A note from the editor: We periodically introduce new recurring features that live in the print edition and online spheres. Today is one of those exciting days, as we announce Gear and Beer, a new equipment-focused Q&A series written by local writer and gearhead Brett Alderman. In each edition of this feature, Alderman will take a local band out for beers at a local brewery, and chat about their gear. Our first featured band is The Bleeding Keys, who will release their first full-length album, Ghost Again, at a sold out show at Radio Radio this Friday. Veseria, Baliff and DJ Action Jackson will open.
Alderman met with Coty Leffingwell, Jon Beaty and Jonathan Green at Fountain Square Brewery to share Preacher's Amber Ales and a Smashing Pumpkin seasonal brew.
NUVO: Jumping right into specifics, what is your stage set up?
Coty Leffingwell: My drum kit is a Peace Paragon series. It's a 9-ply maple kit 5-piece with the snare. They're big. It's a 26" bass drum, 13" rack tom and a 16" and 18" floor toms, a very rock and roll beefy sound. I use big cymbals. I'm a Zildjian guy all the way.
I was looking for a new drumset and I came across it online. It was used – and cheap, for what it normally was. I noticed it because it was pink; that was what caught my eye, so I called. "It's cheap because it's really big and pink, and no one wants a big pink drum set." I was like "Well I do. Send it my way." I didn't plan for it to be big. It was the pink that I always wanted. And I'm a huge John Bonham fan, so that works.
Jonathan Green: I use an Aguilar Tone Hammer head, most of the time with two single 12"s. The tweeters are neodymium, so they're like 20 pounds. I'll use the Aguilar Agro overdrive pedal. Bass wise, it varies. My upright, it's an Engelhardt Swingmaster with the maple body, a laminate body, so it's a little sturdier. It'll take a couple hits instead of warping. For electric I use a Fender American Deluxe 5-string. I used the Rickenbacker a couple of times on the album, too. I recently picked up a Kala U-bass because we were playing a coffee shop where there was literally no place for me to stand.
NUVO: For a stage like Radio Radio's, will you just bring your electric?
Green: Because we're doing the release there, I'll probably bring my upright too. Especially when we're trying to create moments in a show, there have been times when we've dropped down really low, and an upright actually works there without an amplifier.
Leffingwell: Basically we go to a bluegrass set up.
Jon Beaty: And that's the freedom that we have with the way we write music. Often, we can make things as big or as small as we want. We can take the biggest rock song and break it down and make a very acoustic, intimate feel come together. We've even played in front of huge crowds and unplugged everything single thing we had and...
Leffingwell: Told everyone to be quiet
Green: And it actually worked.
Leffingwell: And did the Peyton Manning [arm motion].
Beaty: It was a moment they could hear the rawness in us, the rawness in our voices, but at the same time we could easily hear them singing back and it was like this communal thing that really fed itself.
NUVO: When does the overdrive pedal come out?
Green: Usually we try to use it live as a way to beef things up when Darren is playing a solo. It only comes out periodically in specific sections.
NUVO: What about your rig, Jon? Do you use multiple keyboards? Piano in the studio?
Beaty: Right now, I've just been playing a Nord Stage 3. Everyone knows the quality of a Nord. They're hard to beat. We do incorporate some Hammond and B3 style organs. I also do a lot of electric pianos and do some different configurations that give it some eeriness, some resonance. Just some character that adds to what we're singing about or the feel we're going for. I want to get to a point, as we grow, and are playing bigger stages, that I want to get an upright and I can put my Nord on top.
NUVO: Do you play alto and tenor sax?
Beaty: Alto and tenor. I mostly play Yamahas right now, the 62s. I just sold my soprano. I'm getting ready to, at some point in the near future, invest in a baritone and complete that. I just bought an accordion and I've been picking it up and playing around with it and that has added a layer. It was sold in 1953 and custom made for a lady named Marilyn. Her name is on the accordion and it is the sweetest thing. It's my favorite thing in my arsenal. I couldn't tell you about an accordion brand, but that's Marilyn and I take her everywhere.
NUVO: What can you tell me about Jeremy and Darren's setup?
Green: Darren uses mainly an American Telecaster that has humbuckers. On the album he used a couple of different amps. He used a Vox AC30, an Orange AD50 and then he also used a Fender Rampart. Pedal-wise, he's using an OCD, a Fulltone overdrive dual channel and he also uses a tap tempo delay. Periodically , he uses a Whammy pedal. He has a Gibson ES-137. The bigger hollowbody with the center-block.
Leffingwell: Jeremy plays a Martin acoustic [DC-16RGTE]. He plugs right into a direct box.
NUVO: Is that his workhorse?
Leffingwell: Yeah, he plays that all the time. He played a mandolin part on the album. At shows, he just plays acoustic. There's a song with a weird tuning that he has a Takamine for that one song, but the Martin is pretty much the only one he plays.
NUVO: Is there anything you've been doing differently in the studio, than what you've been doing live?
Leffingwell: There's a song it has like a real hip-hop element to it. There's a drum loop going and very hip-hop feeling, this is totally; every person that I've shown has been like "What?" So that was a very different setup. The drums I laid down was a cool part, [but it] seemed empty. Then at the studio where we recorded [Azmyth with Travis Moore], we got together with him and started playing through some drum loops. It sounded like "Oh, that should be in there the whole time."
NUVO: What did you guys use to reference your progress in the studio?
Leffingwell: From the first track all the way to the end, we listened to it through Klipsch gear. I had the Status headphones, Jeremy had the Image 1 headphones. We could hear the spit coming out of Jeremy's mouth. We also listened to it through the X7i's and the KMC3's. Then we'd put it in our car and drive around, listening to it on the stereo.