I N T E R V I E W
An Arsenal of Pedals: An Interview with Brian Purington from ROPE
With Gareth Schott
This Saturday, in an evening of post-rock, heavy shoegaze and psych-rock, Sora Shima are playing with Auckland’s ROPE, and Hamilton’s Landlords and Qualms at Nivara Lounge. The following day, Sora Shima and ROPE play again under the Tauranga Harbour Bridge. Sora Shima’s latest addition, the pedal-obsessed Gareth Schott, questioned ‘Brian Purington’ of ROPE about their pedals, sound, their upcoming album, and their pedals.
Q: To get people to hear music online, it often requires us to tag and label what we do. What labels do you attach to ROPE's music to get people to listen? Do available genres adequately describe your music or the aims of ROPE as a band?
A: I describe ROPE as a shoegaze influenced post-postrock band.
I've been a member of the Austin, Texas, based band, My Education for the past 18 years, which is a large instrumental ensemble. When I moved to New Zealand with my family in 2016 I wanted to start a project that had shorter songs with more traditional structures. I didn't want to be in another instrumental band but that's how it's turned out. We are still looking for additional members to collaborate with. If you know of anyone let me know!
We are slowly finishing up an album. Our plans are to release it and do some shows around New Zealand and the USA. Hopefully a few people find it worth listening to.
Q: While the tones you produce and impressive arsenal of pedals immediately say post-rock, ROPE's songs don't sound like they are necessarily written with effects on. Is that correct? The songs have solid patterns, riffs and structures that mean a pedal disaster or technical mishap wouldn't render them unplayable. That is they are not over-dependant on effects. Is that a fair comment?
A: Yeah, most of the songs were written on my acoustic guitar and then brought to the band with a general structure. We then hammer the ideas out together and turn them into songs. I'll add the effects in at this point and see what works.
Nich, our bassist, has written a couple songs as well. He brings them to us completely demoed with guitar and drums parts. Ant and I give our input, but for the most part they are what he presents to us with some delay and drum fills added.
Q: Interesting. I had a similar approach with my ambient shoegaze solo project sink \ sink ; all songs were conceived on acoustic, but then the original idea would often get replaced, buried or removed once additional layers got added in recording. Can you tell me a little bit about the pedal board you use? What are your main go-to pedals? Most used effects? I noted a lot of EQD pedals (similar to me); what draws you to them over other pedal makers?
A: I actually have 3 pedal boards I currently use.
For ROPE I run a stereo board and my main pedals are the EQD Avalanche Run for delay and Palisades for Overdrive. I use a DBA Fuzz War for fuzz, Fairfield Shallow Water, Dunlap Cry Baby, EQD Pyramids and Moog MF-103 for modulation. I also use a couple pedals from the Christchurch company, Flux, the Slipstream Delay and Liquid Tremolo.
I also play in the New Zealand based post-punk band Swallow the Rat, who I use a EQD Disaster Transport Sr for delay with. For distortion I use a Tube Screamer, JSH modded Soul Food, Peppers Pedals’ Dirty Tree, DBA Echodream and Ronsound Hair Pie for Fuzz. I also have a Dexter modded MXR Phase 90 and Boss GE-7.
Back in Austin the pedal board I use with My Education has a ‘90s Memory Man, EQD Plumes, Soldano Supercharger GTO, and Way Huge Conspiracy Theory.
Overall I use modulation very sparingly. I don't like to colour the tone of the guitar through the amp too much.
My main guitars are a Harvester Goldthwait 'Gold On Gold' with TV Jones Super'trons and Copeland Jazzmaster with McNelly 46/58's.
For amps, I have a Korg era Vox AC30 and a Sovtek Mig100.
Q: Where and how are you recording an album? Are you doing it yourselves? Or are you recording with anyone?
A: Our bassist, Nich Cunningham, is a producer and has a studio. It's where we practice and where we are recording the record.
Q: Where are you up to with the album? Do you have it all written? When should we expect it?
A: It's almost finished. We have all the songs tracked. Ant just wants to re-record a couple drums parts and then Nich will finish mixing it.
Q: Do you constantly switch in and out pedals or do you settle on a range of effects for a band and stick with them? I find fuzzes hard to settle on as there is always something out there that I think will work better. Currently, I am keen to replace Russian Muff (which I am not that fond of) with EQD Spires. Is it an obsession for you? Finding the right sound or do you just love to experiment and play with new things?
A: I don't really swap out stuff too often. I guess playing in a number of projects lets me test out different pedals on different boards... or at least that's what I tell myself to justify buying new ones.
Q: What general impressions do you have of the live/underground music scene here in New Zealand having been here for a few years? Is it healthy? Is there sufficient audience for guitar music, appetite for discovering new bands or taking in new material? How does it compare?
A: The scene here isn't that much different than other places, it's just smaller. I think it's important for kiwi bands to play overseas as you end up playing for the same crowd over and over again here.
Q: Fair enough. You have had a bit of support for Swallow the Rat down in Hamilton, as have Repairs from local radio station HUM. Are you aware of the Hamilton scene/bands and any faves?
A: Sora Shima, Landlords, Bitter Defeat and Cartoon Villain.
Q: What do ROPE members have in common music wise? Are there a bunch of references that you have in common, that you use as a reference for what you want to sound like?
A: Nich comes from a punk rock background, Ant from electronic/metal and myself from post-rock, but I think we meet at Sonic Youth, Fugazi and My Bloody Valentine.
Q: Where do you want to take the band? Any ideas on how you want the project to progress/build?
A: We are still a pretty new band. I just hope we make the most of any opportunity presented to us. At this point it's hard to say what those may be.
Q: Any support slots you would wish to land with a band coming to New Zealand? Who would you most like to share the stage with?
A: I would have loved to open for Ride and we're looking forward to playing with Sora Shima again at the end of November.