The crafty sounds on Twerp Verse require Dupuis and Molholt to do a pedalboard ballet onstage, which means they carefully plan the placement of their effects. Dupuis uses multiple overdrives, while Molholt occasionally shifts to synthesizer. Photo by Dan Locke/Frank White Photo Agency
Sadie, what does Andy bring to the band?
Dupuis: Andy has a really great sense of tone. And he’s always saying, “What does the song need?” Sometimes the song just needs a cool sound, and Andy is really great at crafting that. And then sometimes the song needs a super-wild noise, and Andy is also really good at that. It was great to have him on this record. He came in late in the process, so he’s only on half the record. But I’m really, really excited to do a whole record together.
Your last album, Foil Deer, was widely acclaimed. How do you feel you’ve grown as a player and songwriter between that album and now?
Dupuis: Well, certainly I think I’m much better. I think I always get better at playing from record to record. I’m always trying to write a part just slightly harder than I actually know how to play. That way I learn to get better with every record. And having to play live every night while you’re also singing and trying to not look like you’re freaking out onstage—it really forces you to get better. And, especially with some of the fingerpicking stuff, I have definitely gotten a lot more control over the past couple of years.
What was the recording process like for Twerp Verse?
Molholt: We did most of the principal tracking live. There were a couple songs where we were trying to layer some drum stuff. But most of the songs, we would do at least bass and drums, and maybe a scratch guitar track live, and then go back and overdub.
Dupuis: I’m a pretty neurotic person, and I don’t like improvising. I want to plan every note of what I’m going to play. But what I like about when we do track live is, sometimes I’m having fun and I’ll play something I didn’t see coming. I like when that happens. And also there’s just more fluidity to tracking everything live.
The album is full of intricate, angular guitar lines that counter the vocal melody. How did you teach yourself to do both at the same time?
Dupuis: It’s a pain in the ass! In the months following the record, up until the tour, I’ll be sitting there with the guitar parts, realizing that the vocal is near impossible to do while playing. It’s a very slow and embarrassing process. And sometimes I do wind up having to slightly change a part. On “Lucky 88,” there are some rhythms and notes that are clashing with the vocal melody. That works in the track because it’s mixed well, but live it would be ridiculous. So I’ll just change it very slightly.
Molholt: Every time I play in somebody else’s project, it’s like learning their brain. And I feel like Sadie’s brain is particularly labyrinthine. If something repeats, it’s usually slightly different or there’s a lot of moments that happen once in the song and then never happen again. It’s like I learned a new operating system or something.
On top of singing and playing these involved guitar lines, you’re also controlling a pretty involved pedalboard.
Dupuis: Yeah. I’m definitely always thinking of the way that I have my pedalboard laid out. I need it in such a way that it’s easy for me to deal with without having to think too hard. Especially because I’m not a graceful person. I’m very clumsy. I’m highly inclined to hit the wrong thing, and there’s a lot of pedals packed pretty tightly onto my board.
You use many of those pedals to cover synth parts from the album on your guitar. Why not just play synth?
Dupuis: I did a solo project two years ago where I was playing synth and guitar and also controlling tracks. It was too much. I hated it and I felt like I was in a cage of gear onstage. So when we were getting ready to tour this record, I was like, “I really cannot be bothered to be setting up the synths and the guitars every night.” Now, I’m basically playing all the synth parts on guitar, and Andy does some of the synth parts on actual synth. On a lot of the record, I barely play guitar. On “Lucky 88,” for example, I’m mostly playing synth the entire time. But live I’m not going to not play for two-thirds of the song.
Andy, you often play both synth and guitar live. How do you balance those roles in the band?
Molholt: I do play synth occasionally. It’s very natural to me because I am also a keyboard player. So that was an easy role for me to step into. One thing that I’m working on doing is using a MIDI foot controller and a sampling keyboard. We want to try having it trigger synth chords or little synth lines while I’m playing guitar, because there are some moments in the album that four people really can’t do. We want to keep trying to push our limits and I’m always into that.
What gear do you use to get those sounds?
Molholt: My favorite overdrive pedal that I own is the Timmy. But for Speedy, I’ve actually been using the OCD as well, because it works a little better. And then I have the Bit Commander and the Analog Man Bi-Chorus, which I’m obsessed with. I love that thing. You can make it really subtle or really pronounced depending on the situation. I have an Electro-Harmonix Soul Food I use as a boost. And then I have that shitty delay pedal that I love and the TC Electronic Hall of Fame reverb.
Dupuis: My main squeezes, or anything I’m triggering all the time, I center those on the board, up front. My main overdrive is an EarthQuaker Dunes. I’m basically hitting that any time I’m playing any lead part or chorus. And there’s also a Pitch Bay from EarthQuaker, which is a harmonizer pedal and overdrive. I use that for synth parts from earlier records. It’s a spacey sound, but still pretty driven. I guess it’s only EarthQuaker up front. [Laughs.] I use their Sea Machine chorus pedal when there are quieter moments that I want to stick out more. And then I use an Old Blood Noise Endeavors pedal. It’s an oil can delay called the Black Fountain. I use that for solos and stuff like that. And that’s my stuff upfront. And then I have a whole chain of stuff in the back that’s pretty much on all the time. I use a Catalinbread Callisto pedal, too, and an EarthQuaker Monarch overdrive. Those pedals are always engaged. That’s my clean tone. And I switched to a new amp that I’m obsessed with. It’s a Divided By 13. I have their CJ 11—I love it! There’s treble and bass, and there’s volume and master volume. And that’s all it’s got.