Since we’re living in a rather introspective era of modern human history, it would make sense that much of our music is likewise somewhat reflective. Lauds are excitedly wrapping up work on their debut full-length record, Imitation Life, right now, with a release date set for January 20th, 2023, via Fort Lowell Records. Featuring ten brand new tracks, the lyrics are thoughtful and pensive, with lyrics that are anxious about finding any tiny part of contentment in life. Based in Wilmington, North Carolina, the band represents the sounds of their surroundings, combining together a post-modern surf rock sound that goes well beyond the constraints of that genre.
Formed a few years ago, band leaders and songwriters J. Holt Evans III and McKay Glasgow met by chance in the home studio of Evans’ father, Plugpoint Studios. Glasgow was working on some demos when he recorded with his folk band, and Evans quickly got involved. The two began sharing demos of material Glasgow felt would not fit in with his folk group, and soon an enriching indie rock collaboration was born.
For our latest Geared Up interview, we recently spoke with J. Holt Evans III to discuss his favourite studio and stage gear, including the ProCo Rat 2 fuzz/distortion pedal.
What one piece of gear do you use to obtain your signature sound?
J. Holt Evans III: “It’s hard to limit myself to one piece… I’m not a gearhead per se, but I’d say I know what I like and know just enough to be dangerous to get sounds I am happy with and that feel inspiring to me. McKay and I want to make wavy guitar pop like our heroes and we use a lot of the typical gear commonly associated with dream pop/shoegaze music to achieve our sound: Fender Jazzmaster, Roland JC Amps, ElectroHarmonix Memory Man, etc.
“I think the biggest piece of gear currently inspiring me is my ProCo Rat 2 fuzz/distortion pedal. I used to use it almost exclusively for solos, but it’s so versatile and sounds so good on top of the big delay, reverb, and chorus that I always run that I keep finding new excuses to use it. It has definitely shaped our songwriting on the record and pushed us in a noisier direction as a band which is exciting for me.”
How did you come to possess this pedal? Vintage shop, regular shop, borrowed money, gifted. Give us the details…
“I’m fortunate to have a really supportive dad who dabbles as a recording engineer. He is a MAJOR gearhead, and he gave me my Rat as a Christmas gift. It’s really fun we’re always giving each other gear for birthdays, holidays, etc., and it gives us both an excuse to try out new things.”
What made you choose this pedal, and were there any close seconds or alternates?
“I had been searching for a distortion pedal for a long time and tried using tube screamers and a Xotic SL drive but was never able to get them dialed in the way I wanted. My goal with any kind of fuzz or distortion is to be able to just add it to the effects that I’m already using live without it sounding like mush. The tube screamer is a classic pedal, but it was just tough for me to get a handle on in terms of setting it up to feedback when I stepped on it but not be too much.”
What about this particular pedal makes it so important to you?
“I think the versatility and the simplicity of the RAT are just incredible. Just messing with the filter knob can get you anywhere from biting, spiky fuzz to a kind of ‘singy’ sound. Live, since our band mainly plays small clubs where my amp might not even necessarily be mic’d, it’s really easy to adjust on the fly with my feet based on what I’m hearing, which is also a huge plus. That pedal also has a pretty cool legacy as well of being used by great punk and noise bands which is cool as well. My pedalboard with my black ProCo RAT 2 (center with blue tape).”
Did you use this pedal during the recording of Imitation of Life? If so, please elaborate on how and for what parts.
“It’s all over the album. You can hear that weird kind of ‘singy’ setting that I mentioned above on the solo for ‘Misplace a Night.’ Another theme of us wanting to evolve our sound for the record was looking for ways to package noisy, distorted passages into the context of music that is essentially guitar-pop. You can hear me trying to go for a more unhinged sound on the solo of ‘CeeDee Lamb.’
“Part of my inspiration to get a RAT was that band METZ, who I think use it as their main distortion/fuzz. I love the way you can clearly hear their guitar player stepping on it, and it immediately just lets out like a squall of feedback. I don’t think we get quite that extreme on the record, but the influence is definitely there on the new songs.”
Do you have a special way that you recreate your album (guitar/vocal/bass) tones in a live setting, or is it more just plug-and-play?
“Live, I just use the same setup I do with my pedalboard as I do to record, so it is plug-in and play in a way. The guitar sound is really important to me, and in regards to wanting our band to have a cohesive sound, so when we first started playing shows, I used to get really stressed about nailing my tone perfectly but have done a complete 180 since then, thankfully. I have everything marked out how I want it on my amp and my board and now I just make sure I’m in the ballpark before we start playing and try to have fun with it.
“I’ve gotten a lot better at adjusting stuff with my feet as needed mid-song as well (laughs). My Fender Princeton Reverb II with my little setting hieroglyphics written on tape.”
We know you love this pedal, but are there any major cons? (Ok, now you can also list the pros.)
“I think just playing noisy effects heavy lead guitar can be frustrating at times due to the fact that your gear has to be working in order to get the sound you want live. There are times where I definitely wish we made Oasis-style music where you just plug into a distorted amp and play. Not to be cheesy, but I do feel like chorus, reverb, and echo are part of the building blocks of how I am able to say something authentic musically with the guitar.
“I’m not a technical player at all: I hear parts in my head with those textures already woven into them, and so it just feels natural to play them that way. I always joke that my dad played the first two U2 records too many times in the car growing up and created a monster.”
If you could or wanted to (maybe you don’t at all, and that’s cool), what would you tweak or mod on the pedal?
“Always feel like I don’t even know what I don’t know regarding gear, so modding is out of the question for me at this point (laughs).”
Time for some fun. Give us your best “gear goes wrong” story.
“There are so many. Aside from the usual bad cable completely cutting my volume mid-song, one that stands out to me was when my band and I were doing a lot of guitar switching mid-set, I always had to remember to adjust my input volume on my echo pedal to boost my overall sound, because my other guitar I played had really low volume pickups. Lauds played a set at Gravity Records once in Wilmington, where I switched guitars and completely forgot about adjusting the input. Then I spent an entire song like taking my pedal board apart onstage, gave up, and then just stood there until I remembered what I needed to do. Was brutal, but I feel like it happens to every guitar player that’s playing through a ton of effects.”