Bassist Daniel Tichenor nails the groove with his Fender American Standard Precision Bass on the Lollapalooza stage in 2014. In the studio, he relied on Auerbach’s short-scale Fender Mustang for big sounds. Photo by Chris Kies
On your previous album, Melophobia, you shut yourselves off from a lot of recorded music to get away from influences. I’m guessing you listened to a lot of music, particularly older bands, when working on this album?
Shultz: Well, see, I think this album is really an extension of the last record and what we’ve always done. On Melophobia, we wanted to step back from our influences, which is sort of impossible because, like it or not, everything that you go through in life influences you in some way or another. We tried to let our own voice speak on Melophobia, for better or worse, and this record is the continuation of that in a different way. We’re still going forward, even though we’re not discarding songs because they sound like they could come from the ’60s or whatever. We’re not cutting ourselves off to anything.
Tichenor: I’m constantly influenced by music—new stuff, old stuff. I’ve tried to cut myself off from music, but I don’t know … that’s not my thing, really. I don’t know if it’s possible. I think you’re always influenced by what you hear or what you’ve heard.
What kinds of musical ideas jumped out at you from listening to ’60s acts?
Shultz: As a guitarist, the whole approach of going direct really appealed to me, and I got that from those bands. A lot of them did the exact same thing—went right into the console.
But I think the thing that influenced us the most about those bands was the separation of their tracks. When you sit and really listen to their recordings, you notice how each instrument is doing something very specific. Each part is so thought-out and placed so deliberately. I really drew from that.
When you go direct into the console, do you notice that you actually play differently than when you’re going through an amp?
Shultz: Yeah. I think that’s probably the appeal of it for me. It feels more human. When I hear that, I really hear the person playing, not so much this amp sound. The strings speak for themselves, almost, if that makes any sense. You can hear the pick actually hitting each individual string as you strum a chord, or you can hear each individual stroke of a lead part.
So that was really appealing to me, maybe because I’m such a raw player. I basically beat the shit out of a guitar. I’m very heavy-handed. I want to hear the separation between each string when I’m strumming a chord. You can hear that on this record, and I really like that. It gives the guitar sound a lot of personality.
Tichenor: Of course, I always go direct. But as far as the guitars, yeah, I think you get a more personal sound by going right into the console. There are not too many effects on the guitars; they’re not tweaked around. You get a more raw and honest sound that way.
You both used some of Dan Auerbach’s instruments. What brought that about?
Tichenor: Dan definitely wanted us to experiment a bit. I brought a few basses in, but Dan handed me his Mustang bass and was like, “Man, you’ve just got to use this one. The way it records is so sweet.” It had a shorter scale neck than what I was used to, but I figured it out soon enough. I tried it on the first song and thought it sounded amazing, so I stuck with it. I think it made me play a little differently. It made me pull some of those older sounds out a bit easier.
Brad, you used a few of Dan’s guitars. Which ones stuck out to you?
Shultz: My favorite guitar of Dan’s that I used was an old Gretsch Chet Atkins Country Gentleman. Dan was on an episode of American Pickers, and the Gretsch he bought on the show is the one I played. It was pretty remarkable, really—just a great feel and sound.
Was it difficult getting used to that guitar? You’ve been a Mustang player for many years.
Shultz: No, I liked it right off. I think it has a fatter, warmer tone, and that’s what some of the songs called for. I did use my ’65 Mustang as well. Whatever the song called for is what I played. If we wanted a thin, bright sound, we’d go with my Mustang. If we wanted something a little fatter for some of the more fuzzed-out songs, we would use the Country Gentleman. A few times I used an old Kay. Dan had some of those old Japanese knockoffs. I tried some of those out, and they were pretty cool.
What about effects? Dan has a pretty amazing collection of pedals.
Shultz: I didn’t really use any effects, other than maybe a reverb here and there. I have all kinds of crazy pedals, but I wasn’t into them for this record. I wanted to see what it would sound like to just strip it all back to either clean or fuzz. If we wanted fuzz, we would just crank the console and make it really hot. Then, obviously, if we wanted a clean sound, we just took it back down and got a great clean direct sound.
There’s some gargantuan fuzztone on the song “That’s Right.” How are you getting that sound?
Shultz: Oh, you know what? That’s the only song I used a fuzz pedal on [laughs]. Sorry. We did crank up the console to the bone and got fuzzed up, but I also doubled that with a ZVEX Mastotron. Man, that’s a really cool, awesome fuzz pedal. I like how it messes up the guitar sound and makes it sound like a horn.
You do a nice little guitar solo in that song. Too little, in fact. I wanted it to go on longer.
Shultz: I think that’s the beauty of some of the shorter songs—you’re left wanting a little bit more. Then you go back and listen to the track again, and you find different things within the track.