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.

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)

THE GORGEOUS BOYSCOUTS

The Gorgeous Boyscouts: Facebook / Twitter / Bandcamp / Website

1. First, give me a run down on what everyone plays?

Nick Schwarz – Vocals, Lead/Rhythm Guitar
Mike Lomangino – Bass, Vocals
Brandon Albu – Drums, Guitar, Programming

2. When did you guys start playing together? And how did you decide on the name?

The band name came about during a camping trip, our friend kept calling our camping group, The Gorgeous Boyscouts. It always gets a laugh any time someone hears it for the first time — so we stuck with it.

We started at the end of 2015 but after a few months, the original bassist quit and we took a few months hiatus. Mike joined the band in June 2016 and we’ve been going strong ever since. We’ve been having a ton of fun hanging out, practicing, and playing shows!

3. Who’s using the Line 6 amp, and for what?

The Line 6 is used for the acoustic guitar which all three of us will play depending on the song. It is a very new piece of equipment and just saw its first live show (at The Merrow show on Dec. 13th).

The amp is described as the amp for the modern guitarist and we agree. It comes with a ton of built-in effects that can be controlled by the pedal board or a smartphone app and is extremely customizable. You can experiment with a built-in looping station and large array of drums tracks making it easy to jam out by yourself and great for writing new material. Haven’t messed with the wireless feature, but good to have options. It also has XLR output. Been impressed with the overall sound and flexibility.

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4. I once had a Fender Twin Reverb but it didn’t have a master volume so I could rarely use it. Looks like you guys are using a vintage one from the ’70s – how did you come to acquire that, and what are your thoughts on its tone?

Nick plays his Strat through the Twin Reverb. He believes it is either from 1970 or ’71.  Nick bought it off an old bandmate (Will from Mariel – they still play around town and you recently just did a piece on their guitarist, Opie). The tone is great. Super clean and very full – classic Fender tube amp sound. It handles the distortion effects amazingly well and the best part is it can get loud. Real loud.

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5. Talk to me about the TC Electronic voice pedals. Do they work well live?

This is tricky. The autotune pedal can be real finicky – but sounds great when it is dialed in. Nick will use it for about 50% of our tunes – just when we’re aiming for a specific sound. Sometimes, the autotune just won’t work right and it sounds better to sing with it off. Not sure if it’s due to the key the song is played in or another factor. It took a few months of experimenting with the pedals on and off and effects being changed to really utilize them properly.

The other vocal pedal is for tone, shape, compression and “de-ess”ing and is always on. Helps add some fullness to the vocals. And really helps with the overall sound.

There are also gains on both pedals so Nick can adjust the vocal volume from the pedal board. You can also change the vocal pitch lower and higher which helps add some variety to the songs. We play a few different styles so it’s a good fit.

 

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

Brandon: I do not have a ‘holy grail’ item for myself but I would really like to get Nick new effect pedals and patch cables 😉

Nick: I would love a Gibson Les Paul or an SG. Brandon’s right — I could really use some new patch cables but the constant buzzing and cutting out really spices things up.

Mike: An Avella-Coppolo. They sound amazing and support the local craft.

7. Give me a link to a song that you have online that you feel is best representative of your sound?

It’s hard to pick one song that is best representative of our sound because we all write material and bring a lot of styles and influences to the table. The collaboration forces us out of our individual comfort zones. The end result makes for a very diverse live set that is fun to play and hopefully keeps the audience interested. This is a straight-forward rock tune called “Chrees.” It is one of the first songs we started playing together.

8. What do you guys have coming up?

We have a string of shows throughout December and January, including our album release show on December 19th at Soda Bar. Upcoming shows, social media links, and our brand new EP (which can be downloaded for free) can all be found on our website, www.gorgeousboyscouts.com. We are currently working on a bunch of new songs and are doing some more recording; expecting to release our first full-length album within a year.

RC KRUEGER / MARIEL

Mariel: Facebook / TwitterSoundCloud / Bandcamp / Website

1. Take me through these rigs!

To clarify, the guitar set-up I sent you is what I plan on playing in the coming month when Mariel adds another member. For the past year or so we have been playing as a three piece: Opie Tran on guitar, Billy Hagan on drums and me on bass, but prior to that we had another guitar and keys and that’s closer to how I hear it in my head and what the recordings reflect. Also on the recordings is a female voice, which has been fun trying to replicate with us three boys all taking those parts, but again not how I hear it. So the plan is for me to move to guitar and add a lady on bass and vocals. I just thought I should explain why I sent you two set-ups.

For my bass setup, I play a Music Man Sterling, which is a cheaper version of the Stingray, through an Orange Terror Bass combo and the only pedal I use is a The Wolf by Devi Ever, which is fuzz.

For guitar, I mostly play a Squier Vintage Modified Jazzmaster. It’s the one with the simplified electronics, it doesn’t have those knobs at the top, just a normal three-way switch, which I like. I play that through a Vox Night Train with just the 112 cab. I’ve gotten to the point where I don’t want a whole lot going on pedal-wise, so now I just have a Malekko Spring Chicken reverb, and two stages of dirt, an Earthquaker White Light overdrive and a Walrus Audio Iron Horse distortion. Opie thought I was crazy when I told him I didn’t even want one delay on my board. He has like 12.

2. Either that skull is giant or that bass amp is really tiny. Which is it? Next: Where the heck did you find that skull and does it accompany you guys to shows?

Both. The Skull, affectionately called Skulliosis, is very large, but a huge reason for me getting that Terror Bass was how small it is. It’s super small, sounds amazing and is plenty loud. Skulliosis does come with us to shows. My friend Seth Eubanks of the band Sullen Ray used to carry it around to shows and always have it at the front of the stage. A couple years back, he was moving out of a warehouse space that we at one point shared and he told me he had a pile of stuff that either belonged to me or I could have. Skulliosis was in that pile so I decided I would carry on the tradition and he’s been at every show we’ve played since. Also in that pile was a suit of armor that now sits on my front porch. So if you’re ever in North Park and see a suit of armor, that’s my house.

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3. Praytell – what is that Wolf bass pedal?

The Wolf is a fuzz pedal made by Devi Ever. It’s wicked. It’s been really important since we’ve been a three-piece. On big parts where it’d be nice to have another guitar chumming along while Opie plays a lead, I can turn that on and play chords and it fills that spot. All the harmonic goodness really helps those parts.

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4. Talk to me about your Vox Night Train: There’s a million amps out there – why rock the Night Train (which rules)?

You’ll start to see a pattern here, but I really liked the idea of getting a lunchbox amp for ease of transportation and the Night Train is my favorite one. I agree that it rules. I think it sounds great, but I’m definitely a Vox guy. I also have an AC-15 that I love.

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5. Walk me through this awesome pedalboard: Some excellent boutique choices – what’s the difference between the EQD White Light and the Walrus Iron Horse?

For me, a lot of the fun in pedals is the collector aspect of it. I’m a pretty big geek. I love screen-printed posters, small record labels, toys, geeky stuff like that. Boutique pedals can fall into the same category for me. I love the idea of one guy making this awesome piece of gear in his basement and then his print-maker buddy puts this incredible art on it. Not to say that that’s more important than the actual function of the gear, but it factors in. It’s why I’d prefer to have that Spring Chicken as opposed to say a Boss reverb. You know what I mean?

The White Light is overdrive. I pretty much always have it on and the Iron Horse is for when I want to get dirty. I chose the Iron Horse specifically because I used to have this old Rat from the ‘80s, so it had the LM308 in it and it sounded incredible, but it did wacky things. When you turned it on, it would work fine, but when you turned it off it would cut the power on everything else on the board, so it ended up only being used on some Mariel recordings because that wouldn’t work live. But that Rat got me into the idea of tighter distortion rather than fuzz and that’s where the Iron Horse came in because it can do that.

pedals

6. When and where’d you get that Malekko Spring Chicken? I know some folks that’d like to get their hands on an original issue version like that one.

I got that Spring Chicken a few years ago on eBay. It’s pretty sweet. It can get real wacky if you want it to. And the art is so good.

7. I can confidently say you’re the first to send over pics with Star Wars figurines – which I love cuz I’m a super Star Wars nerd. Firstly: Rogue One – are you stoked? Secondly: The Force Awakens – good or no? Thirdly: Favorite Star Wars character and why?

Already got my Rogue One tickets. I’m super stoked. Maybe more so than I was for Force Awakens. That first Rogue One trailer was so good.

The Force Awakens was really great. I don’t know why people hate on it so much. People’s complaint was that it was too much like A New Hope, I think that’s silly. I’m curious to hear your thoughts on TFA? I thought it was a lot of fun. I like Kilo Ren a lot too because I imagine him saying and doing the raunchy things he does in Girls. Which he’s hilarious in…. oh man, do I lose geek points for bringing up Girls?

Since I was a kid, my favorite character has been Han Solo. I suppose I like his journey the most. He goes from being this shady, out-to-make-a-buck pirate, to respected General. Luke goes from farm boy to Jedi Master, but he’s always the good guy. Han’s intentions start out being pretty shady and he redeems himself pretty hardcore. In Battle Front, my favorite character to play as is Vader — but whose isn’t?

8. What else do you guys have coming up?

All of that. I have big plans for the coming year. We have enough songs for a record, so let’s record them and put them out. I went to film school and could do another Gear and Loathing just on film gear, but do you see any film content for Mariel? That will happen too. But the first step is to get the line-up in order. Hopefully after all that we can get a sick write up from Dustin Lothspeich. Hopefully.

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.

 

JESSE GAWLIK / BROKEN STEMS

The Broken Stems: Facebook / Website / Instagram / Twitter / SoundCloud / Bandcamp

1. Lovin’ the pedal board. Lots of different brands — I’ve heard mixed reviews on Behringer pedals. What are your thoughts on them and the Octaver specifically? Are they good value for the money?

So I actually just purchased the Behringer Octaver, my first thought is that the materials are a little cheap. My second thought, after plugging it in for the first time, was that the sound quality comes out more distorted than I had anticipated. I took a chance on this one for $25 and I’m thinking of returning it. However, for about the same price, the Donner pedals are some of my favorites and much better quality.

2. Was there any trial and error putting this rig together? Have you gone through different guitars and pedals, etc, trying to find the stuff that work best?

Oh there has absolutely been trial and error! I probably have about 10 other pedals not on my board right now from over the years. Your needs change, and the sounds change, and sometimes the songs you’re playing live don’t use those pedals. However, the pedals I use the most are the Fulltone OCD distortion, Boss Digital Delay, and Crybaby Wah. These three combined with the tone of the Fender Twin Reverb and PRS are my favorite combination.

3. Is this the equipment you used on the new Broken Stems record, or did you use studio gear?

This is the equipment we used with the addition to a few plugins for extra sounds. Brad Sweet, our keyboardist and producer, actually recorded the entire album DIY in our garage and closet. We used a combination of the guitar from the amp, and direct-in, to get a full and comprehensive sound. But we used the OCD distortion pedal the most. We did our very best to record a true representation of what we sound like live, giving the album that “it sounds like they are in the next room” kinda feel.

4. That PRS sure is purty. If money was no object, what’s the one ‘holy grail’ piece of gear you would buy that you’ve always wanted?

Oh man, thats a tough question. If there was one piece of gear that I could pick up today it would be a PRS Super Eagle Private Collection. I love the hollow body PRS and this one is a mashup of both, giving it an extremely wide range of tones.

super-eagle

5. What kind of amp are you using?

I’m using the Fender Twin Reverb XL. The tone and volume that comes from this amp is a thing of beauty. They’re clean at virtually any volume, and its a perfect canvas for my aforementioned pedals to do their work. Clean tone, powerful, and downright sexy if you ask me.

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6. What’s your favorite place to find new gear in town?

I mean, I kinda hate to say it because I will always support the local businesses first, however Guitar Center is just kind of the best place to experiment with different amps, pedals, guitars and more. If you are like me, you might get lost in there for a day. More and more, however, I find myself searching online, watching videos, and reading forums…but still nothing really allows you to get the full experience like the in-house setup that Guitar Center has.

7. What track on the new record do you feel is the best representation of your playing/style/gear?

“What Are You Connected.” Track 2 and title-track to the new album, “What Are You Connected” is one of the more technical songs and definitely my favorite song to rock live because of how much intensity there is. The beginning riff is one I have always dabbled with throughout my playing days and one day it just exploded into this song. It gets full use of the OCD distortion, the solo of the song uses the Crybaby wah to give it that extra feel, and I use digital delay in some of the verses. Out of all the album songs, this one probably rocks the hardest and makes me want to go on a 32-bar solo..which if you ever see us live…we usually will do!

8. Tell me what you guys have coming up?

With the new album released to the world, our next big event will be our Album Release Show at The Irenic on Saturday, Dec. 3rd [get info here]! We have local holistic vendors, local artists doing live painting, an open bar courtyard party before the show and some really talented acts, Creature and the Woods, and King Taylor Project performing before us. It’s an exciting night for us, because not only do we have a new album, we have a brand new light show, new merchandise (hats, hoodies, shirts, stickers, posters, and more), live dancers during one of our songs, and even a couple new-new songs to throw into the set. After the album release party, we are already planning production for the next album. No name for it yet, but we do have a concept in mind…or should I say in our soul 😉

ISAIAH NERY / QUALI, MICE ELF & FIVEPAW

Quali: Facebook / Instagram / SoundCloud / Website
Mice Elf: Facebook
FivePaw: Facebook / Website

1. You play guitar in Quali, are you a member of any other bands?

Yes, I’m currently in two other active projects besides Quali. I play bass in this band called “Mice Elf”. It is more of a jammy/space alt-rock type of band. We actually just had our first show at Black Cat bar the other night. The other project is “fivepaw”. I play drums in that project. It has more of electronic, sci-fi elements to it, mixed with synths and modular-type stuff. I have also been messing around with Ableton lately, trying to get into sampling and making beats.

2. I’m assuming your first piece of gear was a guitar, I could be wrong though. Do you remember what it was?

The first instrument I ever owned was a Ludwig drum set when I was 10. I actually didn’t start playing guitar seriously until I was about 16 and I really didn’t get serious with messing with gear and becoming a total gear head until I moved to LA and started Quali.

3. What’s your current setup?

My current set up with Quali:

I play a Fender Classic Player Jazzmaster. I personally think it’s the only guitar you should own due to its sonic versatility, tremolo arm and beauty.

The Jazzmaster goes into a TC Electronics Polytune, then into my favorite pedal and part of my signature tone, the Ab-Synth Supreme by Fuzzhugger. This pedal gives me the harsh zipperyness I want from a fuzz while also somehow managing some clarity in my chord playing. It also has a second foot switch to activate an oscillation mode which can get pretty nuts sometimes.

Next in my pedal chain is a Marshall Shredmaster. I really like this high gain pedal for more of a conventional overdrive/distortion type of sound. That goes into this boutique pedal I got at NAMM a couple years back called The Epsilon, by dreadbox. This is more of a hybrid pedal of sorts. It can be an overdrive pedal or an auto wah. And of course you can blend the effects to get an even crazier sound. It also has a gate switch on it. This is a very cool interactive pedal. The next pedal in my chain is one of my favorite pedals, the Superego by Electro-Harmonix. This pedal is so innovative for guitar. It is basically a piano-style sustain pedal for guitar. The tracking is insane, you can just sustain chords while playing over them endlessly. The superego then goes into my Line 6 M9. This pedal is such a workhorse for me for the fact that you can have three effects on at the same time while also being able to have an expression pedal that can be used for all of them simultaneously if you want.

Next on the chain is the Timeline delay by Strymon. There’s really not much to say about this pedal except for the fact that it is the king of delay pedals, period. The Timeline goes into my Hardwire RV-7 reverb pedal. Just a really solid reverb that pairs perfectly with my fuzz. And that goes into my crazier reverb the Descent by Walrus Audio. This pedal is the ultimate ambient reverb pedal with separate wet and dry knobs, reverse reverb, 3 preset saves. You can also have shimmer-style reverbs with dedicated knobs for an octave down and up. And at the very end of my pedalboard chain is the Ditto X2 by TC Electronics. I really like the looper that was on the DL4 by Line 6 and this pedal is just that in a smaller housing.

The board then goes into my pride and joy: The Fender Bassman 70. This amp is the ultimate pedal-playing amp. You get such a nice clarity and headroom with this amp while also getting some really nice, felt lows. I actually got mine modded to carry 6550 tubes in it for more headroom and now it runs at about 110 watts. Also known as a sound tech’s nightmare. But to me, there’s nothing better than really feeling the sounds go through you. I play this with a Fender DT-412 cab. I believe it has Celestion G12T-100s in it.

4. What piece of gear, if any, are you looking to add? 

Right now, I’m looking to get a 2×12 cab to run on top of my 4×12. I used to have a 1×15 bass cab that came with my Bassman and I would run that with my 4×12. Having a full stack rig is so unnecessary and necessary at the same time. Nothing feels better in my opinion.

5. What new projects do you have lined up? 

The newest project I’m working on would have more beat-based and sampling stuff I’ve been doing on Abelton. I’m still new to the program but I have some cool ideas I want to work on with it. I also occasionally play drums for Recycled Dolphin, who happens to play drums in Quali for me. Also, be on the look out for the next Quali album which should be out hopefully later this year.

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

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.