With their lugubrious tempos, elongated melodies, serrated guitar shards, and morose, downed-out vocals, the band Idaho suggests a nocturnal collision between Nick Cave, American Music Club, and Arc/Weld-era Neil Young & Crazy Horse.
“Yeah, we’re the Xanax catharsis band,” laughs guitarist John Berry. “I try to get a warped, screaming sound so I can express the stuff I can’t express verbally—like arrgggh! I’m sort of famous for my misery. Whether I have a good night depends on how much feedback I have at my fingertips.”
On the band’s new Caroline album, Year After Year, Berry attained most of his primordial feedback with a late 60’s Gibson SG and a Marshall JCM 800 with spring reverb. Berry also played an ‘88 Fender Telecaster and a Jazzmaster reissue with a humbucking pickup. Berry and lead vocalist Jeff Martin added rhythm textures with a pair of 4-string guitars built by Venice, California, luthier John Carruthers.
We use a lot of weird tunings,” notes Berry. “When we play a live set, our guitar tech has a nervous breakdown for 40 minutes.” For the brooding “You Are There,” the 4-string was tuned F, A#, F, G; other 4-string tunings include F, C, E G and A, E, G, F#.
Berry explains that his eloquently corrosive feedback sounds are mostly spontaneous combustions: “I used to try to will a certain sound to happen, but now it’s more intuitive—I just try to get out of my own way.
· KEVIN RANSOM