Breaking out of the hardcore scene, Drew Riekman and Reuben Houweling find their Zen path to melody and dissonance on the band's new EP, iii.
Are you exhausted with thoughtless, formulaic, retro-rock guitar drivel? You know the stuff. It sounds like the background music on any of the seemingly infinite home improvement or BBQ competition shows flooding TV these days. It sounds kinda like it was made by someone that listened to a few bars of a ZZ Top song and then recorded the first idea that came out. Yawn. Where are the contemporary rock artists using the guitar thoughtfully to create vital art?
TIDBIT: As an artistic statement about their compositional strength, the band had a different engineer, including guitarist Drew Riekman, mix each of the new EP's four tracks.<p>Despite the few passages where Riekman and Houweling's heavy music roots show, the guitars on<em> iii</em> are mostly characterized by lush textures, cascading single-notes lines that recall vibraphones, and mild overdrive. Riekman had something of an epiphany that set him on the path of understatement after getting turned on to New York City's cerebral, seminal punk heroes Television, whose influence is palpable on the latter half of <em>iii's</em> opener, "Sign." Television is also the band Riekman credits with developing his deep love for the interplay between two guitars, which he and Houweling do exceedingly well—assisted by the fact that they have consistently played in bands together since they were 12 and 13, respectively.</p><p>"Reuben knows how to really get the most out of his pedals and plays to his strengths," Riekman explains. "He has an innate understanding of both what songs <em>actually</em> need and what they <em>don't</em>, and how to get out of the way if necessary. It comes back to the idea of listening to what a song really wants and not always having to insert yourself just because you play guitar and you feel like every part needs some guitar. A lot of that syncopated stuff that we do really benefits from his sense of harmony, and we've developed a real openness and musical language between us over the years."</p>
Drew Riekman’s Gear<img class="rm-lazyloadable-image rm-shortcode" lazy-loadable="true" data-runner-src="https://www.premierguitar.com/media-library/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNjAxNjIyMy9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYyNjQ5NDI5NX0.O45bwYW_8z0OoBt51ksEvi_hmeC7Wk-0X6H4O-I04vI/image.jpg?width=980" id="98c12" width="1200" height="800" data-rm-shortcode-id="620c84d89b06472ee7ea4f00b38963cd" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="Blessed Drew Riekman" />
Drew Riekman's main stage guitars—and the only 6-strings used to record 'iii'—are a pair of heavily customized Foundry models: an Adelaide and a Valemont, with independent outs for each pickups.<p><strong>Guitars<br></strong>• Foundry Adelaide (Rio Grande Fat Bastard P-90 in the bridge, Lollar Gold-Foil in the middle, Rickenbacker Toaster in the neck—each wired with independent outs)<br>• Foundry Valemont (Curtis Novak Lipstick in the bridge, Lollar Charlie Christian in the neck, each wired with independent outs)<br>• '70s Travis Bean TB1000S</p><p><strong>Amps<br></strong>• '70s Music Man HD150 (heavily modified)<br>• '60s Gibson GA-15RVT<br>• '70s Hiwatt DR103</p><p><strong>Effects<br></strong>• Boss TU-2 Tuner<br>• Union Tube and Transistor LAB<strong> </strong>compressor (always on)<br>• Union Tube and Transistor NeverMORE preamp (always on)<br>• DOD Stereo Chorus<br>• Empress ParaEQ<br>• ARC Effects Klone<br>• Walrus Audio Voyager<br>• Boss DS-1 Distortion<br>• Strymon TimeLine<br>• Strymon BigSky<br>• Soundtoys and Valhalla plug-ins</p><p><strong>Strings and Picks</strong><br>• D'Addario (.011–.049)<br>• .73 mm (any brand)</p>
Reuben Houweling’s Gear<img class="rm-lazyloadable-image rm-shortcode" lazy-loadable="true" data-runner-src="https://www.premierguitar.com/media-library/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNjAxNjI1MS9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY1ODM1MDk5Mn0.32_UGMDEUBh4jOwyLqAqaxTdnPsVy2jCmk0x-cHyI2o/image.jpg?width=980" id="5453e" width="1200" height="800" data-rm-shortcode-id="a3de4148bdebc5805d557f3253a81bb0" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="Reuben Houweling\u2019s Gear" />
Although Reuben Houweling used Riekman's Foundry guitars to record his tracks for iii, his primary stage guitar is a Fender Lead III from the 1980s.<p><strong></strong><strong>Guitars</strong><br>• '80s Fender Lead III</p><p><strong>Amps</strong><br>• '70s Music Man HD150 (heavily modified)<br>• '60s Gibson GA-15RVT<br>• '70s Hiwatt DR103</p><p><strong>Effects</strong><br>• Union Tube and Transistor More preamp<br>• Electro-Harmonix Superego Synth Engine<br>• Boss CE-2 Chorus<br>• Electro-Harmonix Crayon<br>• Chase Bliss Tonal Recall<br>• Meris Mercury7</p><p><strong>Strings and Picks</strong><br>• Ernie Ball Power Slinky (.011–.048)<br>• Jim Dunlop 1.00 mm</p>
Guitarists Drew Riekman and Reuben Houweling have developed a strategy for interlocking guitar parts based on playing together since the ages of 12 and 13, and influenced by the seminal New York City art-punk band Television.<p>Houweling's workhorse for touring (remember touring?) is his trusted '80s Fender Lead III. However, he's found it to be a difficult guitar for the studio. The main amps the band used to record were vintage, and included a '70s Music Man HD150, a Gibson GA-15RVT from the '60s, and a Hiwatt DR103 for the more compressed clean sounds. While the duo brought their tour pedalboards into the studio, many of the effects heard on <em>iii</em> are a mix of pedals and in-the-box sounds from Soundtoys and Valhalla plug-ins, and the hairy distortion on "Centre" was mostly saturation from Soundtoys' Decapitator plug-in.</p><p>As an EP, <em>iii </em>is a concise, impressive statement. Riekman makes no bones about the fact that the key to Blessed's songwriting philosophy really comes down to having an open mind and embracing exploration, even if an idea isn't speaking to you in the immediate. He explains: "The most important thing for me to establish when I talk about songwriting—especially when I reflect on what I would've found helpful to read as a younger artist—is that there doesn't need to be a set process for how you write, as long as you're happy with the end result. I think being exploratory is the most important aspect, and not cutting yourself short because an idea isn't working early enough in the process. If you don't <em>really</em> explore the ideas that you're having, you can miss out—especially because the feelings a musical idea can inspire mutate so much over time."</p>He seeks to demystify the creative process for others: "I want to dismantle the idea that there are artists out there that you can't be as good as. It's mostly just working hard and having the good fortune to find others you work well with, but it's important to us to drive home that there's no magic in it. I'd hate for people to look at any band that they admire and feel like they're incapable of emulating it or doing something of their own that's as powerful. The real thing that's propelled us along as musicians isn't so much the amount of time we've spent playing together, but communication. We listen to the songs, we communicate clearly about what we think they need, we're open to each other's opinions, and we're open to changing what we're going to do based on the greater need to serve the artistic purpose and intent of what we're creating."