Witness how this Ecuadorian-via-Switzerland duo evokes everything that’s beautiful and bleak from the desert, using hollowbodies, a serendipitous Strymon, and rhythmic hypnosis to paint an Ennio Morricone soundscape.
When some people travel, they take photos on their phone to remember the trip. Old-soul voyagers will recount their adventures with pen and paper. But for Alejandro and Estevan Gutiérrez, who together make the globetrotting Ecuadorian-Swiss duo Hermanos Gutiérrez, their experiences conjure soundtracks, and a visit years ago to the American Southwest changed their sound forever.
A couple years after forming their duo, the brothers took a trip through Death Valley and the Mojave Desert. “It just blew our minds,” Estevan told PG. The desert, he says, “is where our music was born.”
“Part of what we’re doing is traveling together as brothers,” Alejandro told PG in 2022. “We go to places, we come back and we’re feeling inspired, and we feel like we’ve gotta write something about this place.”
After finding bountiful inspiration in the West, the duo began turning out mystical compositions, like sonic souvenirs and passport stamps on their consciousness. “It’s just beautiful where we can go with this music,” Alejandro said last year. “It’s just my brother and I together, and we’re so happy to have this.”
The sold-out Hermanos Gutiérrez concert at Nashville’s Basement East on June 20th marked their first time performing in Music City since recording El Bueno Y El Malo with Dan Auerbach at Easy Eye Sound in 2022. The pair invited PG’s Chris Kies onstage to decode their spellbinding cinematic sounds. The conversation touched on their symbiotic alchemy, enchanting hollowbodies, and how a single Strymon reset their slow-burn backdrop.Brought to you by D’Addario Nexxus 360 Tuner.
Like their muse the desert, the brothers’ setups are sparse. Each one totes a single hollowbody. Alejandro travels with his 1963 Silvertone 1446, which is stock except for a refret and custom-made, snake-like Bigsby arm, both done by longtime Dan Auerbach tech Dan Johnson. (You might recognize Dan from his three different Black Keys Rig Rundowns. Check out the latest one from 2019!)
Alejandro is a fingerstyle player (inspired by Estevan) and, at the suggestion of Johnson, uses Pyramid Gold Heavy (.013–.052).
For songs like “Tres Hermanos,” Alejandro gets down with this 1940s Rickenbacker Electro NS lap steel.
Estevan connected with Dan Auerbach’s 1958 Gretsch 6120 “Rudy” while tracking El Bueno Y El Malo at Easy Eye Sound last year. For road duties, he never leaves home without his own Gretsch G6120T-59 Vintage Select 1959 Chet Atkins hollowbody. Inspired by a random YouTube video of an older gentleman playing Santo & Johnny’s “Sleep Walk,” Estevan built a partnership with the 6120. “I’ve tried many, many guitars, but none of them gives me the sound that is me except this Gretsch,” he says. Estevan puts D’Addario EXL 115 (.011–.049) strings on his creamy crusader.
Check out all the hip hardware substitutions and rattlesnake-approved artwork on Estevan’s 6120.
Given that Nashville and Easy Eye have become an oasis for Hermanos Gutiérrez, it makes sense they would take advantage of the studio’s library of vintage and vibey gear. For the Basement East show, Alejandro borrowed a 1960s Fender Deluxe Reverb from Easy Eye and plugged into the first input of the vibrato circuit.
Spaghetti in Stereo
When creating El Bueno Y El Malo, Estevan plugged into Auerbach’s vintage Magnatone for the whole recording process. (You can really hear the amp’s magic vibrato pulsing during the album’s opening title track.) For this show, he compromised by running his 6120 into a modern Magnatone Panoramic Stereo model.
Alejandro Gutiérrez’s Pedalboard
Alejandro packs light with a compact board that holds a MXR Dyna Comp Mini, a Boss GE-7 Equalizer, a Strymon Flint, and the influential Strymon El Capistan. While Estevan discovered the El Cap and unlocked its magic for Hermanos Gutiérrez (more on that in a second), Alejandro has molded it to his sound in different ways. “I use it as a layer,” he explains. “Really subtle. My brother uses it more as a delay. He has this horse sound, like this galloping sound he can create with his slapping, which only he can do.” A Boss TU-3 Chromatic Tuner keeps the Silvertone in line.
Estevan Gutiérrez’s Pedalboard
You can see that Estevan utilizes nearly every square inch of his pedalboard. Overlaps between the brothers’ boards include the MXR Dyna Comp Mini, the Strymon Flint, and the aforementioned Strymon El Capistan. You might think their setup is basic now, but they used to play sans pedals. Eventually, Estevan discovered the Strymon El Capistan, and their sound was never the same. “I remember that day,” he recounted to PG about first playing the pedal. “I fell in love. I knew it was gonna change something in our sound.” As soon as he purchased the El Capistan, he called his brother and said, “You have to buy this. This is gonna be next level for us.”
The remaining effects for Estevan include a Malekko Omicron Vibrato, a Boss RC-500 Loop Station, and a Boss TU-3 Chromatic Tuner (off the board) keeps his Gretsch in check. Lastly, you’ll notice a G7th Performance 3 ART Capo on the pedalboard, too.
How an old Silvertone 1484 became the foundation of this roots-guitar power player's sound.
Roots-guitar badass Rev. Peyton plays with the intensity of a charging bison. That ferocity comes from his fast, hyper-accurate picking hand blended with dexterous fretting, and it gets juiced by dirty crushed-velvet tones from a variety of evocative guitars: custom Nationals and a mother-of-pearl covered Daddy Mojo, an original 1954 Supro Dual Tone prototype, a Kay Speed Demon, and more. But the foundation for his retro-modern sound is a workhorse from 1964: a Silvertone 1484 head, which drives his 2x12 Ted Weber custom cabinet.
You can hear that Silvertone—run in parallel with a 1949 Supro Supreme, its studio-only companion—on his band's new Dance Songs for Hard Times. Both amps made the trip from Peyton's Nashville, Indiana, home to Nashville, Tennessee, to record the album at Vance Powell's Sputnik Sound studio. For an earful, check "Too Cool to Dance," where Peyton slings slick Chuck Berry licks over his own percolating bassline accompaniment, or "Come Down Angels," where his slide keens with the intensity of a gospel-choir possessed by the holy spirit. Or you can go online and watch the video he made for us, where he makes the 1484 deliver the goods with his Daddy Mojo and displays his slide approach close up.
"I ask a lot of that amp by running all those guitars in different tunings through it." —Rev. Peyton
Although Peyton has a stable of three 1484s, he found his first and favorite, the '64, while on tour with his Big Damn Band trio—which includes Breezy Peyton, his wife, on percussion and vocals, and drummer Max Senteney—at a Nashville, Tennessee, guitar shop. "This guy was moving and selling all his stuff on consignment, and I happened to be there when he came in and said, 'I need to sell all this stuff, now.'" Peyton stepped up, and his offer of $500 for the Silvertone was accepted.
The Danelectro-built 1484 model was sold via Sears from 1963 to '67. It's a 60-watt, all tube, two-channel demon, with volume controls plus bass and treble for each channel. The two channels can be daisy chained, to get more gravel, like older Marshalls. There's also on/off, standby, and ground toggles, plus a footswitch input for tremolo and reverb. It has two 6L6 power tubes, and 12AX7s run the reverb, tremolo, and preamp. While the trem is smooth and deep, the reverb on these amps is notoriously bad. That's why Peyton keeps his turned off and uses a Catalinbread Belle Epoch and an Electro-Harmonix Holy Grail to lend his tones dimension. He also sometimes uses a Rolls Tiny Two-Way Crossover to pump his signal to a bass amp.
Here's a look at the tube and transformer array of the Rev.'s Silvertone 1984. There are only two mods: an out for the 2x12 and the original power cable has been replaced with a 3-prong cord for better grounding.
The 1484 head was designed so it could tuck into the back of its two-speaker cabinet for travel—a famed Silvertone flair. But as cool as those original cabinets can sound, they were made of particle board, so if they're not already feathered and falling apart when found, a few thousand miles on the road will turn them to termite chow. So Peyton had Weber build a 2x12 with its Chicago speakers as his 1484's reliable companion. It's also in the video, online.
The fret-burning Peyton sets treble at 3 o'clock, bass at 7 o'clock, and volume at 9 o'clock. "I don't like to run my amp loud," he says. "At these settings, I get a good clean tone with a little break-up, so it's nice and creamy," he says. "I use a wide variety of guitars—at any given show, seven or eight—and it works great with all of them." That's impressive, given the wide range of pickups and construction in his new and vintage instruments, and that he uses tunings—like open G, Eb, C#, drop standard—with low-string frequencies that can make some amps sound like they're passing gas. He also eschews distortions, fuzzes, and overdrives.
So, what's Peyton's secret to maintaining great, just-the-right-amount-of-hair tone with gold-foils, single-coils, and humbuckers of all ages? "I use an MXR 10-band EQ that's been my secret weapon forever," he says. "I ask a lot of that amp by running all those guitars and tunings through it and being able to adjust a frequency here and there keeps my sound sparkly, creamy, and thick, with just the right amount of break-up."
Rev Peyton’s Big Damn Tone: 1964 Silvertone 1484 Demo (Love & Sockets)
How to know when a vintage amp is worth rescuing.
I'll bet most of us have experienced this: You're en route to the grocery store on a pleasant Sunday morning, not a care in the world except getting home for breakfast in a timely manner … and then it happens. You see someone staking a garage sale sign at the corner. Your mind begins racing as you do the math. The person with the sign looks old enough to have cool stuff and I'm the first to see this sign. Will it be me who finds the mint '59 Bassman and Les Paul that must certainly be waiting there?
Cutting the wheel, you skid around the corner and up to the address. Rrrrrrrr! Out of the car! Walking quickly, but not so quickly as to arouse suspicion, you frantically scan the dark recesses for anything that resembles a musical instrument. Then, eureka! You push your way past the Hungry Hippos game and Tijuana Brass albums to your prize: a filthy and very tired-looking silverface Fender Champ. Now, shaking with excitement, you try to contain yourself as you go to pay for your purchase. After deft and masterful negotiations that get the seller down from $200 to $195.50, you race home to check out your treasure. In the door and past your starving family (dang—I knew I forgot something) and into the basement you go. Bwa-hahaha.
You look the amp over, trying to see the gem under the filth, dried paint splotches, and obvious years of neglect. After some time spent with a damp cloth and shop vac, you're ready to get down to it. Everything looks to be intact. Perhaps, if this wasn't a Sunday morning, you'd have your amp tech slowly apply voltage to make sure there were no unforeseen problems before full voltage is unleashed into the circuit, and thus avoid any costly issues. But in your enthusiasm, you feel it's worth the risk. Amp goes on. Still good. Guitar in hand, first note and … pttthhhllsdfy comes out of the speaker. What? Gulp. Okay. This can wait until tomorrow.
Before we discuss how to decide whether an amplifier with an unknown history is worth rescuing, let's first define “worth" as “value" in this situation. The value of musical instruments may have different meanings to different people, and this often depends on the context. Example: I once had someone send me an old and completely beat-up Barcus Berry 1510 solid-state amp from the '70s. It was DOA. Usually an inexpensive item like this would not be taken into my shop, as the repair cost would be too high and finding another one in working condition would make more economic sense. That said, I took it in since the fellow shipping it to me was a very good customer and I owed him one. I spent a couple of hours on it, and the best I could get out of it was low output and very distorted sound. I called off the repair, since I'd need to spend additional time to get the amp back to like-new sound. It simply wasn't worth it.
Here's where the “value" part comes in. If this amp had been salvaged within those couple of hours, he'd have paid $250 or so for my time (which I didn't charge for) and already be upside-down in street value if he decided to flip it. However, I mentioned it had a very distorted sound. This just happened to be one of the most incredible overdriven tones I've heard—the sound of an amp just about to explode. I ended up giving it to a client who found it to be just what he'd been looking for, for years. To him, it had tremendous value and he continues to record with it regularly.
So the moral is: Value really depends on your application. A busy studio may have dozens of amplifiers on hand that clientele can choose from. All with a specific purpose. Order of importance for them may be, first, having a unique vibe and sound for specific projects, and, second, reliability. If a vintage amp has the sound they're looking for and still has the original filter caps that are well beyond their service life, it may be acceptable to leave them in to keep the sound as is. Likewise with the tubes and speakers. The speaker may even be tattered and have a few pinholes. But it's got a sound the studio likes, so it's fine.
You can still find these Music Man 112 RD amps at a good price. They are solidly designed, reliable, and real workhorses. This one received a thorough check and clean, and a new power cord. Repair cost: $165.
The gigging pro may have a different agenda. He or she would likely want reliability to be first on the list. If an amp doesn't continue to function through a set or is hard to repair on the road, it's a real problem. Even if there's a backup handy, you don't want to go silent at exactly the wrong moment. Not to mention valuable time spent trying to find a qualified repair shop in the small town you're heading to for the next gig. If you have a complex amp with channel switching and effects loops, this is doubly true. I've received plenty of panicky calls from the road asking if I know of a repair shop in the middle of nowhere. Not only is this inconvenient, but having this kind of doubt or concern on your mind can affect your performance.
Now, let's get back to that silverface Champ from the garage sale. If an amp's history and origins are unknown, I tell folks a good rule of thumb is to budget between $150 to $300 to get a simple amp like this into solid working shape. Of course, the price can also be $0 if it's just fine or you're the handy type. And it can go up if the amp has been flooded and its transformers need to be replaced. Replacing components of this nature can also bring the value down, if it's a collectable piece. These are all possibilities to take into consideration before making a purchase.
How can you make an informed decision before buying? Educate yourself! In this day and age, all it takes is a few clicks with the smartphone you likely have in your pocket right now. Sites like eBay or Reverb are fantastic for seeing what the model you're looking at is going for, even in various conditions. After that you'll need to have some basic knowledge of what can be problematic and what should be replaced in vintage amps for safety sake. We'll get to that in a moment.
A check and clean, a cap job, and a new power tube got this nice little Gibson GA5 back in shape. Repair cost: $230.
At this point, I should mention that if an amplifier appears to be in such a state that it probably shouldn't be plugged into the wall and turned on … then don't. Especially if the amp has been stored in a damp location or has any obvious water damage. I've had many older amps come in for restoration where the insulation has rotted off the wires. This is a serious fire and shock hazard. If this is the case and the amp's value or rarity merits the repair cost, then take it to a qualified technician before firing it up. I'll also mention that many vintage amps don't have polarized plugs or a three-prong plug with ground. Old two-prong cords should be replaced and made safe as soon as possible.
Also, before trying an old “found" amp, you should check the fuse to confirm it's the correct value. It's not uncommon to see significantly larger fuses used when a previous owner incorrectly thinks that the fuse value is at fault for his amp shutting off. Ridiculous as this sounds, it happens.
Okay, with that out of the way, let's take a look at some of the more common issues and some basic, possible causes. And by the way, if an amp makes horrible sounds, smokes, sparks, etc., immediately turn it off and unplug it from the wall!