Laura Hopkins plays a reissue ’72 Fender Tele through a modest array of pedals. “I’m so impressed with the Telecaster because it holds its tuning so well,” she says. “I’ve changed the strings on my Telecaster maybe once and I’ve had it for five years. There’s filth on it. This just goes with the sound of the sludgy Pacific Northwest rainfall music we’re feeling.” Photo by Aurelia Kolodziej
How did you end up using the MIG-100 as a bass amp?
Faris: I just love Sovteks. My friend in Weed, who we went on our first tour with, plays a Sovtek out of a Sunn 2x15, and I shared his stuff on the tour and fell in love with the tones that he was getting. I used to play out of a Sunn 300T, but I was over it after I got back from that tour. I just loved the Sovtek and it sounds really good with bass. It gets so deep and growly—especially with all my fuzz pedals.
Laura, what about your amps?
Hopkins: Sunny has this giant Sovtek with a huge cab and Mikayla has a giant Music Man with a huge cab and I have this little Fender [Hot Rod] Deluxe. It’s small enough that it’s not breaking my back to carry into a venue. It’s loud as heck and it crunches up really nicely, just how I like it. I’ve changed my tubes only once and that’s because they were really busted.
I like that I have this smaller amp because it stands out in a room full of metal folks. No one else is using it when we’re playing shows with other metal bands. I set up next to these guys with giant stacks and I feel like my amp is louder on, like, three. I got it off of Craigslist from this older guy who had a bunch of weird stuff in his house, and he had done his own mods on the amp. It was my first amp I ever bought, and it was such a weird experience. He had all this taxidermy on the walls and I think he modded it to be louder than other ones because when I got the tubes replaced, there was so much random glue inside of this thing. I was like, “Can you keep that old-man taxidermy crust in there?”
That’s the best thing about gear: It’s about the experiences of how you got it and who does what crazy things to make it sound like you like. The reason I like all of my stuff is because it’s weird and different and has a story and makes the sound it does.
What’s the deal with your Tele?
Hopkins: My roommate plays a Tele. She’s a really cool graphic design artist and she’ll just doodle in her room all day and make weird sounds on the Telecaster she bought. I was obsessed with her guitar. I would play it at shows and then I just realized that I couldn’t steal her guitar, so I went to Trade Up Music, in Portland, and I found one just like it.
You’ve mentioned you were just getting into pedals at the start of Blackwater Holylight. What got you into pedals?
Hopkins: I had stolen a pedal from my brother, a [TC Electronic] Hall of Fame reverb pedal, which has this modulation reverb. I was just like, “Oh my god, this is a whole new instrument,” and I didn’t play guitar without it on until this year. I always had it on with everything I did because it just bathed the note with this atmospheric sound. That was my beginning of playing with pedals and reverb and modulation.
I’m still experimenting with pedals. The pedals that I’ve played with in Blackwater, most of them were gifted to me or stolen from my brother. I really like the Memory Toy delay pedal. I use that like a pitch bender with the delay going faster and slower. Because I play a Telecaster and it doesn’t have a tremolo bar, I use the Memory Toy kind of as a whammy bar. I have an Ibanez Tube Screamer and an Electro-Harmonix Little Big Muff for fuzz. I got that for the second record.
Do you tune your guitar extra low?
Hopkins: It’s drop D, and sometimes we do DADGAD, and on “Seeping Secrets” we do drop C. I got into drop D from a System of a Down tab book, from “Aerials.” DADGAD I got because we went on tour with a band, Weed, and they showed us about open tunings. I had never tried DADGAD before that.
Do you use heavier strings?
Hopkins: No. I’m so impressed with the Telecaster because it holds its tuning so well. I’ve changed the strings on my Telecaster maybe once and I’ve had it for five years.Maybe I should change them, but they work and it sounds fine. I changed one because it broke and I was like, “This is so bright, I hate it. How do I get it nasty and gross again?” There’s filth on it. This just goes with the sound of the sludgy Pacific Northwest rainfall music we’re feeling. Literally, it’s rusting.
It’s hard to tell from videos, but do you use your fingers or a different kind of pick?
Hopkins: I use the yellow picks. I don’t play with the pokey part. I play with the side of it. I’d always done fingerpicking up until I started playing bass in a friend’s band and I didn’t know how to use a pick. I was trying to bullshit it so I could play in the band and I was like, “Yeah, I can play bass.” But I got this pick and I didn’t know how to hold it. I put the pokey part in my fingers and used the soft, round edge. I really like how it’s not sharp in picking and the way it hits the strings. It’s more like a bow—softer and not so harsh. It’s kind of like fingerpicking, to me. I would have just done fingerpicking, until I picked up the pick wrong.
Describe the recording process for Veils of Winter.
Faris: We had three weeks in March. We went in pretty open-ended and we ended up doing a lot of writing in the studio together. We had the ideas set in place for all the songs, but there were structural things that we were figuring out and we were still writing our parts—especially all the synth stuff, which was written in the studio for the most part. There were a few songs we had pretty well done. We had already been playing “Spiders.”
My friend Dylan White was our engineer and he did the most incredible job. He was so patient with us and encouraging. It was one of the most pleasant recording experiences that I've had, which is cool because he was in my old band [the Grandparents]. The studio is called Red Lantern, in Northeast Portland, and we all did a really great job working together and writing together and giving each other suggestions. I was really happy with how seamless the whole thing was.
How is the process of making this album different from making your first album? Is it different having a second guitarist?
Faris: This album was vastly different. For the first record, we kind of made half of it one summer and half the next summer. We were in three different basement studios, we had a different drummer at the time, Mikayla wasn’t in the picture yet, and we were just kind of discovering what kind of project this was going to be, and, for me, what kind of songs I write.
Now, with the second record, we have Mikayla, and I’ve always wanted to have two guitarists, and we have Eliese [Dorsay], who is just an insanely talented drummer and so can really pull her own weight and write really interesting and dynamic parts, so it’s a totally different vibe. Making the record was just so fun.
You’ve got to lock yourself in there for the amount of time you have. There’s a little bit of pressure, which I think was helpful, actually, to have a deadline. You can do that shit forever if there is no deadline. It’d be so easy to go in and try to make an album and literally never finish it if you didn’t have to.
Hopkins: I was listening back to the first record and I was like, “We could be doing so much more.” Mikayla, she’s been playing in bands her whole life and she’s a super rock ’n’ roll chick. She knows how to use fuzz, she knows how to make it loud. I had to go through so much to get to that point and she’s just so solid. I have to be more bold with my tone sometimes because she has such a solid tone. On the new record, it’s cool to be able to do guitarmonies—doing what we do vocally but having two guitars play with the sound. I’m obsessed with harmony, so anytime we can do more harmonies, I’m stoked.