BRIAN STRAUSS / OF ENNUI

Of Ennui: Facebook / Instagram / Bandcamp / SoundCloud

1. Tell me about your current rig.

So currently I have two setups. What you see on the left is an early 2000s Mexican Fender Stratocaster with a Line 6 Duoverb combo amp. The Stratocaster has been rewired with unshielded wiring so it’s great for getting really excessive feedback and the playability is incredible. At this point, I only use them occasionally for recording, mostly when I need a warm clean sound that other guitars can’t quite replicate. The pickups, even though they’re stock, have also been re-coiled so the output in the neck pickup is especially hot. It creates a fat, warm, clean sound that, when distorted, really reminds me of early Mudhoney or Melvins.

My main rig however has become what you see on the right. The amp is a Marshall AVT-275. The reverb is really nuanced on it and it really sort of layers itself in a beautiful way. That’s an Epiphone SG Pro 1966 reissue with the split-coil humbuckers instead of the P-90s. The sustain on it is what really sold me. It really allows my lead playing to shine and when paired with my E-Bow, it’s an intense combination. The E-Bow is a bit of the secret weapon of the band. Christian (my bandmate) and I share it because when you pair it with some delay and reverb over a brooding sort of melody, it really builds a landscape, and as we progress as a band, we pull farther and farther away from verse-chorus-verse and more towards movements. Compared to some of the other shoegaze players I’ve seen, my setup is pretty minimal: Boss Compression Sustainer, FV-50, CE-2, DD-3, Korg stompbox tuner, Big Muff Pi, a Crybaby wah, and the recently acquired Dwarfcraft Eau Claire Thunder Boris edition. I’ve got the Morley Fuzz/Wah purely for recording.

I like to keep things relatively simple. I think once I’ve got a reverb pedal, I’ll be pretty set for a while. As for now, however, all the pieces have their roles. The compression sustainer is great for pulling back the mids on my sound and letting me blend a bit more with Christian, since we have no bassist I’m usually handling the low ends. But when I need to, I switch it off and push the volume on the FV-50 and my leads cut through the mix, which is useful for all the sounds Christian has, and the volume changes that come with them. I’m constantly adjusting and compensating for the changes, which is great because it gives me constant room to experiment live. The Big Muff really pushed it over the edge. Before, I was using a Boss DS-1 which is a great pedal for how cheap and simple it is, but for what we’re playing I needed something more powerful and a little more concise of a sound. The Eau Claire Thunder is my crown jewel, just a harbinger of doom and sludge and that feedback loop is great for builds. I recently used it for a 45-minute noise song I recorded and the sound was so devastating just on its own, I was blown away. I’ve almost always got my chorus pedal on, coupled with the delay, so it adds a full shimmer to my sound and is more the ambiance of the songs, often serving as a mirror to what Christian plays. I usually build my guitar parts all around what he’s playing, so it’s really essential for me to fill all the cracks of our wave-lengths while adding some syncopation with Julio (bandmate).

2. What song of yours do you feel is the best portrayal of your particular sound/style/gear?

We have a song called “Delta of Venus” which is a really pretty song, but it’s also deeply despairing. We are very much inspired by that sort of duality, but there’s always a long-worded sense of humor to it. I use most of my pedals throughout that song, but it never feels very far-removed which I think is good, it creates a tonal continuity and it’s fluid all while expressing a dynamic range of sound. My pedals are very nuanced in “Delta,” and it’s as simple as switching my delay on for a few seconds during a build or turning on the Big Muff during the song’s climax and leaving it on during the final two choruses. Small but impactful touches. Volume changes are my biggest friend and provide more of a dynamic than anything texturally. I think volume is really underutilized by many guitarists in that way. Our debut EP, recorded at Rarefied Recording and Studio West, includes “Delta of Venus.”

3. What’s the one “holy grail” piece of equipment you’d buy if money was no object?

Holy grail would probably be a vintage Orange head from their OR series. I take a lot of inspiration from Wata of the band Boris, evidenced by my acquisition of the Eau Claire Thunder. Plus Tony Iommi plays Orange and they’re wonderful amps, but the price range leaves me stuck with solid-state amps for the time being. The E-Bow was actually a big purchase I had wanted for a long time, but never got around to getting until last year as it just didn’t seem viable for the music I had been playing before that.

4. Who is the musician you admire the most sound/gear-wise?

When it comes to gear, I’m usually thinking in categories of clean/distorted and loud/quiet and so I pull influences from pieces of different guitarists’ setups. Clean is hugely influenced by Johnny Marr and he’s probably the reason I own a Boss chorus pedal from before it technically became a Chorus Ensemble as they widened their line. Surprisingly cheap. I see a lot of guitar players knock Boss, but I’m in love. The simplicity of them and their durability coupled with that sound is revolutionary and Johnny Marr really utilized a simple setup because of it. Distortion, I’m usually influenced by Wata, as she’s just such a dynamic presence and her board really adds to that. Her board definitely influenced some key purchases I made including the E-Bow, the Korg tuner, and the Eau Claire Thunder.

5. What is your favorite piece of gear and why?

My favorite piece is my delay pedal. I get a huge array of sounds from the most subtle tweaks in the knobs and it really took my sound so much further. It became an essential companion piece to my playing and an invaluable component to what I have crafted as far as my sound goes as an individual guitar player. Above all, it added nuance and atmosphere that you just can’t capture purely with guitar playing. People knock guitar players like Tom Morello by saying that they rely on effects too much and I don’t really see anything wrong with that. Maybe it doesn’t make him the “greatest” guitar player, technically speaking, but it does make him a stronger musician by putting the overall sound above all else.

6. What was the first piece of gear you bought and what are your thoughts on it now? Do you have still have it?

First piece of gear I bought aside from my guitar and amp was a Boss DS-1 distortion and that little pedal went so far. I do still have it and it will always hold a special place in my heart, but I had to take it off rotation to make room for the Big Muff when I got that. But now Christian uses it as an overdrive so it still gets love. I’ve had it for about 10 years and aside from some paint chips, it still works like a dream.

7. What does your band have coming up that we should know about?

Of Ennui is playing The Merrow on Saturday with our buds The Filthy Violets and The Paragraphs. We also recently finished recording our EP. If there’s interest we’ll do a vinyl release down the road. Along with the EP, we’ll have additional merch and some videos coming.

Advertisements

JOE & JAYE MacASKILL / PONY DEATH RIDE

Pony Death Ride: Facebook / Website / Soundcloud

1. Tell me about your current rigs: Best parts? Worst parts?

[Joe MacAskill] I’m using a Gretsch Electromatic hollow body. Just got it a couple months ago online. It’s the most expensive guitar I’ve owned which isn’t saying much, but I love it. I’m playing through a Vox  Valvetronix Modeling amp which has way too many settings, and if you’re ADD, it just might make your head explode. I got it for next to nothing at our former pawn shop hookup which is no longer a thing. The amp really isn’t loud enough so it’s on it’s way out, for a bigger Vox. Pedal-wise, I have a Boss ME-50 which has too many settings also, and I don’t have the patience to get it to do what I think it can probably do. I use various pedals as well that do the same thing as the Boss pedal, but I’m not smart enough to combine them all. I also have a vintage Boss EQ that goes for a lot online. I have it in my rig to make people jealous. Jaye plays a neat Univox bass she got at a vintage guitar shop online a few years back.

2. What song of yours is the best representation of your sound/style?

The song that best reflects our style is “I Think My Boyfriend’s Gay For Morrissey.” Lots of delay and chorus and fun little guitar lines that Johnny Marr may have done in his teens. Most of our material is punk-rockish type stuff, or on a ukulele. It was nice to write something that made me remember how to play listenable guitar lines.

3. If money was no object, what would be your “holy grail” purchase?

My “Holy Grail” equipment would have to be a Gretsch Falcon, which I didn’t know existed until last week. You could drop it and it would sound nice. And it’s really big, so it may even have a slimming effect on me! And it’s only $12,000! I guess I’d settle for a 1966 Fender Jaguar. It’s only $2,500! Jaye is holding out for a Gretsch acoustic bass. And maybe a better wedding ring. And harkening back to my metal days, a Marshall stack would be nice and an interesting conversation piece for house visitors.

4. Any local musicians (or otherwise) you admire gear-wise?

For musician admiration, I’d have to go with Zach Condon of Beirut. He plays a Lanakai ukulele, and it’s a $100 ukulele. How punk rock is that?! He tours with it, records with it, everything. I bought one and it really is amazing. I bought the higher-priced model for touring but still use the cheapo model for recording. You’d think he’d be endorsed and only play the top of the line model, but nope! Jaye is a big Simon Gallup of The Cure fan as far as bass goes, but I just can’t sell her on Geddy Lee. And she’s Canadian!

5. What’s next for Pony Death Ride?

We just finished recording our new record, Cat Sounds. It’s all about cats! And we got new costumes and are making some videos. The release date will be Sept. 6. We will be taking our little musical comedy act to a couple different burlesque and comedy festivals as well this summer along with promoting the the album.

Head to Big Front Door (4135 Park Blvd.) tonight, Sept. 6, for the Pony Death Ride CD Listening Party for “Cat Sounds” from 8-10 p.m. [INFO]

BRIAN HOLWERDA / BLACKOUT PARTY

Blackout Party: Facebook / Twitter / Instagram / Website / Bandcamp / SoundCloud

1.Tell me about your current rig: How does the individual parts help you achieve the sound you’re after? Best parts? Worst parts? Anything still a work in progress?

Ah, the never-ending quest. I was bad for a while with Craigslist buying and selling pedals and amps. I would read different forums and think, “Oooh if I can just get this one piece of gear, I will be happy.” I horse-traded probably 10 different amps and way too many pedals. Then my buddy O told me one time that no matter what gear I was playing, I always sound like me. He was basically saying it’s in our hands and in our gut. Not that I don’t geek out on gear anymore, but I’ve thinned the collection significantly since then and choose to take a much more utilitarian approach.

I always come back to small amps that sound like they are about to blow up. They sound huge in the studio and they don’t hurt my back. With Blackout Party, I always needed a bit more clean headroom and jangle so I like using a Bassman or something in the 40 watt range, but for everything else I use a 15-22 watt amp. Running different tube combinations in stereo is fun when you can, like a Vox and Fender. I sold my Blues Jr. to Jesse LaMonaca a few years ago and begged for it back, so finally he sold it back to me before we moved to Nashville. That’s my main right now — it’s cheap but sounds awesome and is such an easy load-in. One time the road case wasn’t latched when I lifted it up and it crashed onto the street and tubes were bouncing everywhere. I plugged them back in and it still works fine. I do see an old Deluxe Reverb in my future, though. 6V6’s are my favorite tubes!

My board changes a bit depending on what I’m doing, but I always go right into the Greer Lightspeed and it stays on. I use it as a slight boost to account for any signal loss and to act as a preamp. If I’m playing a smaller room and can’t turn up my amp to where it sounds best, I like being able to bump up the gain on the Lightspeed. It sounds open, natural, and makes the guitar just “feel” better. I like a slightly pushed sound and use my volume knob on the guitar for cleaner sounds. I’ve seen the Lightspeed on tons of boards lately, and for good reason. Also, Nick Greer and his team are good people and I like supporting good people!

After that, I use any number of fuzzes, but always on super low gain as more of a boost or second level. I try to keep things musical and most times I’m not a fan of having the gain past 10 o’clock. I’ve used a lot of Black Arts Toneworks fuzz, and the Pharaoh and Black Forest are my go-to. I will leave them set a little different and occasionally stack them when things need to go into full warp. Mark from BAT has become a good buddy since we started drinking beers together at NAMM, and he lives in Tennessee as well. I love his mentality and humility, and he will be the first to tell you that tone comes from the fingers, not pedals. The Pharaoh is a classic and was the first BAT I got into. I use the Pharaoh Supreme now on Germanium clipping, lo-output mode with minimal gain. It’s interesting to hear a pedal associated with metal used in different applications, I just love it. The Black Forest is set dirtier to take things over the top. My next BAT will be the Quantum Mystic — it uses the germanium clipping that I dig and has a 3-band EQ so it can be dialed in a bit more. Anyone out there looking for some new fuzz should look at the Black Arts stuff!

After my dirt is a Boss EQ that I use for a slight boost when I want a plain old volume bump, then a EHX Nano Grail that I keep set to a washy spring reverb for a spaghetti Western sound. I used that a lot when I was playing with John Meeks for a real spooky sound. I’m looking to replace the EHX reverb with a Strymon Flint, which does the reverb and a tremolo in one pedal. My friend Erik Olson turned me on to the Flint and now I need one bad.

Last is an old MXR Phase 90 that I got from my buddy Andrew McKeag. He is such a cool dude and badass ripper, so I feel like this one has a little extra something special in it. He told me he used this one with Presidents of the United States of America, which I love! I just use it for that slow Waylon-style country thing, very sparingly. Phaser is like cumin, it’s great but if you sprinkle too much in the pot you are in serious trouble. 1-2 phaser moments per album or set, max.

For guitars, I always used Telecasters until I got the Gretsch White Falcon. I am a huge Neil Young and Stephen Still nut, so to me the Creamy Pigeon is it, quest over. Listen to the intro of “Wooden Ships” by CSN, or “Alabama” by Neil — that’s what this thing sounds like. I’ve got the deluxe top-of-the-line model with the TV Jones pickups, which to me sound a lot better than what comes stock. I’m usually in bridge pickup with a small bit of neck rolled in. At first, it was a little flashy for me, but I took the pickguard off and now it looks perfect. I was worried about taking it out of the house but my Mom and Dad actually encouraged me to look at it as a tool, like a hammer. It has a job. Now she has a few small blemishes and probably some dried sweat and beer, but plays better that way.

The Tele was built by my friend Mark in Crest, CA, and painted by Mike Maxwell who has done a lot of art with the Silent Comedy. It’s an old Civil War general, so we call it “The General.” It’s got a custom hammered copper arrowhead over the truss rod and it’s a total Frankenstein model. We aged the body by dragging it behind a car and throwing it up in the air on the driveway. It was my #1 before the Falcon and I still use it a lot. The pickups are Seymour Duncans, and I only use the bridge.

I love playing banjo too, and am happy to call the Deering family friends. They are such good peeps! It was good to see Jamie, Greg, and the crew recently in Nashville, and it was cool being involved in their ad campaign for their “Solana 6” nylon 6-string model. It’s definitely my go-to back porch and/or travel instrument at our house. The other banjo with the crazy ninja unicorn inlays was given to me by one of my best friends Jeff. I guess he found it in South Carolina and thought I needed it! It’s still one of the most thoughtful things anyone has ever done for me, so thanks again, Jeff! It’s got a Deering head but the rest is totally custom woodwork and insane abalone inlay.

2. What song of yours do you feel is the best portrayal of your particular sound/style/gear?

I have to pick “All My Friends” off the newest recording. It’s a song that we’ve been playing since we started out, and even recorded previously. It’s so much fun to go into the extended jam at the end, you can really lose yourself on stage. Tim and Daniel have some neat guitar bits and Jesse and Hoth are just pumping. It feels good. On this tune, I used an old Silvertone acoustic with a P90 plugged into a Black Arts Pharaoh fuzz on germanium clipping and low gain, then layered that track with a baritone guitar into an AC30 and a Bassman in stereo. Really fun recording this one with the guys!

3. What’s the one “holy grail” piece of equipment you’d buy if money was no object?

Man, hard one because for so long I drooled over the White Falcon and now it’s sitting here. I have to say I’m pretty happy with my current lineup, but an old Martin acoustic would be real nice. There’s a store here in Nashville called Gruhn’s, and they have rows of old Martins STARTING at $10k. Some of them feel ok, but a few of them just sound like they are plugged in when you hit a G chord. An old D-28 or D-35 would be real nice!

4. What is your favorite piece of gear and why?

This ties into my favorite musician as well, which would have to be my Dad Jim and his 1966 Guild D-50. He put the love of all kinds of music in our house, and taught us to appreciate jazz and classical as well as rock and folk. I remember wanting to learn some Metallica riffs when I was a kid, but he sat me down and made me play James Taylor licks or the intro to Simon and Garfunkel’s “The Boxer” to a metronome. At one point, he told me he’d buy me an electric guitar if I could play the riff in “Hot Rod Lincoln” by Commander Cody at any speed to a metronome. I must’ve sat there for months playing it so slow, but I finally got it — and a Yamaha Pacifica electric guitar. He passed on his prized Guild to me a few years back and it is the one thing besides my wife and dogs I’d grab if the house were on fire. It’s the guitar my Dad serenaded my Mom with at camp before they were married, and has always been real special to our family. Plus it sounds amazing! Turns out Guild gave it to the Serendipity Singers as a promo model just before my Dad bought it in ’66, and we have a clip of them using it on Hullabaloo earlier that year. It’s one of the 2 in the back middle:

5. Blackout Party has a new record coming out — how would you say it stacks up against the your guys’ last one? What’s changed? What’s stayed the same?

It stacks up great to the last one, and feels like the natural next step to us. Closed Mouth Don’t Get Fed had a twangy Americana sound and influence, where the newest record is heavier and has more texture. The constant is songwriting and focusing on themes everyone can relate to. We were able to do more on this one and experiment with some different sounds and ideas, where on the last one we literally plugged in and cut it all live in 3 days, even most of the vocals. We cut everything live again on the new one, but went in and layered a lot more fun ear candy on this one. For example, on “Grape and the Grain,” I’m singing vocals through a distorted guitar amp that was plugged into a rotating Leslie speaker to get a really warbly sound. We layered that in below the main vocal, but it added a really neat texture and we took the time to do stuff like that all over the record.

Also we have some cool guests, like Maureen Murphy who sings her butt off on “Smart Too Late.” She sings in Zac Brown’s band and was passing through the studio one night when the engineer asked if she wanted to sing a bit. It was all very random and lucky, but we all had goosebumps the second she started singing.

6. You guys also took a strange route of going all the way to Nashville to record the thing, then did an Indiegogo for vinyl, and then either went on hiatus or broke up (while you moved away) before actually playing a release show — which you guys are getting around to now. What happened and why the weird chain of events?

Yeah it’s been wild, and totally weird! A couple of my buddies were in Nashville working at Zac Brown’s place as engineers, and they invited us out to track here at Southern Ground. It appealed to me to get the guys out of San Diego and our comfort zones. I like being able to unplug from everyday responsibilities and focus on making noise together. The pre-sale thing on Indiegogo was a natural next step, and a big success for us. I see those platforms as a way to let friends and fans be directly involved in the process, and offer a new experience rather than simply buying a CD at a show. We went over our funding goal and did almost $10k in sales before the release, and it’s cool to know that many of the people who supported this project have their names listed on the vinyl as “Executive Producers.” After the pre-orders shipped, I got a great opportunity in Nashville and had to make some moves pretty quick. Tim [Lowman] had a similar situation so now 2/5 of the band is in Tennessee. We never broke up, but just said hey we are going to step back and re-address this later this year. In the meantime, my wife and I were able to buy a little house out here, I love my job, and I’m graduating with a business degree on the same night of our Casbah show! Been very busy, but excited to finally be putting on a proper release for our San Diego friends and fans.

7. What can fans expect at the release show on Aug. 27?

The whole bill is solid, so come early and stay late! The New Kinetics, The Slashes, and Mrs. Henry all will be badass, and then we are going to tie a nice big black bow on the evening. We partnered with Jameson to offer some cheap whiskey specials all night, so hopefully everyone takes advantage of that. It will all be fun, no power ballads! We’ve got a couple covers to sprinkle in there, and we are mostly excited to be back in that room and just feed off everyone’s energy!

8. What’s next for you specifically, and also the band? Any more shows coming up? 

I’m excited to be in Nashville and continue writing with a few specific people. My vision for this year is to focus on the publishing side of things, where I can be home at night with the wife and dogs, drinking a few beers in the yard, not in a sweaty van. I’d love to get the BOP guys out here for a few shows — I know we’d do real well in this market, but will ultimately depend on boring stuff like schedules and budgets. My next project is recording an EP with my neighbor Larry, who is a cool old cowboy. He heard me picking one day and showed up on my porch with a bottle of Jack and 2 vintage Martins! He’s an amazing songwriter and we have become buddies so I want to be involved with documenting the songs he’s written. I’m hoping to have it tracked in a few months, so when the time comes we will keep everyone posted on that.

Besides the Casbah show, there’s nothing booked, but we are hoping to play some more in San Diego. There’s even talk of re-releasing Closed Mouth Don’t Get Fed on vinyl with the original alternate art at some point, which would be badass. I’d love to come back to San Diego to play Oktoberfest or another festival soon, or maybe just to play Tim Mays’ backyard! We shall see.

Blackout Party headline the Casbah on Aug. 27 for their “Float On Towards Our Doom” record release. Get info here.

BOTANICA CHANGO

Botanica Chango: Facebook / Twitter / Instagram / Website / Bandcamp

Members: Joshua “J.B.” Becker (percussion/vocals), Tyler J. French (guitar/keys), Carlos Vicente Jr. (vocals/guitar), Sean Davenport (keys), Michael Alan Hams (drums), Bobby Roquero (bass)

1. Tell me about your guys’ stuff.

Carlos: We are currently in the writing process, so our rigs are a bit different. We are experimenting with a lot of vintage synths, drum machines in addition our normal pedal setups. A lot of the sounds that are coming out of this pre-production are pretty indicative of the time period the gear was made. Finding sound that fits the song we write next is always a work in progress.

2. What Botanica Chango song do you feel is the best portrayal of your particular sound/style/gear?

Tyler: I/we get a lot of joy from finding new sounds, and we make a conscious effort not to get comfortable. One particular song in the new batch that we are all excited about, “Every knows,” is a pretty synth-heavy track that hopefully can make the girls in black move their hips.

3. What’s the one “holy grail” piece of equipment you’d buy if money was no object?

JB: I’d probably say we could use some Quincy Jones brain, there’s nothing holy about our grails.

4. What was the first piece of gear you bought and what are your thoughts on it now? Do you have still have it?

Carlos: My first piece of gear besides a guitar and amp that really brings back memories was a DOD RP-6. It was my first foray into effects and it definitely influenced me quite a bit. I used it for about 6 months and started buying standalone pedals. The RP-6 is long gone, but it was an eye-opener for me.

5. What is your current favorite piece of equipment and why?

Tyler: My favorite piece of gear that we are writing on right now is the Moog Opus-3. It’s like a church organ you can play at Studio 54.

6. What’s coming up for you guys?

JB: The album we are currently working on is titled Action Park and is being written to be performed by professional figure skaters as Botanica Chango On Ice in LA. Our next show is SoundDiego’s Summer Splash Party at Harrah’s on July 16th, and we’ll be unveiling lots of new material from the album for the first time. [INFO]

MICHAEL McGRAW

Michael McGraw & The Butchers: Facebook / Twitter / Instagram / SoundCloud / Bandcamp

1. Tell me about your current rig.

When I’m in my studio, I try different guitars depending on the vibe but as a live setup I’ve always played through a similar pedal setup, only changing out the overdrive a few times. For the past few years, I tried a more traditional amp/guitar combo with the ’65 Reissue Fender Deluxe Reverb amp and the Epiphone Casino and what I found was that the tone was incredible but I lost a lot of the dynamic control I had in the past. I recently switched back to my early ’90s Bedrock 2-12 amp; it was boutique before boutique amps were cool! The Bedrock is all hand-wired and modeled after the Vox AC-30 with a 100-watts of power at my disposal. The rumor is Bedrock made great amps but they were lousy businessmen!! I also love the Electro Harmonix Holy Grail Reverb and lately I use the Electro Harmonix Soul Food overdrive for it’s great tone. I was using the BBE Boosta Grande for added volume but now I added my JHS Superbolt on top of everything instead for some extra chaos!

2. Why do you use the gear you’re currently using?

I have used some version of my current setup for years because of how I play. What I do that’s kept me going in music is write songs and sing… frankly I play so much guitar because I have to! I’d much rather have a great lead guitarist but bands are a tough long-term dynamic so if you want to keep going in music for as long as you can, you do what you have to!! I started on acoustic in college so I am a strummy guitarist with some accents here and there. I haven’t had the opportunity to work with a lead guitarist regularly in awhile and I rarely solo so I find a nice reverb and some yummy overdrive help add character/dynamics to my guitar while allowing me to concentrate on singing.

3. What song of yours do you feel is the best portrayal of your particular sound/style?

When you’re writing and recording, sometimes you have no idea what songs people will grab onto or what sound will define them. As the years go by, certain songs stick around and tend to come up in conversation. For me, those songs are “Poorboy,” “Hillside” and “Closer Tonight.” “Hillside” was a song I wrote in a band called True Crime Authors with my buddy Lee Sammartino (drums) and I recorded it for my first EP in 2009. The song “Poorboy” really embodies the spirit and camaraderie I had with my close friends Chris Decatur (drums) and Mark Lane (bass) when we made the second EP in 2011. Lastly is “Closer Tonight,” which is a song that I carried around for years before releasing it last year on the full-length record.

4.Dream gig: What bands would you ask to play your all-time raddest show, and where would you play?

That’s easy…Stereophonics, Richard Ashcroft and Doves at Wembley Stadium!! I’m a Brit-rocker at heart.

5. What do you have coming up that we should know about? 

I put an album out last year [listen/buy it here] but I am currently switching gears and getting back to my garage-rock roots so we should have a new single soon, hopefully in August. We’ll be playing next at the Soda Bar on Sunday, July 10, with the talented Jimmy Ruelas and a great band from Athens, GA called New Madrid. [INFO]

BRETT PATTERSON / THE WHISKEY CIRCLE

The Whiskey Circle: Facebook / Website / Twitter / Instagram / Bandcamp

Comment below, on the Gear and Loathing Facebook page, or email gearandloathinginsandiego@gmail.com to be entered to win a pair of tickets to The Whiskey Circle’s EP release show at the Music Box on June 23!

1. Tell me about your current rig: For example, why do you use the gear you’re currently using? Best parts? Worst parts?

I guess it all depends on which rig we’re talking about? My main project is The Whiskey Circle with my wife Leanna, but I also play my upright bass for some local bands when needed and produce instrumentals with my brother in a project we call “Dream Queen.” For The Whiskey Circle, I play drums and keys at the same time. I’d prefer to just have separate people playing their own instruments, but at one point The Whiskey Circle was just a 2-piece and we felt the need for something more than guitar and drums. I was inspired by Shovels & Rope for the basic drum kit and keyboard combo.

For the most part, the drum kit I use is a Gretsch Catalina Club that we refer to as “Beetlejuice.” However, the 26″ kick in that Gretsch kit takes up too much space on the road and my Roland Juno kept falling off the top of it. So now I use a 22″ kick that came with a no-name, made-in-Japan kit that I scored off CL for $5. When I play live, I never play with more than a kick, snare and floor tom. When we record, I’ll mix the two kits together (13” and 14” rack toms and 16” and 18” floor toms) and make a 6-piece kit with the 26″ Gretsch kick to get that boom. When we play live, I always use small cymbals (Paiste 13″ hi-hats, 14″ thin crash and 20″ light ride), when we record I like to add a second ride and stereo crashes. My goal when playing for The Whiskey Circle is to always be quieter than Leanna’s vocals and let her be the focus of the song. When there’s a voice like hers in the band, it should never be drowned out by the instruments.

For the “organ” part of the rig, I currently use a Roland Juno Alpha-2 with a Behringer reverb/delay/echo pedal and a Marshall overdrive pedal through an Acoustic B20 bass amp for the low end. The pedals help the Juno not sound like a 1985 MIDI synth (which it is and why I originally bought it), but more like the organ on all of our recordings, a 1976 Kimball Entertainer.

Another cool thing about The Whiskey Circle is the other guitar player, Collin Webb, and I switch between drums and guitar throughout the set. The whole musical chairs thing started back when Daniel Cervantes was playing with us and he wanted to play drums on some tracks (if you didn’t know Dan is a drummer too then you’re missing out). It’s also really hard for me to sing the songs I wrote on guitar while playing drums and organ. Collin and I combine our pedals (although most of them are his) to get what you see in the picture. A lot of cool delays, shifters, modulars, fuzz and most importantly that Boss tuner. Collin plays that red Fender tele and I play Leanna’s daphne blue Mustang. Collin and I both play through his 12″ Fender Blues Jr.

Lastly, you’ll see the two fender basses and the Orange 1×12. Bass is my first instrument and my first love. I’ve recorded the bass for all of The Whiskey Circle tracks in the past and was playing bass in the band originally. My main live bass is the white reissue Fender Musicmaster with new Seymour Duncan pickups. My other bass is a P bass that was pieced together from CL parts: Squier P bass neck, MIM body, DIY surf green pick guard and pickups out of a 1971 American. This is the bass that has been recorded on all of The Whiskey Circle tracks. It needs some TLC as some of the higher frets are not quite right, but if you know how to make it work, then it’s the best thing ever. The Orange amp is a newer 1×12 Crush that was upgraded to 100w, new Jensen speaker and a 3″ tweeter installed to pick up some of the highs when we use the Bass Muff. It’s plenty loud enough to compete with the 12″ fender blues amps we all play with. This is the amp that our bass player uses live.

2. What song of yours do you feel is the best portrayal of your particular sound/style?

This is the demo version of one of the tracks off the new High Deserts EP called “Beaches.” It’s a song about everything I love: Leanna, CA, decriminalizing weed and riding bikes/motorcycles. It’s the first track that I’ve engineered and recorded everything on. Every piece of musical equipment that we own was recorded on the track (all three guitars through the Fender Blues Jr.) and also a Fender Champion (not pictured since we never use it live), the P bass and the Musicmaster (yes double bass tracks are the shit), and the Gretsch kit. It was definitely a pain multi-tracking by myself, but in the end, I think the track has a really nice “if the Velvet Underground hung out with The Blank Tapes in OB” sort of vibe.

 

 

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

I want everything in this video, but most importantly Jack Bruce’s Gibson EB complete with still-lit cigarette burning on the headstock.

4. Who is the musician you admire the most sound/gear-wise?

Gear-wise, I would say Kurt Vile.

Music production/badassery-wise, I would say Dave Grohl. He’s from the DC area like me (we had the same HS PE teacher) and he played drums in 2 of my favorite bands, Scream and Nirvana. Not to mention his philosophy on drumming, like my favorite drummer (Ringo), is the best thing ever.

5. What do you have coming up that we should know about?

We are about to release our High Deserts EP via Wiener Records on June 17 with a music video and tour to help promote. [INFO] Our official EP Release Show is Thursday, June 23, at The Music Box with Jimmy Ruelas, Bad & The Ugly and Gary Hankins & the Summer Knowledge. [INFO/TICKETS]

JEREMIAH LAFICA / THE FILTHY VIOLETS

The Filthy Violets: Facebook / Instagram / Twitter / Bandpage

1. Tell me about your current rig. How does the individual parts help you achieve the sound you’re after? Best parts? Worst parts? Anything still a work in progress?

From the beginning to the end of my chain I have:

Line 6 Constrictor -> DigiTech Bad Monkey -> Black Arts Toneworks Pharaoh Fuzz -> Ernie Ball VP Jr. -> MXR 10 Band EQ -> Boss DD-7 -> Van Amps Sole Mate Reverb

On the VP bypass output I’ve got the Boss TU-2 Tuner.

The Constrictor has served me well for about 7 or 8 years now. I don’t even touch the dials at this point. The mellow setting really keeps the tone smooth and contained without eating away too much of the tone.

I’ve had the Bad Monkey for about as long and it sat on the shelf for the first few years, but I found a way to get some nice edge out of it with a high boost.

I picked up the Pharaoh Fuzz from a neighbor who was selling off a bunch of gear. I hadn’t heard of it, so I just took it home for a test run and immediately ran back to pay him for it. This thing can scream. It has a 3-way Germanium/Silicon switch that gives you two completely different fuzz tones. I keep it right in the middle to get the best of both worlds. I also keep the tone and high knobs cranked up at about 3 o’clock to preserve some clarity. If you push the Fuzz knob too far it can really get out of control, so I’ve got it around 9 o’clock most of the time.

The VP Jr. is a VP Jr… Not much to say except it’s reliable and does exactly what you’d want a volume pedal to do. I had issues with the sweep when I first got it and realized it was having difficulty with the patch cable I was sending in. Note to self (and others experiencing similar issues), some boutique cables just don’t work the same as the run-of-the-mill Livewire patches.

The 10 Band EQ is pretty nice for rounding out the rough edges of a bright tone or adding some punch to a weak signal. It has a volume and a gain in addition to the 10 frequencies you can dial in, so you can actually get some additional grit, if that’s what you’re after.

The DD-7 is my favorite stomper. I’ve tried other delays and they’re either too quirky, finicky or simply don’t give me the tone I’m after. I’ve been meaning to get the bypass switch for years but just haven’t managed to remember. Hopefully soon… I almost exclusively use the tap delay, rather than turning the time knob. I bounce between the 200ms and 800ms settings. The 200ms is square, giving you double the beats that you tap. The 800ms gives you a dotted 1/4 notes, which can really add a nice touch. Everyone says it’s dotted 1/8 notes, but from my experience they’re dotted 1/4.

Lastly, the Sole Mate Reverb. This is another pedal I picked up from that neighbor who was unloading some of his gear. It’s a pretty tame spring reverb, with an on/off switch, an output knob and a dwell knob. I usually keep the dials pretty low for some extra breath on the tail of the delay, but it can open up quite a bit if you want to crank it.

I also use Voodoo Power and a Monster Power Conditioner. It really does make a difference having strong, clean power.

It all runs to a Vox AC15, the best plug-and-play amp on the planet. Monkeys could dial this thing in and get great tones out of it.

2. What song of yours do you feel is the best portrayal of your particular sound/style/gear?

This is one of our older tracks, from about 5 years ago. It’s called “You’re The Riot.” I’m not crazy about how the parts of the arrangement turned out on the record, but I liked the tone I was able to get for the solo in the middle of the track. I was actually using an Epiphone Casino for that recording, and I’d like to get my hands on one of my own at some point. In any case, the tone was warm and bright, crunchy and crisp. If I could nail down that tone at every live show, I’d be thrilled.

3. What’s the one “holy grail” piece of equipment you’d buy if money was no object?

Eventide Space Reverb. Good reverb really stands out from the cheap stuff. That pedal has SO much versatility. It can pretty much replicate any reverb imaginable. Not to mention it also has delay, modulation, etc, etc. My birthday is coming up if anyone is feeling extra generous…

4. I noticed you’re using a Telecaster with two humbuckers instead of the standard single coils. Any particular reason? Can you still get those classic Telecaster sounds out of it or is it an entirely different sound altogether?

I used to be a diehard Strat player, but I realized that I was always cutting my highs because they were so overwhelming. So, I figured a Telecaster would bring me closer to the center. On top of that, I wanted a smoother, warmer tone, and the single coils just sounded so twangy, which I really can’t stand. The tonal range is narrower with this setup, but with the 3-way switch, I really like the amount of variety I can get out of each position. I usually keep it in the middle or down on the bridge pickup. I think it still sounds like a Tele with the humbuckers, but less twangy, which is wonderful.

5. Who is the musician you admire the most sound/gear-wise?

Trey Anastasio from Phish. It may seem like an odd choice, given the obvious difference in the genres we play. But in the mid ’90s, he had an absolutely killer tone. I think he used and still uses two custom Languedoc guitars, which I’m sure was the biggest contributor to his tone, but whatever else he had going on in his effects chain was perfectly dialed in… except when it wasn’t, which was probably like 1 out of 5 shows, most likely because he was too spaced out to realize it. Anyhow, when I first started learning to play, I tried to model my tone after his and ended up learning a lot about playing in general.

6. What was the first piece of gear you bought and what are your thoughts on it now? Do you have still have it?

It was an Ibanez acoustic guitar. I still have it, and I hate it more each day. This was when I was in my first year of playing. Someone told me, “Hey man, it’s got Fishman Pickups, it’s totally worth it.” Nah, not even a little. The truss rod (something I was completely unaware of at the time of purchase or the next year thereafter) was broken. And, the tone just generally sucked. I actually try to be as inconspicuously careless as possible with it, hoping it breaks so I have a fully legitimate reason to find a replacement.

7. What do you have coming up that we should know about?

We’re playing this Saturday, June 18th at the Casbah, possibly July 18th at Soda Bar, and there will likely be another Casbah show in the next month or so. No other dates at this point. We’re really trying to focus on new material since we just got the band back together this year after a 3-year hiatus. Luckily, someone heard us at either House of Blues or Casbah when we played recently and it sounds like they’re going to fund an 8 or 9-song EP and try to get our publishing off the ground. Fingers crossed!

JERIK CENTENO / SMALL CULTURE

Small Culture: Facebook / Instagram / Twitter / SoundCloud / Bandcamp

1. Tell me about your current rig: How do the individual parts help you achieve the sound you’re after? Best parts? Worst parts?

Guitars: My two current favorites are my Teisco Del Rey EP7 and the Silvertone (don’t know what model). The Teisco just sounds so good right off the bat with its clean bite but can be so jazzy when you roll the tone back. It’s also the Teisco version of Tone’s Silvertone guitars from Little Hurricane. My red house-painted Silvertone is the most magical guitar I have. It is my go-to when others are uninspiring and it is the most perfect feeling guitar in my hands and against my body. These two are the lightest guitars in the world. I’ve owned the Strat and Tele since high school. The Strat is a great one when going for “arcade-y” tones because of the neck and middle pickup position. The Tele is the first guitar I ever owned that my Dad bought me from the Philippines. It’s Chinese, but I swapped the stock pickups for Texas Specials, which are super hot. The Tele is a great tracking guitar due to the versatility and an easy one to go to for a modern sound. The Farida JT602DCC is solely owned because it is the signature guitar of Two Door Cinema Club’s lead guitarist, Sam Halliday, who is the utmost reason as to why I ever started playing guitar. To the eye, the upside down headstock is so unique, but what’s more unique is the onboard delay Farida built in because of how important delay is to Sam Halliday’s tone. It is also the only guitar I have with a P90. My guitars help to primarily put me into different mindsets. If I want weird tones, I’ll get the Strat; if I want driving guitar parts, I’ll pick up the Tele; if I want to make up lead parts really fast, I’ll grab the Farida; if I want unique guitar parts or weird chords, I’ll grab the Teisco or the Silvertone.

Cons about the Strat, Tele, and the JT602DCC are that they are freaking heavy now that I’ve been playing the Teisco and the Silvertone.

Pedals: The reason why I own two super shifters is because I tried to resell one, but that never worked, so I just put both to use. One is used as a harmonist/chorus to get arcade-y, Rutger Rosenborg-y, Bombay Bicycle Club-y tones (heard on “Too Late”) and the other is to just frick things up (T-Arm setting referenced from St. Vincent). Bobby Bray, the guitarist of The Locust and coincidentally, my electronics and media business teacher, helped me make a Carbon Copy mod that is an expression pedal idea stemmed from the PS5 so that when turned on, controls the delay parameter to make more noise and to frick things up even more! My pedalboard is designed for clean bite, fun, ambience, swells, and madness!

Cons: Pedalboard tap dancing while having to sing, which actually gives me madness.

Guitar Amps: Gibson G20, Fender Vibro Champ XD. Just really awesome amps that help me get the great tones when I need. G20 for jazzy or warmer stuff and the Fender Vibro Champ for the clean bite I love. Cons: Vibro Champ tube just went out and the G20 needs to be grounded, so I kindly backline amps from friends.

Playback/IEM Rig: Mid-2013 Macbook Pro (also used for mixing/tracking), Ableton Live 9, Motu Audio Express Interface, Audio Technica M2 (x3), Alesis Micron.

The best thing about this rig and a main part of the Small Culture sound is my mid-2013 MacBook Pro, which was a high school graduation gift from my Mom. It has helped me achieve 95% of the audio and music related things in my life by helping me produce, record, and mix other people’s and Small Culture’s music. With my laptop, I am able to produce, mix, and merge electronic elements with real-life instrumentation, which is what the sound of Small Culture consists of.

For live, I use Ableton to run my ears and backtracks and just output stereo tracks to FOH. I track, mix, and obsessively love Pro Tools 11. I’ll do pre-production and songwriting in Logic Pro X. My Alesis Micron is the oldest piece of gear I own and it has some cool synth patches, but I primarily now just use it to trigger MIDI.

2. What song of yours do you feel is the best portrayal of your particular sound/style/gear?

Since I feel the Small Culture sound can be a myriad of things, “Apartime” is a great example of sound, style, and gear. I mixed majority of “Apartime” hybrid by outputting stems from Pro Tools in the SSL Duality at school and incorporating the outboard gear we had. It helps show my style by the instrumentation and production because Small Culture is about fusing electronic computer-based music with big real-life instruments. I always try to go for huge size with my songs and I find that heavily relying on instrumentation and production.

“Apartime” is the oldest song off the EP and the one that took the longest. I brought a synth pad and vocal doodles to my best friend and live drummer, Ginno Tacsiat, and he laid down the main electronic drum beat and I rearranged it and wrote the rest. I then took it into the studio and had real drums, guitar, and bass guitar added to the end of the song to have a big dramatic scene change. The big factors to the size of the song in the end is the stereo synth bass I have going (actually two different mono synths panned hard L&R). For the electronic drums, we used the stock Ultrabeat drum kit in Logic Pro X and I spruced it up with the SSL Duality.

Every Small Culture song is about or includes very important people in my life, so “Apartime” was about a trip my Mom and I had to the Philippines when my Grandmother passed away and it is the song about how important and how much of a trooper she is. Half of the song title comes from having started the song in my Mom’s apartment in Hawai’i about 6 months before my Grandmother’s passing, how I work part-time at Fashion Valley, and because of how I sing “You took the time” in the chorus.

3. What’s the one “holy grail” piece of equipment you’d buy if money was no object?

Oh my gosh… Probably an SSL Duality or a Neve 8058. An SSL Duality because that is the first console I ever learned off, which is at The Art Institute of California – San Diego where I graduated and the Neve 8058 is what Guy Charbonneau has in Le Mobile. I heard recordings from a Crossroad festival that he did and just those preamps alone made the live recordings so freaking huge.

4. I’ve noticed you’ve got two older Japanese-style guitars alongside two new Fenders. Why not go all vintage or all modern? What are the drawbacks for either? Benefits?

The only reason why I own the Teisco and the Silvertone were out of pure luck. The Silvertone, I came across at a swap meet at Qualcomm for $35 (also where I got one of the MXR Carbon Copies for $5) and the Teisco came out of a packaged barter (included the Fender Vibro Champ XD). Ironically, I use the Teisco and the Silvertone for gigging because they are much lighter to lug around since I have so much stuff to carry (pedals, playback/IEM rig, laptop). It’s so much easier on my life and back because I’m a pretty small dude. I’m very indecisive and I’m always the person who is in the middle, so I guess that’s why I both have vintage and modern guitars. A benefit is just the myriad of tonal and mindset options.

5. You’ve got “Always play 110%” highlighted on your volume pedal – that’s refreshing in these days, where a lot of musicians seem less than passionate onstage. How do you balance playing your hardest and with 110% effort/energy vs. playing your songs technically correct 100% of the time? Does that matter to you? Or are you able to do both?

I always try to do both because they both highly matter to me. If you’ve ever been to Max Idas’ shows with his band called The Chili Banditos or see Craig Schreiber drum in The Verigolds, these are two guys in San Diego that give every show 110% wherever and whomever they play to. At one show, Craig hit his head on his snare and started bleeding like a gusher candy, but he still finished the song and at every Chili Banditos’ show, I feel more home than my own apartment while screaming with Max to each of his songs. I get chicken skin to these shows because they break down the barrier between performers and audiences and put their hearts out for the world to see. To me, “Always play 110%” is a written reminder because I easily get lost in setting up gear and it’s a goal to let it all out just like Max and Craig. I am fortunate to be able to practice with the guys who help me play live as much as we have been (Max, Cameron Wilson, Ginno Tacsiat), so practicing and having such solid musicians in the band help. I strive to do both and have the confidence because I wrote the parts and have been with them since day one. Ever since high school, I’d also practice like how I’d be moving at a show; it helps to build the muscle memory. You just have to come to terms to just try your best to do both, have fun, own it, and show who you are. You should play 110% all the time because it’s a blessing to be up onstage when others don’t have the opportunity, so I say do it, leave it all out there on stage.

6. Who is the musician you admire the most sound/gear-wise?

I’d say depends and there are a ton, but if I had to speak just about one, it’d have to be Chris Hobson. He can play instruments, but he was my senior project teacher and is hands down one of the best engineers and producers I know. He helped to connoisseur the sound I was trying to obtain with Small Culture and my engineering chops. He’d help put me back on track when I’d stray away from the sound Small Culture is and when I’d doubt myself as an artist and engineer. He’s the kind of producer and teacher that helps you to achieve your artistic vision without making it into his thing. He helped me to not care about what was technically right as an engineer and to just go with my gut if I liked something and it sounded good. I’d talk to Chris a lot and many of our conversations boiled down to his points that music is subjective, it is all taste, and that if I liked something to run with it because we are making art. From him, I fully understood how much engineering and producing music is an art form.

7. What do you have coming up that we should know about?

Shows:

June 3rd Album Release Show at the Che Café with Splavender, The Chili Banditos, Hit Me Harold, and Yung May May. [INFO]

June 18th Show at The OB Template

News:

Debut EP now for sale via iTunes.

Stream it on SoundCloud.

BRIAN GOWER / PLANE WITHOUT A PILOT

Plane Without a Pilot: Facebook / Instagram / TwitterWebsite

1. Tell me about the stuff in your photos: How did you come to own these things? Makes/models/brands, etc.? Best parts? Worst parts? Anything a work in progress?

GUITARS:

The red Stratocaster with all the stickers is “Big Red,” my main gal. She started life as a Squier Fat Strat. I’ve done quite a few mods over the past 15 years. I have replaced the neck with an unfinished Maple Warmoth Neck (with custom star inlays), Schaller Locking Tuners, a Graph Tech nut, Graph Tech saddles, a Seymour Duncan JB Humbucker in the bridge and wired up to have a single volume knob. I gutted all the stuff I don’t use. I ripped out the tone controls, pickup selector, neck and middle single coil pickups, and some of the pickguard haha. Big Red isn’t just a looker, she’s got immense playability with the smooth and snappy maple neck and has a great, solid, mid-focused tone. I’d say we’re both lookin’ a bit worse for wear these days… but we’re both still kicking!

The pink one is my Gibson Les Paul Junior. She has her share of mods as well. First the headstock broke off at a gig a few years back…which sucked. I’ve since got that repaired, put on Sperzel locking tuners, a custom cut bone nut, a Seymour Duncan Antiquity humbucker, and a Leo Quan Badass wrap-around bridge. My bassist, Kyle, stripped and repainted this guitar. It was originally TV Yellow. I told him I wanted a pink Gibson and he obliged. Now I think she’s sassy and unique, as pink Gibsons are few and far between.

The Black one is my Gibson Les Paul Classic. I changed out a few bits here too… picking up a theme here? I added Schaller locking tuners, a custom cut bone nut, Graph Tech saddles, and Seymour Duncan Jazz/JB humbuckers. This one’s got a thick sound that can get bass heavy without getting muddy.

The last one is a Fender American Reissue of a ’62 Jazzmaster and it’s the most stock guitar I own. The only thing I switched was the Jazzmaster bridge for a Mustang one. It has a tone that’s really unique. I’d say it’s kind of twangy like a Telecaster, somewhat beefy like a Les Paul, and it’s a bit biting like an SG. With both pickups on it’s unlike any guitar tone I’ve ever played before. It’s worth noting that I use the shit out of the trem bar whenever I play this live.

AMPS:

Both amps are Orange 2×12 combos. I’ve become an Orange fan boy quickly over the past year. I blame my buddy Sean Tolley (Nothing Sacred/ Short Stories) for that. We used to share a rehearsal space with his band. One night, my amp was on the fritz so I asked if I could play on his Orange AD30 that was left in the room. I plugged in and was blown away immediately. It was the sound I had been searching for out of my similar Vox AC30 but couldn’t quite dial in. I swiftly bought my own Orange AD30r and ditched the Vox. It’s a Vox-y style EL84 amp that has more “oomph” in comparison. I’d say it has a ton more mid focus and more preamp drive on tap. It’s a fairly simple one-channel amp without an FX loop.

In addition to the AD30, I wanted a backup amp. You gotta have a backup, right? I wanted an amp with some more bells and whistles. So that brings me to the Orange Rockerverb 50 MKII 2×12 combo. It’s a 50-watt amp with clean and dirty channels, spring reverb, and a tube-driven FX loop. The dirty channel is where the Rockerverb really shines. It can go from subtle crunch to insane saturation. With these two amps, I can cover a myriad of tones. I only use one at a time for shows. Which one depends solely on my mood.

PEDALS:

Pedal chain goes Guitar > Dunlop Mini Volume > Dunlop Mini Wah > Mad Professor Sweet Honey Overdrive > Fulltone Full Drive 2 w/ JHS boost mod > Black Cat Mini Tremolo > Boss DD-500 Delay > Catalinbread Talisman Plate Reverb > Amp.

I utilize different gain stages and the volume boost at key points of songs to bring dynamics to the band. I stack the drives and can use the clean boost independently. The reverb is on all the time. It really fills up some space, gives the guitar more impact, and doesn’t clutter anything up. The tremolo is used sparingly and is dialed in for a slight effect. The DD-500 is an incredible delay station. I can get tape slap, crisp dotted 8th delays, modulated patterned repeats, etc. all at the click of a switch. It has 200 editable presets… I’m only using 8 of them.

I’d say the pedalboard is the best/worst part of my rig. I’m happy with the flexibility and dynamics it brings to the band’s sound but it’s such a constant evolving thing. Let’s just say I change my board more than most people change their socks. Sometimes I want to scale it back. Then other times I’ll want to add more. I’m working on getting a midi pedal switcher system for my board so I won’t have to tap dance around as much. Hopefully I can get that squared away by the end of summer.

2. What song of yours do you feel is the best portrayal of the particular sound/style you’re after?

I’d say “Falling For You” off our upcoming full length album, Just Another Unsung Tragedy. Taken at face value, it’s a catchy, upbeat pop-punk song but if you dig deeper you’ll find it has some desperate lyrics hidden behind that forced optimism. Guitar-wise, it has some nods and winks to various rock ‘n roll and post-punk stylings strewn about. The main riffs and choruses have been dubbed with heavy gained guitars that blend into the verses that switch to guitars that have a lighter crunch tone. The bridge cleans up with strummed chords that have a touch of tremolo and slap delay. These tones are sort of a call back to a more retro ’60s feel. The lead “solo” guitar comes in with a lot of delay and reverb to give it a big ‘80s rock feel.

3. I noticed you use those big button things on some of your pedals. I’ve never seen anyone else use them, so I wanted to know why you do, and would you recommend them?

They are called “Barefoot Buttons” [www.barefootbuttons.com]. They are a newer company I found whilst browsing reddit. These buttons easily attach to pedal switches and make it easier to click on/off. They were made to also not hurt your feet if you play barefoot. I never play barefoot on stage but I do like the idea of having a bigger target to hit when clicking my various switches. I’m the lead singer and only guitarist in the trio. I have a lot of space to fill and need to switch sounds quickly and as seamlessly as possible. These buttons help me do so. Also the red boost switch and “A” delay (one on the right) on the DD-500 can be switched on at the same time if I get my foot stomping just right. I do that quite a lot to make solos stand out. Also these buttons look dope.

4. I’m sensing kind of a Billie Joe Armstrong vibe with the Strat, the LP Jr. and the Orange (I think he used an Orange at some point?) — is there something to that or no?

Bingo! Guilty as charged! Yes, I am very heavily inspired by Mr. Armstrong and Green Day. They were the first band I ever started listening to and I am still listening to Green Day albums to this day. I continue to find more and more things I enjoy about them. Whether it be the songs as a whole, his use of guitar tones/sounds, song structures, the album production, his lyrics, his live sound/gear… yikes I’m sounding like a creep, huh? As far as Orange amps, I know he’s more of a Marshall Plexi guy and has used JCM 800s & 900s in the early Kerplunk days but who knows, he might rock an Orange every now and then.

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

OK, so we’re back to the Green Day/Billie Joe thing. I’d buy a Marshall Plexi and get it modded with his same Dookie gain mod that cascades the front end and adds a preamp tube. I could finally have THAT tone. Maybe one day I’ll pull the trigger and get one.

6. What was the first piece of gear you bought and what are your thoughts on it now? Do you have still have it?

“Big Red”, the red stickerfied Strat, was my first guitar I ever bought. I was 12 and I really wanted to play guitar. My dad wouldn’t just buy me one because he said, “If you worked for it and bought one on your own, you’d appreciate it more.” Boy, was he right! As impatient as I was then, I truly appreciate that sentiment nowadays. So I did all the chores, mowed all the lawns, recycled all the cans I could until finally one day, I had enough cash to buy a guitar. I went to the local guitar store and the clerk asked me what I wanted and I just pointed to the red Squier Stratocaster that was on the display rack. The clerk was gone for a while then finally came back from the stockroom and said “I’m sorry but we don’t have anymore of these in red. Do you want the one on display? I can take some money off the price and give you a cable, some picks, etc.” I said OK and was out the door a happy boy. It was already dinged up and scratched a bit from being a display model but that didn’t bother me in the slightest. I threw some stickers on over the years, broken a piece here or there, swapped some bits and I am still playing it at live gigs. My USA Fenders and Gibsons are all quite nice in their own right but they could never replace this one. It’s special. It’s the guitar that started PWP.

7. What do you have coming up that we should know about?

We’re headed on a West Coast tour the first week on June (dates below). Our first show is on Thursday, June 2nd, at Soda Bar with Squarecrow opening for Toyguitar (Fat Wreck Chords). We are also releasing our full-length, Just Another Unsung Tragedy, this fall. The album is mixed/mastered and we are in the final stages for artwork. We’ll have a few more things to nail down before we can have a release date and corresponding tour. Keep an eye out for that. For everything else you can check us out at www.planewithoutapilot.com and your various social media sites. We out here… we grindin’.

“The Big Dirty Tour”

Thursday, June 2nd- Soda Bar (San Diego, CA) [INFO]
Friday, June 3rd- The Caravan (San Jose, CA)
Saturday, June 4th- Triangle Tavern (Salem, OR)
Sunday, June 5th- High Water Mark Lounge (Portland, OR)
Monday, June 6th- Le Voyeur (Olympia, WA)
Wednesday, June 8th- The Roxy (Vancouver, BC)
Thursday, June 9th- Johnny B’s (Medford, OR)
Friday, June 10th- Jub Jub’s (Reno, NV)

JESSE HOFSTEE / SPERO

Spero: Facebook / Instagram / Twitter / SoundCloud / Bandcamp

1. Tell me about your current rig.

I’ve always been after a big, bold tone for my guitar. I like more low-end, dark tones which is why I went with a ’66 Fender Bassman as my main amp. I use a lot of vintage gear; I feel that there is just more character in each amp, and nothing beats the simplicity and true tube tones. That has been my go-to amp since I really started playing guitar. It just puts out such a big, full tone and it has that low-end that I love. I more recently got my hands on an ‘60s Vox Super Reverb amp to add to the mix. It breaks up at a lower volume than the Bassman and has a dirtier tone which pairs great with the Bassman when running them stereo. My first electric guitar was my Gretsch Electromatic. It is one of the cheaper models that I bought used, but even after buying more guitars, it’s always been my go-to; I’m a big fan of Gretsch guitars. My other go-to guitar is my Harmony H78. I found it with no paint and no knobs and I knew I had to have it. All the main parts are original and it just has so much character and such a great dirty tone. As far as pedals, I have tried to keep things simple but over the years have acquired more and more. My board is still a work in progress and changes as I learn more. My main pedals that I use are my Boss Blues Driver and delay pedal for a little slapback delay. On some of our heavy parts I use my Boss Super Octave for a fuzzy thick tone. I got the Soul Food pedal for when I just need a little cleaner gain. Never used a phaser ’til our last time in the studio so it’s something I am now introducing here and there. I am a big fan of dynamic playing and songwriting so I use my volume pedal often to help achieve that. It also helps, since there is usually only one guitarist in Spero, to have a rhythm and lead volume level easily accessible.

2. What song of yours do you feel is the best portrayal of your particular sound/style/gear?

My sound has changed over the years but our latest time in the studio I really captured some big, gritty tones that I have been after for awhile. Just a heavy but still natural classic tone is something I really have been into lately. Our latest single release “The Sounds,” is a good portrayal of that tone. It’s big and gritty, and has a tremolo going throughout which is something I have never used, but have been liking lately.

3. What’s the one “holy grail” piece of equipment you’d buy if money was no object?

The guitar I have always been after is a ‘50s-‘60s Gretsch White Falcon. A little aged off white paint and a little wear and tear would be perfect. I just think they are such beautiful guitars and have such a great classic Gretsch tone. One day I will have one.

4. Who is the musician you admire the most sound/gear-wise?

There have been a few different guitarists whose sound and gear setup I have always looked to for inspiration and its always changing for different styles. Lately, I have been digging Dean Fertita’s sounds, mostly on the latest Dead Weather album. He just has some screaming raw tones and makes good use of echo and delays to make the parts really sustain and sound like there is more than one guitar.

5. What do you have coming up that we should know about?

Spero has a new EP entitled Eclipse that we released on May 13th. We had the opportunity to record with producer Vance Powell in Nashville and are so stoked on the outcome. [Purchase/listen to it here] We will be headlining a show to support the release at the Music Box on May 26th with Creature and the Woods and Grim Slippers. Hope to see you out there!