Clark digs in on her go-to 1967 Harmony H15V Bobkat at a 2009 gig at the El Rey
Theatre in Los
Angeles. Photo by Lindsey Best
Let’s talk about the new album. How did
you get those distorted sounds with a really
sharp attack on “Cruel”—they sound
almost like a guitar turned into a keyboard?
That’s my ’67 Harmony Bobkat with two
gold-foil pickups and a Death by Audio
Interstellar Overdriver Deluxe through a
late-’70s silverface Fender Princeton Reverb.
The fuzzy solo in that song is somehow
otherworldly and raw and beautiful. Was
that off the cuff?
Yeah. I just played the melody of the chorus
lines, and I used a Boss Super Shifter to get
How many guitar layers are you using there?
I double-tracked the [sings chorus riff
dut duh-duh-duh, duh-duh-dut duhduh-
dut duh-duh dut dut dut
parts and the
part that mimics the vocal melody, and then
I was like, “What would Frank Black do—what would the Pixies do in this song?”
Do riffs like those come to you when you
first write a song, or do they come up later
as you’re developing a song in the studio?
Well, what I did for this album is I wrote
very simple songs, first and foremost, and
then I just kept this arsenal of riffs on hand.
I wasn’t [initially] worried about, like, “Oh,
what will the riff in this song be?” but I
knew there had to be some kind of riff. So I
basically have a scrapbook of riffs, and then
once I had a song written, I would mosey
over to the scrapbook and go, “Oh, this
work—let’s put this on here.”
You play a lot of instruments. Do you
usually write on guitar, piano, or something
I wrote my last record, Actor
, completely in
a box—I wrote it in GarageBand. In some
cases, I just drew in notes with my mouse.
I didn’t touch any instruments to make it—which was a long
process. With this record,
I went back to my roots and wrote on guitar.
Just simple songs on guitar.
Just chord progressions first?
Yeah. I’m kind of impatient and I want to
hear the whole product when I start, but I
just forced myself to keep it very barebones
with the chords and everything.
You play the Harmony Bobkat and the
similar Silvertone 1488 a lot—what drew
you to them?
What drew me to them is part practical
and part aesthetic. One, they’re really
light. I’m a pretty small person and, even
though I love the sustain of a Les Paul,
three songs into a set, my back hurts
because it’s too heavy. I know that was the
thing in the ’70s—the heavier the guitar,
the longer the sustain—but I just can’t do
that. But also, the Bobkat and Silvertone
have this amazing vibrato bar that’s super
sensitive—you can dive bomb on it and it
will stay in tune. The neck is not the most
hospitable—it leaves a little something to
be desired—but they’re really solid guitars.
I like the tone, and it’s really balanced—and I really
love that vibrato bar.
Do you have any special tricks you have
to use to keep it in tune?
It works pretty well. I tune down a whole-step
and use a little heavier strings, and that
keeps it in tune a little bit better. On “Year
of the Tiger,” I actually do a super-metal
tuning—down to a low F#, super sludgy
and slimy—with .012-gauge strings and a
.054 on the bottom.
What’s going on with those robotic chord
stabs in “Neutered Fruit”?
I really mostly played the Bobkat with that
Death by Audio Interstellar Overdriver
Deluxe through the Princeton.