When you listen to San Mei – the solo moniker of Emily Hamilton – it doesn’t at all come as a surprise that she calls the Gold Coast home. Her new EP Necessary is packed to the brim with hazy, shimmering soundscapes and jangly upbeat rhythms. And while synths play an important role in the lacing the four tracks together, it’s the guitars that impart the most character in San Mei’s sonic arsenal. What caught up with Hamilton to ask how she crafts her sound.
We caught up with San Mei, aka Gold Coast native Emily Hamilton, to chat about how she crafts her hazy, subtlety psychedelic guitar sounds.
Can you run us through what’s on your board at the moment?
Vintage Deluxe Electro Harmonix Memory Man, Small Stone phaser, Joyo tremolo, Crowthier Hot Cake and a Way Huge Swollen Pickle fuzz.
I love those subtle psychedelic tones you’re pulling on across the new EP. What are we hearing on He Doesn’t Know?
There’s not too much going on in this track, but I love the woozy sounds I got from the phaser, a little bit of vibrato from the Memory Man and the reverb from my Blues Junior amp.
What was the first pedal you bought?
The Deluxe Memory Man – pretty spoilt to have this lush pedal as my first!
What’s your favourite pedal under 100 bucks and why?
My Joyo tremolo – it has such a beautiful, subtle tone and only cost me $50!
What do you have on your board at the moment that really shapes your sound?
It all comes back to the Memory Man, particularly the chorus/vibrato section which gets a massive workout, and I get those dreamy, woozy sound from that I love.
How do you approach your signal chain/routing?
I always start with drive, then fuzz, followed by the modulated pedals, finishing up with delay & reverb.
Do you switch pedals in and out often?
Not really, if I love a pedal enough to have it on my board, it’ll usually become a permanent member of the family! I like to generally keep the sound pretty simple and consistent.
Is there anything you’re really hanging out to buy at the moment?
I’m pretty happy with my setup at the moment, but have been eyeing off the Electro Harmonix Blurst modulated filter which looks cool for synthy kinds of sounds/modulation
Who are some of your favourite pedal builders?
Electro Harmonix, Way Huge, Crothier Audio
Do you have any particular ethos when it comes to using guitar pedals?
I’m not a huge gear head, I’m just into trying anything that makes me feel inspired or produces an interesting sound.
If you had to cull your board down to two pedals, what would they be and why?
Memory Man and phaser – these 2 pedals are pretty instrumental to my sound at the moment. I feel like I couldn’t get that dreamy feeling without them!
Do your pedals influence what amp or guitars you use, or vice versa?
I love my Strat/Blues Junior combo which really complements the warm, lush sounds I get from the pedals.
Do you have any pedal heroes or other artist who you feel really nail a sound through their rig?
To me, Kevin Parker is someone who creates so many interesting, spacey soundscapes and avoids those guitar cliches.
You can check out San Mei’s EP Necessary on Spotify.