Alt-rock heroes Thee Oh Sees return with a new album, 'An Odd Entrances', a companion to 'A Weird Exits'. Check our review + gear guide!
Thee Oh Sees are a psych/ garage rock band from San Francisco, and the brainchild of John Dwyer, possibly one of the hardest-working men in music: besides Thee Oh Sees, which put out at least one album a year and tour the world, Dwyer has been involved in many other bands and side-projects such as noisy rockers the Coachwhips, Zeigenbock Kopft and Damaged Bug (Dwyer's solo, synth-heavy project).
'An Odd Entrances' album review
New album 'An Odd Entrances' (out on 18th November) is their second in 2016, following 'A Weird Exits' which came out earlier this year. We had a listen here in the office, and can guarantee it's one of their best yet!
Much like those other psych-rock heroes also from San Francisco, The Brian Jonestown Massacre (check our Anton Newcombe interview here), Thee Oh Sees are a band who more or less stick to their own formula, but they still manage to surprise. It's like both bands have simply been refining their sound, over the years - and for this reason, 'An Odd Entrances' will be a feast for fans of Thee Oh Sees. All the best elements of their past efforts are present here, in just six tracks: long psych jams like opening track 'You Will Find It Here'; slowies with Mellotron sounds ('The Poem'); fuzzy, dirty guitar solos ('Unwrap The Fiend pt.1') and even a synthesizer-led instrumental, 'Jammed Exit', which wouldn't be out of place on Dwyer's last Damaged Bug album.
'At The End, On The Stairs' is one of Thee Oh Sees poppiest songs ever, but the album closes with the 8-minute, hypnotic 'Nervous Tech (Nah John)', with delicious burst of fuzz guitars.
All-in-all, this mostly-instrumental record is the most enjoyable Thee Oh Sees albums yet, and serves as a perfect introduction to the band, while those who already know them will simply love the fact Thee Oh Sees are still on top form! (9/10 easy...)
Listen to the first two tracks from 'An Odd Entrances'
Thee Oh Sees / John Dwyer Gear Guide
Those familiar with Thee Oh Sees will know that they sound great - live and on record. They're a great example of what a really good psych band sounds like, so it's no wonder that internet forums are full of psych-aficionados wondering what gear they use. Get a similar setup to Thee Oh Sees, and you'll know you're on your way to achieve a great guitar tone for psych!
Since we've never seen any comprehensive guide to Thee Oh Sees gear, here it is - enjoy!
On early Thee Oh Sees recordings and performances, the Shure 520DX harmonica microphone was used for their vocals, for a distinctive, dirty, lo-fi sound! If you want that same effect, you can also go for the Boss VE-20 Vocal Performer, which features a similar sound and has XLR mic inputs - allowing you to use any microphone to get that sound, in case you don't want to go the trouble of mounting the Green Bullet to a mic clip holder (which will require some tape).
The original Roland RE-201 Space Echo is one of the coolest and best-loved tape echo / spring reverb units, and have been used by Thee Oh Sees for a long time now! If you want that same sound at a fraction of the cost of an original, get the Boss RE-20 Space Echo, which perfectly recreates the RE-201 in pedal format.
Death By Audio Fuzz War + Boss DD-7 Digital Delay
John Dwyer's live setup is simple and effective: a fuzz pedal, and a Boss DD-7 digital delay! Death By Audio effects are pretty cool, but expensive... if you want a cheaper alternative, you can't go wrong with a good Fuzz Face or a Big Muff - two of the most commonly-used fuzz pedals in psych rock. You simply can't go wrong with either of those!
Fender Silverface Dual Showman Reverb Head
Judging by the number of knobs on all liev pics we've seem, we are pretty certain John Dwyer uses a Fender Silverface-era Dual Showman Reverb head. This particular amp was one of the most-used Fender head amps in the late Sixties / Seventies. Users included Keith Richards, Jimmy Page, Pete Townshend and Marc Bolan (read our Guide To Fender Amps blog for pics & more!)
If you want a similar setup, a new Fender Bassman head will be a good choice. If you're on a budget, a Fender Mustang V head will give you a taste of vintage Fender amps. If you're looking for a combo, we think a Fender Vibrolux or the louder Fender 68 Custom Deluxe will be good choices.
Singer / keyboard player Brigid Dawson (who has left the band) used to play a Nord Electro 3 hooked to a Guyatone MD3 digital delay.
The Mellotron is experiencing a true resurgence right now, and Thee Oh Sees are one of the many current bands using its sounds, in tracks such as 'Minotaur'.
If you want similar sounds on a budget, just hook up your guitar or keyboard to the terrific Electro-Harmonix Mel 9 pedal! It perfectly replicates those Mellotron sounds such as cello, flute and strings. A must for any creative musician and modern purveyors of psychedelia...
Burns Double 6
This cool Burns Double 6 has been one of John Dwyer favourite guitars over the years.
EGC DS SG-shaped guitar with P-90
This Electrical Guitar Company guitar is John Dwyer's main instrument right now. Very boutique, very cool. If you want something similar for that same spiky, P-90 sound, go for a Gibson 2016 SG with P-90. A very reasonable priced Gibson that sounds great for this type of music. Perfect!
Gibson Melody Maker
One of the secrets of a good Thee Oh Sees-style "psych" sound is to use single-coil pickups. John Dwyer and the band's other guitaris, Petey Dammit, only seem to use this kind of guitar. So when they opted for Gibsons, they chose two different Melody Maker guitars (now discontinued). Other vintage, discontinued models the band has used are the Kay Vanguard and the Harmony Stratotone.
Guitarist Petey Dammit currently plays a Fender Jazzmaster... which he manages to make sound like a bass! We don't know if he uses any Octave pedal, but we can see he uses only the neck pickup, and seems to use heavy gauge strings, besides plugging his guitar through an Ampeg SVT bass stack! Check it out:
The other piece of gear you'll notice at any Thee Oh Sees gig is a Mackie SRM PA speaker sitting usually on top of Dwyer's Space Echo. We've got no clue what it's used for , maybe to get a clean un-processed guitar sound.
If you're a Thee Oh Sees fan and now feel inspired to make some dirty garage psych, check the new Fender 2016 Offset series! Right now, they're the best-value and coolest guitars which are ideal for this kind of music...