RORY MORISON / THE BAD VIBES

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The Bad Vibes: Facebook / Bandcamp

1.Take me through your pedalboard: What are you using and what are your favorite pedals?

We got the Vox Wah Wah, the MXR Bad Ass Distortion, the Death By Audio Apocalypse, Earthquaker Devices Grand Orbiter, Empress Tremolo, Earthquaker Devices Transmissor, and last but not least, the TC Electronic Flashback Delay. I’m definitely a delay junky so that Flashback gets me a lot of mileage, especially because I can navigate my way through three different settings so quickly with that pedal. However, that being said, more than any specific pedal, I’m more into what certain combinations can get me sonically. It’s taken me a while but I’ve found a balance in the possibilities on this board and most of the time, I have more than one running.

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2. That’s a beauty of a Gretsch: What made you want to play that particular guitar? 

First and foremost, I’ve always been a huge Neil Young fan. Always loved loved the brittle rust tone he gets out of the White Falcon. I’ve owned other Gretsch guitars but this one I got out of necessity because my trusty Epiphone Les Paul was on the fritz and I couldn’t get it fixed before some upcoming shows. She’s certainly a beauty with some real bedroom eyes! The feel on the neck and her body are great but her personality is kind of hard to deal with (certainly a reoccurring story in my life). She has that Gretsch twang but bites more than any I’ve ever played. For Bad Vibes, I find myself dialing back the high end on the amp to keep the midrange of my tone while trying not to lose the personality of the guitar. It basically makes me dig in on the action if I want that bite — which isn’t too hard since I lack any finesse as a player.

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3. That pedalboard is seriously impressive: Talk to me about that Death By Audio pedal — what does it do and what do you use it for?

Fuck man, that pedal is fucking nuts — it’s a touchy touchy pedal that has to be readjusted every time it comes out the case. Basically it has five fuzz circuits that you can select from and then a tone knob that shifts the frequency. Live, I mainly use what they call the Gainiac setting at two o’clock for riffs on “Cathedrals” and on call-and-response solos that take place on a new song called “The Tower.”

4. What’s a Bad Vibes song that you think really showcases your gear?

Most definitely “Vultures”: I think I use every single pedal on that song, which seems fitting since it’s our rock opera/war dance.

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5. Talk to me about the new album: What makes it special to you?

This is the band’s first record and we are putting it out on Daniel Cervantes’ (Mrs. Henry, Creature and the Woods) label, Blind Owl. Its special for many reasons but as an individual, I’ve never been able to focus long enough to put a record together, so there’s a sense of accomplishment and fear in that. For the band, we’ve been through a whole lot of struggles, smiles and cries, freedoms and arrests — you know, life — during the making of this album, which is why it gets the title No One’s Safe. This music is the result of that wild ride and it was recorded at Le Chateau de Bad Vibes, a house long
known for hosting parties till 9 a.m. involving fireworks, impromptu jams and what the Latin community would call “convivios.” The songs are embalmed in that energy and remind me of wonderful and horrible times in my life. The songs have changed a lot and continue to do so, but I think we will relish this moment, take a breath and continue on in a new direction.

6. With No One’s Safe dropping on Thursday, Aug. 31, at the Casbah — what’s next for you guys?

We’ve already started work on a new EP being recorded and engineered straight to tape by Jordan Andreen over at Audio Design. We will be playing hometown shows but really trying to get out of town by doing small one-off weekend tours followed by an extensive one in late fall/early winter. We also have plans to begin recording the second album in collaboration with Mr. Andreen and Mr. Cervantes as co-producers. We are also most immediately thankful to you and everyone that has helped us along the way — come take intoxicants with us and dance naked or clothed… please… now… don’t make me ask again.

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FRANCIS ROBERTS / OLD MAN WIZARD

Old Man Wizard: Facebook / Instagram / Twitter / Bandcamp

Ed. note: Ahead of Old Man Wizard’s two-week West Coast tour to promote their upcoming new 7″ single “Innocent Hands” (out digitally on Aug. 25 / check out the b-side “The Blind Prince” below), the band’s guitarist/vocalist, Francis Roberts, was awesome enough to share some of his fairly unique studio (and live) equipment with Gear and Loathing in San Diego. Enjoy. ~ Dustin

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1. The Wizcaster! My friend Connor (@highspiritguitars on Instagram) built this for me as a gift when he was launching his custom guitar brand. I think it was the first guitar he made for somebody other than himself. I think the design is based on an Epiphone Wilshire, but the neck feels more like a Fender. Really simple electronics, two P-90s. Really tough to beat.

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2. My High Spirit Strat! I helped Connor build a few of his Strat-style guitars, and took one home with me. This is basically exactly like a Strat, but the neck is nearly the width of a classical guitar. Featuring my wallpaper.

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3. The original Old Man Wizard live guitar/bass! These both ended up on the recordings [listen/download the band’s debut album here]. The bass is on both, I think that guitar is only on “Innocent Hands” (I know because took a video of myself recording with it on the LEEM amp). The guitar is a SonicF Z-7. It’s a one-of-a-kind thing that was built by a Seattle-based artist in 2009. He made a bunch of weird things (see for yourself). I tried a bunch of his guitars, and this was the one that was magical to me. It plays and sounds great, but the killswitch broke. I should get that fixed.

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4. Pedals and effects! I never use my live setup to record, and I never use a pedalboard. I do my own guitar tracking, and I go on binges of testing sounds and come back later to choose which takes to keep. I don’t actually know which pedals made it on to the record; I just chose the tracks that I thought sounded best. The only effects I know for a fact ended up on the record are the Univox Super Fuzz, a homemade Rangemaster, and the Echoplex in the photo. The guitar amps were all mic’d up with an SM57, nothing fancy in that realm.

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Here’s the live pedalboard. I’m experimenting with a SoloDallas storm pedal as part of my main live rig. It sounds huge but it only plays well with certain amps, so it’ll depend on the amp I bring along. I plan to bring my Ginormouse electronics delay/clean boost for leads (this was a custom build by a guy named Lewis Davis here in San Diego, and he makes really cool stuff. Worth checking out. He also built a rad phase shift that I use in my other band). I have a Catalinbread Belle Epoch “tape delay” that I pretty much always leave running these days. It seriously sounds almost as good as an Echoplex, but it’s better for live because it requires no maintenance and is nearly indestructible. And then I guess the last piece worth mentioning is the TC Helicon Mic Mechanic. It’s a killer inexpensive delay/reverb with XLR jacks for microphones, and it’s the best thing ever for vocals when you play a small venue that doesn’t have delay or reverb on the soundboard. The first time I used it at a show, I was asked if we had started using backing tracks. Sounds awesome, highly recommended.

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5. Frederick II: This is actually a Gibson Flying V from the early 2000s. I painted over the pickguard and Gibson logo years ago, and added a Bigsby vibrato tailpiece. The pickups are stock, but I’m planning to rout out some space to replace one of them with a P90 soon. That’s the Old Man Wizard sigil thing burned into the body. I used a soldering iron to do that.

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Update: And here’s the V with a P90 in it, getting set up and ready for tour. I’ll probably still take the Wizcaster or the Z7 with me just in case it doesn’t feel right after a few nights.

6. What do you got against Fender and Gibson?

I don’t like sporting logos of brands who aren’t giving me anything! [laughs]

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7. The recording amps! I used the LEEM one on “Innocent Hands” as an overlay. It sounds really bad, so if you turn it up all the way, it sounds even worse, which was exactly what I wanted for the black-metal inspired parts in the song. The other amp is my Valco. I used that on every other guitar track on both of these recordings. All the knobs were actually turned up to 10 the whole time.

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8. That’s the back of my little Valco amp with the snakes painted on top.

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9. The keyboards! We don’t have a keyboard player for shows (and we don’t run backing tracks), but I’m a huge fan of layering keyboards on parts of songs to get a little bit of extra energy in a studio recording. From the top left, that’s a ‘70s ARP Quartet, a modern reissue ARP Odyssey (the small version), and they’re sitting on top of a chopped Hammond M-3, which is sitting on top of a two-speed Leslie cabinet.

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If you’re in one of the cities listed below (or know someone in these cities), be sure to catch Old Man Wizard when they come through. “Innocent Hands” will be out digitally on Aug. 25th — before then, pick up the limited 7″ from them at these shows.

Aug. 11: Tijuana, BC – Mi Pueblito
Aug. 13: San Francisco, CA – Hemlock
Aug. 15: San Jose, CA – The Caravan
Aug. 18: Seattle, WA – The Victory Lounge
Aug. 19: Anacortes, WA – Kenelly Keys
Aug. 20: Tacoma, WA – The Valley
Aug. 22: Los Angeles, CA – The Lexington
Aug. 23: San Diego, CA – Soda Bar

VINCENT GABUZZI / THE ANODYNES

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The Anodynes: Facebook / Instagram / Twitter

1. Take us through your rig: Do you have a main guitar or use both equally? Do you use this stuff in the studio too?

I play a Fender American Deluxe Tele and a souped-up Fender Starcaster with P-rails. I can’t say one is my main guitar because I love them both and they are two completely different beauties. However, on the most recent batch of songs I’ve been writing, I tend to use my Starcaster. I love the full, warm tone I get out of its semi-hollow body and the P-rails are so versatile; the tones are endless. Both the neck and bridge pickups have a 3-way toggle switch, which in position 1 activates a single coil rail, position 3 activates the P-90, and position 2 activates both — creating a humbucker-style pickup. Then things get real crazy when you combine the neck and bridge pickups, I wasn’t kidding…endless!

Now, getting in to pedals…as a kid, I grew up listening to a lot of Incubus, The Mars Volta, RHCP, Deftones and Rx Bandits, so I’ve always been intrigued by psychedelic sounds. I’ve been using delay, flanger, and modulation pedals since I was a kid and they just always seemed to feel right. As I have grown older, I’ve really gotten into the classics — Hendrix, Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, etc. which has influenced me to use more wah, fuzz and other classic effects. But I also do appreciate something as simple as overdrive for the fact that it’s so pure, there’s no technicality with it and there is nothing to hide behind. Nothing like a hot overdrive pushing your guitar through the roof! What draws me to effects is the emotions and colors each one brings when I play and feel them. Yes, I used every pedal on my board throughout the making of The Anodynes EP, with the exception of my Xotic EP booster. Alright I gotta leave it at that because I could go on forever…

2. I used to play a Twin but stopped ’cause it was so loud and so heavy to haul around — what are your thoughts on it?

I really dig the way my guitars/pedals work with the Twin Reverb, especially my Tele, it’s such a classic combo and I think that’s what keeps it in my lineup. Using multiple effects can really mud up your tone, but the clean/punchy Twin seems to keep clarity despite multiple effects. However, Twin Reverbs are super heavy and loud as you mentioned, so I’ve been contemplating down-sizing to a Deluxe. Though they are still very loud, I like that they tend to break up at a quieter volume. I’m also considering something with a dirty channel — only time will tell.

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3. The Starcaster is a little-known Fender gem — how did you come to pick that up and what do you like about it that other guitars don’t offer?

I was in Walmart, uhh, I mean Guitar Center and there she was, staring straight at me. I walked up, picked her up and introduced myself. She felt good and looked even better. I was drawn to her offset body and bitchin’ headstock. I was in the market for a new babe, so I pulled the trigger. What she had to offer that stood out to me was the affordable price, good feel, and the unique offset semi-hollow body.

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4. I’ve always wanted an EHX Electric Mistress — sell me on it.

The Electric Mistress is a rad pedal that offers classic flange as well as chorus. It’s also got some trickery: When you pull back the rate knob below noon, you can control the rate yourself twisting the knob or you can stop where you want in the middle of a tasty swirl and play in that frequency…as featured in my main tone on “Pretty Little Baby.”

5. What do The Anodynes got coming up?

We have our FIRST show this Thursday, June 15th at The Merrow in Hillcrest and we are all super pumped to play for anyone and everyone. Come watch me tap dance on my pedalboard and let Queen Be win you over with her unique style and soulful voice. Also, we just released our first music video on our Facebook and YouTube — it’s a cover of a tune by Valerie June called “Workin’ Woman Blues” with our own hot sauce. Our good friend, and fellow musician/captain/sheriff Blake Dean of Mrs. Henry, shot and edited the video. He really did a great job and we couldn’t be happier with the way it turned out, thanks Blake! For now, you can listen to The Anodynes EP on Spotify/Soundcloud/iTunes. Follow us on our Facebook/Instagram for other updates on new music and upcoming shows.

WILL PARSONS / GRIM SLIPPERS

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Grim Slippers: Facebook / Twitter / InstagramWebsite

1. Tell me about your rig: What do you use most live and why?

I use my SG most live because I love the larger width of the neck compared to skinnier neck of the Stratocaster. It’s home for me. My rig is very simple and I like it that way. Since I sing and play guitar at the same time I don’t like to be switching pedals more than I have to. I really love to be mobile on the stage since the other two players in my band are stuck to their spots. Truthfully, in the live setting, I’ll sacrifice some technicality for more showmanship because I believe it helps the crowd to get into the show. I love eliciting a response from the audience. My Fender Hot Rod III is amazing. I love the ultra clean tones and spring reverb. Its overdrive is no pushover either. Perfect for Grim Slippers’ hard rock tones.

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2. I dig the guitar choices. Let’s get into that Fender vs. Gibson discussion: A lot of people fall into one camp primarily — do you like one guitar more than the other?

It depends on the type of music I’m playing. I grew up obsessing over John Mayer and John Frusciante’s awesome Strat tones and that’s the first electric guitar I played on. However, I never really picked up a Gibson until someone stole my first Strat out of my truck. I ended up doing a GoFundMe and when I went to go try out new guitars, the Gibson SG tone and playability felt amazing so I went with it. I like to play the Strat when I’m playing soul, funk, or blues rock. When I want some creamier, heavier tones I play the SG. I love both a lot! One isn’t better than the other, it just depends on the tone you want 🙂

3. You guys have a new record coming out – what were you using mostly on the record?

I switched between guitars almost 50/50 on the album. On some of the tracks I played both.

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4. Interesting pedal chain. You’ve got it nearly backwards (vs. traditional pedal placement) except the wah. Why? Any method to your madness? How did you settle on the Aqua Puss and the ’78 Distortion? Did you go through other pedals to get there? Still on the hunt for anything in particular?

To be honest, I thought that was the standard way of setting up a pedal chain of effects. I did a little research on the net and it told me to do it that way and it works out fine for me. Not really any other thought into that. My Aqua Puss pedal is my favorite pedal. It’s so versatile and you can get so many different sounds out of it. My favorite aspect of it is how it interacts with my overdrive or distortion. It produces a very metallic-tinny sound that is really extraterrestrial and unsettling. Perfect for solos and adding more heaviness without increasing volume or distortion. As for the ’78 Distortion, I love classic distortion. It has just enough grit and even a little fuzz sound in there that gives you that dirt nasty for your solos without decimating the audience. These are the only pedals I’ve owned. I’ve been meaning to get a reverb pedal for certain parts in two of our songs but money is tight. I’ve been drooling over a couple phaser and chorus pedals too. They seem like they’d be fun to play with but not really necessary in Grim’s sound.

5. What’s next for the band?

Well, we’re going on a Midwest tour starting mid-June and then we’re coming home for a bit and then going back out on a West Coast tour late-July-August. We are releasing our new album Graveyard Soirée [listen/buy it here] this Thursday, May 18th at the Belly Up [INFO]. And we are trying to shoot a music video before we leave on tour for one of our songs.

 

ADAM HAKES / STRAY MONROE

Stray Monroe: Facebook / Instagram / Twitter / Bandcamp / YouTube

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.

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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.

GARRETT PRANGE / EXASPERATION

Exasperation: Bandcamp / Instagram / Facebook

1. Tell me about your gear: What do you use the most and why? Are you playing both bass and guitar in Exasperation? Or just one?

The guitar I play most at this point is the early 2000s MIJ Jazzmaster, I just bought it a couple months ago so I’m really still just breaking it in. The Fender Bullet has become the back-up these days, but I have a lot of love for that guitar and it may one day reclaim its place. As far as the basses go, I am first and foremost a bass player and have played bass in pretty much every band I have been in in the past, but in Exasperation, I’m relinquishing those duties, although I will still have fingerprints on the recording of the bass, or how it will be recorded.

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2. That Traynor is pretty damn spiffy. When did you get it and how it is different than other amps?

Let me preface this question by stating that I love unusual gear, and obviously the sonic quality/character is very important, but I will almost always be drawn to something for how it looks before I investigate how it plays or sounds. I think the Traynor is a perfect example of that; it’s a 1973 YBA-4 Bassmate combo amp — its pretty much the Canadian answer to the Marshall Plexi; super clean and chimey, although a bit darker tone-wise than the Marshall, and fucking loud as hell. The amp has no overdrive channel and no reverb, which I actually really like because it allows you to have a really dialed-in clean tone that you can spice up with your pedal setup.

As you know, back in that time period, the line between what was a guitar or bass amp was pretty blurry. Being able to play both guitar and bass through it, and also having it be in a smaller combo format (easier for dragging around to gigs) checked off all the boxes for me. As of now, it’s not a really expensive vintage amp, and it is really easy for an amp tech to work on apparently.

Another huge factor for me was that I love the band Women; they are a huge influence on my songwriting and playing style and their guitar tones and song structures are just the perfect and hauntingly beautiful marriage between melody and noise. I saw that their guitarist Christopher Reimer (RIP) played through a Traynor combo amp, and that made me very interested in finding one for myself.

The thing about old amps though…they tend to break down. The first show I played through it, I was playing bass and I blew the power tubes out on the second to last song, the amp just shut off and the ominous smell of burning electronics had me cursing under my breath, haha. That was an easy fix, but then I blew out the speaker recording the guitars for our two-song EP a couple of months later. I replaced the speaker with a Weber California Ceramic 15″ speaker, and since then, no problems. *knock on wood*

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3. What the hell is that weird Fender guitar? I have no idea what model that even is! Give me the backstory!

That is a Fender Bullet! It’s a student model guitar that was meant to replace the Mustang after production was phased out in the late 70s. I like to think of it as the weird love child between a Tele and a Strat. It has a metal pickguard that the bridge saddles are actually attached to, so in a sense the pickguard is actually a part of the bridge; super weird. I believe mine is from ’80 or ’81. They changed the body shape to look like a Strat in later productions of it, and I think nowadays if they even still make them, they are all Squiers. It sounds and plays great and I love how beat up it is. I usually play completely on the neck pickup cause it has a little more oomph, but if I want to do my best Gang of Four impression with a real harsh ‘shards of glass’-like tone, the bridge pickup definitely does the trick.

4. Between the P-bass and the Rick, which do you like playing more and why?

The Rick plays more like a guitar than a bass; super fast/low action and a skinny neck with a much more mid-rangy tone. I absolutely love the sound and look of it, but it’s from 1976, which means I’d be super nervous to take it out on the road with me. I have had the P-bass for longer, and in that sense I am more used to playing it. It has a really wide maple neck that makes it super punchy and it is heavier overall then the Rick, which factors into playability over long stretches. I love the simplicity of only having one pickup in it as well. It’s a hard choice and some might consider it blasphemy but I’m gonna have to go with the P-bass.

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5. That pedalboard is sick. I’ve always wanted an EDQ Sea Machine – does it do like a subtle chorus as well as really warbly stuff?

Thanks Dude! I’m not really what you would call a “Pedal Guy,” but there are certain tones I like that I try my best to either emulate or make my own through what I have. The Sea Machine is rad, I really love chorus-y tones and this pedal is definitely an integral part to my overall guitar sound. I use it in a pretty understated way, but with six different controls on the pedal, you can really dial in a lot of warbly weirdness with it. Dave (Mead, our drummer) likes to call my guitar tone ‘Evil Andy Summers,’ which in a lot of ways is the coolest compliment anyone could give you.

6. Which Exasperation song are you most stoked to play live and why?

This may be a bit of a cop-out answer, but since everything is so new, I’m gonna say all of them! Although I really do like playing the two songs we have recorded: “Not Feeling Great” and “Million Points of Light.” You can check ‘em out on our Bandcamp page.

7. If you could get one piece of gear for Dave and money was no object, what would you get and why?

I would buy Dave an OG clear Ludwig Vistalite kit — not in those huge John Bonham-esque sizes though. Perfect balance of volume and tone, and they look cool as hell.

8. What’s next for Exasperation?

Impose Magazine just debuted our two-song EP, Points of Light, (check it out here) and we are in the thick of recording a proper full length completely ourselves, which has its benefits and drawbacks. I love recording/producing and overall it has been a super fun process so far. We are shooting for 10-12 songs and are about halfway through basic tracking at this point. We also have a few shows coming up, the soonest being on March 29th at Soda bar with Methyl Ethel (tickets available here), followed by April 22nd at Bar Pink with our local buds Dream Burglar, and then way off in the distance we are playing at the Hideout (I guess its gonna be called SPACE now?) on June 9th with Merchandise and B-Boys.

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!

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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

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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.

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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.”

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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 😉

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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.

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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?

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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.

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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)