Apr 18, 2017

To celebrate our upcoming, first Montreal Stompbox Exhibit, we decided to interview one of the most intriguing Montreal bands of the moment: with ethereal vocals, and thick, multi-layered instrumentals, The Luyas craft the type of songs that yield new musical discoveries on each pass. Their dreamy indie/psych, engaging lyricism, and sometimes enigmatic instrumentation are well deserving of repeat listens, but even after doing so, it might be hard to puzzle out exactly what instruments are doing what, and how the artists coax out the sounds that end up in the finished product. Luckily for us, band multi-instrumentalist Pietro Amato peeled back the curtain and gave us a thorough rundown of his current set up. 

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Ok, so obviously there’s a lot going on in this photo.  For those who want to truly geek out with me, here goes:

INSTRUMENTS

Wurlitzer 200a: Bought it a couple of years ago for a very good price, had it tuned up by Mecanik Synthetik here in Montreal. Stays in tune even though I bring it everywhere and sounds like one million bucks.  It’s all over Human Voicing by the Luyas.  You may think it’s a guitar because of the big muff but it ain’t. 

Micro-Moog: A relative to the Mini-Moog, with less functions (but the same filters!), plays bass on a few songs including “Beating Bowser.  Sweet old synth, sweet moog sound.

Arturia Mini-Brute: You know this mono synth, everyone does.  It replaces the Micro-Moog for live shows.  But it also does its own wicked parts.  Listen to “Dream in Time” where it serves as bass throughout the song and at 3:35 also puts the arpeggiator in use in the responses to the guitars.  Pretty cool. 

Farfisa Mini-Compact: BEST BIRTHDAY GIFT EVER!  (Thanks Jessie!) Also, the magic weapon.  When you play it on its own you think, meh, when will I ever use this? But every time–ok, almost every time–IT’s the answer.  Sweet bass notes, crazy overtone possibilities with unique self-oscillation.  Listen to the end of “Never Before” where the Farfisa takes the bass at the same time as the crazy “synth sweeps” (with the help of the shitty wah pedal).

Yamaha Ps-280: Thanks to Colin Stetson for introducing me to the gem of a shitty ’80s toy.  It’s all over Animator (2012).  It created the beats for “Face” and “Your Name’s Mostly Water” and is the synth sound for “Fifty Fifty.  You just have to know which buttons to press.

French Horn Conn 8D: Priceless. Also, hours and hours of daily practice to not sound like absolute shit.

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Photo by Ben Irwin

PEDALS

Ok, so to properly explain my setup, everything runs through a Mackie mixing board.  All 5 keyboards and the French horn too.  In the mixing board, I split each signal into 3 [channels]. 

The Left channel goes to the Morley Wah and compression pedal (MXR) on the floor, and then to the pedals beside the mixing board which are in order:

  1. Boss PS-6 pitch shifter (best pedal for horn players),
  2. Ibanez pan-delay (classic 80’s super warm digital delay),
  3. Ibanez chorus (yeah I was getting into those Ibanez early digital sounds),
  4. Fairfield Randy’s Revenge (Ring Modulator-the best ring modulator),
  5. Strymon Blue Sky reverb pedal (y’all know this one too).  The tuner is coming straight out of the Mini-Brute and into the mixing board because mine, unfortunately, doesn’t always stay in tune.

The Right channel goes to the:

  1. Digitech Whammy (modern day classic, although the fuckin’ LEDs always stop working which makes it lose a lot of points in my books),
  2. the Big Muff (will last 5 years, hopefully),
  3. Boss  DD3 with top purposefully removed so that I can put a hockey puck on it and create a one note “loop” with the hold option (pPuck is not in photo).  
  4. Then, the Boss Splitter.  This one is pretty cool, though un-hip in some ways.  To know what it does (chops the frequencies into rhythms) listen to “Never Before.  The intro (that goes throughout most of the song) is the Farfisa through the Splitter. 
  5. Then we have another Ring modulator (the only one on the right channel) brought to you by Moog (sounds good)
  6. and then the Moog Phaser (borrowed from a friend–although I really should own this pedal—but I have another cool phaser though).

The Aux channel:  Ha! You probably forgot there were 3 separate outputs from the mixing board!  Well, that’s quite enough.  I usually use the aux to send natural, un-effected (boring) signal to be recorded or to front-of-house.  Either for bass or for horn or for drum machine.  Sometimes you want natural too. Most usually a keyboard that I’m playing will go through its own pedal chain (either the right, left or aux channels) but it’s also not uncommon for instruments (including the French horn) to go through both pedal chains at the same time (controlled with the PAN of the mixing board), or even all three channels at the same time (watch the “Dream of Love” video, live from Toronto [streaming below], where the horn goes through all three channels, with the Boss-PS-6 on the left channel giving the 3rds-in key, the whammy on the right channel giving the 5ths and the aux giving the natural signal.  I’m a geek).

Thanks for reading and listening and looking at that picture with my gear.  It’s expensive, and it’s a lot to carry to shows, but it’s sooooooo [much] fun.  And totally worth it.

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