before, I have never done this in any band before. It’s super fun. Lots of ideas are around, but we will likely begin really writing soon and recording I’m sure by late summer, fall. We are playing out consistently, and we keep gaining new friends! 2016 was an awful year all around for everybody I know – but it made Bit Maps stronger, and we have a lot of piss and fight to use art for public good in 2017.

Well…if the world doesn’t blow up.

Bit Maps play the Casbah on Monday, Feb. 6 with Subtropics and Nite Lapse. Doors are 8:30 p.m. and tickets are $6.

NAMM 2017: In Photos

We went, we saw, we conquered. Gear and Loathing in San Diego presents: Winter NAMM 2017 in photos. Many thanks to James Albers for his photo contributions (and for the badge!) — Dustin

THE BEST OF NAMM 2017

I went to NAMM for the first time over the weekend and was alternately blown away and overwhelmed. It’s been a lifelong dream to go – and this year, I finally got to make the trek up to Anaheim (thanks, James!) While there, I tried to see/do as much as I could but, of course, couldn’t get to everything. I’ve made my top picks below, and hopefully can share some info on some new products that I found to be inspiring. Lots of lots of pictures to follow over the next few days. Thanks for reading – Dustin

img_4334

Best Booth Experience: Earthquaker Devices. Going to this booth was the equivalent of being a kid in a candy shop. Beautifully laid out, super friendly staff, rad guest artists (Juan Alderete, Swami John Reis, Justin Pearson, and Earthless, among others) and some of the best, wackiest guitar pedals around. Their new Space Spiral is an extremely tasty, zany delay that only EQD could dream up. Loved every minute there.

Worst Booth Experience: ChickenPicks. OK, I understand a lot of companies can’t just give away tons of swag, but when your entire exhibit is based on a new style of pick — simply give them away (how much can they possibly cost?). One of their staff approached us with five picks on a silver platter and after he described why they were better than regular picks, I asked if I could have one to try out. He said no, and instead instructed me to go to their website to possibly get one sent to me (“they’re good about sending out samples,” he said). OK, if nearly every guitar company at NAMM is giving away picks, and your entire company revolves around picks, how can you not offer them to people who come by the booth? Makes no sense. Tip for ChickenPicks: Give one pick out to each interested booth attendee after scanning their badge QR code (like D’Angelico did). That way you build your email newsletter database and get something in return for giving away your precious picks. Ugh.

Best Swag: D’Angelico. Dude: hand sanitizer, rolling papers, strings, lighter, and a legit bottle opener? These folks did it right. Besides, their guitars are super legit.

img_4403

Best Giveaway: Clip-on tuner from Reverb. Snagged the last one at the booth! #Winning

Best Off-the-wall Product: VR drums by Aerodrums. Watched a dude play an entire drum kit in real time with nothing in front of him. The future of music? No real instruments needed – just VR programs? Pretty trippy to watch.

img_7997

Best New Pedal: (tie) Satellite’s White Amplifier emulator / Empress Echo System. Satellite (made right here in San Diego) blew me away with their new line of pedals and guitars. Their White Amplifier emulator in particular is just everything a great overdrive should be. Warm, raunchy, amp-like tones – it literally sounds exactly the way a cranked low-watt, small-speaker tube amp should sound. I was blown away. Pricey ($349) but very worth it. Can’t beat the build quality either. Super solid, like everything else they make.

img_4468

The Empress Echo System pedal is like the anti-thesis of the White amp emulator. Whereas Satellite pedals take one concept and make the best pedal based on that, the Empress Echo System takes everything you’d want about a digital delay and ups the ante with 25+ different modes, presets, several different types of dual-delay engine settings while keeping it surprisingly easy to use. I’m not a huge fan of screens and menus, so keeping this all buttons and knobs appeals to me in a big way. Well done. Not sure on the price point but I’m guessing it won’t be cheap.

img_4348

(Honorary mentions: Catalinbread Belle Epoch Deluxe, JHS + Ryan Adams’ VCR, Chase Bliss Brothers Analog Gainstage)

Best New Electric Guitar: (tie) Supro Island + Americana Guitars / Ernie Ball Musicman St. Vincent models. Both of the new Supro guitar series are just great from top to bottom. Had the pleasure of plugging most of them in and they sounded delightfully gritty with much more comfortable necks than their baseball-bat-styled ‘60s brethren. At their price points ($699-$1,299), you can’t go wrong.

Whereas Supro is rehashing older designs, Ernie Ball Musicman and St. Vincent continue to push the envelope with her signature model ($1,899-$2,099). That unique body shape, new pickup configs, and more beautiful colorways improve on an already impressive debut last year. The necks are super smooth and you can get nearly any sound out of ’em too. So rad.

(Honorary mention: Satellite’s Coronet-style guitar)

img_4476

Best New Acoustic Guitar: Martin John Prine D-28. OK, it’s a $7,000 guitar but it played like absolute butter. (Honorary mention: Taylor’s new 800 Deluxe series)

Best New Acoustic Amplifier: Orange Valve Pre Twin Channel acoustic pre-amp. “The world’s first stereo valve acoustic pre-amp and active DI.” Has got everything you’d need covered when it comes to an acoustic pre-amp, and sounds as good as it looks. Not sure on price yet.

img_4314

Best New Guitar Amplifier: Milkman Sideman (50 watt, 1×12” combo). While it’s got a little more power than I look for in an amp, it still sounds beautiful throughout the volume dial. Milkman craftsmanship is unbeatable too (btw, the amp runs around $3,099). Swoon.

(Honorary mention: Paul Reed Smith J-Mod 100)

img_7773

Best New Bass: ESP Frank Bello J-4 ($3,999) / LTD Frank Bello FB-J4 ($999). Fantastic playing and sounding Jazz/Precision-style hybrid with rad red binding. Looks sharp, plays sharper. Honestly though, anything Anthrax gets a thumbs up from me.

img_4399

Best New Bass Amplifier: Trace Elliot ELF Amp (200 Watts, 4 ohm, 1.6 pounds). Put this thing in your pocket and go to work. Only $299.

Best New Synthesizer: Dave Smith Instruments REV2. DSI revised their Prophet ’08 synth with a new step sequencer, wave shape modulation, effects and great price points (12-voice for $1,999 and 8-voice for $1,499).

img_4377

Best New Snare: Ludwig Black Beauty 14×8 Snare. A reissue of a classic!

Booth of the Year: Moog Music Inc. The legendary company took the road less traveled with their booth this year but not displaying new products or their vast product line — but rather paid homage to some of the musical legends that we lost in 2016, including Don Buchla, Keith Emerson, Pauline Oliveros, Bernie Worrell, and Isao Tomita. It was refreshing to see and be a part of such a classy tribute. Hat’s off to y’all, Moog.

img_4304

TAYLOR GOLDSMITH / DAWES

Dawes: Facebook / Instagram / Twitter / Website

In December, I interviewed Dawes’ vocalist/guitarist/songwriter Taylor Goldsmith for NBC SoundDiego. You can read it here. Below are some excerpts from that same interview that didn’t quite fit the narrative of that writeup, but do seem to fit nicely into the Gear and Loathing fold. Many thanks to Eric James and Rodrigo Espinosa for contributing some of their own photos from the band’s Jan. 10 Belly Up show for this feature. Enjoy.

Dustin Lothspeich: Do you guys typically rehearse much for tours? Seems like you’re a well-oiled machine at this point…

Taylor Goldsmith: I mean, through the years there have been tours we set out for where we wouldn’t get together – but this one’s different because it’s “An Evening With” tour so not only do we have to know 2 1/2 hours of music every night, we have to keep it interesting from night to night. We have to brush up on a lot of old tunes that we haven’t played in a while, so there will be a lot of rehearsing for this one.

DL: I’ve been way into acoustic music lately. Been thinking about picking up a real nice Martin or something. 

TG: To me, it’s the most expressive kind of guitar. You can’t pick up an electric and plug it straight through an amp and have it be the perfect sound for a really gentle ballad and a perfect sound for a really loud, angry song – unless you were to turn up the volume or get a bunch of pedals. Whereas with an acoustic, it really can go from the quietest and the gentlest to the loudest and the most aggressive very naturally. People associate it with ballads but it’s actually really expressive.

dawes-1

DL: Do you typically write on acoustic or electric? Or something else?

TG: There are songs I write on piano and then once in a while, I’ll have a riff that I come up with on the electric guitar, like “Things Happen” or “One of Us,” where it wouldn’t have sounded right on acoustic originally, or I wouldn’t have noticed it or thought it was worth paying attention to. But most of the time, most of my songs are written on acoustic.

DL: One of my favorite songs of all time is “Don’t Send Me Away” – how did you write that?

TG: That one was, weirdly enough, written on a piano. And there’s those kinda like “bop-bop-bop” quarter notes that are going throughout while the bass line changes. As you can imagine, it’s a lot simpler and easier on the piano to do that. It took some figuring out how to play it and move the bass part around while keeping those three notes up top. But yea, it was originally written on piano.

DL: The band’s new record mixes a few different types of styles; it’s pretty eclectic. Do you think We’re All Gonna Die is different from your other albums in that regard?

TG: To us, we’ve always done that. I would say that they’re recorded in the same way – songs like “Most People,” or even “When My Time Comes” or “Don’t Send Me Away” even would be right at home on We’re All Gonna Die. I think any of them would be! I think a song like “Quitter,” or “For No Good Reason,” or “Roll With The Punches” would fit on any of our previous albums. I like that each record has a personality but I don’t think any of our records have strayed too far from what we’ve always done.

DL: I think one of your strengths, in particular, is your ability to write about everyday problems and our constant struggle with losing or regaining hope – without being too preachy. That’s a fine line.

TG: I think a lot of us try to get to a place, and I’m a victim of this as much as anyone else, where we get to a place in our lives where we don’t have to suffer. That we can build something around us and we’re never lonely and we’re never depressed and the reality is, that’s not gonna happen. And the only way to deprive that fear of its power is by embracing it and knowing that it’s going to come in strides. And you’re going to have to sit with it and deal with it sometimes but other times, you are going to feel like everything is OK. There’s a great Smog song where Bill Callahan sang something along the lines of: “We all have peace on earth about every other day,” [laughs] and saying it like that kind of no longer allows you to be scared of ever going through the dark times because when they do come along, you can go, “I knew this was going to be part of this equation.”

rodrigo-dawes-1

Taylor Goldsmith’s trusty (and well worn) Fender Telecaster (photo by Rodrigo Espinosa)

DL: Off the top of your head, what was the record you listened to the most in 2016?

TG: Shoot, that’s a good question. I mean there have been several I’ve been going back to a bunch – my girlfriend kind of gets like, “Why are you listening to the same thing again?” So I don’t  live with one record like I used to as much anymore, but I was going back to Blood & Chocolate a lot by Elvis Costello & The Attractions a lot. Putting it on over and over. I’ve always had that record, but when you first discover Elvis Costello, you’re obsessed with This Year’s Model, or Armed Forces, or My Aim Is True, and then eventually Imperial Bedroom and Get Happy!! and all that. I had Blood & Chocolate and I’d always loved it but I hadn’t had that feeling of I-have-to-only-listen-to-this-for-the-next-week moment the way that I’d had with all the other Elvis Costello records that I’d loved. So I kinda finally had that.

DL: What was the favorite gig you played last year?

TG: It would probably be Nashville’s Live On The Green Festival, where it’s just this pretty outdoor show and we were playing after Kurt Vile, who we love and they’re obviously an impossibly cool band. We thought, “Aw shit, they’re putting us up after Kurt Vile? Everyone’s gonna leave!” And I didn’t go out during Kurt’s set – I mean, I love Kurt’s show and we’ve seen a lot of his shows, but I was kinda backstage the whole time with friends so I didn’t see the audience until we walked onstage and there was like 18,000 people and it was the biggest show we’d ever played – at least in terms of us playing last. I mean, we’ve opened for Mumford And Sons, but we were the opening band – people were there because they had to be. But with this, they didn’t have to be. It was the most surreal experience playing for that many people and really feeling connected to them. I’ve never had such a high after a set than I did that night.

DL: What are you looking forward to the most in 2017?

TG: I mean, I guess it’s like equal parts – a good tour (I’m really excited to get on tour and play these shows), but I’m also really excited to get a handle on the next batch of writing. It’s always fun to either be playing new songs or in the studio playing new songs. We never wanna be taking too much time off. That’s kind of how we’ve always been and that’s kinda how we want to keep it. Life is better when we’re working. I’m hoping to have these songs start showing up in a bigger way. I’ve written a couple so far but I’m excited for the new year for that.

WALTER AYLLON / GRIZZLY BUSINESS

Grizzly Business: Facebook / Twitter / Instagram / Bandcamp / SoundCloud

1. Lovin’ the Tele – tell me all about it.

I use to play shows with a Epiphone Sheraton, but as beautiful as she is, she was just too powerful for my sissy style rhythm guitar playing. I found this Thinline Deluxe Tele on craigslist and fell in love with it. Because it’s like a semi-semi-hollow body (if that’s a thing), it has some of the usual Tele twang but not too much with solid mids, which is perfect for me. Coincidentally, I bought it off of Joe from Burning of Rome who had me meet him at a coffee shop in Golden Hill. He told me he never even took her out of his home which led me to accuse him of using it as his bathroom guitar which he denied. It was honestly an honor to buy from such a distinguished guitarist. Sometimes when I hit certain chords I can almost still smell the subtle scent of Febreze 😉

img_4210

2. Tell me what “I am Beyoncé always!” means to you and why it’s scrawled on your pedalboard.

Well, it’s my favorite Michael Scott quote that can fit in that space. In a way, you can say it represents my inner diva perfectly. I’m also known around the band as like the awful boss so I guess that’s encompassed in there as well. The beauty of my pedalboard is that I made it out of a little chalkboard and I can write anything in there at any time. Right now, I have our setlist for our Soda Bar show this Saturday but I can also draw unicorns on there as well.

img_4203

3. Talk to me about your pedals – rockin’ the Joyo/Donner options, I see. What drew you to them over other pedals? Would you get higher priced options if you could or nah?

I am very new to the pedal party. When I was 13, I bought a compression sustainer which I thought was going to let me wail long notes like John Frusciante in “Emit Remmus.” That obviously didn’t happen as I now know a compression sustainer is the worst first pedal for a young guitarist. I started buying these within the last year and am beyond stoked. I did a lot of homework watching tons of YouTube videos of different brands and ultimately concluded that these were cheaper and sounded just as good. No amount of fancy pedals could or will ever make me sound like decent guitar player so why break the bank, you know?

img_4205

4. What amp are you using and why?

These days I use Brian’s (our bass player) Fender Blues Deluxe. All I know about it is that it’s tubed and I’m supposed to put it on standby before and after using it lol. I’ve been so plug-and-play all my life that it’s embarrassing how little I really know about equipment but at the same time I feel it’s kept things simple which I think there’s beauty in.

img_4202

5. If you had unlimited money, what is the first piece of gear you would buy?

I would quit the band and buy the most expensive grand piano I can find. Preferably previously owned by Beethoven and used as his bathroom piano. I can only really play the Jurassic Park and Forrest Gump theme songs but I’m sure they would sound great on such a fine piece of musical equipment. Maybe a massive harp too, who knows.

6. You guys got a new record coming out (Spanish Old-Fashioned)– how does it measure up against your last? What’s your favorite song on it and why?

My ultimate goal is to convert Grizzly Business into a Dr. Dog cover band. I think on this record we made a couple of baby steps towards that. There are a lot of backup vocals and layers upon layers of pianos and different noises. Brian was pretty new to the band when we made our first EP and you can tell he really made this one more of his own with some amazing bass lines. Matt left the studio with his usual angst of wanting to redo his drums which is always silly as they’re always great. I did my best to be as silly and sarcastic as I can with the lyrics. My favorite song on there would have to be “Fake British Accent.” It’s just a song about all the things you hate about the person you love wrapped in an almost ’50s-like happy prom song bundle. The best line I think I’ll ever come up with is in it which is “when ‘enough’s’ just a line you drew up to refine.” Pretty stupid, I know, but it’s the best I can muster.

7. What’s next for you guys after your CD release at Soda Bar on Saturday, Jan. 7?

After our release, we are jumping on planes and going on tour through Europe with a couple shows in New York as well! We are beyond stoked and are very much counting the days. We’ll probably get eaten alive and lose all our fingers and toes to frostbite but it’ll be great and hopefully we don’t give San Diego too bad of a musical name out there.

Grizzly Business tour dates:

1/7: Soda Bar (CD release with Inspired and the Sleep, and Spero)

1/12: Friends and Lovers (Brooklyn, NY)

1/13: The Delancey (Manhattan, NY)

1/17: The Windmill (Brixton, England)

1/18: The Bedford (Balham, England)

1/19: The Dog and Whistle Pub (Hertford, England)

1/21: Brussels Pub Crawl (Brussels, Belgium)

1/23: TBD (Berlin, Germany)

1/25: CC Muziekcafe (Amsterdam, Netherlands)

1/26: Le Truskel (Paris, France)

1/28: The Good Ship (London, England)

THE GORGEOUS BOYSCOUTS

The Gorgeous Boyscouts: Facebook / Twitter / Bandcamp / Website

1. First, give me a run down on what everyone plays?

Nick Schwarz – Vocals, Lead/Rhythm Guitar
Mike Lomangino – Bass, Vocals
Brandon Albu – Drums, Guitar, Programming

2. When did you guys start playing together? And how did you decide on the name?

The band name came about during a camping trip, our friend kept calling our camping group, The Gorgeous Boyscouts. It always gets a laugh any time someone hears it for the first time — so we stuck with it.

We started at the end of 2015 but after a few months, the original bassist quit and we took a few months hiatus. Mike joined the band in June 2016 and we’ve been going strong ever since. We’ve been having a ton of fun hanging out, practicing, and playing shows!

3. Who’s using the Line 6 amp, and for what?

The Line 6 is used for the acoustic guitar which all three of us will play depending on the song. It is a very new piece of equipment and just saw its first live show (at The Merrow show on Dec. 13th).

The amp is described as the amp for the modern guitarist and we agree. It comes with a ton of built-in effects that can be controlled by the pedal board or a smartphone app and is extremely customizable. You can experiment with a built-in looping station and large array of drums tracks making it easy to jam out by yourself and great for writing new material. Haven’t messed with the wireless feature, but good to have options. It also has XLR output. Been impressed with the overall sound and flexibility.

img_8470

4. I once had a Fender Twin Reverb but it didn’t have a master volume so I could rarely use it. Looks like you guys are using a vintage one from the ’70s – how did you come to acquire that, and what are your thoughts on its tone?

Nick plays his Strat through the Twin Reverb. He believes it is either from 1970 or ’71.  Nick bought it off an old bandmate (Will from Mariel – they still play around town and you recently just did a piece on their guitarist, Opie). The tone is great. Super clean and very full – classic Fender tube amp sound. It handles the distortion effects amazingly well and the best part is it can get loud. Real loud.

img_8465

5. Talk to me about the TC Electronic voice pedals. Do they work well live?

This is tricky. The autotune pedal can be real finicky – but sounds great when it is dialed in. Nick will use it for about 50% of our tunes – just when we’re aiming for a specific sound. Sometimes, the autotune just won’t work right and it sounds better to sing with it off. Not sure if it’s due to the key the song is played in or another factor. It took a few months of experimenting with the pedals on and off and effects being changed to really utilize them properly.

The other vocal pedal is for tone, shape, compression and “de-ess”ing and is always on. Helps add some fullness to the vocals. And really helps with the overall sound.

There are also gains on both pedals so Nick can adjust the vocal volume from the pedal board. You can also change the vocal pitch lower and higher which helps add some variety to the songs. We play a few different styles so it’s a good fit.

 

6. If money was no object, what’s the one “holy grail” piece of gear you’d buy?

Brandon: I do not have a ‘holy grail’ item for myself but I would really like to get Nick new effect pedals and patch cables 😉

Nick: I would love a Gibson Les Paul or an SG. Brandon’s right — I could really use some new patch cables but the constant buzzing and cutting out really spices things up.

Mike: An Avella-Coppolo. They sound amazing and support the local craft.

7. Give me a link to a song that you have online that you feel is best representative of your sound?

It’s hard to pick one song that is best representative of our sound because we all write material and bring a lot of styles and influences to the table. The collaboration forces us out of our individual comfort zones. The end result makes for a very diverse live set that is fun to play and hopefully keeps the audience interested. This is a straight-forward rock tune called “Chrees.” It is one of the first songs we started playing together.

8. What do you guys have coming up?

We have a string of shows throughout December and January, including our album release show on December 19th at Soda Bar. Upcoming shows, social media links, and our brand new EP (which can be downloaded for free) can all be found on our website, www.gorgeousboyscouts.com. We are currently working on a bunch of new songs and are doing some more recording; expecting to release our first full-length album within a year.

RC KRUEGER / MARIEL

Mariel: Facebook / TwitterSoundCloud / Bandcamp / Website

1. Take me through these rigs!

To clarify, the guitar set-up I sent you is what I plan on playing in the coming month when Mariel adds another member. For the past year or so we have been playing as a three piece: Opie Tran on guitar, Billy Hagan on drums and me on bass, but prior to that we had another guitar and keys and that’s closer to how I hear it in my head and what the recordings reflect. Also on the recordings is a female voice, which has been fun trying to replicate with us three boys all taking those parts, but again not how I hear it. So the plan is for me to move to guitar and add a lady on bass and vocals. I just thought I should explain why I sent you two set-ups.

For my bass setup, I play a Music Man Sterling, which is a cheaper version of the Stingray, through an Orange Terror Bass combo and the only pedal I use is a The Wolf by Devi Ever, which is fuzz.

For guitar, I mostly play a Squier Vintage Modified Jazzmaster. It’s the one with the simplified electronics, it doesn’t have those knobs at the top, just a normal three-way switch, which I like. I play that through a Vox Night Train with just the 112 cab. I’ve gotten to the point where I don’t want a whole lot going on pedal-wise, so now I just have a Malekko Spring Chicken reverb, and two stages of dirt, an Earthquaker White Light overdrive and a Walrus Audio Iron Horse distortion. Opie thought I was crazy when I told him I didn’t even want one delay on my board. He has like 12.

2. Either that skull is giant or that bass amp is really tiny. Which is it? Next: Where the heck did you find that skull and does it accompany you guys to shows?

Both. The Skull, affectionately called Skulliosis, is very large, but a huge reason for me getting that Terror Bass was how small it is. It’s super small, sounds amazing and is plenty loud. Skulliosis does come with us to shows. My friend Seth Eubanks of the band Sullen Ray used to carry it around to shows and always have it at the front of the stage. A couple years back, he was moving out of a warehouse space that we at one point shared and he told me he had a pile of stuff that either belonged to me or I could have. Skulliosis was in that pile so I decided I would carry on the tradition and he’s been at every show we’ve played since. Also in that pile was a suit of armor that now sits on my front porch. So if you’re ever in North Park and see a suit of armor, that’s my house.

bass_gear_wide

3. Praytell – what is that Wolf bass pedal?

The Wolf is a fuzz pedal made by Devi Ever. It’s wicked. It’s been really important since we’ve been a three-piece. On big parts where it’d be nice to have another guitar chumming along while Opie plays a lead, I can turn that on and play chords and it fills that spot. All the harmonic goodness really helps those parts.

thewolf

4. Talk to me about your Vox Night Train: There’s a million amps out there – why rock the Night Train (which rules)?

You’ll start to see a pattern here, but I really liked the idea of getting a lunchbox amp for ease of transportation and the Night Train is my favorite one. I agree that it rules. I think it sounds great, but I’m definitely a Vox guy. I also have an AC-15 that I love.

night_train

5. Walk me through this awesome pedalboard: Some excellent boutique choices – what’s the difference between the EQD White Light and the Walrus Iron Horse?

For me, a lot of the fun in pedals is the collector aspect of it. I’m a pretty big geek. I love screen-printed posters, small record labels, toys, geeky stuff like that. Boutique pedals can fall into the same category for me. I love the idea of one guy making this awesome piece of gear in his basement and then his print-maker buddy puts this incredible art on it. Not to say that that’s more important than the actual function of the gear, but it factors in. It’s why I’d prefer to have that Spring Chicken as opposed to say a Boss reverb. You know what I mean?

The White Light is overdrive. I pretty much always have it on and the Iron Horse is for when I want to get dirty. I chose the Iron Horse specifically because I used to have this old Rat from the ‘80s, so it had the LM308 in it and it sounded incredible, but it did wacky things. When you turned it on, it would work fine, but when you turned it off it would cut the power on everything else on the board, so it ended up only being used on some Mariel recordings because that wouldn’t work live. But that Rat got me into the idea of tighter distortion rather than fuzz and that’s where the Iron Horse came in because it can do that.

pedals

6. When and where’d you get that Malekko Spring Chicken? I know some folks that’d like to get their hands on an original issue version like that one.

I got that Spring Chicken a few years ago on eBay. It’s pretty sweet. It can get real wacky if you want it to. And the art is so good.

7. I can confidently say you’re the first to send over pics with Star Wars figurines – which I love cuz I’m a super Star Wars nerd. Firstly: Rogue One – are you stoked? Secondly: The Force Awakens – good or no? Thirdly: Favorite Star Wars character and why?

Already got my Rogue One tickets. I’m super stoked. Maybe more so than I was for Force Awakens. That first Rogue One trailer was so good.

The Force Awakens was really great. I don’t know why people hate on it so much. People’s complaint was that it was too much like A New Hope, I think that’s silly. I’m curious to hear your thoughts on TFA? I thought it was a lot of fun. I like Kilo Ren a lot too because I imagine him saying and doing the raunchy things he does in Girls. Which he’s hilarious in…. oh man, do I lose geek points for bringing up Girls?

Since I was a kid, my favorite character has been Han Solo. I suppose I like his journey the most. He goes from being this shady, out-to-make-a-buck pirate, to respected General. Luke goes from farm boy to Jedi Master, but he’s always the good guy. Han’s intentions start out being pretty shady and he redeems himself pretty hardcore. In Battle Front, my favorite character to play as is Vader — but whose isn’t?

8. What else do you guys have coming up?

All of that. I have big plans for the coming year. We have enough songs for a record, so let’s record them and put them out. I went to film school and could do another Gear and Loathing just on film gear, but do you see any film content for Mariel? That will happen too. But the first step is to get the line-up in order. Hopefully after all that we can get a sick write up from Dustin Lothspeich. Hopefully.

OPIE TRAN / MARIEL

Mariel: Facebook / Twitter / Instagram / SoundCloud / Bandcamp / Website

1. You’ve got quite the collection — which guitar do you play the most and why?

Up until a few years ago I only had a couple guitars. It wasn’t until last summer during recording guitar tracks for my other band did I catch GAS (guitar acquisition syndrome) haha. I’d say the guitar that honestly has been played the most is my acoustic guitar I got from Vietnam back in 2007. When I was a preschool teacher, I played it every day for the kids. I got tired of CDs skipping so I figured I’d just make my own versions of all the popular kid songs while making up my own along the way. It’s also been on random camping trips and is just always within an arm’s distance away when I feel like strumming some chords or writing new riffs.

Out of the electrics, I say the Squier J. Mascis Jazzmaster gets played the most. I originally got it to replace a P90 guitar that I was using with my other band but realized the tone and vibe fit Mariel much better. I also really like the fatter neck and Tune-o-matic bridge, being so used to Gibson-type guitars I felt right at home. I put locking tuners on it so string changing takes seconds and the balance of the body feels very comfortable. Its also a pretty inexpensive guitar so I don’t stress about too much about taking to gigs and beating the crap out of it.

img_3877

2. Is that the Ibanez DL7 on your pedalboard? Why do you use that and the Boss GigaDelay on the same board? Is one better than the other?

Yes it is! It was the first “effects” pedal I ever bought. I only ever use it for a slapback-type of delay and the occasional oscillation. The DD20 is my main delay used for medium to longer delay sounds. I wouldn’t say one is better than the other they just serve different purposes. I suppose the DD20 is more versatile but it also takes more brain power to use and the DE7 is less distracting with its simplicity. The main reason I got the DD20 is for the tap tempo function and LED screen (I have a terrible memory and need visual reminders). If I had to choose between the two, I’d pick the Boss just because it’s a tank and I tend to be rough on my gear. I have both because I’m lazy and don’t want to switch between banks on the DD20 and also I’m super sentimental and I get attached to my gear. Joking aside, stacking delays can make simple riffs sound gigantic and lead to super interesting sounds. I usually play super simple guitar parts and sometimes use delay as its own instrument similar to the Edge from U2. At one point, I had three delays but I realized it was overkill for what I was doing and that I should just get good at using two instead.

3. What’s the nondescript blue Digitech/DOD pedal?

Whoa you’re like a pedal detective! It’s a Digitech Bad Monkey, I’ve had that thing forever and it was the second “effects” pedal I’ve ever bought. I feel like there’s way better OD pedals out there but again, I’m super attached to my gear and it just works in my rig. One day, my bandmate and I got bored and started spray painting pedals so thats why it’s blue. I always have this dumb fantasy of some gear nerd trying to figure out my rig and starting a thread about it somewhere on the internet. Silly, I know. (Not necessarily! – Ed.)

4. Have you gone through a lot of different guitars and pedals to get to this point, or are you still searching for stuff?

Overall, I think I’ve been pretty good about getting to where I am with my gear. I tend to really research gear and make sure I really like whatever I’m getting. Considering how long I’ve been playing, I think the amount of gear I’ve gotten rid of is pretty low compared to how much stuff I have now. Pedal-wise I’m pretty satisfied, maybe one day I’ll replace that Bad Monkey with something else. If anything, I’d like to streamline my live rig and bring out my other toys for just recording. As far as guitars, I can’t see me wanting to stop collecting! I’d like to add an SG and Mustang to the quiver hopefully in the next year or so.

5. What song of Mariel’s is the best representation of your gear?

“We Lost the Fight.” We’re actually going to be recording soon so the best I have is from when we played at The Merrow a while back.

6. If money was no object, what’s the one ‘holy grail’ piece of gear you would buy?

A Gibson Les Paul Custom; it’s the guitar I saw so many of my heroes playing growing up and I still get aroused every time I see one!

7. What’s coming up next for the band?

We’re playing at The Merrow on 12/15 [INFO]. We’re also going to be working on new material, recordings and hopefully some touring.

 

JESSE GAWLIK / BROKEN STEMS

The Broken Stems: Facebook / Website / Instagram / Twitter / SoundCloud / Bandcamp

1. Lovin’ the pedal board. Lots of different brands — I’ve heard mixed reviews on Behringer pedals. What are your thoughts on them and the Octaver specifically? Are they good value for the money?

So I actually just purchased the Behringer Octaver, my first thought is that the materials are a little cheap. My second thought, after plugging it in for the first time, was that the sound quality comes out more distorted than I had anticipated. I took a chance on this one for $25 and I’m thinking of returning it. However, for about the same price, the Donner pedals are some of my favorites and much better quality.

2. Was there any trial and error putting this rig together? Have you gone through different guitars and pedals, etc, trying to find the stuff that work best?

Oh there has absolutely been trial and error! I probably have about 10 other pedals not on my board right now from over the years. Your needs change, and the sounds change, and sometimes the songs you’re playing live don’t use those pedals. However, the pedals I use the most are the Fulltone OCD distortion, Boss Digital Delay, and Crybaby Wah. These three combined with the tone of the Fender Twin Reverb and PRS are my favorite combination.

3. Is this the equipment you used on the new Broken Stems record, or did you use studio gear?

This is the equipment we used with the addition to a few plugins for extra sounds. Brad Sweet, our keyboardist and producer, actually recorded the entire album DIY in our garage and closet. We used a combination of the guitar from the amp, and direct-in, to get a full and comprehensive sound. But we used the OCD distortion pedal the most. We did our very best to record a true representation of what we sound like live, giving the album that “it sounds like they are in the next room” kinda feel.

4. That PRS sure is purty. If money was no object, what’s the one ‘holy grail’ piece of gear you would buy that you’ve always wanted?

Oh man, thats a tough question. If there was one piece of gear that I could pick up today it would be a PRS Super Eagle Private Collection. I love the hollow body PRS and this one is a mashup of both, giving it an extremely wide range of tones.

super-eagle

5. What kind of amp are you using?

I’m using the Fender Twin Reverb XL. The tone and volume that comes from this amp is a thing of beauty. They’re clean at virtually any volume, and its a perfect canvas for my aforementioned pedals to do their work. Clean tone, powerful, and downright sexy if you ask me.

img_9151

6. What’s your favorite place to find new gear in town?

I mean, I kinda hate to say it because I will always support the local businesses first, however Guitar Center is just kind of the best place to experiment with different amps, pedals, guitars and more. If you are like me, you might get lost in there for a day. More and more, however, I find myself searching online, watching videos, and reading forums…but still nothing really allows you to get the full experience like the in-house setup that Guitar Center has.

7. What track on the new record do you feel is the best representation of your playing/style/gear?

“What Are You Connected.” Track 2 and title-track to the new album, “What Are You Connected” is one of the more technical songs and definitely my favorite song to rock live because of how much intensity there is. The beginning riff is one I have always dabbled with throughout my playing days and one day it just exploded into this song. It gets full use of the OCD distortion, the solo of the song uses the Crybaby wah to give it that extra feel, and I use digital delay in some of the verses. Out of all the album songs, this one probably rocks the hardest and makes me want to go on a 32-bar solo..which if you ever see us live…we usually will do!

8. Tell me what you guys have coming up?

With the new album released to the world, our next big event will be our Album Release Show at The Irenic on Saturday, Dec. 3rd [get info here]! We have local holistic vendors, local artists doing live painting, an open bar courtyard party before the show and some really talented acts, Creature and the Woods, and King Taylor Project performing before us. It’s an exciting night for us, because not only do we have a new album, we have a brand new light show, new merchandise (hats, hoodies, shirts, stickers, posters, and more), live dancers during one of our songs, and even a couple new-new songs to throw into the set. After the album release party, we are already planning production for the next album. No name for it yet, but we do have a concept in mind…or should I say in our soul 😉

ISAIAH NERY / QUALI, MICE ELF & FIVEPAW

Quali: Facebook / Instagram / SoundCloud / Website
Mice Elf: Facebook
FivePaw: Facebook / Website

1. You play guitar in Quali, are you a member of any other bands?

Yes, I’m currently in two other active projects besides Quali. I play bass in this band called “Mice Elf”. It is more of a jammy/space alt-rock type of band. We actually just had our first show at Black Cat bar the other night. The other project is “fivepaw”. I play drums in that project. It has more of electronic, sci-fi elements to it, mixed with synths and modular-type stuff. I have also been messing around with Ableton lately, trying to get into sampling and making beats.

2. I’m assuming your first piece of gear was a guitar, I could be wrong though. Do you remember what it was?

The first instrument I ever owned was a Ludwig drum set when I was 10. I actually didn’t start playing guitar seriously until I was about 16 and I really didn’t get serious with messing with gear and becoming a total gear head until I moved to LA and started Quali.

3. What’s your current setup?

My current set up with Quali:

I play a Fender Classic Player Jazzmaster. I personally think it’s the only guitar you should own due to its sonic versatility, tremolo arm and beauty.

The Jazzmaster goes into a TC Electronics Polytune, then into my favorite pedal and part of my signature tone, the Ab-Synth Supreme by Fuzzhugger. This pedal gives me the harsh zipperyness I want from a fuzz while also somehow managing some clarity in my chord playing. It also has a second foot switch to activate an oscillation mode which can get pretty nuts sometimes.

Next in my pedal chain is a Marshall Shredmaster. I really like this high gain pedal for more of a conventional overdrive/distortion type of sound. That goes into this boutique pedal I got at NAMM a couple years back called The Epsilon, by dreadbox. This is more of a hybrid pedal of sorts. It can be an overdrive pedal or an auto wah. And of course you can blend the effects to get an even crazier sound. It also has a gate switch on it. This is a very cool interactive pedal. The next pedal in my chain is one of my favorite pedals, the Superego by Electro-Harmonix. This pedal is so innovative for guitar. It is basically a piano-style sustain pedal for guitar. The tracking is insane, you can just sustain chords while playing over them endlessly. The superego then goes into my Line 6 M9. This pedal is such a workhorse for me for the fact that you can have three effects on at the same time while also being able to have an expression pedal that can be used for all of them simultaneously if you want.

Next on the chain is the Timeline delay by Strymon. There’s really not much to say about this pedal except for the fact that it is the king of delay pedals, period. The Timeline goes into my Hardwire RV-7 reverb pedal. Just a really solid reverb that pairs perfectly with my fuzz. And that goes into my crazier reverb the Descent by Walrus Audio. This pedal is the ultimate ambient reverb pedal with separate wet and dry knobs, reverse reverb, 3 preset saves. You can also have shimmer-style reverbs with dedicated knobs for an octave down and up. And at the very end of my pedalboard chain is the Ditto X2 by TC Electronics. I really like the looper that was on the DL4 by Line 6 and this pedal is just that in a smaller housing.

The board then goes into my pride and joy: The Fender Bassman 70. This amp is the ultimate pedal-playing amp. You get such a nice clarity and headroom with this amp while also getting some really nice, felt lows. I actually got mine modded to carry 6550 tubes in it for more headroom and now it runs at about 110 watts. Also known as a sound tech’s nightmare. But to me, there’s nothing better than really feeling the sounds go through you. I play this with a Fender DT-412 cab. I believe it has Celestion G12T-100s in it.

4. What piece of gear, if any, are you looking to add? 

Right now, I’m looking to get a 2×12 cab to run on top of my 4×12. I used to have a 1×15 bass cab that came with my Bassman and I would run that with my 4×12. Having a full stack rig is so unnecessary and necessary at the same time. Nothing feels better in my opinion.

5. What new projects do you have lined up? 

The newest project I’m working on would have more beat-based and sampling stuff I’ve been doing on Abelton. I’m still new to the program but I have some cool ideas I want to work on with it. I also occasionally play drums for Recycled Dolphin, who happens to play drums in Quali for me. Also, be on the look out for the next Quali album which should be out hopefully later this year.

Many thanks to J. Smith (of NBC SoundDiego and Parker & The Numberman) for this interview.