Flanked by his handmade Pyrose Wood Works electrics is Salter’s treasured Heritage Victory 1x12 combo. Built by Paul Cochrane of Timmy pedals fame, and customized with a Pyrose cab and grille cloth, the amp blends characteristics of a Fender Deluxe and Vox AC50.
Did you cut the new album live or did you track the parts individually?
We did it live, probably 95 percent of the way through. We recorded the album at the Bomb Shelter in Nashville. We actually started the album about two years ago and recorded for about four days. We had some friends come in and do organ overdubs and stuff like that, but for the most part, it was all done live. Then recently we went back into the studio for another week. We took out half of the original album, recorded another side to replace it with, and also fixed a bunch of stuff we didn’t love. So we got a chance to go in and really make the album right before putting it out.
What didn’t you love about some of that original material?
While we’ve been at this for almost five years now, we’d only ever done home recordings and demos—we hadn’t released anything in an official capacity. What we had was an accumulation of several things: Songs we’d just written when we went into the studio two years ago, as well as tunes that were about three years old at the time we recorded them. So when we came back to finish the album two years later, some of the songs were just too old—we wanted to get new stuff on there we felt better about. As you can imagine, we’d come quite a bit further as a band, so it was nice to be able to come back and take stuff out and put stuff in that we really liked.
Describe the gear you used on the album.
Pretty much my touring rig. The guitars are actually built by my girlfriend and me in Nashville. They’re like traditional, ’50s-style Telecasters, but with her artwork applied to them. A few years ago I got into putting together partscasters and doing guitar-tech work, and it’s been a fun little hobby. But my girlfriend, Katie DiGrappa, is an incredible artist, and she’s honed her woodburning skills to create the designs featured on our guitars. So when we’re off the road, that’s what we do. We just made two guitars for a customer in Florida, a pair of T-styles made completely out of maple that our banjo player’s cousin harvested from his Birmingham backyard. The guitars were heavy, but they were awesome. We’ve also done guitars for other artists, like the band Clear Plastic Masks.
On the album I mostly played one of the guitars I built—a standard, ’50s Broadcaster-style guitar with Kinman Broadcaster pickups, Emerson Custom wiring, a 4-way switch, and a treble-bleed mod. I plugged it into my Heritage amp, which was built in Nashville by Paul Cochrane, who also makes the Timmy pedals. I wish Paul and Heritage would build amps again—they’re amazing.
Pyrose Wood Works’ Katie DiGrappa decorates the raw bodies with intricate woodburned designs, and Salter assembles the instruments from carefully selected parts.
What model Heritage is that?
It’s called the Victory, which is basically Paul’s take on a Fender Deluxe Reverb. From what I’ve read, it has the front end of a Deluxe and the back end of a vintage Vox AC50. It has great clean headroom, but it also breaks up a lot better than many Fender-style amps. And the reverb is fantastic. There’s a dwell and a mix control, so you can dial in the length of the reverb tail and then back off on the mix, so the sound doesn’t get too washed out when you turn up. It’s really good and punchy.
Are you into pedals?
I’ve always been a pedal nut. Even if they don’t do much, I love them. I recently got a Klon clone from a guy in Nashville, and now I’ve gotten rid of almost everything but that. I also use an Empress Vintage Modified Superdelay. It emulates a tape echo, and I use it for almost all my delay stuff. I also played a vintage Leslie cabinet on a lot of the record—it’s all over “Golden Grease” and “Old Ways”—and I just picked up a Pigtronix Rototron to try to get that sound onstage. I’ve been after that particular sound for a couple of years. I’ve gone through just about every phaser and vibe pedal out there, and nothing has ever quite hit it, but this pedal is actually pretty cool. Once we get a big enough trailer, I’ll just find a real Leslie cab, but until then, the Rototron works. It’s really fun—almost like a dual phaser that’s tuned more like a Leslie. I also swear by the Xotic EP Booster. I’ve had Xotic pedals forever and tried everything in their line, and this one is the be-all and end-all for me.
Banditos play “Golden Grease”—a track from their self-titled debut album—at Licha’s Cantina in Austin. Dig the rave-up that hits at 4:40.
It’s difficult to say something new and fresh in roots music—or any genre that relies on a certain degree of authenticity to work—but you guys have managed to create a unique sound without sacrificing the retro vibe.
That’s definitely something we keep in mind when we approach a song. There are a lot of great bands out there, but many of them try to do the Merle Haggard or Willie Nelson thing. It’s hard to do anything remotely original in any genre these days, but it’s not cool to rip anybody off, so we attempt to add something else to the equation. Each of us brings something different to the band, and every song on the album shines the spotlight on our individual players. That really seems to work out for us.