First Look: Way Huge Attack Vector
Phaser and envelope filter combine to make unconventional sounds that transcend both effects.
This pedal was designed to crank out an array of off-kilter sounds, twisting your riffs into crazy new forms. Bee stings, perfect for funky moods. Gloopy syrup to drench your low-string twanging. Fifty shades of rude behavior that’ll turn a pleasant cocktail party into a drunken brawl.
The Attack Vector Phaser & Envelope’s attitude is intended to work with electric bass as well as guitar. So if you’re looking for pedal that smiles politely and behaves appropriately, keep right on walking – you won’t find it here. But if you seek a kindred spirit and fellow troublemaker, the Way Huge Smalls Attack Vector Phaser & Envelope might just become your new best friend.
Reader Pedalboards 2022, Pt. 1
These days, there’s more time to spend in the pedal vortex. Behold the boards of fellow guitarists from around the world.
It’s that time of year, when Premier Guitar readers get the chance to show off their pedalboards and share how they approach these tools to unlock their sound. There’s no wrong way to wire up your effects—as we know, the options are virtually endless. But that’s the fun of it! Read on to see a completely blacked-out pedalboard created by a pro guitar tech, a repurposed Target dish-drying rack, a family tree of 12 (!!!) pedalboards, and much more. Some boards are painstakingly planned and arranged, and some are visually appealing. Whatever you like, stomp on!
Alec Palmer: Brand Loyalist
I use my board to practice and record from home, and I love jamming with a couple of my musician buddies every so often. I’d say my favorite pedals are the EarthQuaker Devices Plumes and the Big Ear Albie. I can get a ton of different effects out of the Albie, and the Plumes is the best overdrive I’ve ever played. I’m a bit of a brand loyalist. When I find a pedal I love, I tend to go back and buy more pedals from that specific company. Lately, that company has been Mythos Pedals!
Signal chain: Mythos Pedals Golden Fleece (Au79 Mass Street Music exclusive), Ibanez BigMini Tuner, Boss OC-5 Octave, EarthQuaker Devices Spatial Delivery, Mythos Pedals Positron Collider Fuzz, Mythos Pedals Wildwood Vipera, Onkel Amplification Stratoblaster, Ryra Klone, EarthQuaker Devices Plumes, Big Ear Pedals Albie (2), Mythos Pedals Oracle Analog Echo, and a TC Electronic Ditto Looper.
Brad Konick: Is It Humble, Though?
Here’s my humble pedalboard submission for your consideration. Each pedal is listed in order of the signal chain. I’m also including a photo of the electric guitar I use, which I made a few years ago. It’s a handbuilt custom solidbody, black walnut T-style electric guitar, with handcarved bas-relief and handmade steel inlay. Pickups are a Seymour Duncan Hot Rodded humbucker set: Jazz (neck) and JB (bridge). The guitar plugs first into the Boss volume pedal listed below.
Pedals - Signal Chain:
- Boss FV-30H Volume Pedal >
- Korg Pitchblack Mini Tuner >
- Kokko Mini Compressor >
- Electro-Harmonix Synth9>
- EarthQuaker Devices Arpanoid V2 Polyphonic Pitch Arpeggiator >
- DOD Carcosa Fuzz >
- Boss BD-2 Blues Driver>
- Death by Audio Echo Dream 2 Advanced Echo Modulation >
- TC Electronic T2 Reverb >
- Pedal Projects Undertow Tremolo >
- EarthQuaker Devices Organizer Polyphonic Organ Emulator >
- MXR Phase 95 >
- MXR Six Band EQ >
- EarthQuaker Devices Aqueduct >
- Electro-Harmonix Canyon Delay/Looper >
- Walrus Audio Slö Multi Texture Reverb >
- Roland JC-22 Jazz Chorus (amp)
Power and Cables:
- MXR M239 Mini Iso-Brick Power Supply
- Donner DP-2 Power Supply
- Snark 9-volt power adapters
- 1/4” Audioblast pancake patch cables (6", 8", 3')
- Fender tweed 1/4” TS 15' instrument cable
I’m also including a photo of the electric guitar I use, which I made a few years ago. It’s a handbuilt custom solidbody, black walnut T-style electric guitar, with handcarved bas-relief and handmade steel inlay. Pickups are a Seymour Duncan Hot Rodded humbucker set: Jazz (neck) and JB (bridge).
Chris Gibbs: Load In, Load Out
This is the pedalboard I use for gigs with my band, Triple Engine, in York, Western Australia. The board is actually the lid of a Craftright tool/accessory case.
When the gig is finished, I can pack leads, extra pedals, power supplies, and more into the case, flip the board so that it becomes a lid again, re-insert the removable hinge pins, and load out!Here’s how it flows: DigiTech HardWire HT-6 Polyphonic Tuner > Outlaw Effects Hangman Overdrive > MXR Phase 90 >Vox Satchurator Distortion > Outlaw Effects Vigilante Chorus > Tech 21 Fly Rig 5 > Outlaw Effects Boilermaker Boost.
Clint Roth: Vision Board
Here’s my current small board I’m using for writing with my band, Big Jaw. I plug into a TC PolyTune 2 Noir that feeds a Loop-Master A/B Box. The “A” loop is my JHS Charlie Brown overdrive, and the “B” loop is my fuzz, which is an old EarthQuaker Devices Hoof fed by a TC Electronic Sub ’N’ Up Octaver. I usually use the octave and fuzz together so it’s helpful to have them on a loop like that so I can switch to both with one click. The output of the Loop-Master feeds my TC Electronic Flashback Delay, which is usually just giving me a little slapback. Thanks!
David Reaume: Bass and Bow
Here’s my bass board! I use it mostly for ambient music to create textures, but it covers a lot of territory as you can see. I use a cello bow frequently. Paired with the octave and additional reverb, it really makes for a convincing string section.
- TC Electronic PolyTune 3 >
- Boss OC-5 >
- Chase Bliss Audio Automatone Preamp MKII >
- Gamechanger Audio Plasma Pedal >
- Dunlop DVP4 Volume (X) Mini >
- Boss DC-2W Dimension C (split in stereo for the rest of the chain) >
- Strymon El Capistan dTape Echo >
- Strymon Flint Tremolo & Reverb >
- Neunaber Audio Immerse Reverberator MKII
All powered by a Strymon Zuma power supply on a custom board (made by yours truly) with custom-length Mogami patch cables. The Analog Endeavors Dual Favorite switch is for the Strymon pedals.
DeMatt Harkins: The Dishwasher
My name is DeMatt Harkins and I live in Jackson, Mississippi. I made my pedalboard out of a wooden dish rack from Target.
- Guitar ->
- Boss TU-2 Chromatic Tuner ->
- Catalinbread SFT Overdrive ->
- TC Electronic Vortex Mini Flanger ->
- JHS 3 Series Chorus ->
- MXR Phase 95 ->
- Danelectro BLT Slap Echo ->
- Strymon Flint Tremolo & Reverb ->
- EarthQuaker Devices Dispatch Master
Thanks very much!
Jack Thompson: The Alan Parsons Project
I’m a musician based out of the Twin Cities, Minnesota, and I saw that you were taking pedalboard submissions! So, here’s mine. I’ve been refining and building this in a variety of ways the last seven years. I hope you enjoy and get a laugh.
High Level Overview:
The board consists of two loops (two different boards) controlled via EarthQuaker Devices Swiss Things. This sends the signal to a Mesa/Boogie Mini Rectifier 25 and Fender Hot Rod Deluxe III. The left board is pre-loop, and loop 1 (distortion based) with Dr. Evil in a moonsuit holding Austin Powers’ mojo. The right board is loop 2 (modulation based) with Dr. Evil holding Mr. Bigglesworth. My guitar cable is an orange Divine Noise Curly Cable, purchased from Chicago Music Exchange.
Pedalboard 1 (left):
- Pre-loop section:
- Guitar goes straight into an Emma Electronic Okto Nøjs.
- Then to a Pigtronix Philosopher’s Tone Germanium Gold Micro (this is an “always on” pedal).
- Next is the Dunlop Dimebag Cry Baby from Hell Wah.
- And then finally a MXR Uni-Vibe set at minimal settings (this is typically an “always on” pedal).
Loop 1 (via EarthQuaker Swiss Things):
- Behringer SF300 Super Fuzz
- Horizon Devices Apex Preamp
- Electronic Audio Experiments Model feT
- Boss DD-7 Digital Delay
- EarthQuaker Devices Afterneath V2
Pedalboard 2 (right):
Loop 2 (via EQD Swiss Things):
- JHS Bonsai (minimal drive settings, “always on”)
- Subdecay Quasar Phaser
- EarthQuaker Devices Rainbow Machine
- Moog MF Flange
- Dwarfcraft Devices Witch Shifter
- Black Cat Pedals Black Cat Vibe (Proline expression pedal on the far right is hooked up to it)
- EarthQuaker Devices Avalanche Run
- EarthQuaker Devices Astral Destiny
And that’s it! I’m fortunate to play with some of my best friends in a band called the Electric Honeycomb. Blessings to all of you.
Joe Grant Jr: Satisfying Symmetry
My pedalboard is a Temple Audio TRIO 43 Templeboard. All cables—patch, power, and MIDI—are hand-soldered. I have USB ports on the side to update firmware and program MIDI.
Underneath the pedalboard:
- Strymon Zuma
- Strymon Ojais (2)
- Voodoo Lab Control Switchers (2)
- Goodwood Audio Audition
- Goodwood Audio The TX Interfacer
- Kingtone Battery Box (2)
- Xotic RC Booster
- Dunlop Volume
- Origin Effects Cali76
- TC Electronic Ditto Stereo Looper
- Mythos Argo Octave Fuzz
- Peterson StroboStomp Tuner
- Mythos High Road Fuzz
- Wampler Ratsbane
- J. Rockett The Dude
- Analog Man King of Tone
- Walrus Audio Julianna
- Chase Bliss Automatone Preamp MKII
- Strymon TimeLine
- Chase Bliss Gravitas
- Chase Bliss Thermae
- King Tone The Duellist
- Walrus Audio Slö
- Chase Bliss CXM 1978
- Electro-Harmonix POG2
- Eventide H9 Max
- Universal Audio Golden Reverberator
- Universal Audio Astra
- Universal Audio Starlight
- DigiTech FreqOut
- Catalinbread Echorec
- Morningstar MC8 Midi Controller
Malcolm Carmichael: Like Angels Singing
So many pedals, so little time. I don’t think there’s one pedal I haven’t tried out at some point in time but now I just keep it as simple as possible to have everything I need for the setlist my band plays. Also, I’m terrible with patches and programming. All of these are powered just by a simple Power-All 9V/2A wall wart. I’ve tried lots of power supplies and this is light and reliable.
First, the Mooer Baby Tuner is very simple, works every time. Next, is the Dunlop Cry Baby Mini Wah. I’m the rhythm player in my band, but there are a couple tunes where I solo, and I use this when I’m just winging it. It helps and makes me sound better than I am! I think all distortion pedals are a trade-off, but the MXR Distortion III is as good as any and it’s tried and trusted.
Then we have the Electro-Harmonix Holy Grail Nano. Everybody needs a Holy Grail! I’m always surprised how many pro pedalboards I see it on. Very versatile pedal and easy to use. Next is the Hotone Eko delay: I go through all sorts of these little pedals. I find them in bargain bins. This delay is perfectly fine with all the adjustment you need. The Donner Echo Square is a little gem. It’s got everything, including a reverse, which is what I use it for on an original song we play, but it’s got a lot of other great options as well. I like the TC Electronic Stereo Ditto Looper because it’s so simple.
Lastly, I have one of the best ABY switchers in the game, the Radial BigShot. With this, I send out into a Fender Blues Deluxe Reissue and a Vox AC15. Together they are like angels singing. All we have to do now is get this craziness behind us so we can get gigging again. Cheers!
Matt Straw: The Blackboard
I saw the all-white pedalboard from last year’s reader pedalboards, and it reminded me of my black one. My pedalboard(s) are constantly in a state of evolution: I’ve since ditched most of these and gone back to basics. I was using this board from 2014-2016 back when I lived in Nashville and was in the band Things That Crawl. I’ve always hated branding of any type, and I found the varied colors and designs kinda messy and a distraction.
I’m also a professional guitar tech (Robert Plant, Bonnie Raitt, Jack White, Shania Twain, etc.) and am used to fans trying to sneak a peek at the pedals onstage, so I liked the idea of keeping a bit of mystery there (not that anyone could care less about what I was using).
Here’s the list of pedals:
- Boss Tuner
- Boss NS-2 Noise Suppressor
- Ernie Ball Volume Pedal
- ZVEX Super Hard On
- Electro-Harmonix POG
- Tech 21 NYC SansAmp
- Electro-Harmonix Bassballs
- Electro-Harmonix LPB-1
- Boss DD-7 Digital Delay
- Red Witch Medusa Chorus Tremolo
- Electro-Harmonix POG2
- MXR Classic 108 Fuzz
- Marshall The Guv’nor
I eventually added two EarthQuaker Devices pedals (Organizer and Talons), plus a TC Electronic Alter Ego and an MXR Ten Band EQ.
In 2016, I formed a short-lived band called Buffalo (before moving to Joshua Tree) and built a totally new pedalboard with the El Rey Mystic Fuzz, El Rey Fuzz De La Muerte, Electro-Harmonix POG, TC Electronic PolyTune, and a Lehle Dual. Both the El Rey pedals remain unpainted as I think they look super cool! Enjoy.
Nedim Kirlic: Streamlining in Sweden
I’m a guitarist in Sweden. As a 40-year-old, I decided to build my first pedalboard because I wanted to simplify my rig and give myself fewer options than there are in my Line 6 modeler products. Having said that, I quickly realized that it’s not as simple as just putting a few pedals on there. I wanted a pedalboard with a simple pitch shifter-overdrive-distortion-chorus-delay-reverb setup. But it turns out I needed four utility pedals, and more than one overdrive. I was never into fuzz, but I decided to go for it.
The board right now consists of the list below, with the signal chain in order. Though the Boss delay will probably be moved early in the chain, along with a second reverb that I haven’t gotten yet.
- T-Rex pedalboard, 70 cm wide
- T-Rex Fuel Tank Chameleon isolated power supply, mounted underneath with a rail (two pieces)
- Boss TU-2 Chromatic Tuner
- TC Electronic Brainwaves Pitch Shifter
- MXR Uni-Vibe
- Boss GE-7 Graphic Equalizer
- Donner Noise Killer Noise Gate
- Donner Ultimate Comp Compressor
- MXR GT-OD Overdrive
- Boss BD-2 Blues Driver
- Mad Professor Fire Red Fuzz
- ProCo RAT
- Boss DD-8 Digital Delay
- Electro-Harmonix Canyon Delay & Looper
- TC Electronic Hall of Fame 2 Reverb
- Ibanez Tremolo Mini
- Boss RC-3 Loop Station
- The empty spot is reserved for a Boss IR-200 Amp & IR Cabinet
The signal chain right now is going straight into the front of the amp, but sometimes I use the FX loop. In that case, I put the delay, reverb, and tremolo pedals into the loop. And lastly, the loop pedal is last in my signal chain for trying out quick ideas: I record a riff, loop it, and see what bass notes and what sort of bass line I’m going to play over it. The bass line makes a huge impact on the idea and on the finished song.
Ronald Caminati: Aesthetically Pleasing
Here’s my list of pedals: Dunlop Cry Baby Mini Wah, TC Electronic PolyTune3 Mini, Sweet Sound MoFaux Vibe, Toms’line Cream Distortion, Stax Phaser, Mooer Hustle Drive, Rowin Chorus, and finished off by a Boss FB-2 Feedbacker Booster. All powered by a Pedaltrain Volto.
Steve Kellett: The Family Tree
I recently decided to take a family portrait of my pedalboards. I had to take two photos to get it all covered! Spoiler Alert: I have 12 pedalboards.
In the first image, there’s a custom-built flight case containing a TC Electronic Nova System plus extension footswitch and a Dunlop Mister Cry Baby Super Volume/Wah.
Pictured above that, is a Gator Pedal Tote board with the following on it:
- Boss TU-2 ->
- Barber Tone Press ->
- Fulltone Ultimate Octave ->
- Fulltone Full-Drive 2 FM ->
- Om Labs Sahasrara Overdrive ->
- Fulltone Mini-Deja’Vibe ->
- ZVEX Box of Rock Vexter
(Just to prove that nothing is permanent in the pedal world, the Sahasrara has since been replaced by a Fulltone GT500.)
The second photo (do I really have to do this?) ... DEEP BREATH.
Top row from top left we have my Leftovers Board:
- A beat-up CNB case containing a cheapo tuner
- XFX Boutique Destroyer (Friedman BE-OD clone)
- DemonFX King of Drive (clone of a guess what)
- Twinote Pi Fuzz
- Reverend Drivetrain II
- Twinote BBD Chorus
- Twinote BBD Delay
- Ibanez TS-9 RI
Moving clockwise to the right is my Workhorse Board 1:
- Cry Baby Wah
- LY-Rock King of Tone clone
- ProCo Vintage RAT
- Korg G4
- Rowin tuner
- Ammoon Nano Delay
- TC Electronic Spark Mini Booster
Next, to the right, Grab and Go Board 1:
- Boss BCB-30 board
- Boss DS-1 40th Anniversary Edition (which I won from PG’s Stomboxtober giveaway in 2018)
- Keeley-modded Boss BD-2
- ’80s Ibanez AD9
- Fender in-line tuner that gets used when required
Moving on to the second row and starting on the very left is my Chopping Board 1:
- Rowin tuner
- Muslady Golden Horse (Klon Klone)
- Mosky Red Fox (Timmy-based overdrive, CE-2-based chorus, and a delay; FX loop between overdrive and chorus)
- Mosky Black Rat in the FX loop
- Mosky Spring Reverb
Moving to the right is Chopping Board 2 (Yes, they really are bamboo chopping boards that fit into laptop slip cases):
- Rowin tuner
- Rowin Frenzy fuzz
- Mosky DTC (Suhr Riot-based distortion, TS-9-based overdrive; FX loop, and delay)
- Rowin Nano Phaser in the FX loop
Poor Person’s Pink Flow Board:
- Ghost Fire case
- Tomsline AGF-3 G-Fuzz (Germanium Fuzz Face clone)
- Mosky Mini Muff
- Rowin Tuner
- Mosky Tone Bus (Dyna Comp, TS-9, and OCD clones plus power supply for the board)
- Tom’sline AMS-3 Mod Station
- Mosky Tone Makestation (Plexi distortion, FX loop, EP booster, and delay)
- Mastersound Flanger in the FX loop
- Tom’sline ASR-3 Shaper (cab sim)
- Mosky Mini Clean Buffer
Grab and Go Board 2:
- Ammoon pedalboard (containing all XFX Boutique pedals)
- Nine O Nine (TS-based low-gain overdrive)
- Tikus (RAT clone)
- Classic 741 Distortion (MXR Distortion+ clone)
- Slowpick Analog Delay
Bottom row from left to right:
Workhorse Board 2:
- Boss BCB-60 board
- Korg Pitchblack Mini Tuner
- Boss CS-3 Compression Sustainer
- Keeley DS-1 Ultra Mod
- Keeley SD-1 Overdrive
- Boss JB-2 Angry Driver
- Orange FS-1L
- Boss CH-1 Super Chorus
- Boss DD-8 Digital Delay with Mosky tap tempo
- Mooer Pure Boost
The Cheese Board:
- Pedaltrain Mini
- cheapo tuner
- 6 ModTone Mini-Mod pedals (Fuzz, Distortion, Overdrive, Chorus, Delay, and Boost)
The Hendrix Board:
- Ammoon pedalboard
- Dunlop Hendrix 70th Anniversary Fuzz Face
- Hendrix Octavio
- Hendrix Univibe
Whew! And that concludes my family tree of pedalboards. Strewth!
Taylor Schlupp: Tom Bukovac Inspo
Hey guys! Here’s a pic of my studio board that I use for recording music and YouTube videos. It’s got a bit of Tom Bukovac inspiration here after seeing his Rig Rundown lol.
- TC Electronic PolyTune
- J. Rockett Blue Note Overdrive (always on)
- Wampler Belle Overdrive
- Nobels ODR1 Natural Overdrive
- Boss GE-7 EQ
- Joyo Ironman Molo-Trem
- Wampler Faux Tape Echo
- Electro-Harmonix Oceans 11 Reverb
- Truetone 1 Spot Pro CS7 Power Supply
Tom Foreman: Tone Hunters
I hope all is well with each of you. I look forward to seeing the issue with these photos because it’s always nice to hunt for ideas. I made the pedalboard out of some hardwood sugar maple wood bits left over from a “music-lesson-for-lumber” trade I did with a local forester. It is roadworthy and weighs a ton (just in case I ever need to stun a drummer with it, I suppose).
This board serves a dual purpose with supporting my acoustics and electrics. For acoustic, I run a 1963 Gibson J-50 and a Crafter D6/N through the Radial Tonebone PZ-Pre Preamp with a SolidGold FX Horizon Compressor in the effects loop.
For the electric side, I run a Gibson ES-339 or my Tele into the following:
- Boss TU-3 Chromatic Tuner
- Midnight 30 Music Upstate Drive (Always on, always awesome! Josh Eiler makes some absolutely killer gear, and this pedal was one of the earlier ones.)
- Late 1980s Pro Co RAT (I got it from Not Just Another Music Shop in Vancouver, BC, while on tour sometime in the early ’90s ... I think)
- Stomp Under Foot Civil War Fuzz (sometimes it sits in for the RAT)
- Barber Electronics Barb E.Q. (boost, grit, chime)
- MXR Six Band EQ (for when I blow a string on my 339 and have to shift over to the Tele mid song)
The effect-loop chain includes: a Line 6 Roto-Machine or TC Electronic Thunderstorm Flanger, a Line 6 DL4, and a Marshall RF-1 Reflector Reverb.
Everything goes into a Dr. Z MAZ 18 NR and a Port City Waves 2x12 cab that I think has one vintage Greenback and one WGS Veteran 30 speaker, but I haven’t looked under the hood in a long time so who knows? Love the magazine and I look forward to it showing up each month!
Sam Fender: A High Tenor from North Shields
The British songwriter traversed the bleak thoroughfares of his past while writing his autobiographical sophomore album, Seventeen Going Under—a tale of growing up down-and-out, set to an epic chorus of Jazzmasters and soaring sax.
British songwriter Sam Fender hails from North Shields, England, an industrial coastal port town near the North Sea, about eight miles northeast of Newcastle upon Tyne. Fender grew up in this small village, which he calls "a drinking town with a fishing problem." He lived there with his mother on a council estate, a type of British public housing. This is the mise-en-scène for Sam Fender's coming-of-age autobiographical new album, Seventeen Going Under. On the album's cover, a photograph shows Sam sitting on a brick stoop.
"That was a back lane that I used to go down and smoke weed when I was about 15 with a bunch of tearaways," Fender says in his regional "Geordie" accent. "That back lane leads into this estate called Meadow Well, which was an estate that had 80 percent unemployment where we grew up. There was a lot of riots there back in the '90s. It was practically on fire for the whole of 1991. Parts of it were just a wasteland for teenagers, and that's where we used to go and sit and hang out and stuff."
About a mile from that stoop is the Low Lights Tavern, where Fender tended bar after high school, and it's also where he played his music in the early days. Fender's manager, Owain Davies, first heard him play guitar there in 2013 in the corner of the pub. Davies immediately took Fender on as an artist, telling U.K. music industry trade paper Music Week: "He's just an undeniable talent, he's hard to ignore."
Sam Fender - Seventeen Going Under (Official Video)
Indeed, Fender's lyrics stop you in your tracks. These are from the title track of Seventeen Going Under:
I was far too scared to hit him
But I would hit him in a heartbeat now
That's the thing with anger
It begs to stick around
So it can fleece you of your beauty
And leave you spent with nowt to offer
It makes you hurt the ones who love you
You hurt them like they're nothing
After hooking up with Davies, Fender doubled down on gigging and writing, gaining fans and traction, and eventually won the 2018 BRIT Critics' Choice Award before releasing his first album, Hypersonic Missiles, in late 2019. Taking a slow-burn route of building a following for six years before releasing a full-length likely contributed to that album instantly having wings, debuting at No. 1 on the U.K. Albums Chart. Fender's sound and identity as an artist coalesced, with his songwriting skills bucking pop formula. "Hypersonic Missiles" weaves a love story in between musings about "feeding the corporate machine" and "kids in Gaza being bombed." In "Dead Boys," Fender vulnerably grieves fallen mates, victims of the male suicide epidemic in Northern England. Jangly Jazzmasters and epic, chorus-drenched solos play a lead character through it all.
Thematically, Fender, who is 27, gazed outward on Hypersonic Missiles, but he goes deeply inward on Seventeen Going Under. It's literally the soundtrack of his adolescence. "It's mainly about self-esteem, growing up, and the political landscape of England, and how that affects the Northeast and how the Tories basically alienate my hometown and the people that live there," he says. These songs of tribulation are resonating strongly with Britons, and landed Fender another No. 1 album in the U.K. when Seventeen Going Under came out in October 2021.
TIDBIT: Seventeen Going Under was recorded at Wor House (Sam Fender's studio) in North Shields, England, and Grouse Lodge in Ireland. It was mixed by Craig Silvey (Arcade Fire) and produced by Bramwell Bronte.
"I feel like it's my first proper album," says Fender. "The first record was a hodgepodge of songs written over six years. Some of the songs were written when I was 19. I was a baby when I wrote some of the songs on that album. Whereas this is a collective piece of work written over the course of two years. And I feel like it's more cohesive as a piece of work. I think it has continuity. I think it has a sound."
The album might've turned out completely different if not for the pandemic, which resulted in a prolific writing period for Fender, who was forced to quarantine. "I've got a health condition, which affects my immune system, so I had to stay in the house. I was alone, so there was a lot of reflection, a lot of looking back at the past," he recalls. "I was doing therapy at the same time to try and get my head screwed on, and I ended up dissecting my whole childhood in therapy. And then learnin' about the reason why I was the way I was; the reason why I was reacting to things in certain ways; the reason why my relationships weren't goin' well; the reason why I wasn't being the most savory character or not being my own ally. I was kinda making life hard for myself."
And so, this reckoning unfolds throughout 11 tracks. The title song documents a dark time when Fender's mother was battling health issues and couldn't make ends meet. It's a banger that cuts right to the struggle of feeling helpless as a teenager—being old enough to know what's going on but being too young to fix anything.
Sam Fender's Gear
"I like a Jazzmaster through a Fender Twin," says Sam Fender. "I like a bit of compression, just to kind of give you that bite, and I love an old Electro-Harmonix Small Clone, just the original cheap chorus pedal."
Photo by Laura Brindley
Fender American Pro Jazzmaster
1959 Fender Jazzmaster
Takamine acoustic (gift from Elton John)
- Fender '65 Twin Reverb
- Fender '65 Deluxe Reverb
- Fender '68 Custom Deluxe Reverb
- D'Addario EXL115 Nickel Wound (.011–.049)
- Electro-Harmonix Small Clone
- Electro-Harmonix Small Stone Phase Shifter
- Electro-Harmonix Green Russian Big Muff Pi
- Electro-Harmonix Holy Grail Nano
- Electro-Harmonix Memory Man
- Electro-Harmonix POG2
- Electro-Harmonix Stereo Polychorus
- Fulltone OCD
- Origin Effects Cali76 Compact Deluxe
- Mooer Yellow Comp
- Strymon BigSky Reverberator
- Boss RE-20 Space Echo
- Way Huge Red Llama 25th Anniversary Overdrive
- Gamechanger Audio PLUS
"Spit of You" is about his dad and the complicated relationships between sons and fathers. "Me and my dad had a five-year period where we didn't get on very well," Fender shares. "He lived in a different country. As things have progressed with my career, we started hanging out a lot more. It's about a father and son's relationship and the inability to talk about anything other than DIY, music, or alcohol. If anything, it's a just declaration of love for my old man. And funny enough, it's his favorite song."
Not all the songs chew over familial dynamics. Fender dissects his own communication and romantic failures on "Get You Down," and there's externally pointed angst on the album's two political tracks: the rebellious anthem "Aye," which pokes and prods around class/wealth disparity, and "Long Way Off," which Fender says sounds like "a Bond movie theme" with its grandiose instrumentation.
"It's got 164 tracks of audio," Fender says of the latter. "It just built and built and built and became this huge orchestral track. It's about political polarity and how I feel a lack of identity with any of the political parties currently in my country. I think it's quite a unanimous feeling in a lot of places at the moment. A lot of working-class people in England feel displaced by it all, and in my hometown as well. It was written around the time when all the Trump supporters were storming the capital building. We're a long way off from sorting out the mess the world is in."
“It’s such a refreshing rehash of ’80s music. It makes me think that a lot of the sounds in the ’80s that sound jarring and cheesy, I feel like it was just because it was the early days with synthesizers and them sorts of guitar sounds.”
All of the songs were written by Fender, who played guitar, bass, piano, Hammond organ, synthesizers, glockenspiel, mandolin, and harmonica inside the North Shields studio he built by necessity during that time. The album has horns and strings across it, and Fender also wrote the string arrangements, though he didn't play those parts himself. His five band members, most of whom he grew up with—drummer Drew Michael, guitarist Dean Thompson, bassist Tom Ungerer, guitarist and keyboardist Joe Atkinson, and saxist Johnny "Blue Hat" Davis—play on the album as well. It was produced by Thom Lewis, aka "Bramwell Bronte," Fender's longtime collaborator who also produced Hypersonic Missiles.
Fender has a homespun grit much like his idol Bruce Springsteen, whose working-class ethos and songs from the heartland resonated with Fender at an early age. (The Boss connection has earned Fender the nickname of "Geordie Springsteen.") Fender's sound has a tinge of throwback and noticeable nods to his influences (cough, cough, sexy saxophone solos), but the magic lies in how he connects on so many levels with cinematic arrangements, bull's-eye lyrics, and sincere delivery. The songs are a baring of the heart, a showcase of human struggle.
His father and older brother (nine years his senior) are also musicians who gigged around town, obviously influencing Fender's journey down the troubadour road. "I got a guitar when I was 8 and started mucking around with it then. By the time I was 10, I was starting to get quite proficient," Fender shares. "And then as I got older, I realized at school there was always a couple of kids that could shred, and could really, really play. And I just thought, I don't wanna spend the rest of my life learnin' guitar just to be that—I wanna make songs, ya know?" As a kid, he was obsessed with Slash, Page, and Hendrix. "Then my brother started showin' us Springsteen and all that. I loved Oasis and all the British stuff as well."
“I felt like it could be powerful and delicate and all the things in between. That’s when I started singing properly, is after hearing Jeff Buckley.”
Photo by Charlotte Patmore
But a gamechanger came when Fender was 14 and his brother gave him Jeff Buckley's Grace. "I always had quite a high voice for a tall … I'm 6'1," he says. "Normally that means you're, like, a baritone, but I'm, like, quite a high tenor. When my brother gave us Jeff Buckley, I was like alright, he does that, and it's rock 'n' roll, and it sounds cool. That means I can do this as well [laughs]. I felt like it could be powerful and delicate and all the things in between. That's when I started singing properly, is after hearing Jeff Buckley. I always wanted to have a voice that was, like, "rawr"—gruff 'n' stuff—when I was a kid, but then I realized, well, that's not really who I am."
Sonically, the War on Drugs is one of Fender's favorite bands. Their impact on how he approaches crafting song parts can be heard in "Last To Make It Home," particularly the expansive guitar solo on the outro. "I had the Fender Twin up, like, so loud that my ears were bleedin', with my whammy bar," Fender says of recording that solo, "and whichever way I turned, I got that feedback. You get that sort of 'Champagne Supernova' endin'," Fender says. (WoD frontman Adam Granduciel had signed on to mix that track, but ultimately couldn't do it because he missed the master deadline for his own album.)
"I like Springsteen for the lyrics, and I love War on Drugs for the sound," Fender shares. "I think it's such a refreshing rehash of sounds we already know—it's such a refreshing rehash of '80s music. It makes me think that a lot of the sounds in the '80s that sound jarring and cheesy, I feel like it was just because it was the early days with synthesizers and them sorts of guitar sounds. I feel like the War on Drugs have refined it. It's beautiful and I think there's more to be looked down that avenue. That's why I'm quite chorusy-soundin'—I love that sound. It's nostalgic for me, even though I'm not from the '80s, I grew up in a house where that music was playing."
“I was doing therapy at the same time to try and get my head screwed on, and I ended up dissecting my whole childhood in therapy.”
Though his new album is bursting with layers upon layers of instruments, he undoubtedly has an ingrained sense of how to be impactful with just a guitar and his voice, which came from years of performing solo without a backing band. In a BBC Radio 1 Live Lounge concert in early 2020, Fender did a solo performance of Amy Winehouse's "Back to Black," fingerpicking the melody and bass line, while nailing a rather ambitious vocal. His thumb bounces between the 5th and 6th strings, while his other fingers create a harp-like effect on the melody. "It's a strange move, but once you start getting the muscle strength, it's a constant thing and it's quite hypnotic," he says.
Fender describes his songwriting method as "chop and change." He noodles on his Jazzmaster, does some fingerpicking, or switches to another instrument. "A lot of the times I write a lot of songs on piano and convert to guitar. So, I find the chords on piano sometimes and then I'll find interesting variants of the chords on the guitar to make it sound pretty." He likes to experiment with tunings as well. Seventeen Going Under is mostly in C# standard, though he did play around a bit with Nashville tuning and light gauge strings.
When conversation turns to a special guitar he just bought, Fender lights up. "I've finally treated myself and allowed myself to buy something that was expensive because there's always an air of guilt," he says. "I've been lucky, Fender's always given us stuff. I've always had loads of free guitars because I've always been sponsored by them. But when it comes to buying stuff, there's still a part of us that thinks I'm still living in the flat with my mum on a council estate, and I still feel like I can't. I'm like, "ooh, that's a lot of money." It's like a subconscious thing. I was always quite frugal. I was always scrimpin'.
Fender primarily plays Jazzmasters, but he strapped on a Stratocaster for "Will We Talk?" at Hole 44 in Berlin, Germany, on November 4, 2021.
Photo by Chux on Tour Photography@chuxontour
"But I've just bought a ridiculous Jazzmaster. It's a 1959," he continues. "It's the second year of Jazzmasters, one of the very, very first ones. It's absolutely stunning. It's got a gold scratch plate, and it came with a packet of strings from 1959 from New Brunswick."
He explains his sweet spot for tone matter-of-factly. "I like a Jazzmaster through a Fender Twin. I like a bit of compression, just to kind of give you that bite, and I love an old Electro-Harmonix Small Clone, just the original cheap chorus pedal. I think it sounds great. And every other chorus pedal I put on I'm just like 'pfft whatever.' People go, 'try this boutique $300 fucking chorus pedal.' And I put it on and it's not as good as a Small Clone. Small Clone just sounds like a chorus. And it's one knob. It's idiot proof and I'm an idiot [laughing]. That's my go-to."
At the beginning of 2022, Fender will live in New York City while recording his third album at Electric Lady Studios, which is where he'd planned to make his second album before the pandemic made that impossible. He wrote 60 songs over the last two years, recording only 11, which means he has a good stash in his back pocket. The rest of 2022 he'll be headlining arena tours, as well as supporting the Killers on four dates in London and Dublin.
On the release of such a personal collection of music, Fender recently penned a letter to his 17-year-old self. In it, he tells young Sam not to be so serious. Present-day Sam's social media is light and carefree, with videos of him explaining how to make the best cuppa, eating jellied eels, and mini movies of strangers on the street with improvised voiceovers. So, it appears time has done the songwriter well. It's all in the new album, but 27-year-old Sam had this to say to 17-year-old Sam: "Art is the purest remedy for all internal conflict and you're taking a career in it. It's an honour to do what you will do, never forget that. You may feel alone currently but you will realise that your stories, when put to music, open up a side of you that actually helps people. A lot of these stories were originally about you but they belong to everyone, as everyone has their own, and they will be screamed back at you—from clubs and dive bars, even arenas. Some kid, 17, probably going through a boatload of similar shit that you experienced, will be front and centre, screaming these stories as if it's their last night on Earth."