The bluesy psych-rock trio shows off its souped-up import axes, pricier amps, and carefully planned pedal playgrounds.
Hailing from the land of ice and snow, aka Rochester, New York, guitarist Sean McVay, bassist Dan Reynolds, and drummer Scott Donaldson dropped their mammoth-sounding debut, Orion, in 2016. The opening title track best exudes King Buffalo’s MO: darker Pink Floyd “Echoes” vibes with the eventual punishment of tectonic-shifting power of fellow power trio Sleep. KB may never go full doom, often subbing in hazier psychedelic strokes for monotonous monotone riffs, but they can still rumble with heaviest bands. “Goliath Pt. 1” and “Goliath Pt. 2” strongly showcase their Jekyll-and-Hyde stoner-rock tendencies that teeter between Floyd’s Live at Pompei and Black Sabbath’s Master of Reality.
With leftover Orion material, the band released an EP Repeater in early 2018. The 3-song collection would be a perfect soundtrack to a time-lapsed, mountain-climbing video. The expansive 13-minute opener starts calmly like any ascent, but as it continues, things begin to speed up, intensify, grow darker, before a crescendoing crash of celebration on the successful summit.
Later in 2018, the trio released their sophomore album, Longing to be the Mountain. The pace on LTBTM is much like the smooth cadence and perpetual hypnotic groove of hip-hop star NAS—it’s deliberate, powerful, and always bobbing forward. Space is much more prevalent than on Orion. Bookend bloomers “Morning Song” and “Eye of the Storm” exude the group’s blossoming confidence (and patience) providing air for suspense, tension, and timely, forceful apexes. With the added breathing room, the explosive parts build and powerfully bust through like a blues-tinged, psychedelic, kraut-rock-powered tsunami best felt in the doubled solos of “Quickening” and the thunder-cracking climax of the title track. (Full disclosure: I picked Longing to be the Mountain as one of my favorite albums of 2018. And time has only further solidified this vote.)
Before their headlining show at Nashville’s High Watt, guitarist/singer Sean McVay and his bass counterpart Dan Reynolds explain and demo how a couple of cheap, afterthought instruments paired with scaled-down boards create breakneck dynamics from Ms. Priss to monstrous.
Strapped with a single guitar on this run, King Buffalo’s lone axeman Sean McVay hits the stage with this gold-sparkle Hagstrom D2F that’s been given a complete overhaul. It has new tuning machines, pots, knobs, and a set of Seymour Duncan SH-1 Vintage Blues 59 humbuckers. It gets strung up with a D’Addario NYXL Light Top/Heavy Bottom (.010–.052) set.
Sean McVay’s longtime partner in crime is this 1973 Fender Twin Reverb that required some TLC. For a wider-spectrum sound (plus the ability to mic two different speakers and have it panned hard left/right), he took out the stock 12" speakers and put in an Eminence Texas Heat and a Warehouse Guitar Speakers British Invasion ET65.
Admitting that on previous tours he had a pedal problem stretching over two boards, Sean McVay has downsized this manageable setup. He has a Vox V847 Wah, Moog EP-3 Expression Pedal, Build Your Own Clone E.S.V. Fuzz Silicon (BC109 chip transistors), Lightning Boy Audio Soul Drive, Analog Man Buffer, Whirlwind “Orange Box” Phaser, Strymon TimeLine, and TC Electronic Hall of Fame. A TC Electronic PolyTune keeps his Hagstrom in check.
Like his 6-string bandmate, bassist Dan Reynolds travels with one, budget-friendly instrument, but his is the way it left the factory. His lone road dog is a 2003 Sterling by Music Man StingRay Ray34. It gets DR Strings PB-45 Pure Blues .045–.105.
Originally an all-tube Ampeg dude, Dan Reynolds’ back enjoys the slight-but-mighty Bergantino Forté that shockingly puts out 800 watts.
Here is Dan Reynolds reduced pedal playground that only has the essentials, starting with the always-on Lightning Boy Audio NuVision that “makes up for the flat, digital-ness of the Forté.” The rest of his colors include Way Huge Electronics Green Rhino, smallsound/bigsound Team Awesome Fuzz Machine, TC Electronic Helix (unplugged), MXR Phase 90, and a Dunlop MC404 CAE Wah. A TC Electronic PolyTune 2 Mini keeps all four strings in the sweet spot.
Looking for more great gear for the guitar player in your life (yourself included!)? Check out this year's Holiday Gear Finds!
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Flare is a dual-function pedal with a tube-like booster and a 1970s-style ring modulator effect that can be played separately or together.
Flare’s ring modulator is based on the iconic tone of the original Dan Armstrong Green Ringer. This vintage classic was made famous by Frank Zappa who loved the unusual modulations created by generating a harmonic octave over notes. Messiah’s version offers two control knobs: a “Sparkle” tone attenuator and output Level control. Its taupe-gold body, purple and green knobs and stick-figure rock ’n’ roller holding up a flame convey an appropriately rockin’70s vibe.
In a unique twist, Messiah’s Flare pairs the ringer with a warm tube-style boost instead of a fuzz. Flare feeds the booster into the ringer for an extra punch, while preserving the Green Ringerspirit. The ringer side also turns any fuzz into an octafuzz, and it has the ability to quiet signal background noise fed through it.
The booster side features a single Boost knob to control the MOSFET circuit, making it very tube-amp-friendly with a warm, organic boost and gain of up to 32dB.
The pedal is a distinct improvement over the 1970s pedal that inspired it. “Most ringer pedals don’t track well,” Tom Hejda, owner of Messiah Guitars. “The player can’t rely on repeating the same effect even with the most consistently played notes. We carefully matched the components, so our ringer follows your every move, producing that slightly dirty octave you expect on demand.”
Messiah developed this vintage octave pedal with flexible features so that people who love that messy, dirty Zappa-esque sound can get there with ease but there’s also something for those who have not fallen in love with fuzz or the Green Ringer alone. Flare offers an array of sonic options while retaining simplicity in the controls.
Each Flair Pedal Includes:
- 3 control knobs: Boost, Sparkle, and Level
- Two effects – Ring Modulator and Boost – can be used together or separately
- Space-saving top side jacks
- Durable, cast aluminum alloy 125B enclosure with fun artwork
- Easy to see, illuminated True-bypass foot switch
- Standard 9V pedal power input
Flare Pedal Demo
Messiah Guitars pedals are designed with an explorative player in mind. Like their custom guitars and amplifiers, Messiah’s pedals are hand-crafted in Los Angeles for a long life with guaranteed quality.
Flare retails for $199.00 and can be purchased directly at Messiah Guitars or you can hear it in person at Impulse Music Co. in Canyon Country, CA.
For more information, please visit messiahguitars.com.
This feathery little guy is a joy to play because of its incredibly quick response to your right hand - much faster and more expressive than your typical auto-wah pedal.
If it looks like a duck, acts like a duck, and QUACKS like a duck, then it must be a duck. That's how we came up with the name for our new envelope filter. This feathery little guy is a joy to play because of its incredibly quick response to your right hand - much faster and more expressive than your typical auto-wah pedal. Trevor explains how this is possible in the launch video, as well as gives a demo on Le Canard’s operation.
The attack control determines how quickly the filter responds to the envelope, and the decay sets how quickly the filter releases afterward. The range controls which frequency spectrum the filter does its magic on. Add to this relay-based full-bypass switching with failsafe, and you've got one crazy little quacky beast. It is so expressive that you'll want to give up on your rocker-wah forever.
The MayFly Le Canard envelope filter features:
- Super fast responding envelope follower. Touch it and it jumps!
- Range control to dial in the character of the filter
- Attack control to control how fast the filter moves on that first touch
- Release control to control how slowly the filter slides back to baseline
- Full bypass using relays with Fail SafeTM (automatically switches to bypass if the pedal loses power)
- Cast aluminum enclosure with groovy artwork
- MSRP $149 USD ($199 CAD)
Introducing the MayFly Le Canard Envelope Filter
All MayFly pedals are hand-made in Canada.
For more information, please visit mayflyaudio.com.