Vintage Warble and Budget Delay: Pedal Talk With Foreign/National

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  • April 20, 2017
Foreign National

Dépaysement is a French term that translates roughly to disorientation – or more eloquently, sentiment derangement; that weird feeling you get where your emotions are unhinged by sentiment or nostalgia.

It’s also the title of the new record from Melbourne psych pop purveyors Foreign/National – a befitting name for the nine track LP, which dabbles in the sunnier side of psychedelia while maintaining an adamant underlying weirdness.

We’ve been thoroughly digging Dépaysement – particularly the off-kilter guitar sounds the band pull – so we thought we’d reach out to the guys to gain a little insight into they’re using at the moment, pedal-wise.

Foreign National

We’ve been digging the new record from Melbourne boys Foreign/National of late, so we thought we’d reach out to see what they’re using at the moment, pedal-wise.

Can you run us through what’s on your board at the moment?

At the moment I’m running a Fender American Strat into:

• Pitchblack Tuner
• MXR Dyna Comp Script Reissue
• Secret Seasons Snowdrift Fuzz
• Mojo Hand FX Rook Royal Overdrive
• Boss PS-3 Pitchshifter
• Diamond Vibrato
• Electro-Harmonix Small Stone Phaser
• Ibanez DE7 Delay
• Boss DD-20 Delay
• Electro-Harmonix Holy Grail Plus Reverb

Everything runs into a cranked AC15.

What are we hearing on Too Sentimental?

Our other guitarist Mark recorded the main riff in Too Sentimental using a Fender Mustang with out of phase pickups. The buzzy, top-heavy tone comes from a Boss BD-2, and the compression, warmth and warble from an ZVEX Instant Lo-Fi Junky.

We love the gnarled, decrepit aesthetic of vintage gear, so almost all the instruments on the record were ran through some form of vibrato to emulate that vibe. I tracked the jangly rhythm guitars through a bunch of reverb from the Holy Grail Plus, and into a Vox AC15 on the edge of breaking up.

What was the first pedal you bought?

My mum bought me my first pedal—an Ibanez DE7 delay—when I was about 12. I remember picking it out because it was relatively affordable, and had glowing reviews online. Plugging it in for the first time was a real revelation; I’d sit in my room for hours, self-oscillating myself into oblivion.

It’s been a decade since and I still have that very same pedal on my board. The ‘Echo’ setting emulates the darker tone of analog delays, but does it with a real clarity that cuts through amazingly well on stage. Ibanez discontinued them a couple of years ago, so I’m trying to get my hands on a second one as a backup.

What’s your favourite pedal under 100 bucks and why?

Aside from the Ibanez DE7, there’s a raft of really sweet affordable pedals popping up. When I put a mortgage on my house to buy the Diamond Vibrato a few years ago, it was the only real vibrato on the market; now, with the Malekko Vibrato and the TCE Shaker, you can cover that sound relatively inexpensively.

I’m really keen on the Red Witch Seven Sisters—a line of mini pedals with a tiny footprint—too but haven’t had a chance to test ‘em out.

What do you have on your board at the moment that really shapes your sound?

The triumvirate of my sound are the Ibanez DE7, Diamond Vibrato and Secret Seasons Snowdrift. I leave the DE7 set to the ‘echo’ mode for a dark slapback sound that’s almost always on.

The Vibrato is another set-and-forget tone shaping tool that adds a subtle woozy modulation across the top of everything. The Snowdrift is a crazy two-faced silicon fuzz with a regular and a secondary, self-oscillating circuit—I throw on the second channel only during the filthiest of solos.

How do you approach your signal chain/routing?

I take a pretty standard approach to signal routing. I’ve experimented with some less orthodox chains—running a reverb before a compressor, fuzz and phaser is pretty wild—but always find it’s too difficult to hear myself when playing live. When recording I tear my pedalboard apart and piece together signal chains for specific sounds and parts, but I like to keep it straightforward for gigs.

Is there anything you’re really hanging out to buy at the moment?

A couple of years ago I saw The Laurels at Northcote Social Club. In between songs one of the guitarists would gradually build a loop, adding layers at the set progressed. I always thought that was a really intelligent way of building momentum and minimising awkward silences, so I’ve been eying off the TC Ditto Looper as a means to achieve a similar effect.

Otherwise, Electro-Harmonix are always building interesting, forward-thinking pedals: the MEL9, Superego, Freeze and HOG would all be fun to mess around with. Eventide pedals are so powerful it’s actually intimidating.

Do your pedals influence what amp or guitars you use, or vice versa?

I’ve never had much money to throw into gear, so my current setup is mostly happenstance. I only own one guitar and one amp, so I’m fairly limited—which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, because give myself enough headaches figuring out signal paths, gain stages and pedal settings. The AC15 doesn’t have a whole lot of headroom, so I have to keep that in mind when I’m nutting out sounds.

Do you have any pedal heroes or other artist who you feel really nail a sound through their rig?

I’m always blown away by Dungen’s Reine Fiske. He’s a master of touch and feel, using a bunch of vintage fuzzes and tape delays set to react dynamically to the particularities of his playing. Seeing him perform live is like watching a mad scientist working in his lab: he’s incessantly pushing buttons, twiddling knobs and altering his playing to suit the aesthetic of any given moment.

I’m also really impressed by Ruban Nielson of Unknown Mortal Orchestra—particularly the first album, where he used fairly shitty gear and unorthodox production techniques to create such a unique and immersive sound.

You can listen to Foreign/National’s new record, Dépaysement on Spotify and SoundCloud.

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