Last week I played my the third show under the stage name Sun Gaze, where I go up on stage with a guitar, a pedal board, a microphone, a snare and a floor tom.
If you’re wondering how or why I use all of those things on stage, I don’t know either. But I do it.
If you’re unfamiliar with how looping pedals work, it’s basically like a mini recorder on your pedal board (to put it in the most simple terms). The signal from a guitar or a microphone or a whatever goes into the pedal and is recorded for a short length of time and that recording of the signal repeats on itself over and over. Forever.
You tap the button on the first beat to begin recording the start of your melody and then you tap it again at the end when you come back to that same beat. Ideally this creates a seamless “loop” that will continue repeating, and you can play over top of it.
But that’s where it gets tricky. If you don’t time that shit just right it’ll sound off, like two melodies badly spliced together, or it’ll add an extra beat that’ll throw off the whole song.
What I do is I loop drum beats, guitar, and vocals together to build and play songs. It can be frustrating as all hell sometimes, but when you get it right it can be magical.
I’ll be the first to admit that I’m far from the only person who’s doing stuff like this right now. First time I ever really saw someone do it was watching Tune-Yards play on Austin City Limits. It’s not online anymore, but it was pretty similar to this:
It is so damn impressive, so give it a watch if you can. And from there I found another fantastic artist called D.D Dumbo. I’ve probably watched this video of him playing at Pitchfork Music Festival like 50 times.
Ok I’ll stop the barrage of YouTube videos now, but that one was specifically instrumental (hah. pun) in shaping my music style.
There are a ton of great musicians out there using looping pedals, another I’ve found recently being Julien Baker. There are some really cool local acts especially: like Tansy, Greg Macpherson, Heartbeat City and Basic Nature, to name a few. In fact I just saw Lizzy Burt of Basic Nature play a phenomenal solo set at a house show in the suburbs. Thirty people crowded into a tiny basement to hear her sing soft beautiful melodies over an echoey “prairie-gaze” dreamscape that was solely made up of guitar and vocal loops.
There’s so many cool things you can do with a looper, and it’s so enticing to just fool around with it for hours on end. But that in itself kind of creates a problem.
Here’s my beef with looping. There’s no one around, just you. It’s a lot of you playing off of yourself forever. You’re stuck in a loop. I sincerely miss being able to play with other musicians and pick up new style and ideas.
You can do some really insane stuff with looping, but it’s not a substitute for playing with other musicians. Yes you can get other people to play over the loops too, but if you want to go down that route–be my guest, because it’s a rough one to travel.
It’s just a real struggle to do sometimes. It’s an uphill battle to get better at looping, and at times it feels like one step forward, two steps back.
Another real concern with looping is that the more stuff going on around you, the harder it is to keep the loops tight and in time. I saw Tune-Yards open up for Arcade Fire a couple years ago at the MTS Centre and she had to re-do the intro loop to a song like 3 times because it was just so damn loud and echoey in there. Bless her for doing it though, it’s an essential part of her sound and I couldn’t imagine Tune-Yards without it. But for me it doesn’t feel like an end game thing. More like a means to an end.
So if you’ve stuck it out this far in the blog post: I’m looking for a drummer, and a bass player who can sing and write. Preferably female, because there’s something about a female voice that distinguishes itself so wonderfully in music. I want someone to play off of and help balance the song writing input. If you know anyone who would be interested and wants to play weird indie-rock/psychedelic shoe gaze, point them this way.
Please and thank you.