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.

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.

LANDO MARTINEZ / HOCUS

Hocus: Facebook / Twitter / Instagram / SoundCloud

1. Tell me about the gear in your photos:  First up is my Bonser Instruments 2015 Tele Custom. This was made by local musician Jon Bonser (The New Kinetics/Soft Lions/The Hiroshima Mockingbirds). I brought him some Guitar World magazines and asked him if he could make me one of these, but better, cooler and left handed. Three months later, I received the best guitar in the planet. It has some high gains and low sounding rumbles. And it stays in tune!!!! Well-balanced for both live performances and studio recordings

Next is my 2001 SG Custom. This guitar is balls out tough and has that Gibson crunch! It’s been a great guitar in the field but due to many injuries and shows, is now my number two guitar that only needs to come out when needed.

Next is the “Hocus” sound. A lot of my peers in the music scene sneer and chuckle due to the fact that my amp that I use and can rely on is my solid state Crate GFX 212. It produces that great high gain and very well-balanced clean sounds. Coupled with my Bonser and Gibson, this amplifier screams and sings in perfect harmony.

Also here is my “pedal board”. 1 = gain . 2= gut punch gain. 3 = reverb
Even though I have three switches, I still miss them on occasion while performing.

2. What song of yours do you feel is the best portrayal of your particular sound/style?  “Better Than You.” It’s a great rocker that just wants to get you jumping around and feeling snooty at the same time. Plus the riff and chorus is really contagious. It’s a great audience participation song.

3. If money was no object, what’s the one “holy grail” piece of gear you’d buy?  Out of necessity and budget, I’ve always favored Crate solid state amplifiers as they have have a great tone and awesome sound. So if I had the money, I’ve always read that Orange Amplifiers are the “bees knees.” I would really like to try them out.

4. What is your current favorite piece of equipment?  My current favorite is my Bonser Instruments Custom Tele. Jon Bonser is not only a great musician, but a great human being and fantastic craftsman. I would see his posts about building amplifiers and it really intrigued me that wow, this guy is making amplifiers from scratch. I wonder if he could make me a guitar? So I asked him it was possible and he jumped on the project immediately.

I brought some magazines to his house and discussed what I wanted he was extremely patient, and really wanted this guitar to be “my” guitar. At times, I was really impatient but this was a handmade guitar made for me and about three months later, I had it. It looks and feels great. Not only that, this guitar was the very first guitar that sports the “Bonser Instruments” logo. I am very proud of it and him. Every now and then I send him drunk texts on how this guitar is my dream guitar and I thank him profusely. Hopefully we will get a sister made by the end of the year. Here is a link of my baby being made. For all you guitar players…check him out! His gear is AWESOME.

5. What do you have coming up that we should know about? We have two shows coming up:

April 15 at The Ken Club, San Diego, CA
May 6 at The Pier View Pub, Oceanside, CA

We have just completed recording and mixing a 9-song EP. It was recorded at Raunchola Productions in Spring Valley and will be mastered by Tad Doyle.
We hope have it out by May 2016.

JORDAN KRIMSTON / BIG BAD BUFFALO

Big Bad Buffalo: Facebook / Instagram / Twitter / Bandcamp

1. Tell me about your current rig: Weirdest part? Work in progress?  All of my Big Bad Buffalo gear is very “rock” oriented. It all kind of caters towards a fat, crunchy, hardly-restrained sound. I like the ability to slightly alter my tone song-to-song, which is the main reason I have pedals. I think the weirdest pedal I have is my Philosopher’s Tone pedal which is a distortion/sustain pedal, but I use it as a treble-boost pedal. I also have a Hardwire Loop/Delay pedal that I use to get a Tera Melos-esque stutter effect. My rig is definitely still a work in progress as BBB’s sound has changed and doesn’t require some of the effects I used to use.

2. What song of yours (or your band’s) do you feel is the best portrayal of your particular sound/style?  Ooh, tough call. If I had to pick, it would probably be between a couple songs of the new, currently unrecorded, album. Sorry! Off of American (our first album), I would say “Sharon is Karen.”

3. If money was no object, what’s the holy grail piece of gear you’d buy? I would definitely get a Satellite amp. Hands down.

4. Who is the musician you admire the most sound/gear-wise? Tough call for sure … I think in terms of distorted tones, I would go with John Reis (Hot Snakes) or Rivers Cuomo (Weezer), but in terms of clean tones I would go with Andrew Aged (Inc.) or David Pajo (Slint). Kinda split that answer four ways, haha.

5. What do you have coming up that we should know about?  Lately, Big Bad Buffalo has been pretty inactive in a public sense. We’ve mainly been working on demoing songs for our next record which is due to come out in the summer. Once the record comes out, we’ll start playing a lot more again.

Big Bad Buffalo are playing an all-ages show hosted by 91X’s Lou Niles on Saturday, April 9th at The Studio in Encinitas (1057 s. Coast Hwy), with Indio Romero and Julian Rey Saenz. Get info here. Be sure to listen and download their debut album, “American,” here.