When you say that Matt O’Ree is a talented musician, it’s not just a casual statement; he’s got the accolades to back it up.
The songwriter and guitarist extraordinaire has received massive recognition from the industry and his peers. He won a national guitar contest through Guitar Center and Guitar World Magazine hosted by B.B. King and John Mayer, beating out over 4,000 competitors to win it all. He was also asked to join Bon Jovi on tour as a guitarist and backing vocalist for the band’s 2015 stadium tour. These accolades have all been well deserved and helped propel O’Ree forward in his music.
The Matt O’Ree Band released their latest record, Hand in Glove, their most collaborative effort last November. It features more songs written collectively by the band, a true blues rock album with lots of bluesy guitars and gritty vocals. As a songwriting entity, the band has fleshed out their own sound, looking to the classic rock greats and more classic soul singers like Aretha Franklin and Etta James for inspiration. There is a powerful sense of musicianship that reinforces everything they do, making this a band that you cannot help but have much love and respect for.
As a guitar great, it couldn’t have made any more sense for us to connect with Matt O’Ree himself to chat about his favourite gear, including his Trainwreck Express Amp.
First things first: what’s your current setup?
Matt O’Ree: “Always a great place to start! It actually varies depending on the size of the stage and venue. My bigger rig would typically be starting with my 2001 Gibson Custom Shop R8, running into my pedal board. That consists of a 1967 Vox Script Clyde Wah, an Ibanez ts-808 Tube Screamer, Lehle Dual A/b switcher. One side goes to a Trainwreck Express into a 1968 Marshall Basketweave bottom cabinet. The other side goes to another Trainwreck Express to a 1959 Leslie 145 cabinet heavily modified for guitar.”
What one piece of gear do you use to obtain your signature sound?
“I have to say the Trainwreck Express Amp. There truly isn’t anything else I’ve heard that does what that amp can do. I’d be the first to say it’s not for every player, but for me, it’s everything.”
How did you come to possess this amp? Vintage shop, regular shop, borrowed money, gifted? Give us the details.
“It was a long pursuit for me. I first heard one in the early ’90s. By this time, Ken (Fischer) wasn’t making them anymore due to health issues. It wasn’t until 2010 when a friend of mine, Freddie, who was a super close friend of Ken’s, hooked me up with John Mark and the Fischer family. John has been carrying on Ken’s work religiously. I wouldn’t have found the sound in my head if it wasn’t for them.”
What made you choose this particular amp, and were there any close seconds or alternatives?
“I first heard a Trainwreck being played by a New Jersey blues/rock guitar player named Bernie Brausewetter. He fronted his own band called BB and the Stingers in the ’90s in New Jersey. I quickly became friends with Bernie, and the education I got from him was worth a million dollars. Heck, just hanging with him weekly was not only a music and tone lesson, more important a lesson in life. Bernie taught me how to be a better person. After hearing his amps, that was it. I still used many amps in the meantime like Marshall, Komet, Fuchs, Vox, but my main goal was to get a Wreck.”
What about this amp makes it so important to you?
“Nothing else I’ve played through has ever responded like this amp. It’s like driving a Lamborghini; every tiny touch of the strings, to digging in hard, the amp has your back. It always delivers in any room. Thirty-six watts of pure beast will peel the paint when needed.
“Also, the use of overtones and harmonics is out of this world. The amp takes itself out of the equation and asks you, how good is the rest of the signal chain? Guitars, pickups, cables, and most importantly, how good are you? It will certainly make you want to go home and practice more.”
Did you use this amp during the recording of Hand in Glove?
“Yes, the entire record was recorded live and with Trainwreck amps. I used the Express model and the Trem Rocket model with an early ’70s Ampeg V4 4×12 cabinet loaded with 1968 Pre-rola Celestion greenback 30w speakers.”
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?
“Pretty much plug and play, seeing that we recorded the record live, so when the listener hears the record, that’s what they’ll hear live too. With all the polishing and editing that goes on today in modern music, we decided to take the old-school approach.”
How does the Trainwreck amp hold up with regular touring and gigging?
“Great! I’ve been all around the world, including the Bon Jovi tour I did in 2015 and not even a hiccup. There’s really isn’t a whole lot that can break with the minimal amount of parts in it.”
Do you have a backup for this amp?
“Yes, another Trainwreck (laughs)! That’s all I use, all I want to use. So I have two express amps just in case something happens. Let’s hope it doesn’t.”
What was your first-ever instrument?
“My first was an electric Guild import called a Madeira double-cutaway Les Paul Jr. style guitar. It served me for many years, kind of miss it. I don’t have it anymore.”
What’s your favourite piece of equipment you’ve ever owned?
“I guess that’s split between three things, my 1961 Fender Strat, my 2001 Gibson Les Paul R8, and my Trainwreck Express. Can’t live without them.”
What piece of gear gave the longest service? Are you still using it?
“Probably my first vintage 1979 Ibanez TS=808 I bought back in 1992. What a killer Tube Screamer. I don’t use pedals much in the studio. I’d rather let the amp do its thing. But that one pedal is magical, and if I needed it, it’s still raring to go.”
What brand do you usually lean toward when looking up new options?
“I’m mostly a Gibson and Martin player these days. I love what the Custom Shop has been doing at Gibson; they really are making some incredible guitars. Amps, cabinets, speakers, pedals? I got that covered.”
Which company do you think has provided the most support to you as a musician? Any sponsors who deserve a shoutout?
“Absolutely! Gibson, Martin, Trainwreck, Komet, Fuchs, Voodoo Pickups, George L’s, GHS, Celestion, Chase Tone, Keeley Electronics, Rockett Audio, Royer Labs, LR Baggs, Hercules, Peterson Tuners, Telefunken, Tone Pros, Tuki, Ultimate Ears, and Xotix Effects. Can’t say enough about all of them for the continued support of the band and for making the best gear out there.”
Glixen – “foreversoon” [Song Review]
On “foreversoon,” Glixen created a song where youthful exuberance clashes heavenly with the established shoegaze sounds of yesteryear,
It’s been less than a year since Glixen released their debut EP, She Only Said, on Julia’s War Records. Still, the Phoenix shoegazers have already dug their heels into the DIY music scene and are heading out on an extensive US tour this year alongside the likes of Interpol, Softcult, Glitterer, and fish narc. Appearances at SXSW and Treefort will only further cement their reputation as a new band worthy of note.
To herald the busy year ahead, the band has released a new single, “foreversoon,” via the AWAL label, and it’s well worth a listen.
Says lead vocalist Aislinn Ritchie:
“‘foreversoon’ represents blissful moments of new love and intimacy. The song harnesses melancholy chords, layered with fuzzy red melodies and gliding guitars that pull you in deeper. I wanted my lyrics to feel like a conversation that expresses my infatuation and sensuality. Time is relentless and memories are fleeting, this song encapsulates those emotions forever.”
It’s a fair summation. Its youthful exuberance clashes heavenly with the established shoegaze sounds of yesteryear, think Ride, Curve and Slowdive, but with the fuzz cranked up possibly higher. Ritchie’s vocals certainly share that dreamlike quality of Slowdive’s Rachel Goswell, and with many of those bands back on the road this year, perhaps the time is ripe to inject fresh blood into the genre.
Run Time: 3:43
Release Date: February 9, 2024
Record Label: AWAL Recordings
Slightest Clue Release Their Rocking, Five-Track EP ‘Carousel’
Vancouver indie rockers Slightest Clue recently released their ‘Carousel’ EP, inspired by the beginning, middle, and end of a relationship.
Vancouver’s Slightest Clue is like the secret after-school project of four kids who would have passed each other without a glance in the hallway at school, but once they’re plugged in and ready to play their distinct blend of post-punk, alternative rock, and dark pop, all bets are off.
Produced by Matt Di Pomponio, their new EP, Carousel, is inspired by the beginning, middle, and end of a formative romantic relationship, spanning the trajectory from love to this loss of connection. The closing track, “Carousel,” marks the ultimate bittersweet reflection with unique harmonic layers to portray those contrasting emotions, shifting between grand and quiet tones.
Commenting on the album, the band states:
“The main theme is love, loss of relationship, and connection. The arc of the story is our foreshadowing of the end in our first song ‘These Days’ speaking on the day to day fights and how neither person can seem to get back to a happy place in the relationship. ‘Why Can’t I Call You?’ is the initial spark of infatuation and obsession with someone before you know them. ‘When You Wake Up’ talks of the blissed out honeymoon stage where everything is working and nothing could go wrong. ‘Suit Uptight!’ represents the mounting frustrations and resentments building tension from unmet needs. And finally our closing track ‘Carousel’ is the end and the bittersweet reflection of a cherished relationship that can no longer return.”
Each member, Malcolm McLaren, Hannah Kruse, Sean Ries, and Nick Sciarretta, brings distinct influences and experiences: a stage actor whose playlists go from Talking Heads to Sonic Youth to Björk, a hook-obsessed recovering choir girl, an electrical engineer whose personal idol is John Bonham, and a guitarist who played for (and left) 10 other bands before deciding this was the one for him.
Track-by-Track: The Pineapple Thief’s Bruce Soord Cuts Through ‘It Leads To This’
The Pineapple Thief frontman Bruce Soord breaks down each track on the progressive rock band’s new record ‘It Leads To This.’
It’s been a bit of a renaissance period for The Pineapple Thief over the last few years. This revitalization has resulted in the brand-new album It Leads To This. Released on February 9th via Kscope Records, the eight new songs comprise more of frontman Bruce Soord’s observations and deductions about life and the world around him. The initial concept for the record came together rather quickly, but the actual lyrical and musical components took time. Finalizing these songs required much work and collaboration between Soord and his three bandmates. Each member had a conception of what was satisfactory regarding the songs. Coming to that common ground took time, but in the end, each member was extremely pleased with the final product.
The release of It Leads To This coincides with the 25th anniversary since The Pineapple Thief formed. In that time, they have released over 20 full-length albums and EPs. It Leads To This proved to be one of the most intense writing periods ever for the band. They worked on these new tracks for almost three years. Each band member pushed each other to go above and beyond what they felt capable of. It was extremely fruitful from an artistic perspective, but personally, it did pose challenges for the band members.
Joining us today for an exclusive track-by-track rundown of It Leads To This is Bruce Soord himself. He takes us through each song on the record, their inspirations, motivations, and how they came together.
1. “Put It Right”
Bruce Soord: “This was the first song we wrote for the album, right in the depths of the pandemic. I remember standing outside my studio, which is in the garden of my home, when we were in full lockdown. I looked at the blue sky, not a vapour trail to be seen. Even the hum of my small town was gone. As a songwriter, you’re obviously going to take that in and use it. I started to ponder the fragile state of the world. I mean, how can the world be brought to its knees overnight? Which then led to thoughts about the past, essentially a re-evaluation. Are we all to blame? Was I to blame?”
“As soon as the lockdown was lifted, I remember talking to (drummer) Gavin (Harrison), and he had the idea to write some songs in the same room. I know, radical, right? So I got in the car and drove to his house. Honestly, in the history of The Pineapple Thief, I had never written in this way. Songs were built up in our various studios over weeks and months.. But we were up for trying something new. It could have been a very long disaster – a 6 day jam in E. But to my surprise, we wrote four songs in this way. The first one being Rubicon.
“The verses are in a ‘5/4 shuffle’ which is quite unique (see Gavin’s drum playthrough on the Vic Firth YouTube channel). The song is actually about Julius Caesar crossing the Rubicon, destroying the Roman republic for his own selfish ambitions. History repeating itself indeed…”
3. “It Leads To This”
“Following on from the theme of ‘Put It Right,’ this is essentially a positive song about focusing on the right things in life. What are going to be your biggest regrets on your deathbed? It’s obvious but also easy to miss. I wish I hadn’t worked so hard, I wish I had spent more time with my family and friends. It’s a love song really. ‘For all this time, I didn’t notice you…’”
4. “The Frost”
“I came up with the riff on my 6-string baritone guitar, so it has a low, edgy feel which I really love. This was a song that came together really quickly between the four of us (plus some great contributions from our touring guitarist Beren Matthews on guitars and backing vocals who played throughout the record). It’s about spending your life with a soulmate, through thick and thin, no matter how bad things get.”
5. “All That’s Left”
“Thematically, this continues the theme from ‘It Leads to This’ and, for me, is dominated by the riff and the middle section, which I love playing live. Again, it’s low in register, written using my baritone, massive drums.”
6. “Now It’s Yours”
“Written during the sessions with Gavin, this song goes on a bit of a journey. Soft, atmospheric, big riffs, a guitar solo… Lyrically, looking at the world as an older guy with a family about to be let loose into the world. What the hell are they going to inherit? Well, now it’s yours…”
7. “Every Trace Of Us”
“Again written during the Gavin sessions, I remember Gavin had the intro riff written on his Wurli keyboard he has in his studio. I took it, added some more chords in the progression and the song snowballed from there. Lyrically this is about the pressure of modern life, expectation, pressure, and the mental repercussions of it all. Modern life can tear every trace of us apart.”
8. “To Forget”
“I had this finger-picked acoustic guitar part, which the band liked, so I developed the first part of the song and came up with the words pretty quickly. Us humans, especially as we grow older, have to come to terms with loss and, in a lot of cases, tragedy. Touching on the debate as to whether life is a gift or a curse (I am firmly in the ‘gift’ camp). However, living with tragedy isn’t easy. Remembering isn’t easy, to forget is impossible.”
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