A staple of the NYC music scene, Brooklyn band Heaven play music that sits somewhere between shoegaze and psych sensibilities and produces songs that act as sonic love notes to both genres. Their mind bending tracks have the ability to sound vast, sweeping and decidedly, not of this earth. Being the word “shoegazer” intrinsically tied to “guitar pedals,” we thought it would be fair to ask them a few questions about what they stare into when they play.
Tell us about your first time with… a guitar pedal. How old were you and what did you stomp on?
I got my first guitar in 7th grade but didn’t see a guitar pedal ’til high school. I had an Ibanez acoustic guitar at first and begged my parents for an electric. They eventually bought me a Peavey strat-style guitar and amp combo that had the built-in distortion button. Whoa was that a revolution! It’s blurry remembering back to the first moment, but by 14 I was in a band called Vinyl and we played our first shows at the Milestone and the Aardvark clubs in Charlotte, NC in 1994. I know by that point we had a distortion pedal, most likely a BOSS, and I distinctly remember the BOSS flanger. It ended up on everything. Everything was BOSS back then. By the end of high school, I had discovered vintage pedals and had an original Electro-Harmonix Memory Man and also somehow found a FOXX fuzz/wah/volume that has this octave shift when you slope it forward. I still have it! It’s only been on stage maybe once tho, its super temperamental.
Was there a specific pedal (or two) that kind of changed your life?
The FOXX fuzz/wah/volume as mentioned before I can genuinely say changed my life. The fuzz on that thing is incredible, with a side selector knob that has a super psychedelic blip-blop sound when it’s turned. You can dial in the fuzz, and the wah function shapes the fuzz color too, not only the pitch. And it does this insane octave shift when sloped forward. If you’ve ever played one of these you know what I’m talking about. The second thing that changed my life was hearing one of the older kids in our scene, Ben Sullivan, using a Dunlop stereo tremolo pedal, properly I might add, through two amps. I am still completely obsessed with tremolo and can trace it back to this moment in my friend Kyle’s upstairs music room.
What do you have on your board these days?
Starting from the bottom right-hand corner:
Guyatone Compression/Sustainer – You always want to start your tone first before any delays, reverbs, tremolos, or phasers etc. This Guyatone Compression/Sustainer is a secret weapon. Given to me by Dean Wareham, this pedal has to be at the front of the chain, creating the sustaining, compressed signal that can then be treated with fuzz and tremolo. It makes the tremolo sound super sharp and thick once it’s sent down the line.
Swart Amplifier’s Atomic Boost (pictured) – This treble booster also needs to be at the front of the chain. I use this for that extra boost when playing lead lines that need to be heard over the band and have some grit. It overdrives the signal even more and make the tone crack and sizzle
Way Huge Red Llama overdrive copy – This is a copy of the classic Red Llama pedal that has a perfect fuzz like overdrive for what I need to do with a guitar most of the time. Its the base tone for almost every Heaven song. The Guyatone sustainer pedal and this together is just magic. I got this copy ten years ago when the Way Huge pedals were discontinued. They have since been reissued by Dunlop, and I have one of the new ones as well. I still love this copy and its size. I seriously couldn’t live without this pedal.
Electro-Harmonic Pulsar – classic tremolo from Electro Harmonix. I like the ability to sharpen the depth of the repeats and their tempo. I’m obsessed with sharp cutting tremolo. I painted this one because I didn’t care for the Pulsar graphics original to the pedal. Carolina blue cause I have to rep my Tarheels when I can.
Vox Repeat Percussion copy – This is the Spacemen 3 sound in a single stomp box. It’s a copy of the repeater effect that was embedded, along with a few other effects, into the Vox Starstreamer guitars in 1968. It’s a super sharp tremolo that gets its weight from the added boost/overdrive working in conjunction with the repeats. Really cool to use during solos.
DOD Stereo Phaser (pictured) – Recently added this classic 1980’s DOD phaser to the chain. It only works in stereo, so I need two amps to use it. It has a super subtle beautiful phase that just makes the guitar sound like magic between the two amps.
BOSS Tuner – Gotta be in tune kids.
Electro Harmonix Cathedral Reverb – Great reverb pedal from Electro-Harmonix with lots of options.
EarthQuaker Device’s Dispatch Master – great subtle reverb and delay that work together in a nice mellow way.
Line 6 delay – I love this beast mainly for the ability to have three delay presets at the ready for different songs, already at the appropriate tempo. I’m sure there is something smaller and lighter that does the same thing. My next move on the pedal board most likely is swapping this guy out. Sorry Line 6.
What’s your favorite pedal on your board right now?
I would say the most fun pedal on the pedal board is the Vox Repeat Percussion copy. It has this amazingly sharp-cut tremolo that just kills. Next best thing to having the Vox Starstreamer in person. The overdrive boost mixed in with it gives it real guts. But still, all time is the Red Llama overdrive pedal. It just gives the best base tone, fuzz and color to the sound. Perfect to create the ideal palate of a tone before you add any delays or reverbs or other effects to it. It’s almost always on. I have to force myself to use more clean tone in the set.Are there any stompboxes you are itching to buy?
I need to up my delay and reverb game. Ideally, I would have a real echo box on stage like a Roland Space Echo or an Echoplex but we all know that’s not practical. The next thing I’m going to buy is the eventide time factor delay pedal. That thing is amazing. Also, their space reverb pedal would be killer to have. I also love all the EarthQuaker Devices pedals. I really want to get EarthQuaker’s Avalanche Run delay pedal. I use their Hummingbird tremolo pedal for recording but don’t have it on the pedal board usually. Pedals can be tricky, slippery slope. If I start to want one pedal I can’t just stop there. I want them all! Also, I need to get some wah pedal into our set and into my life.
What other like minded local acts do you guys like to play with?
NY friends we love: The Veldt, Heavy Birds, Dead Leaf Echo, Caveman, Overlake, Vacant Lots, Dinowalrus, New Myths, Boytoy, Guiding Light, Pete International Airport, Its Over, Stargazer Lilies, Waltz.