Kicking the Clichés
While the Raveonettes’ music may shift gears from one album to the next, Wagner’s songwriting approach is both consistent and beautifully self-contained. Rather than piecing together riffs and parts with guitar in-hand, he prefers to do the initial writing in a more internal way. “We try to make music that is fairly simple,” he says, “and after playing guitar for so many years, I don’t really need it to write songs anymore—I know how chords work and I know what I like. I just try to come up with riffs and things in my head first, and then, if I have a riff or an idea for something, I’ll grab the guitar and make a little demo recording. But I usually sit and just think about riffs and rhythmic patterns and stuff like that, and then I pick up the guitar and figure out how to do it.”

Writing this way helps Wagner avoid some of the obvious guitar clichés that come from dependence on shapes and patterns. Another method he employs to create out-of-the-box guitar parts is to write on another instrument. “I play the piano as well, so a lot of the stuff I write on piano I transfer onto guitar. I’ll play different things on the guitar that I normally wouldn’t think of.”

When it comes to gear, Wagner and Foo have a relatively simple setup that allows them to create enormous, space-filling ambient sounds when they play live. Like many indie rockers, Wagner is a devoted fan of the quirkier Fender models. “I mainly use a 1963 Jazzmaster and a 1963 Jaguar,” he explains. “One of my favorite guitars, mostly for touring, is the 1996 Fender Jazzmaster Ventures model that they did limited editions of when they had their 50th or 40th anniversary or something. I got it from Japan on eBay, and I just bought another one. So now I can really go on the road. It just seems like a really sturdy guitar. It doesn’t have all the switches that a normal Jazzmaster has, and it feels a little bit heavier. It feels like one of those guitars that you can really travel with and nothing will break it. I’m very happy about it.”

Amp-wise, Wagner favors the tried-and-true Fender Twin Reverb, particularly the popular ’65 Twin Reverb reissue. “We’re not much for vintage amps, because it’s a little shaky touring with them sometimes. And I always really liked the ’65 reissue—it sounds wonderful, and it’s one of those amps you can get anywhere. It doesn’t matter where you play in the world, you can always order two ’65 Twin reissues, so you know you will always have your sound.”

Foo relies on a Fender Mustang. “Because it’s a short-scale, it’s good for my fingers.” She runs it into an Ampeg SVT Classic with a healthy dose of effects. While she is a multi-instrumentalist, Foo insists her favorite instrument is bass. “It’s a very natural instrument to me,” she says. “It’s that kind of grounded, heartbeat-y feel. I love that. I feel like it suits my personality better than the guitar. And also I would prefer not to be in front so much. To be a guitar player, you have to love the spotlight.”

Both Wagner and Foo rely on a few trusted pedals to recreate their atmospheric sound in concert. The secret, says Wagner, is not distortion, but chaining several reverb pedals together for massive, ambient harmonic overload. “The thing is, because we do make a lot of noise when we play live, people always think that noise comes from hooking up 10 distortion pedals,” says Wagner. “But we actually only use one distortion pedal, and it’s a Pro Co RAT—which is not even turned up a quarter of the way. Our guitars are actually not that distorted, but when you run them through three reverb pedals that are blasting, it creates so many overtones and so much craziness that you get that wall of sound—but it’s not really a distorted wall of sound. It’s just more crazy harmonics going on there.”

Sune Rose Wagner and Sharin Foo onstage with their trusted Fender Jazzmasters
and a backline of ’65 Twin Reverb reissues.

When we talked with Wagner and Foo, they were just a week away from rehearsals for theRaven in the Gravetour, and both were clearly excited to get underway. This tour, not surprisingly, will find the pair exploring yet another new lineup—one that will include two drummers. “That was actually the initial thought for the Raveonettes when we started back in 2002,” Wagner insists. “But we got into it so fast and started touring, and we got signed really early on in our career, so we just didn’t have time to make things work like that. But now we have a substantial amount of time off, and I said to Sharin, ‘Why don’t we do the two-drummer setup?’ And it would be great for this album, too, because it has very simple beats that are just looped so it’ll look great when you have two drummers play identical beats. It’ll be very powerful, like a machine that just runs through the whole thing. And also, they can both play guitar as well, if we need to change it up a little bit.”

Foo adds that the two-drummer lineup also allows them to incorporate samples without losing a live feel—a sense of immediate physicality. “When we toured on the last record, we played without tracks and samples, which was a completely new thing for us,” she recalls. “Now we want to reintroduce the electronic sound, but in a way where it’s less fixed. So we can trigger a lot with just the drums. We also like the visual, very physical feeling of two drummers.”

So when you listen to the Raveonettes—or if you’re lucky enough to catch them live—don’t say we didn’t warn you. Just behind the heady mixture of undeniable hooks, dark waves of sound, and ethereal harmonies lurk some dark and diabolical intentions. But even once you know the score, the seduction is still hard to resist. And what fun is resisting anyway?

Sune Rose Wagner's Gearbox
1963 Fender Jazzmaster, 1963 Fender Jaguar, 1996 Fender Jazzmaster Ventures model, student model Yamaha nylon-string acoustic

Fender ’65 Twin Reverb reissues

Pro Co RAT, Boss RV-5, Boss DD-20 Giga Delay, Boss TR-2 Tremolo, Dunlop JH-OC1 Jimi Hendrix Octave Fuzz, Z.Vex Fuzz Factory

Strings and Picks
Fender Super Bullets (.010–.046), Fender medium

Mogami cables

Sharin Foo's Gearbox
1976 Fender Mustang bass

Ampeg SVT Classic

Pro Co RAT, two Boss RV-5 Digital Reverb units, Boss TU-2, T-Rex FuelTank Classic

Strings and Picks
Fender Super 7250 (.040–.100), Fender medium

Mogami cables