The Melbourne-based soul quartet used layered bass tracks, a pointy headstock guitar, old solid-state amps, samples, countermelodies, strange syncopations, and a Brazilian composer to create the complex and colorful Mood Valiant.
According to Paul Bender—bassist for the trippy yet eminently soulful Melbourne-based quartet, Hiatus Kaiyote—the band's live sets often meld into one continuous song. "I never really get a break in the set because we always play all our tunes together for some reason," he says. "I basically never stop playing. I don't have a moment where I am not doing something at any point in the set."
This all-in, throwdown approach is intrinsic to understanding what Hiatus Kaiyote is about. They'll follow an idea, no matter how obscure or complex, wherever it leads, which creates a through-composed structure that gives their music an otherworldly feel. They do have more conventional verse/chorus-type songs as well—"Chivalry Is Not Dead," and "Red Room" off their latest release, Mood Valiant, for example—but even there, the music oozes a loose, what-are-these-amazing-sounds-I'm-hearing energy.
Hiatus Kaiyote - 'Red Room' (Official Video)
Hiatus Kaiyote formed in 2011 and earned Grammy nominations in the R&B category for each of their first two releases before going on what was supposed to be a short hiatus in 2017. But that break seemed to extend indefinitely. During that time, lead singer and guitarist Nai Palm (born Naomi Saalfield) had a terrifying brush with breast cancer (now in remission). Then, with Mood Valiant almost completed, COVID hit and put everything on hold. Although for them, the silver lining was that they were able to isolate together. "We were wrapping it up when that shit went down," Bender says about the final sessions for the album. "We went into the bunker together. It kicked our ass into finishing the record, because there was nothing else to do."
"The biggest part of my attraction to guitars I like is the playability. If it feels good to play, I'm more likely to be motivated to write on it." —Nai Palm
Mood Valiant is the quartet's third full-length and continues their seemingly effortless fusion of jazz-like harmonies, electronic textures and patches, and subtle-yet-funky grooves. Added to the mix are lush string and horn arrangements from Brazilian composer Arthur Verocai (more about him in a minute), and an adventurousness that seems almost prog, as heard on songs such as the whirling and unpredictable "Rose Water," the beautiful piano ballad "Stone or Lavender," and the aforementioned experimental-yet-grounded "Chivalry Is Not Dead."
Bender is a driving force behind the band's groove. He's officially the bassist, but in addition to holding down the low end, he also covers upper-register chordal work—timbres and tones you'd expect from a guitar—as well as more ambient and spacious synth-like textures. He's not the band's only multitasker. Drummer Perrin Moss plays on a mutant kit that resembles a cross between a standard jazz-type setup with a large assortment of acoustic noisemakers, electronics, and keys. Keyboardist Simon Mavin lives in a space that combines vintage gear, samples, and modern pads, and Palm is guitarist and lead singer, although she'll often put the instrument down to focus on her complex and harmonically rich vocals.
Nai Palm subverts expectations—and makes a big style statement—by playing "gentle shit" on her Jackson Randy Rhoads V RRT3 Pro Series.
Photo by Stephan De Witt
"When I write songs alone from scratch, it's usually on a guitar," she says. "A big part of the motivation to play or not play depends on how the song feels emotionally, performance-wise. Guitar is super cerebral and focused, which I adore and I find a lot of freedom in, but it can be limiting singing because your brain is essentially doing two separate tasks. It's fun to keep my options open and not just be stuck to one thing."
Given the band's multidimensional spirit, it's no surprise that Bender has deep roots in various disciplines. His earliest experiences as a youngster were playing metal and grunge, but at one point he was halfway around the world, studying jazz at the University of Miami and cutting his teeth on upright bass.
Paul Bender's Gear
Bender's behemoth of a pedalboard.
- Ernie Ball Music Man Bongo 6
- Ampeg SVT heads and cabs
- Vintage Coronets
- Ernie Ball Slinky Long Scale 6-String Nickel Wound Electric Bass Strings (.032–.130)
- 3Leaf Audio Octabvre
- 3Leaf Audio Wonderlove Envelope Filter
- 3Leaf Audio You're Doom Dynamic Harmonic Device
- Chunk Systems Brown Dog Gated Bass Fuzz
- DigiTech X-Series Synth Wah Envelope Filter
- DigiTech Whammy
- Ernie Ball VP JR Volume/Expression Pedal
- Mooer Lofi Machine
- Mooer Yellow Comp
- MXR Bass Octave Deluxe
- MXR Carbon Copy Analog Delay
- MXR M109S Six Band EQ
- MXR Talk Box
- Roland RE-201 Space Echo
- TC Electronic PolyTune
- ZVex Box of Rock
"I don't really play the upright that much anymore," he says. "But there was a good period of time when that was my whole bag. I was really into playing upright—walking bass, changes, standards, all that stuff. I definitely went down that rabbit hole pretty hard. It's pretty unforgiving when you step away for a while. It is a distinct physical challenge, and there's a particular double bass fitness that you've got to maintain. You can't really put it down for a couple years and then expect to be any good at it again."
He stopped playing jazz around the time he joined Hiatus Kaiyote, although that's only broadened his horizons, as the band's music draws from so many disparate sources. The challenge, however, isn't just weaving those different pieces together. It's also pragmatic: reproducing their multilayered arrangements in a live setting as a four-piece.
"There is something lovely and distinct about the bass having a chordal function." —Paul Bender
"Simon's only got so many fingers that he can use to play different sounds," Bender says about recreating keyboard parts on bass. "Sometimes I'll try to cover a certain countermelody idea or a chordal idea on the bass, as well as provide the bass function. That can definitely inform the parts that I write. Sometimes it happens in the reverse, where we produce a track where I might have played a regular bass part, but then there will be a bunch of overdubs and a bunch of different things happening, and it's got to be filled out a little bit more. That might change how I approach the bass part in a live context. There are times where I like doing a regular kind of bassline, but I also love getting into the chordal thing, especially when you get into 6-string territory. There is something lovely and distinct about the bass having a chordal function. It can be a really awesome flavor."
But sometimes, the challenge is in the basslines themselves, like when the recorded version is a studio creation of multiple parts stitched together.
TIDBIT: The band flew to Brazil to record composer Arthur Verocai's string and horn arrangements for the songs "Get Sun" and "Stone or Lavender."
"I've definitely done stuff where I've done weird hybrid things," he says. "I'll make a bassline that is comprised of multiple basses making up the whole thing, which is fairly elaborate and stupid, but such a fun approach. I did that on the first record, Tawk Tomahawk, on that track 'Mobius Streak.' I had a Gretsch Electromatic on 'Chivalry Is Not Dead,' from the new record, in the verses, and a Kiesel fanned-fret, super-modern bass, because it has that super-aggressive top-end-y modern thing for the slap bass shit. On the recording, I do a lot more honing in on specific things. That's the time to pull out the very specific colors and accents that different basses give me."
But Bender's only interested in using a varied assortment of instruments when he's in the studio. Once he hits the highway, he's a minimalist and relies on one axe: a blue Ernie Ball Music Man Bongo 6. "I am not taking eight basses on the road," he says. "I am taking one, because … come on. We're not at that level of touring yet where I've got some guy at the side of the stage waiting to run out to hand me another bass for this song. I am not in Radiohead, which would be fun, but that's the pragmatic reality of it."
"I'll make a bassline that is comprised of multiple basses making up the whole thing, which is fairly elaborate and stupid, but such a fun approach." —Paul Bender
"It was partially due to [singer/songwriter and guitarist] Lianne La Havas, who called me on her birthday, drunk from Costa Rica, while I was looking for a guitar," Palm laughs, explaining how she ended up with her white Jackson V. "I went into the heavy metal guitar section to get some space to hear her, and after the call thought, 'Fuck, I'm going to try the spiky Randy Rhoads guitar.' A big part of the attraction was its playability. The action was great and I loved that you can get both a clean and gritty sound from it. I have super-little hands, and the D'Angelico—although it was a vibe—was super heavy. The biggest part of my attraction to guitars I like is the playability. If it feels good to play, I'm more likely to be motivated to write on it. I also love the juxtaposition of playing gentle shit on it. It pisses off the purist metal heads, but I like to think outside of the box." Palm prefers to pair her pointy Jackson with a Fender Twin Reverb.
When Palm plays guitar, she also only uses one instrument. For most of the last decade, that was a custom semi-hollow D'Angelico EX-SS, although a few years ago she made a radical switch, which, for the music she plays, is seemingly incongruous.
Paul Bender loves to experiment with basses and amps in the studio, but when it comes to playing live, he keeps it simple and relies upon his Ernie Ball Music Man Bongo 6, which he prefers to play through an Ampeg SVT.
Photo by Luke Kellett
For Bender, using different basses and layering parts is just one part of his unique approach to the studio. He also has a fun time with amps. On the road, he's content to rent an SVT—or comparable refrigerator-like unit—but in the studio, his mission is clarity and definition.
"If I've got to pick one amp to run the bass through, I am not going to go for a big amp," he says. "I have been getting into these little Coronet amps. They are quite small, and I am not going to blast the bottom end through it." The point is using the smaller amps—in this case, solid-state models from the '60s and '70s—to focus on details and relying on the direct line for the sub frequencies. "The interesting part of the sound, or the flavor, is more that midrange and presence you get pushing it through a smaller amp like a Coronet. I am trying to hear the distinct detail in what I am playing, and the fingers and the touch and the presence. Smaller amps are great when recording. It's a whole different realm. When I am doing a gig, I might be standing in front of the fridge, but in the studio, sometimes the smaller the amp, the better. It condenses the most interesting parts of the sound to that one little speaker."
Nai Palm's Gear
Photo by Luke Kellett
- Jackson Randy Rhoads V RRT3 Pro Series
- Fender Twin Reverb
- Ernie Ball Super Slinky (.009–.042)
- Ernie Ball Regular Slinky (.010–.046)
- Electro-Harmonix POG2
- Kink Guitar Pedals Straya Drive
- Mooer Yellow Comp
- MXR Echoplex Delay
- MXR Reverb
- MXR Sub Octave Bass Fuzz
- MXR Uni-Vibe
- TC Electronic PolyTune 3
Hiatus Kaiyote don't have many peers when it comes to their aesthetic and overall approach, although they did find a simpatico creative partner in legendary Brazilian composer and arranger Arthur Verocai, who contributed horn and string arrangements for "Get Sun" and "Stone or Lavender" on Mood Valiant. "We're kind of musical loners," Palm says. "If we work with someone creatively, they have to be able to contribute something uniquely themselves. He was the cherry on top of our album, and it really made the record sing."
To work with Verocai, the band flew to Brazil, played a few shows to cover costs, and met up with him. As it was, showing up in the studio in Rio was not only the first time they met, but the first time they heard his arrangements. It was a risk, but they weren't disappointed.
"If we work with someone creatively, they have to be able to contribute something uniquely themselves." —Nai Palm
"He had a really awesome energy," Bender says. "We got to know him during the session and got to see him at work conducting and rehearsing and recording the ensemble. It was great. We had no idea what he was going to write at all. We thought, 'Hopefully it is going to be cool and we're all going to love it, because otherwise it is going to be fucking awkward if we don't.' But he nailed."
There is a limit to how far Hiatus Kaiyote are willing to push the envelope. Sure, they'll obsess over tones, allow their songs to take them on intricate musical journeys, partner sight-unseen with Brazilian composers, and fly across oceans to collaborate. But they're still an Australian-based band, and there's only so much stuff they're willing to take on the road.
"Fuck flying from Australia with a bass amp," Bender says. "That's a horrible idea. Although if we were Iron Maiden and we had our own plane, that would be a whole different jam."
Hiatus Kaiyote: Tiny Desk (Home) Concert
For these new recreations, Fender focuses on the little things that make original golden-era Fenders objects of obsession.
If there’s one thing players love more than new guitars, it’s old guitars—the unique feel, the design idiosyncrasies, the quirks in finish that all came from the pre-CNC era of instrument manufacturing. These characteristics become the stuff of legend, passed on through the years via rumors and anecdotes in shops, forums, and community networks.
It’s a little difficult to separate fact from fiction given these guitars aren’t easy to get your hands on. Fender Telecasters manufactured in the 1950s and 1960s sell for upwards of $20,000. But old is about to become new again. Fender’s American Vintage II series features 12 year-specific electric guitar and bass models from over two decades, spanning 1951 to 1977, that replicate most specs on their original counterparts, but are produced with modern technologies that ensure uniform build and feel.
Chronologically, the series begins and ends, fittingly, with the Telecaster—starting with the butterscotch blonde, blackguard 1951 Telecaster (built with an ash body, one-piece U-shaped maple neck, and 7.25" radius fretboard) and ending with the 1977 Telecaster Custom, which features a C-shaped neck, a CuNiFe magnet-based Wide Range humbucker in the neck position, and a single-coil at the bridge. The rest of the series spans the highlights of Fender’s repertoire: the 1954 Precision Bass, 1957 Stratocaster in ash or alder, 1960 Precision Bass, 1961 Stratocaster, 1963 Telecaster, 1966 Jazz Bass, 1966 Jazzmaster, 1972 Tele Thinline, 1973 Strat, and 1975 Telecaster Deluxe. The 1951 Telecaster, 1957 Strat, 1961 Strat, and 1966 Jazz Bass will also be offered as left-handed models. Street prices run from $2,099 to $2,399.
Fender '72 American Vintage II Telecaster Thinline Demo | First Look
Spec’d To Please
Every guitar in the series sports the era’s 7.25" radius fretboard, a mostly abandoned spec found on Custom Shop instruments—Mexico-made Vintera models, and Fender’s Artist Series guitars like the Jimmy Page, Jason Isbell, and Albert Hammond Jr. models. Most modern Fenders feature a 9.5" radius, while radii on Gibsons reach upwards of 12". Videos experimenting with the 7.25" radius’ playability pull in tens of thousands of viewers, suggesting both a modern fascination with and a lack of exposure to the radius among some younger and less experienced players.
T.J. Osborne of the Brothers Osborne picks an American Vintage II 1966 Jazzmaster in Dakota red.
Bringing back the polarizing 7.25" radius across the entire series is a gamble, and it’s been nearly five years since Fender released year-specific models. But Fender executive vice president Justin Norvell says that two years ago when the Fender brain trust was conceptualizing the American Vintage II line, they decided the time was right to “go back to the well.”
“We’ve been doing the same [models], the same years, over and over again for 30 years,” says Norvell. “We really wanted to change the line and expand it into some new things that we hadn’t done before and pick some different years that we thought were cool.”
“It takes a lot of doing to go back in time and sort of uncover the secret-sauce recipes.”—Steve Thomas, Fender
To decide on which years to produce, Fender drew from what Norvell calls a “huge cauldron of information” from Custom Shop master builders to collectors with vintage models to former employees from the 1950s and 1960s. The hands-on manufacturing of Fender’s golden years meant guitars produced within the same year would have marked differences in design and finish. So, the team had to procure multiple versions of the same year’s guitar to decide which models to replicate. Norvell says some purists would advocate for the “cleanest, most down-the-middle kind of variant,” while others would push for more esoteric and rare versions. Norvell says that ultimately, the team picked the models that they felt best represented “the throughline of history on our platforms.”
Simple and agile, the Fender Precision Bass—here in its new American Vintage II ’54 incarnation—earned its reputation in the hands of Bill Black, James Jamerson, Donald “Duck” Dunn, and other foundational players.
Norvell says the American Vintage II series was developed, in part, in response to calls to reproduce vintage guitars. Just like with classic cars, he says, people are passionate about year-specific guitars. Plus, American Vintage II fits perfectly with the pandemic-stoked yearning for bygone times. “For some people, these specific years are representative of experiences they had when they were first playing guitar, or a favorite artist that played guitars from these eras,” says Norvell. “These are touchstones for those stories, and that makes them very desirable.”
Fender’s electric guitar research and design team, led by director Steve Thomas, dug through the company’s archive of original drawings and designs—dating all the way back to Leo Fender’s original shop in Fullerton, California. They found detailed notes, including some documenting body woods that changed mid-year on certain models. Halfway through 1956, for example, Stratocaster bodies switched from ash to alder. That meant the American Vintage II 1957 Stratocaster needed to be alder, too. That, in turn, meant ensuring enough alder was on hand to fulfill production needs.
Among the series’ Stratocaster recreations is this 1973-style instrument, with an ash body, maple C-profile neck, rosewood fretboard, and the company’s Pure Vintage single-coils.
Thomas and his team discovered another piece of the production puzzle when researching how pickups for that same 1957 Strat were made. “We realized that if we incorporated a little bit more pinch control on the winders, we could more effectively mimic the way pickups would have been hand-wound in the ’50s,” says Thomas. “It takes a lot of doing to go back in time and sort of uncover the secret-sauce recipes.”
Thomas proudly calls the guitars “some of the best instruments we’ve ever made here in the Fender plant,” pointing to the level of detail put into design features, including more delicate lacquer finishes which take longer to cure and dry, and vintage-correct tweed cases for some guitars. New pickups were incorporated in the series, like a reworking of Seth Lover’s famed CuNiFe Wide Range humbuckers, which were discontinued around 1981. Even more minute details, like the width of 12th fret dots and the material used for them, were labored over. Three different models in the line feature clay dot inlays at unique, year-specific spacings.
Ironically, modern CNC manufacturing now makes these design quirks consistent features in mass-produced instruments. While the hand-crafted guitars from the ’50s and ’60s varied a lot from instrument to instrument. “Everything needs to be located perfectly, and it wasn’t necessarily back in the day,” says Norvell. “Now, it can be.”
Don’t Look Back
With this new series so firmly planted in the rose-tinted past, Fender does run the risk of netting only vintage-obsessed players. But Norvell says the team, despite being sticklers for period-correct detail, sought to strike a balance between vintage specs, practicality, and playability. The 1957 Stratocaster, for example, has a 5-way switch rather than the original’s 3-way switch. Norvell also asserts that the “ergonomic” old-school radius feels great when chording. “It might not be [right for] a shred machine, but it feels great and effortless.”
The 1966 Jazz Bass is also represented, shown here in a left-handed version.
Norvell also pushes back on the notion that Fender is playing it safe by indulging nostalgia and leaning on their past successes. He says that while the vintage models are some of the most desirable on the market, the team “purposely did not stick to the safe bets,” citing unusual year models like the 1954 P Bass and the 1973 Stratocaster.There’s a good reason why anything that hails back to “the good ol’ days” hits home with every generation. We’re constantly plagued by a belief that what came before is better than what we’ve got now. But with the American Vintage II series, Fender makes the case that guitars from the ’50s, ’60s, and ’70s can very easily be a relevant part of the 2020s.
The Red Sea was born out of the vision to provide complex signal routing options available to the live/performing musician, that up until now, are only found in a studio mixing environment.
Introducing the Red Sea, an all-analog signal routing matrix, designed for countless stereo and mono signal path routing options. The Red Sea was born out of the vision to provide complex signal routing options available to the live/performing musician, that up until now, are only found in a studio mixing environment. The Red Sea has accomplished this in a compact, easy-to-use, and cost-effective solution.
Wet | Dry | Wet
The Red Sea gives you the ability to run a FULL Stereo wet dry wet rig using only 2 amps or just 2 signals to the FOH, while also giving you complete control over your Wet & Dry mix! Use the Blend knob to control the overall mix between stereo wet effects and mono dry/drive signals.
Stereo Dual Amps
Run dual amp modelers if full stereo w/ stereo effects. Gone are the traditional ways of one amp in the Left channel and another in the Right channel. Now use the Red Sea to seamlessly blend between two separate amps in true stereo. Think of this as a 2-channel amp where you can blend anywhere between both amps.
Stereo Parallel FX
Red Sea has two independent stereo FX loops. Use each FX loop to run stereo delay's and reverb's in parallel, where each effect does not interact with each other. Huge soundscapes can be achieved with washy reverbs and articulate delay repeats while being able to blend between each FX loops mix level.
The Red Sea can also do the following routing options:
- Wet | Dry utilizing a single amp
- Clean Wet | Dry | Wet (drives DO NOT run into wet effects)
- Wet | Dry | Wet with dual delays (one in the L channel & other in R channel)
- Parallel Dual Amps (run dual amp modelers in FULL stereo)
- Convert a tube amp's serial FX Loop to a parallel FX Loop
- Stereo and Mono analog dry through (avoid latency in digital pedals)
Stardust V3 was designed to capture the sound and response of 3 distinct amplifier models.
Stardust V3 was designed to capture the sound and response of 3 distinct maxed-out amplifier models. An all-analog signal path with discrete gain stages featuring MOSFET transistors provides juicy overdrive tones with great note separation that clean up to that sparkly sound that we all love and heard in recordings of the past. Set gain and tone and control everything from your guitar. Sparkly clean to crunchy mean are all there.
You can select the amplifier voicing via the onboard toggle switch.
BSM: Voiced after a blackface amp head that was primarily targeted for bass guitar players but got famous for electric guitar classic rock tones.
VLX: Voiced after a chimey 2x10” combo offering the perfect amount of controllable crunch
DLX: Voiced after one of the most popular low wattage 1×12″ combo amps that have found their way in countless recording studios and clubs around the world.
Stardust V3 now comes with top-mounted jacks and soft-click true bypass via a high-quality relay. The pedal has loads of output volume and enhanced headroom provided by 18V DC (boosted internally) so that it can also be used as a preamp going straight into your Power Amp or AudioInterface when combined with a separate speaker simulation device.
Street price: 199 Euro / 199 USD.
For more information, please visit crazytubecircuits.com.
The Sunn O))) Life Pedal circuit has been meticulously tweaked from the original and includes a third footswitch.
Sunn O))) present an enhanced version of the Sunn O))) Life Pedal Octave Distortion + Booster, in collaboration with their comrades at EarthQuaker Devices. The Sunn O))) Life Pedal circuit has been meticulously tweaked from the original to squeeze every last drop of heavy crushing tone available. The octave section has been fine tuned to make it more pronounced without losing the bottom end and we added a third footswitch, utilizing Flexi-Switch Technology, for the octave to allow an additional method of quick and radical tone shaping.
“Working on this new version has been a great continuity of this collaboration which feels so right, and sounds so right,” says Stephen O’Malley. “It’s a really beautiful pedal and it’s also a beautiful art collaboration. I think we made something really interesting that people can enjoy to use for their own music, but also, it makes a lot of sense to release a piece of distortion as a release for our band. We’re really happy that this is a trilogy now.”
The Sunn O))) Life Pedal is designed to represent the core front end chain used in those sessions, to drive the tubes of the band’s multiple vintage Sunn O))) Model T amplifiers (or take your fancy) into overload ecstasy. This is a 100w tube amp full stack’s holy dream, or its apostate nightmare.
Sunn O))) Life Pedal is a distortion with a blendable analog octave up and a booster
- Features 3 different clipping options: Symmetrical Silicon, Asymmetrical Silicon & LED, and pure OpAmp Drive
- Distortion and booster can be used independently
- Expression and footswitch control over analog octave up
- Octave blend allows total control over how much Octave is mixed into the circuit
- True bypass with silent relay based soft touch switches
- Features EarthQuaker Devices’ proprietary Flexi-Switch® Technology
- Lifetime warranty
- Current Draw: 15 mA
- Octave Distortion: Input impedance: 1 MΩ / Output impedance: <1 kΩ
- Booster: Input Impedance: 500 kΩ / Output Impedance: <1 kΩ
- List Price: $299 USD