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.
Where did all the cowboys go?
A R T I C L E
Where Did All the Cowboys Go?
A Re-Blog from HP Writing in Capital Letters
This all started by trying to find an EP from a Hamilton (NZ) band I love(d) called Wizz Kids. Once upon a time I even wrote a review for it for those cool dudes at Hamilton Underground Press [HERE]. But that was many moons ago and since then, it has vanished…
The link in that review used to take you to a bandcamp page for the EP and the band, and while they can still be found on bandcamp via a split album with other Hamilton hardcore heroes, Spiteful Urinator, the EP I loved has gone. I downloaded it all those years ago, but since then I have moved at least four times, I’ve moved past my Ipod (broke) onto new laptops (Mrs’) and all records are lost. Now had I bought Taylor Swift on Itunes or similar there would be more outcry had it gone missing form several very white teenage girls and many, many more dads who secretly keep up with pop music. But smaller acts can remove their work from the world by stealth.
I’ve still got my CD’s and my dad’s records but losing the Wizz Kids EP made me ask questions about the legitimacy of ownership of art, particularly music in the modern age. There was a time when publication was final, but no more. Is that fair? And I am aghast partly because this isn’t the first time this has happened. I’m looking at you Nadia Reid. And I’m out for answers PNC!
Nadia Reid has shot to stardom recently, but what hooked me on her soulful folk music and striking voice was a track called 'Good Things'. She put up a live recording on bandcamp and there is a brief intro where she explains that a friend of hers told her that all her songs in a minor key were depressing, so she wrote this one in a major key and it was really sad. Someone close to me had just committed suicide and I sat at the top of the hill between Raglan and Hamilton having just heard the news of his passing and listened to that song on repeat. I think I listened to it approximately one katrillion times over the following months. Now, gone.
A lighter example is the Who Betta Then This Remix that PNC put out with NZ’s best MC’s spitting verses over a 41 instrumental. Louie Knuxx, Scribe and Sid Diamond might give the verse of their careers on that number, but can I get it on Spotify? Nope. PNC (most underrated rapper in NZ anyone?) has some stuff on bandcamp, but not much and I can get it on Youtube so not all is lost, but hardly ideal. I bought his album 'Under the Influence' on CD, which was dumb as he was giving it away for free online, but it meant that I could throw it on when I wanted. I actually was in control of recorded music.
Perhaps I am looking at this all wrong. I can’t get back those gigs I saw as a younger person. I hold in my head the time the lead singer of Diediedie swung from the light fitting at Soul or the stage dive at a Sommerset concert that ended in concussion, but I can’t replay the music. Those memories are some of my favorites. Perhaps my desire to hold onto something tangible is born out of consumerism, addiction, a need to have control of the environment in order to what? Feel something?
I guess what I am missing is the ability of the Wizz Kids, Nadia Reid and PNC to make me feel something and because they did it so well in the past, I’ve become reliant. I should really thank them for sharing their artistry with me in the first place, but the selfish part of me is like, HEY, WHERE IS MY MUSIC?
Ruined Redbirds for Fugitives
A R T I C L E
'Ruined Redbirds for Fugitives': What would Inchworm's next album have sounded like if they hadn't gone their separate ways?
Inchworm held the torch for indie-pop in Hamilton in the mid- to late-nineties. Their debut EP, ‘Looper’, was released in 1994, and they followed this up with the albums ‘Shiny’ (1996) and ‘You Are Only Here’ (1997). By the time the latter was released, the sound of the band had evolved to an extent where it was felt that they might be on the edge of something bigger, and that they might gain some well-deserved national respect. In 2000, however, Scott Brodie (bass, vocals) and Rob Talsma (drums, vocals) left for the UK, in the expectation that Justin Harris (guitar, vocals) was to join them and that the band was to continue. Harris, instead, went to Japan, and the band effectively ended.
But what if it hadn’t ended there? What if Harris had moved to the UK, or if all the members had stayed in New Zealand? What album might have they created next?
It has not been uncommon for this question to be posed for other bands, such as… The Beatles. Which tracks from the solo outings or other projects would have been suitable for inclusion on a future album that never happened? So, ignoring the fact that Inchworm spent time at The Porch Studio in 2016 recording new songs for a potential future release that hasn’t happened yet, we peruse the post Inchworm releases of the three members to create an album the band might have released in the 2000s; 'Ruined Redbirds for Fugitives'.
Ruined Redbirds for Fugitives
Track 1: 127 Seats (Inchworm; 2007, 2016)
Okay… so this was recorded by Inchworm, probably in 1999, but it didn’t get an actual release until post-2000, firstly on ‘Tapeworm’ (an obscure release by the band on cassette in 2007 on an Italian label) and eventually digitally via the 2016 Hamilton Underground Press (HUP) compilation ‘Life Beneath a Gravel Streak’.
Track 2: Lift (Elider; 2017)
From Harris’ 2017 solo album ‘Redbird’, this song makes another appropriate bridge between Inchworm-past and future. This, perhaps more than any other song from later projects, harks back to the final Inchworm sound; it was a previously unrecorded Inchworm song, and besides Harris fronting, it features Scott Brodie on bass.
Track 3: Pink Shirt (Grok [UK]; 2008)
Perhaps Grok’s poppiest number, this track was released on their 2008 ‘Ruined Music for Everyone’. This version of Grok – the UK based Grok - features both Brodie and Talsma.
Track 4: Hand Model (Five Second Burn; 2015)
The mid-point of past Inchworm albums were commonly dominated by Talsma-fronted songs. ‘Five Second Burn’ was another London-based project of Rob Talsma, along with English guitarist Chris Ayles (who also featured with Talsma and Brodie in Girlinky and the UK based-Grok).
Track 5: It’s Times Like This (Elider; 2017)
Moving away from the more overtly poppy openers, this was the first track from Harris’ 2017 solo album Redbird; this is another strong track from what was a pretty solid album (go and listen to the whole thing, if you haven’t already).
Track 6: The Thrill of the Caucasus (Grok [UK]; 2016)
Recorded with Brodie, Talsma and Ayles in the UK in 2013, this is an as-yet non-album track, to date released only on HUP’s ‘Life Beneath A Gravel Streak’ compilation. This song is an ode to Mikhail Lermontov, the Russian Romantic writer, poet and painter, sometimes referred to as "the poet of the Caucasus".
Track 7: Difference (Elider; 2017)
The start of side B, perhaps, this is a return here to some more straight-out pop. Coming in at only 47 seconds, another great track from Harris’ Elider.
Track 8: It’s the Sugar Rush (Girlinky; 2005)
This was the last of Girlinky’s four singles, released on 7”. Girlinky existed between 2001-2006, and featured Talsma, Brodie, Chris Ayles and Sarah Ferguson (who was a guitarist and vocalist in Hamilton’s Tobermorie and Inspector Moog, before also leaving for the UK).
Track 9: Transmission from a Dying Civilisation (Grok [UK]; 2008)
Inchworm had some fantastic closing songs on their albums; Wish on ‘Shiny’, and You Get to Me on ‘You are Only Here’. The same applies to the albums the members went on to, and so this Inchworm fantasy album closes with a couple of those. Again, from Grok’s ‘Ruined Music for Everyone’ album, ‘Transmission from a Dying Civilisation’ was the fantastic closing track from that album.
Track 10: Your Silent Face (Elider; 2017)
Finally, the closer from Elider’s ‘Redbird’ album. Again, magnificent, and an appropriate closer to this fantasy ‘what-if” album.