It’s been a few weeks since Hello Friends – the brilliant new record from Summer Flake, the solo moniker of one Stephanie Crase – was birthed into the world. We’ve been lapping it up ever since. Every nook and cranny of the album is filled with beautiful, sanguine melodies, bittersweet harmonies and drowsy rhythms that borderline on hypnotism. What is immediately striking though is Crase’s inexorable prowess on the guitar. It’s subtle and unassuming, but you can’t not hear it.
There are moments on the record that are elevated to a higher plane of beauty by a simple curling lick (Satellite, So Long), or made all the more intense through Crase’s use of a bit of distortion and a tiny bend of her Fender Jaguar’s tremolo bar (Shoot and Score). To get an insight to how she gets her sound, we asked Steph to dive into the story behind some of her favourite pieces of gear. Like any committed muso might, she got a little bit geeky. Dive in yourself.
We asked Stephanie Crase, aka Summer Flake, to tell us the stories behind some of her favourite guitar gear that feature on her brilliant new record, Hello Friends.
My guitar is a Fender Jaguar, made in the USA in 1965, L serial number, in gorgeous fiesta red. I play it on every song on the Hello Friends album, except the acoustic one (Tumbling Down).
When I was a teen I used to go check out guitar shops every Saturday and just look at everything. I wanted the guitars that my idols played – a Gibson MelodyMaker SG like Nina Gordon, or a Squier Venus or Univox like Courtney Love, or a Fender Duo Sonic like Liz Phair – but you couldn’t find em in Adelaide! I didn’t care that they were known as cheap student guitars. I actually have a Duo Sonic and 2 old Melody Maker SGs now. No Venus or Univox yet.
Anyway, when I was 21 I was going to spend my money on a new guitar to replace my Ibanez Talman, and I’d been thinking and thinking about this vintage sunburst Jag at James Music – this weird little shop run by this really strange cranky old man – but I just didn’t like sunburst. I checked this guitar out every weekend for 6 months and couldn’t get over it. It was pretty cheap too, I shoulda got it anyway because since the James Music man discovered the internet he lost his mind and put a 900% price increase on everything in his shop and that Jag is still there 15 years later, astronomically overpriced. Anyway. I’m sure I’ve already told you this boring story, but I will go on, thanks for asking.
So one day this guy from Derringers was like “psst, I heard you were after a Jaguar, a friend of mine who collects 1958 Teles is culling his other guitars for a big buy, can I bring something to your house, outside of the shop, pay cash?” And he did, and it was pretty awkward, but that’s the Jag I play today.
It’s such a shrill guitar, when I first started gigging I would have this band Marshall JCM800 amp at my feet and stand close to it but tall enough to not hear all the wild treble blasting the audience in the face if I played on any sort of rise or stage. I thought having it super loud and super trebbly woulda been like what The Velvet Underground sounded like live. Except apparently it’s just unpalatably ear-shredding and really annoying. I like the bridge pickup. I grab the tremolo arm non-stop. The tremolo arm on this guitar does not come out, it is stuck, forever, and maybe because it’s been stuck in for 50 years, getting squashed and bent into guitar cases, this guitar now holds perfect tune and you can really pull the thing hard forward or backwards and it’s really super flexible. It’s a surfy feedback dream. I bought a really decent 90s Japanese Fender Jaguar 5 years ago to retire the old girl from touring, but the tremolo felt so limited and kept coming out – I just can’t do it!
So to balance the janky shrill kinda sound of the Jaguar, I got a little Musicman RD10 amp that I got a few years back for $600, which is tiny but super loud and high voltage, doesn’t have a master switch so does a really good loud volume clean, but doesn’t gain out. You win some you lose some. It is a tiny bit mushy and limity sounding, which I reckon kinda does some magic with a jag and makes it sound louder and bassier.
I keep both the treble and bass knobs medium to low so the overall tone isn’t too hot and compressed. I struggle playing through other amps when I’m touring because I’m so used to how my pedals etc work with this amp. It has a built-in reverb tank, but I used a Boss Reverb ’65 pedal and kinda play with the tone knobs on that for a bit of familiar low-end presence/ EQ when I’m using other folks’ amps. Neat trick.
Dunlop TVP-1 Tremolo/ Volume pedal
I don’t use it heaps, but it’s essential to have, good with textures, and just coming up with ideas. It’s a fully analogue pedal with a foot rocker so you can “express” with how fast you want the tremolo to throb, smooth it on and off and such. I kind of wish all pedals did this, roll on. I played this all over So Long, this pedal basically wrote the whole song.
Pro Co Rat 2
This is a later Rat, around 2003, the start of the sloped pedal casing era, not fancy or hard to find. Distortion is my preferred gainy sound above fuzz or overdrive. I always have 3 distortion type units in my pedal platter, each at a different distortion incriments that I can switch between or build with til’ we’re flying. I use the Rat at the end of the distortion chain, the most distorted, so I hit this one for the solo, noise, feedback – there’s nowhere left to go once that thing’s on! Sometimes the Rat is a bit smooth and like shhhhhhhhhhhhhjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjj and I’ve tried changing it out for a Fender Blender, MXR Distortion+, or Boss Turbo Distorion II, but I always come back to it and apologise.
Marshall Drivemaster Overdrive
In saying that I like distortion best, I always have a drive pedal at the start of the gain chain, turned down low gain, just for a little presence and tone, basically a bit of grit for my clean sound. Usually I use an Ibanez Tubescreamer, but my two were busted while we were recording Hello Friends, so it was I got back into this old guy! I can’t even remember where I got this, i think I borrowed it off someone about 15 years ago. Made in ’91, this is kind of like putting a bit of the Marshall JCM800 tone back in the sound. I think you can actually hear this pedal going through Geoff’s little Fender amp on Satellite on this album.
I don’t really use special, unique, or hard to find things, or a variety of effects at once even, but I like to have a lot of options lying around that I can change in and out depending on what kind of phase I’m going through. A new pedal will always inspire a new song I reckon…
You can swoon to Summer Flake at the following dates this May:
Fri 13 May – The Union Hotel, Sydney – FREE SHOW w/ Mope City + Spike Vincent – More info
Fri 13 May – Repressed Records, Sydney – In-store performance (solo), 6:30pm SHARP
Sat 14 May – Trainspotters, Brisbane w/ Thigh Master + Blonde Tongues – More info
Sat 14 May – Sonic Sherpa, Brisbane – In-store performance (full band), 5pm SHARP – More info
Fri 20 May – The Tote, Melbourne w/ Terrible Truths + Superwines – More info
Sat 21 May – The Eastern, Ballarat w/ Mark with the Sea + Claws & Organs – More info
Fri 3 June – Hotel Metro, Adelaide w/ Sarah Mary Chadwick + The High Beamers + Sweet Whirl – More info
Or her new live acoustic for Tumbling Down here: