Dive Bomb Flangers and a Mysterious Sax Bird: Gear Talk with World Champion

World Champion

It’s been over two years since we’ve heard any new material from Sydney duo World Champion, so you know they’ve been cooking up something good. They slayed it back in 2015 with the Avacado Galaxy EP, which was released via eminent folks over at Future Classic, but have since been reluctant to release a follow-up too hastily.

They’ve by no means been idle though. They just wrapped up a summer tour with Parcel, and have kept themselves busy with the odd show here and there (appearances at Volumes Festival, Splendour In The Grass and Vivid, and tours with Jagwar Ma and Chk! Chk! Chk! are just a few of the places you’ll have caught in the past 24 months).

They’ve also been busy nutting it out in the studio, and word has it there’s a new record on the horizon. We caught up with Julian from the band to find out what they’re up to, what they’ve been listening to, and what gear they’ve been working on.

World Champion

As they put the finishing touches on a new record, we caught up with World Champion to chat dive bomb flangers, their home studio, and a mysterious sax bird called the Flamingo Sultana.

Hey guys, how’s it going? What are you up to at the moment?

Hey man, good! Just putting the finishing touches on the next record actually. Came back from a good summer touring with Parcels and doing a few other shows, feels good to finally be close to getting some new music out.

Do you guys work out of your own studio? Tell us about the space.

Yeah we’ve got a spot in Tamarama, kinda home-built vibe, but it’s pretty good. There are a separate live and tracking rooms and heaps of good recording gear we’ve collected over time. It’s small but vibey and we’re super lucky to have it.

What have you been listening to lately? Has anyone really been influencing you sonically?

There’s this Italian psych band called Dumbo Gets Mad who are awesome. The song Reminiscing by Little River Band has been a bit of a summer anthem of sorts. Soft Hair are mad. Heaps of kinda L.A indie disco band stuff.

I like the way the guitars compliment synths on your records in a way that they kind of become indistinguishable from one another. How does guitar fit into your sound?

It’s interesting, it’s a big part live, we love live instrumentation so it’s pretty prominent there. Besides that, there’s no real golden rule as to how we want to incorporate guitar. I feel like we try parts on different instruments all the time and just use whichever texture we think is working. Only thing really is we maybe try to not have the guitars too busy, either doing leads or riffs, or chords but open and effected, leaving some room.

How do you guys approach vocal processing, live or in the studio?

Again, depends! Live we like a pretty effected vocal, makes it easier to sit and kind of float over the sound. Leaning more towards delay than reverb generally, so you still get punch but ambience.

In the studio we have some [Neve] 1073 clones and compress on the way in with an opto compressor – it just gives such a pleasing thickness and transient shape. Just got a Space Echo recently so that’ll probably feature on some of the new tracks! EQ pretty flat and kinda just go for it.

World Champion

I see that Will’s pedalboard is pretty hefty – what’s on there?

The main thing is this flange pedal that has a dive bomb setting that sound like an alien just had a dramatic epiphany whilst falling out of a plane. The rest is pretty straight up – delay, overdrive, spring ‘verb.

When did the sax make its way into your live set? Is this going to be a big part of the World Champion sound moving forward?

The Flamingo Sultana! He’s a mysterious sax bird that flies his own journey. We hope so.

How about synths? What really shapes the World Champion sound – I’ve seen a few KORGs on your Instagram?

Yeah, we use an old KORG MS-10 heaps. There’s this old KORG synth organ we have called a Lambda – pretty rare. Bought it off a guy dressed like Sherlock Holmes with a Hello Kitty hat. That thing sounds amazing. Also the classic Roland SH-101.

What’s your take on the soft synth/hardware debate? Do you use both?

Soft synths are mad for sketching ideas – so quick and easy. Hardware is just tangible and the physicality and the air the sounds pass through are just that bit more magical.

It seems you guys dabble with both live drums and drum machines – you use an acoustic kit live right? How do you approach drums and percussion in the studio and on stage?

This recent record is looking to have heaps more live drums. But it’s a combo – programmed kicks just hit harder, it’s hard to deny it! Live it’s the same, but the performance is approached differently – less withheld, kinda more wild, more expression. Some of the stuff that, recorded, gets too hectic is exactly what you want live, keeps the energy up.

What was the first piece of gear you ever bought? Do you still use it?

SH-101! Desert island synth. The first piece of gear I bought that I still have anyway!

What’s the cheapest piece of gear you feel you’ve gotten the most out of?

Probably these trashy hi-hats that are like inverted from being overplayed. They were free and no one would dare buy them.

Nice. Anything you’re really hanging out to buy at the moment?

Yeah, I hit a 50-inch gong today. I just want one in my house to wake my girlfriend up in the morning.

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