Review: Fender Steve Lacy ‘People Pleaser’ Stratocaster

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Review: Fender Steve Lacy ‘People Pleaser’ Stratocaster

Steve lacy Fender
Words by Christopher Hockey

Fender Steve Lacy ‘People Pleaser’ Stratocaster | Fender Music Australia | RRP: $2,549.00

When Generation Z’s coolest and most forward thinking guitarist is called upon to design a signature model, folks might expect the result to be something they’ve never seen before. Steve Lacy is about as contemporary of an artist as it’s possible to be, rising to fame as a teenager with his band The Internet and subsequently blowing minds with a solo album recorded entirely on his smartphone. Now, at the age of just 25, Steve Lacy has his very own Fender Stratocaster, and as well as looking forward, this guitar takes a very long look back. It’s something you’ve certainly seen before, but never quite like this.

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At first glance, the thing players are first likely to notice about this strat is the finish. A fresh take on a classic design, the ‘Chaos Burst’ introduces a vibrant layer of hot pink to the beloved Fender sunburst recipe. Beyond this, the uniqueness of this guitar resides mostly under the hood.

Featuring a beautiful 50s style headstock adorned with Lacy’s signature, its spaghetti font logo and vintage tuners are a throwback to the peak of Fender’s elegance. True to its retro specs, the neck does not feature the modern Fender skunk stripe design on its back. In contrast to these vintage appointments is a modern ‘Deep C’ shape and a radius of 9.5” for maximum playability, allowing players to bend like their lives depend on it without fear of bottoming out.

Upon plugging the People Pleaser in, it very quickly lives up to its name. The bell-like highs that Stratocasters are renowned for are most certainly present, but something is missing. Ah yes, the buzz! Equipped with Player Plus noiseless pickups, Lacy’s signature has all the classic attitude of a Stratocaster, without that pesky 60 cycle hum.

The bridge pickup produces a bright, crisp tone that has that classic Stratocaster bite in the midrange. Crystalline highs and a firm snappy response lend themselves beautifully to a tight clean sound, as well as searing leads when pushed into overdrive. The second position provides what can only be described as ‘The Quack’, a funky strat tone famously used for, well, funk. The magical harmonic richness that lives between the brightness of the bridge and the warmer middle position creates a midrange presence that adds depth and definition to chords and arpeggios.

The often overlooked middle pickup in a Strat has its own special character, something that the Player Plus pickup in this model particularly brings forth. Offering a balanced and well rounded tone that is smooth and clear, the middle position in this guitar exhibits a pronounced, singing sustain. Due to its position, the middle pickup captures a blend of string vibrations that results in a warm yet focused sound, capable of a gritty vintage tone when overdriven that is suitable for a myriad of applications.

In the fourth position, the People Pleaser provides the familiar out of phase sound utilised by so many classic players over the years to achieve a rich, creamy blues tone. From sweet, rounded cleans to a smooth and dynamic crunch when distorted, this harmonically complex timbre is something that only a Stratocaster can deliver, and this model delivers it beautifully.

Now, I know what you’re thinking. You know what a Stratocaster sounds like, you’ve heard these buzzwords before. Warm, bright, quacky, what does it all mean? A Strat is a Strat.

When it comes down to it, the guitar sounds great. Have you heard it before? Of course. But, what you haven’t heard is a Stratocaster, wait for it, with a freaking fuzz circuit built into it! Yes, that crazy kid Lacy had a trick up his sleeve all along.

Steve Lacy Fender

With a simple click of the S1 switch on the guitar’s tone control, the People Pleaser can instantly shift from classic cleans to an outrageously raw, searing fuzz tone. Custom voiced by Lacey himself, the ‘Chaos Fuzz’ removes the need for an external fuzz pedal, providing the thick, gritty sound of a vintage stompbox right out of the guitar. As Hendrix long ago proved, Stratocasters and fuzz circuits are a match made in heaven. Now, that combination is easier to tap into than ever.

When engaged, the standard Stratocaster tone control becomes the output level for the fuzz, an incredibly convenient feature and certainly the most exciting innovation this guitar has to offer. When the Chaos Fuzz is disengaged, the Stratocaster’s circuit returns to normal. Featuring the classic master volume control and dual tone controls that you’ve come to expect, the People Pleaser looks entirely unassuming despite harbouring a fuzzy beast within.

Steve Lacy, perhaps more so than anyone, has built upon the old school roots of Soul and R&B to create a contemporary sound for the modern age. In a very similar fashion, the People Pleaser builds upon an old and well established foundation to say something new. It brings the best of Fender’s golden age of design smoothly and gracefully into the modern era, keeping what makes the Strat such a good foundation and adding some thrilling innovations.

Sometimes the best platform for new ideas is what is most familiar to us. Sometimes in order to look forward, you need to look back. Steve Lacy may very well have recorded an album with an iPhone, but he couldn’t have done it without his trusty Strat. Now, that trusty Strat can be yours. 

For more information, head to Fender Music Australia.