If you're wondering what gear Elvana use to capture the legendary sound of Nirvana and Elvis, check out our Elvana Gear Guide and interview to get the low-down on their setup
Elvana have shot to popularity since they first came together with their wild concept. For those unfamiliar with the band - it's basically what would happen if Elvis fronted Nirvana and brought all thrills you’d expect when Memphis meets Seattle.
But what gear do Elvana use and how easy was it capturing the sound of two of music's most cherished icons? We catch up with guitarist Daniel Bray for an Elvana Gear Guide to see how he emulates Kurt Cobain, what inspired such an outrageous project and what else they've got in the pipeline.
Cheeseburgers and Teen Spirit: how did Elvana come to be?
Well, it’s a funny story. We all met after we all got into a fight over an unclaimed cheeseburger at a popular fast food outlet. Once the crowd dispersed we made our peace and discovered our mutual love and passion for all things Nirvana and Elvis Aaron Presley. To our surprise, no one had yet to combine the two so we proceeded to explore this crazy idea and things kind of just went from there. I never did find out who got the burger in the end.
So how did you go about capturing the guitar sound of Kurt Cobain?
I’ve been a massive Nirvana fan since I was a kid and this was the main reason I started playing guitar and bass. I’ve never been a massive tech head but I had a bit of an understanding of what gear Kurt used. When we started out I was using a Line 6 Spider Combo Amp. It was something I already had and I’d no idea we’d reach the heights that we have so thought it’d do. It wasn’t a bad amp, it was certainly powerful enough, but there’s only so much messing around with presets and what have you that a guy can take. I was also playing a knackered 15-year-old Epiphone SG, it didn’t take long until I realised the sound simply wasn’t good enough and bit by bit I started to step things up but most importantly, to recreate Kurt’s sound as best I could.
Sounds like a sturdy base - where did you go from there?
Firstly I bought a Black Stratocaster and The Feederz ’rock in a cops face’ sticker and slapped it right where it should go. I remember laughing hysterically when I first plugged it into that Line 6 at just how brilliant it sounded. I started to build the pedalboard at the same time and used the effects less and less on the Line 6. It really just powered the pedalboard aside from a couple of sounds I used for the Elvis sections. The first pedal I got was the Small Clone Chorus and a DS2 to go with the Big Muff I was already using. I used that set up for a while and managed to add a Jazzmaster and a custom DY strat that’s heavily worn. The amp desperately needed upgrading so I picked up a Mesa Boogie Dual Rectifier which if it wasn’t against the laws of the land I would make my wife. I run that through a 300w Marshal 412.
How do you deal with the transition in albums?
To get the In Utero sound spot on I picked up an Electro Harmonix Polychorus. It’s one of the most versatile pedals I’ve ever used and the very first thing I did when I got it, was get the Radio Friendly Unit Shifter sound out of it. But the key to getting the In Utero sound right is the Tech21 Sans Amp. That’s the distortion sound right there and nothing comes close to it. That was a difficult piece of gear to get a hold of. They obviously don’t make them anymore but I eventually found a guy in Japan selling one.
How much research was needed in terms of finding the right guitars and pedals?
A lot! But as I say, it was all easy to find. I used a website called Kurts Equipment which identifies all the equipment Kurt used throughout Nirvana’s career. The sources and research were fantastic so it was great for me that I stumbled across it as someone had done all the work for me. I made a conscious decision that I wanted to replicate the sound perfectly and would use the same gear as much as I could - but I wasn’t gonna split hairs about getting an exact year for year, speaker for speaker replication. Pedals were the key and an amp of good enough quality that had awesome clean tone and a second gritty channel were the priorities. Guitars were also important and they are more visual to fans that pedals and amps obviously. Whilst I wanted a Jazzmaster instead of a Jaguar, the Strat and Mustang are pretty much bang on replicas.
Kurt was a known lover of all those guitars - which would you favour in Elvana and why?
I currently have an unhealthy relationship with my Mustang in that I worship its very existence. It is pretty much a spot-on replica of the light blue one with the maroon pickguard that Kurt used with one of the single-coil pickups ripped out and a Seymour Duncan fitted. I also love my Strat but it’s more like a wife whereas the Mustang is my mistress. I do like Jaguars but there are too many knobs, switches and shit going on there and that can irritate me sometimes. I prefer to use a Jazzmaster over a Jaguar but if Fender give me a 1968 sunburst one I’m not gonna say no.
Do you strive for any Elvis characteristics to come across in the guitar parts in any way?
Yeah absolutely. One of the main reasons the Mesa Boogie works so well for me is that it has a freakin’ awesome gritty channel which gives a great warm 50’s rock & roll vibe. I use a flashback delay pedal in Elvana that gives incredible slapback through the Mesa’s clean tones.
What would you say to budding guitarists looking to emulate the sound of their heroes?
It’s all about the sum of its parts and not just one thing. You might get a pedal that you know they use but then it’s about how that responds to the guitar your using, the pickups in that, the amp you're using, the speakers it has etc. Also, technology is improving all the time and it is possible to replicate sounds without having to go to excruciating detail. There’s some trial and error, but ultimately it’s yourself you’ve got to please. If that means using a Jazzmaster instead of a Jaguar then so be it.
That's pretty much it for our Elvana Gear Guide - but lastly tell us about the upcoming tour - it must be exciting to be back out on the road?
The latest Elvana tour is going great and we are all as excited as a rabbit on the first day of mating season for it. The shows have been awesome and we’ve got more coming up in Birmingham, Nottingham, London as well as a first-ever ‘Elvana Unplugged’ show at the wonderful Sage venue in Gateshead. We’ve got a break until March and then we’re back on the road in Norwich, Hull, Middlesborough, Aberdeen, Dundee, Edinburgh, Belfast, Dublin and Manchester. We’re gonna tour the unplugged show in the UK early next year also so lots scheduled in and a load more stuff currently in the pipeline including a major announcement we can’t wait to tell you all about.
Keep up to date with the band at https://www.elvana.co.uk/
That was our Elvana Gear Guide, but if you need some more pointers on finding the perfect grunge sound then you can read our full Grunge Guitar Gear Guide.