Sonic Mayhem, Harmony and Complexity: Pedal Talk With Pretty City

Pretty City

Pretty City have a monstrous sound. Sitting somewhere in the chasms between shoegaze, sludge and 90s alt-rock, their debut record Colourize is a melange of explosive guitars, haloed by shimmering harmonics and glam vitriol. We reached out to the band to see what is taking up space on their rigs at the moment, and to chat sonic illusions, harmony and complexity.

Pretty City

Chatting to Pretty City about their explosive guitar tones, and creating sonic illusions, harmony and complexity with pedals.

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

There’s many options, at the moment it’s..

Korg pitch black tuner
HBE UFO fuzz
Brit drive
Radial big shot splitter
Zoom MS 70 CD-R
Zoom MS 50G
Vocal microphone sm62
Akai synthstation
iPhone 4

Love the massive tones throughout Colourize. What are we hearing on Melt?

Thank you, Melt is quite a textured and layered mix. HBE UFO fuzz is very prevalent there in the body of the sound, and the hazy shimmer above. The chiming/glassy aspects came from splitting the guitar signal and using an acoustic guitar emulator with the reverb and fuzz down one side of the chain.

What was the first pedal you bought?

A Behringer dd400 delay, it’s actually great I still have it. It’s good for creating infinite vocal loops. The thin, airy sound suits falsetto.

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

I really like the Livingstone chorus, it has a brightening effect which is really cutting and chimes out. You’ll get a lot of change out of $100 too. The Mooer Ana Echo is nice too. If you take each pedal on its merits most units have a sound or two inside them. The Livingstone, for instance, is a little erratic but has huge personality once you get it under control.

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

The two zoom pedals apply a lot of the modulation and shimmer to my sound. There’s a lot of different places in these pedals, you can go deep and find your own corner of them. I enjoy the diversity of options, and there is a haze of digital rendering involved which I quite enjoy too (complimented by other warmer effects).

How do you approach your signal chain/routing?

Tone – modulation – ambience. It’s like writing a character, personality/motivation first – then costume and decoration – then place in a setting for context. Having said that, breaking your own rules is important.

Rather than chain/routing I think of it as a balance of approaches to achieve harmony and complexity within a single sound. Something cold/digital sounding will need the balance of a warmer feeling pedal along the chain. Something fun and raucous needs to be funnelled through a gate. I build it by constantly complementing what’s already there, and sometimes a multi-faceted, characterful tone emerges.

I use stereo amps a lot and split my signal into one punchy heavy tone, and one lighter and more ambient. I am a fan of the depth this achieves, it’s a sonic illusion which creates a perceived space between the tones.

Do you switch pedals in and out often?

Yes I do this more than tinker with pedals individually. Once I find my sound in a pedal, I tend to keep it that way and swap it in and out.

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

Mainly old-style delays. Destroying a signal and then replicating it as it dies appeals to me quite a lot.

Catalinbread – Montavillian for blurriness

Danelectro Reel echo – for the sound on sound ability

Guyatone TD-X tube echo for haze

Who are some of your favourite pedal builders?

H.B.E, BWM, Zoom, Guyatone, Earthquaker devices.

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Do you have any particular ethos when it comes to using guitar pedals?

I am quite open minded, I will give any piece of gear a chance to have character and life. I am not obsessed with guitar pedals, I am a songwriter before I’m a producer and to me the song will tell the pedals what it wants to happen. Songs are spaces that we curate, and effects can offer some very interesting pieces of furniture.

If you had to cull your board down to two pedals, what would they be and why?

Brit drive and Zoom MS 70 CD-R. Many options, character and space to explore. I like limitations, I could do a lot with that combination I feel.

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

One of my guitars is a fender Lead I with a distortion pickup, so it has quite a prominent role in the intensity of the sound, and means that drives/fuzz can be more subtle.

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

There is such a rich shoegaze scene in Melbourne, many inspiring and creative guitarists exist in that space. The exchange of ideas is frequent and intense, so I would say the roogaze scene as an institution is inspiring.

More broadly, I very much enjoy the Lo-fi shoegaze inflection of Merchandise, as well as the more shimmery approaches of Temples, Tiny Little Houses & Toy.

Pretty City’s latest record Colourize can be found here.

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