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1. Take me through your rig: What are we looking at?
The amp is a Hot Rod Deluxe III and it is just an absolute workhorse. This is the updated version of the amp and has a much tighter overdrive than the originals. A big complaint about the Hot Rod Deluxe is the massive volume gain it gets from putting the volume above a 2. If you can’t push the amp’s volume to at least past 5, you can’t get the natural tube drive that guitarists strive to capture. That’s why I’ve modified the preamp tubes and switched out one of the 12AX7 with a 12AT7. This gives it a much smoother volume control, lets me push the amp volume further, and drops the gain a bit so I can control the level with my pedals more.
The Les Paul is a great guitar but at the end of the day, I am a staunch SG man. I originally needed two guitars for the live shows so I had to pick up another guitar. I own two SGs but I didn’t want to use both in one show. I just wanted a cheap backup guitar that I could keep in a E-flat for a couple of songs live, namely “Tiny Islands”. When combined with my Big Muff, it gives me a great raw, break-up sound that is massive. When I walked into Guitar Center to look for a guitar, I fell in love with the sound and playability of the Les Paul. Bought it out the door for $200. The SG is definitely my main live guitar but the Les Paul still holds up at the end of the day. My main guitar is a 2007 Gibson SG ’61 Reissue. The past few years, Gibson made the SGs have thick necks which does not work for me since I have smaller hands. I much prefer the thin, fast necks that let me get around the fretboard quickly.
2. I dig the pedalboard — very utilitarian. Do you find yourself using the compressor much?
I am really proud of the pedalboard itself, I actually made it from scratch with my Dad out of a wooden pallet I found in the garbage. My favorite pedals on here are hands-down my TS-9 Tubescreamer and my Big Muff. I love making huge sounds with those and they compliment each other extremely well. It is part of the reason we (Blake and myself) go together so well: We like to center our tone around the Tubescreamer and go in different directions from there. Blake adds a lot of the brightness in the band and I provide the warmth in my tone. I use the Dunlop Cry Baby Wah just on a couple songs like “Take It Fake It” because I don’t want it to be too gimmicky but it is great to change some of the feedback I get when making noise in the live set. The DD-3 Boss Digital Delay is a pretty standard delay, I pretty much use it for all of my solos to get a nice spacey sound. One of my guitar heroes, Noel Gallagher, got his solo sound from a Tubescreamer and a digital delay; he always gets such a great tone that adds so much to the song. My main reason for using the CS-3 is to level out the dynamics of my sound. Most of my tone is crafted out of my various drive settings I use between the amp’s settings, the TS-9, and the Big Muff. Between all of those settings, it can be difficult to keep a consistent volume. The CS-3 helps to level out the volume when I want to use the different drives for their tone. When I turn it off, my drive pedals turn into my lead boost. I am also a big fan of using arpeggios in songs. The compressor helps each note ring out and not get lost in the mix of the song. A great example of this is the bridge on our song “Muddy Soles” where I go through multiple arpeggiated chords.
3. If money was no object — what’s the one piece of equipment you’d get next and why?
I would get a classic 1962 Fender Stratocaster. Blake and I were considering buying a new Fender Stratocaster to keep as a studio guitar but I think we would both rather have an awesome vintage guitar. A big influence on my guitar playing is John Frusciante, formerly of the Red Hot Chili Peppers, and he owns a beautiful sunburst 1962 Strat. I would love to get my hands on a similar guitar and I think the band would like it if I got a guitar different than another SG for a change. I own a lot of guitars with humbucker pickups and only one with single-coil pickups so it would be nice to have a solid guitar with single-coil pickups for a different sound.
4. I noticed you guys changed your name rather recently — what went into that decision? Has it been difficult to re-brand?
We played a show at The Merrow for Mike Halloran (former 91X DJ) and he advised us to do this in order to avoid long-term legal repercussions. Before we were Stray Monroe, we were The Hype. Unfortunately there are a lot of projects with that name or variations of that name. We decided on the band name, Stray Monroe, after about a month of throwing names around. Brett (our bass player) came up with the name, “Stray Arrows” which we thought was cool, but it didn’t really click. We were at our producer’s house and we were yet again throwing names around again and we liked the word “stray” but needed a better noun. Our producer has this huge picture of Marilyn Monroe hung up by his desk and Blake just blurted out “Stray Monroe”. Even then, it didn’t immediately click right away because we were all still attached to The Hype but eventually we all came to love it.
The only difficulty about the name change was from the band. We had been playing as The Hype for nearly a year so it was hard for us at first. As far as the scene was concerned, we had barely started, there wasn’t much to re-brand in the first place. The name change really helped us to get a fresh start into crafting an image of what we wanted the band to be. We wanted to incorporate “stray” as in we stray away from the norm of San Diego bands with our unique sound. We bring this big British guitar sound that we took from one of our favorite bands Oasis, that I don’t think you hear in other San Diego bands. Monroe was also kind of a risk taker in her time and definitely stood out, which is what we set out to do as well.
5. What’s next for Stray Monroe?
We just dropped our debut EP, The Stray Monroe Show, on the 21st of March. Right now we are in full steam in promoting the EP. We are booking shows for April, playing a show at the Casbah on April 25th, Public Square on May 6th, and Summfest at the The Irenic on August 19th. The band plans to get back in the studio around summer time. I want to keep the momentum going for the music and believe that putting together a follow-up to the EP is critical to that. Blake and I have a bunch of new songs that we are working on for the next record that we are excited to put out.