These New South Whales guitarist Todd took some time out of his schedule to chat to Mixdown about go-to gear, the band’s creative process and why people should stop sleeping on Charvel guitars.
On their most recent self-titled LP, millennial Australian punk mainstays These New South Whales all but clear the slate.
Cracking open the shrill wails and fierce diatribes of their galvanising early releases, the band reveal a side to their sound that is overflowing with warmth and genuine care.
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From scuzzed out, emotive riffs of the 90s alt rock variety that make you ache to be a teenager with your head out the window of a car, to their use of stirring, percussive time signatures unconventional to the genre on tracks such as “Under the Pressure”. There’s also more melodic, impassioned vocals from front man Jamie Timony than we’ve ever heard before – the record marks a compelling metamorphosis for TNSW.
In the midst of their largely sold out national tour, These New South Whales guitarist Todd took some time out of his schedule to chat to Mixdown about go-to gear, the band’s creative process and exactly why it is people should stop sleeping on Charvel guitars.
It seems like there’s been a pretty massive expansion of the band’s sound between your earlier releases and the most recent LP – for me, it strikes a really satisfying balance between your signature no-frills classic punk ethos and the more hi-fi end of 90s underground alternative – career-peak Sonic Youth, Dinosaur Jr etc. What kind of sonic palette were you folks working with when you began writing and recording the album?
I’d have to say I agree with that observation! We essentially cleared our palate. On this record we didn’t try to make it sound any way, or have a specific style of punk in mind. In doing that I think that extra influences we have, like the 90s and alternative influences, found their way in that hadn’t in our previous records.
Tell me about the TNSW songwriting process – Is it entirely collaborative, do individual members tinker alone and then present to the group, or is it a combination of both?
The writing process is for the most part very collaborative. We like to write in the room together, as a band. Occasionally one of us will make a demo at home, and bring it to the group to flesh out, but more often than not we just get into the room and bash ‘em out.
Talk me through your recording workflow from demo to track completion. Do you begin in the bedroom or head straight to the studio? Any preference of DAW/special set up that goes the extra mile when demo-ing?
For this album we spent a bit more time than we had in the past on the process and songs before we went into the studio. We’ll record ourselves playing the song live as a band on our iPhones, to get the structure and vibe down together. Then for the pre-production demos we recorded all parts separately at home. Frank would program a drum track in ableton (Frank makes amazing happy hardcore music also) based on the structure from the iPhone demo, then shoot that across to Will and I to add bass and guitar. I use garageband for demoing because I can get an okay guitar sound out of it and do what I need to do without too much fuss.
For me it’s about working out guitar parts at this stage, so keeping things simple in the DAW world really helps me focus on that. Then we’ll shoot the demo across to Jamie to add vox. He uses Ableton also, which is what he uses for writing and production on his other project, MOSSY.
Which pieces of equipment are integral to the band when it comes to translating TNSW’s essence from a recorded to a live context? Are you folks typically trying to replicate your studio sound when you perform, or do you prefer to let the songs breathe and find their own live groove?
We don’t usually go too hard on replicating the studio sound and recording, live. We typically like to let the songs breathe and take on their own form of life and energy to a certain extent. We’re a punk band, so things aren’t meant to be perfect when we perform, and we want to sound like a band when we play, not a karaoke set.
A few things that are key to our live sound though are Will’s Darkglass BK7 Ultra to get a hard, chainy punk bass tone, Jamie’s Boss VE-20 that he has always use live for a range of things including it’s doubling feature, and my 1981 DRV Rat clone (given to me by Joji from GOY) and a custom made harmonic percolator fuzz pedal called the “Stonker” that a friend of ous Isy (shout outs!) made for us. There’s only two in the world — I use one and a lucky fan has the other.
Are there any pieces of gear you’ve acquired, be it something cheap that punches massively above its weight, or a less-wallet friendly splurge, that have tangibly influenced the way you write and record music to this day?
Will has this vintage Boss Dimension C DC-2 chorus pedal that he picked up years ago that really had its moment on our new album and that I also use live now (thanks Will!)
Will and I are both playing Charvel guitars now. They are slept on a bit and kind of go under the radar, but I’m telling you, they have changed how we play and our sound for the better. We decided to run new guitars for the new album, and the guitar Charvel that I’m using allows me to get such a great range of tones, from killer post punk single string punk riffs (for first album vibes), to big and heavy mosh-tempo chorus moments. Oh and it’s pink too, which I am really enjoying.
Pearl Crystal Beat in Ultra Clear (22”, 16”, 12”) – Always wanted an acrylic kit and recently copped this. I’m not a massive drum head so it was 100 per cent an aesthetic-first decision, but I’m super stoked with how fookin big it sounds – and clean!
Pearl SensiTone snare – It cracks, it pings, it goes hard, and it takes a right beating. Todd suggested I write the tour set list on the skin with a Sharpie once and that’s kinda stuck; looks kinda unhinged which gets me amped.
Tama Speed Cobra 310 kick pedal – Honestly, my favourite thing. Feel like a fleet-footed roadrunner with this thing underfoot – solid as anything, not expensive, strikes and retreats with the speed of the eponymous snake, looks kinda retrofuturistic. Wish all my possessions looked like it.
Zildjian Travis Barker signature drum pad – Features a grafiti-style illustration of a boom box plus Travis Barker’s signature. Aside from it cracking me up every time I pull it out before a show to warm up, it’s another one that fills me with confidence before I play.
Zildjian cymbals – can’t remember, like ’em though.
Inferno 5As and 7A sticks – Inferno sticks rule. Super staunch and hard to break, weight distribution feels really good, nice pirate-y thing going on. 5As for anything under 180bpm and 7As for the rest, generally.
Charvel Pro Mod DK24 HSS — perfect for post punk and big heavy riffs
Boss Dimension C DC — Really cool chorus. Only four settings!
1981 DRV — Distortion pedal. Always on. Basically a really good ProCo Rat clone.
Stonker — Custom made ‘TNSW’ harmonic percolator fuzz pedal for a tone boost on the 1981 drive
EVH 5150 Iconic Stack — I run it on a big beefy clean tone, and use pedals for the rest
Fender Bassman Stack — Big stonker. Sounds punk af.
Pro-Mod San Dimas® Bass PJ IV – I recently upgraded to this from my old Fender p bass, and honestly haven’t looked back. It’s got a really versatile sound with its DiMarzio pickups and active EQ, and I love its slim neck – such a pleasure to play.
Darkglass BK7 Ultra – I absolutely love this pedal, and it’s essential to my overall sound. I can’t see myself ever replacing it. Also, when playing live, I always ask the sound engineer to DI directly into the pedal rather than the amp – this gives me the confidence that it sounds just as good out front as it does onstage. Sound engineers usually love it too.
Boss VE-20 — I only use this pedal for its doubler effect. I love the sound of doubled vox, and often layer up three or four layers on our records, so this pedal helps me get closer to that kinda sound live.
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