Los Angeles' own Such A Mess is set to release their forthcoming 7" split with Post Season, Greetings From, on August 28th. The 4-song split features two new tracks from each group and Such A Mess' portion of Greetings From was produced and engineered by Johnny Liu, while the full EP was mastered by Grammy-nominated Michael Fossenkempter of Turtle Tone Studios. To better understand the band's sound for this new release, we chatted with guitarists Mark Reynolds and Dave Solis about some of their gear.
What one piece of gear do you use to obtain your signature sound? Reynolds: I think my "signature sound" is best obtained through my guitar. Right now I'm playing an Epiphone Les Paul Custom, with Seymour Duncan pickups. A JB in the bridge and a Jazz in the neck. It's a pretty standard Les Paul set up, but it's exactly what I was looking for. That's the guitar you hear on both "Tether" and "Keep To Myself" on the split.
Solis: Definitely my Mesa Boogie Dual Rectifier amp head and 4x12 cabinet.
What about it makes it so important to you? Reynolds: It's important to me because I usually don't invest money into guitars once I purchase them. This is the first guitar I've really put any amount of money into perfecting or improving. It definitely created a stronger feeling of ownership for me.
Solis: I've lusted over Mesa amps since before I even played guitar. I saw all my favorite bands and all my favorite guitarists with the best tone have one thing in common, Mesa. From Carlos Santana's Afro-Cuban Blues Rock to The Foo Fighters, Blink-182 to Metallica. I never thought I'd play one, let alone own one. Started playing guitar when I first entered high school and when I graduated, I decided to work all that first adult summer, at my shitty Subway job, and buy one. It's very sentimental to me. Since I've been touring and playing in established bands, the company has taken me in as one of their own, sponsoring me, keeping my tubes fresh before I hit the road and just treating me as they would any other huge band on their roster. That's what I love about it. If you're working hard, they've got your back.
How was this gear used during the recording of your latest album? Reynolds: When recording The Split, I used my Epiphone almost exclusively. There are a few tracks on there where I used my Fender Jaguar HH blacktop, but most of what you hear is the Epiphone.
Solis: Every song I've recorded in the studio, I use Mesa Boogie amps and cabinets. Their speaker cabinets give a low-end you just can't find anywhere else. It's the construction and size of the cab, it's a fat tone!.
How do you recreate your album (guitar/vocal/bass) tones in your live set? Reynolds: Just using the same guitar live as I used in the studio definitely helps to recreate the sound. We purposefully tried to recreate the live sound on this record. We wanted what you heard to be authentic.
Solis: I'm definitely all about simplicity. I use effects, but I never want to record something in the studio that I cant reproduce live. Nothing over the top. You can have a ridiculous album, but if you don't sound good live, what's the point?
Check out the song "Tether" here.
What are the major pros and cons? Reynolds: Pro: Since it's an Epiphone and didn't break the bank to purchase, I can spend more money on customizing (pick ups) and won't be AS worried about keeping it in pristine condition. It can take a bit of a beating. Con: Since it's an Epiphone, it needs to have money put into customization to be up to my standards. Much of what comes standard is cheaper than what would come on a Gibson, so you kind of get what you pay for.
Solis: Pros and cons of my amp are set up. Obviously I love my tone. I love its road worthiness. I love being able to rely on it night after night and know it's going to make me sound better than I should. The worst part of being in a band? Loading. haha Those amps are heavy and sometimes I gotta carry it all up and down stairs.
Do you have a backup for this gear, if so, what? Reynolds: On tour I also bring my Fender Jaguar HH Blacktop. That's my main back up. I've also been known to use a Standard Mexican Telecaster, which actually belongs to our singer, Sebastian.
Solis: I do have a backup Rectifier head if anything goes wrong. Knock on wood, nothing has ever gone out on me on tour, not once. Let's hope I can keep that streak going. You've just got to take care of your gear. I keep mine pampered in road cases with 2" thick foam all around. Treat it right and it will treat you right.
How long have you had it, how do you use it, would you ever change it? Reynolds: I bought my Les Paul from our bassist Derek's friend in 2014. I would probably change it, though. I'm always looking for new guitars.
Solis: I've had it since about end 2009, start of 2010. Somewhere around Christmas/New Year. Would I change it? I've been looking into some other model Mesa amps to expand my tone and bag of tricks. Definitely open to the idea of getting a new amp head. Would I switch companies? No. Mesa is home, Mesa is family. It's tattooed on my body.
Give us your best "gear goes wrong" story. Reynolds: In 2012, we played Warped Tour in Pomona for the first time. I was so excited that I had done "the works" on my guitar the night before: new strings, deep clean/polish, etc. Right as I'm getting on the Ernie Ball stage, ready to play, I open my case to realize that I had taken my strap off during the cleaning, and forgot to put it back in the case. I had a guitar with no strap, and I was ON stage at Warped, ready to play. Luckily, our bassist happened to have an extra in his case. Had he not had that strap, I have no idea what I would've done. I would have had to sit on the stage like a lunatic. Embarrassing.
Solis: The night before my first tour ever; I was like 18/19. I was practicing for the shows in my room. And I blew a volume potentiometer on my guitar. (Basically the volume knob and it's components) It was maybe 1am and we were leaving LA for San Francisco at 5am. There was no time to go to Guitar Center or Sam Ash or anything like that, but I did have an old beat up guitar that wasn't working, I figured I could pull a pot out of. I had never soldered or messed with electronics or wiring before. I drove to a 24hr Walmart, bought a soldering kit and prayed YouTube could teach me, because if I didn't pull it off, I couldn't go on tour. Somehow I succeeded, ripped the pot out and installed it successfully in my guitar. Got no sleep that night and jumped in the van. We made it and played with a couple hundred kids singing all our words. Such a good show. Imagine if I gave up and missed it?
Any final thoughts or comments on the gear? Reynolds: Any guitar companies out there looking to sponsor a young band?
Solis: I love Mesa amps. I love the company and the people there. I saved up minimum wage earnings to buy it and it was one of my best investments. They go above and beyond for me and the tone I demand. They are more than reliable for the touring musician needing that gear they can count on every night. If you're in the market, and unsure about what to get, spend that little extra, buy a quality amp. Now I've just gotta find a guitar company with the same trustworthiness haha.