BLAKE IMPERL / STRAY MONROE

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

1. Take me through your rig: What model Vox is that? How did you settle on this particular setup? Anything you tend to play more than others?

I use a Vox AC30C2. It’s hands down the best amp I have ever played. I think every guitarist has this sort of “ah-ha” moment where they plug into an amp, strum the first chord that comes to them, and then immediately realize this is the amp they’ve been looking for…

I most definitely had that experience when plugging into this guy. Oasis is my biggest musical influence, so I immediately ran to the British amps (Marshall, Orange, and Vox). I also tried out a few Fenders, but nothing clicked quite like the Vox. I love how it can go from a sweet clean sound to gnarly distortion and everything in between. I’m not the type of guy that enjoys having lots of EQs, so when I saw that the Vox had just three basic EQs, tone cut, reverb, and a pre-amp and master volume, I was sold. I love 4 different inputs which can really cover a wide range of sounds. One trick I have been into lately is the channel-jumping feature. It adds just the right amount of punch and let’s me cut down on my pedal usage.

My pedalboard has been a work in progress for the better part of a few years now. I started with the tried-and-true Ibanez TS9 Tube Screamer. I still, to this day, believe it is the best pedal a guitarist can own. The distortion it adds to your tone is just the perfect amount of grit while still preserving your amp’s natural characteristics. I never turn this pedal off, so I guess you could say I use it almost more to shape my tone rather than boost sound. Adam and I really consider this pedal to be the building blocks of that Stray Monroe sound and it helped shape all of the guitar tones on The Stray Monroe Show. I then started to branch out into some modulation pedals like the MXR Uni-Vibe and Carbon Copy. I can’t speak highly enough about the Carbon Copy. I think it’s the best analog delay on the market in terms of price and tone. I like that sort of “slapback” tone when playing leads and this pedal is perfect for that. Later on, I added on a Boss CE3 and an Xotic Effects EP Booster and SP Compressor. The CE3 is straight from the ‘80s and its tone truly shows that. I love its almost “too much” chorus sound. The Uni-Vibe, CE3, and Carbon Copy are how I achieve that beach-y tone on “Broken Records”. The EP Booster is a beast of a pedal. For being a one-knob pedal, it packs a serious punch. Sometimes I will just plug in this pedal by itself and get lost in its killer tone. I use this pedal mainly as a boost for solos. The SP Compressor is my newest addition. I had previously been using a Boss CS3 but felt I needed a compressor that suited my needs a little better. The SP compressor has met all those needs and even surpassed them. It adds that perfect balance to chords and arpeggios. I almost always leave this pedal on too.

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2. Looks like you’ve got quite a few different kind of guitars: Tele, Sheraton, Casino — lots of tonal possibilities. What drew you to those three guitars in particular?

I’m a hollowbody fanatic. Growing up idolizing Noel Gallagher, who is infamous for playing hollowbodies, I knew this was the style of guitar I wanted to play. I would daydream as a teenager about one day owning a Gibson ES-345, but being on a 14-year-old’s budget, I had to settle on the Epiphone Dot. I think this is where my love of hollowbodies took off. Now, I’d be lying if I didn’t say the aesthetics is what attracted me first, but after I started to understand tone, I realized that the tone of these guitars is something truly unique. I’ve got some big hands too, so I always felt like having a bigger guitar was easier for me. I’ve since upgraded from the Dot to a ’92 Sheraton and an ’05 Casino.

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The Tele was a guitar I knew very little about when I purchased it. It still is the nicest guitar I own to this day. It’s an American 2011 60th anniversary edition. It’s an absolute dream to play. This is my main guitar in Stray Monroe. One thing I admire about the Tele is that it never falls out of tune. I can play an entire show and never need to tune up. I wish I could say that about my hollowbodies! When I think of why mine and Adam’s tones work so well together, I attribute a lot of that to our choices in guitars. The bright sound of my Tele is the perfect complement to his full SG sound.

When playing live, I’d say I use the Tele about 80% of the time. I tend to just go off whatever I’m feeling that night for the hollowbodies, but lately I have been favoring the Casino.

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3. I noticed you changed the pickups in your Casino (I did too actually) — what pickups are those and why did you swap them out?

So those are actually Lollar P90 Soapbox pickups. I was fortunate enough to buy the guitar with those already installed. I picked up the guitar from Guitar Pickers in Scottsdale, Arizona. I walked into the shop with no intention of purchasing a guitar, but the minute I saw the wine red finish I was sold. I plugged it in and was just floored by how good the P90s sounded. The tone reminds me of if a Tele and a 345 were blended together. It’s super punchy but can be rolled back to get some warmer, more bluesy tones. I had been on the hunt for an ‘80s or ‘90s Riviera for a very long time, but hadn’t had any luck (if you’re reading this and have an ‘80s or ‘90s Riviera — get at me!). When I walked into the shop and saw this Casino sitting on the wall, I was immediately intrigued. Everything from the tailpiece, to its weight, to the neck profile, to the setup… it was all perfect. It quickly has become my favorite guitar.

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4. Love your pedalboard: I’ve always struggled to find a place to use a Uni-Vibe on songs — do you use yours much?

I find that the Uni-Vibe is almost like that expensive bottle of wine that you only bring out when you have fancy guests over… You can’t just continuously use it, especially in a rock band setting, but it definitely has its moments. I use it on “Broken Records” and whenever I’m playing some Hendrix-styled chords/leads. It’s such an awesome sound, but you can’t overuse it.

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5. If you could get one piece of gear for one of your bandmates as a gift — what would you get and who would it be for?

If money was no object, I would get Adam a 1961 Gibson SG with a side-pull trem. From the day I met him, he’s been rocking an SG. It started with an Epiphone and then more recently, he upgraded to a newer Gibson model. It’s such a quintessential part of the band’s sound. He’s always going back and forth about which guitar he wants to get next, whether it be a Yamaha, a Danelectro, or a brand new SG, but I think I’d definitely steal the show by getting him the ’61. It’s such a timeless guitar and the tone is unparalleled. You could strum a G chord, let it sit there, take a walk around the block, come back, and the thing would still be ringing out. Adam is super particular about the neck profile of his guitars. It’s quite comical, but over the past year since he’s been on the hunt for that “perfect” SG, he’s probably tried out over a dozen different models and said no to each one just because of the neck. Each time I’d get my hopes up thinking thinking, “Ok, this one has GOT to be the one,” just to have them let down. If I got him the ’61, his search would most certainly be over.

6. What’s your favorite Stray Monroe song to play live and why?

My favorite Stray Monroe song to play right now has got to be “Broken Records.” It’s definitely one of our slowest songs, but the riff and chord progression always suck me back in. That riff was a very spontaneous creation after a night of frustrated jamming, so it will always hold a special place in my heart. One of the most satisfying moments in the song for me is kicking on my CE3, Uni-Vibe, and Carbon Copy, and just hearing that warm yet warbly tone. I’ve been changing up the outro solo recently to keep it fresh which is always a plus. Outside of guitar, I always enjoy singing that song because the lyrics mean a lot to me. I tend to get pretty into the story when playing that one. We actually released a music video for that song back in December which you can check out here!

Be sure to check out the band at Soda Bar on October 23rd with Frederick the Younger and Sights & Sages. Tickets are available here.

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OPIE TRAN / MARIEL

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

SEAN BURDEAUX / PAPER FOREST

Paper Forest: Facebook / Twitter / Bandcamp / Website

Where The Fawn Grows: Bandcamp

1. What band/bands do you currently play with?

Within the past year or so I’ve been working on a handful of bedroom recording projects. I’ve put out some instrumental stuff under the names Get Off The Map and Where The Fawn Grows and two experimental/soundscape collections under my birth name. My main baby is Paper Forest, though with the recent (temporary?) death of my laptop, the Paper Forest full-length I’ve been working on for a while now is on hold again.

2. How would you describe your sound?

Where The Fawn Grows is stuff I wrote primarily on bass and sequenced beats. To me, it’s kind of uplifting and contemplative instrumentals — my friend says it reminds him of penguins walking around. Get Off The Map is a little more experimental. Still based on sequenced beats but with a little more of a sense of space, a little more headroom. Paper Forest is indie-songwriting stuff.

3. Do you remember the first piece of gear you owned?

The first piece of gear I owned was a white right-handed (I’m left-handed) Ibanez Roadstar II. I strung it lefty and taught myself how to play “Dammit” in 8th grade.

4. What’s piece of gear do you use most often?

Laptop/MIDI controller and my Fender Stratocaster.

5. What projects are you working on at the moment?

I’ve been playing with Brandon Relf and Stephanie Martinez recently. We’ve been trying out a bunch of stuff, we’re all over the place. Noise, thrash, dance-punk, math rock, mellow moodscapes, experimental electronic drone jazz meets the sound of living under the flight path. We’re probably just going to end up making movies. We need cameras, though.

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

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]

KYLE AREFORD / THE PARAGRAPHS & EL CONSUMPTION

The Paragraphs: Facebook / Instagram / Twitter / Bandcamp

El Consumption: FacebookBandcamp

1. You’ve got a ton of cool gear, tell me about it:  As far as pedals go, it’s pretty standard stuff. Nothing too crazy. I don’t typically like to rely on pedals that much. With exception of the Boss ’63 Reverb I rarely have a pedal going the whole song. I like to let the guitars and amps sound like, well to put it simply, what they sound like.

Amp-wise I used a VOX AC15. But she blew up not long ago. The Fender Super-Sonic head is fun and fuckin’ cranks. Lastly, I use a Fender 2×12 Deville. I’m not in love with any of these amps. Still looking for “the one”. In the back, there is an old Standel P.A. Like I said before, I like to let the guitar do the talkin’ so to speak.

From left to right: A DiPinto Mach IV. I have never heard of those guitars but I randomly saw it on Craigslist. It was cheap and left-handed. It quickly became one of my favorite guitars. Next up is an Epiphone Casino. Bought because of John Lennon. It’s the guitar you hear on the track below.

The Les Paul is my go-to guitar for live and studio. I got that about 6 months ago. It’s a ‘90s Goldtop. I fell in love with the look and sound of a Goldtop from Duane Allman. When I found a lefty, I couldn’t pass it up.

Next up is a MIM Fender Jazz bass, and finally a Gibson ’60s Tribute SG that feels like a child’s toy compared to the Goldtop, but its fun to beat around sometimes.

2. What song of yours do you feel is the best portrayal of your particular sound/style?  In both my main bands (The Paragraphs & El Consumption), we kinda cover a few different “styles” I guess. This song below is one El Consumption has been doing for a while and will be on an album we are working on now.

3. If money was no object, what’s the one “holy grail” piece of gear you’d buy? Hands-down a left-handed American Telecaster B-Bender. Clarence White being the inspiration there. I have no idea if one exists or not but I want one.

4. What was the first piece of gear you bought and what are your thoughts on it now? Do you have still have it? My first piece of gear was a red Fender Squier Strat that I painted a vintage blue color. In a whiskey-fueled evening, I smashed it into about 5 pieces. The largest piece bounced up, cut my head open and concussed me at the same time. There is a video someplace.

5. Who (local or famous) do you admire most gear/sound-wise?  Hhhmm. That is a hard question. There are so many people I admire. I’m gonna go with a local favorite. A band I worked with for years. Jesse Kling from Dead Feather Moon has always been one of my favorite guitar players. He’s got that tone that will kick you straight in the ass. Get us together with some whiskey or a good amount of beers and we are hanging around the record player all night showing each other different songs.

6. What do you have coming up that we should know about?  Up next for The Paragraphs is a show at the Merrow on May 14th, and El Consumption is playing there on May 17th. Both bands are working on a full-length album. Check out the respective pages for updates.