LongFallBoots are based in Leamington Spa. Part The Melvins and Part Devin Townsend; they play fuzzy, chaotic music that refuses to be limited by the restriction of genre. We caught up with founding member and singer Alex Caithness to talk about recording techniques, Guitar Pedal building, and taking DIY literally!
Who are LongFallBoots and how would you describe your music?
It’s weird – I was about to describe us as a side-project, but I’m not sure that’s any longer the case. In which case we’re a BAND from the midlands; Ben (Holdstock – Drums) and I are I guess what you’d consider the “core” members along with Chris (Childs) on bass. We started out pretty much by accident when the drummer in my old band KOSS couldn’t make a rehearsal but there wasn’t time to cancel the practice room. Ben and I were playing together in another local band and we kinda just got together for a jam and accidentally wrote what would become our first EP” It Was Duke”. About five months later I had a last minute cancellation at my studio and I called Ben to see if he fancied recording those songs – by the end of the day, the EP was pretty much finished. Sound wise, we’re kinda heavy and groovy with lots of fuzz; occasionally fast (Ben and I are also in a horrible hardcore band which is thankfully on a bit of a hiatus, but the lure of playing fast is sometimes too much to resist) and sometimes pretty doomy. More recently we’ve sort of been playing a lot more with what we can achieve melodically while still staying heavy, it’s fun. Still lots of fuzz involved regardless.
Would you consider yourselves a DIY band? If so, what does DIY mean to you?
Well, we’ve recorded all our stuff ourselves and self-released on Bandcamp so in those regards: sure. To me at least, DIY doesn’t mean not having help, it means that that help comes from within rather than without – “Do It Ourselves” perhaps? The help comes from people invested in the art, if there are people, platforms and groups which work to that end then great, I’m all for it. Bandcamp is a game-changer there: a platform which is great for distribution where everyone (the artist and Bandcamp) can make a few quid without feeling like their souls have been destroyed. I’ve never understood smaller bands wanting to be on iTunes, Spotify, whatever. You’ve basically no control over your output, no real likelihood of making any money (if that’s even the goal). I’ve questioned people on this and they’ll be like: “but people might look for us on iTunes” – fuck that: engage with your fans and tell them where to get your music. It’s a fucking myth: no one is going to stumble onto your band by accident on iTunes.
Who are your main influences musically?
The first thing that Ben and I really bonded over musically was when we realised we could both pretty much quote the entirety of 2001 by Dr. Dre; so that. Genuinely though, when we talk music, over 50% of the time it’ll be hip hop, I dunno if that’s an influence that really comes across though. There’s lots of stuff in there; I dunno, I hate to evade the question, but we listen to a lot of stuff that you can consider “rock, metal and punk” in the broadest possible sense. I guess, if pushed, one of the biggest shared influences are The Melvins, who are, as it happens, one of the best live bands you can ever hope to see. You often write/record/ release your music in a very short period of time, what are the pluses and minuses of that? The downside now is that we both get really itchy and anxious if anything takes any amount of time (like finishing our album) – it’s a bit of an addiction! Over-thinking is a curse, and I know that we’ve both really suffered with it in the past and with other projects but, and I can’t provenance the quote, I really do believe that “first thought, best thought” holds true a lot of the time. That’s not to say everything you kick out is going to be golden, but if you force yourself to work fast you will get a LOT better at identifying what is a good idea and what is not, and you stop trying to force bad ideas to be good. When we write an EP it’s usually over the course of about 2 and a half hours to get 3 or 4 songs down; bad ideas get discarded really fast. I don’t know if giving ourselves more time would make it better or worse – we’ve never tried! Perhaps we should? We’re probably too impatient now to go through with it though!
You have a reputation for using a lot of guitar pedals… If you could only pick one pedal, what would it be and why?
If I had to do an LFB show then I can get by with just half a pedal: the fuzz half of my custom “Box of Holy Fuck” pedal; it’s a modified IC Big Muff with extra bottom end, my whole sound revolves around that pedal. If I was going to be alone for a long time then any good delay pedal will keep me occupied for hours, anything where I can get the repeats rolling over just on the edge of feedback – I’ll seriously just disappear into a hole just noodling with a clean tone.
Are you still working on designing your own guitar pedals?
We have designed a couple of pedals (we have the first one built) but I’ve got no idea if or when we’ll produce them and what numbers. Chris our bassist was building them, but he’s off in Spain for a few months now. I guess I should put in some hours practising my soldering to get some built! We have two designs: one is a germanium fuzz based around the 2 transistor muff fuzz kind of mould; we completely lucked out with finding these out-off-production diodes which sound incredible in the clipping section, but we’ll have to track more of them down if we want to build more. The second design (which is still not 100% finalised) is an insane, super gainy, feedback fuzz with a bunch of controls to control the tone, character and feedback-iness of the circuit. That one is still sat on a breadboard, but it’s an angry fucker! I do hope to get that one built because I can see myself using that one a lot.
How does DIY interact with the gear industry? There are a lot of boutique builders/cloners about…. do you think that’s a good thing?
The gear industry is incredibly democratised, especially with guitars/amps/pedals. There are so many makers out there making cool stuff and as long as you’re happy to search around you can pick up something great. I guess the process is kinda similar to the music scene, you gotta pay your dues and refine your thing, lose some money, but if you’re good and you put yourself out there, you can build up a regular “audience” for what it is you’re doing. I’m all for boutique makers taking something familiar and taking it to the nth degree, or tweaking it to be just right. I think the boutique builders often are most attractive when they’re filling a niche – something that wouldn’t have the mass appeal that say a Tube Screamer has, but takes your sound somewhere else. That’s why I’m a bit of a collector of Devi Ever stuff, they can so such ridiculous things to your sound, noisy, chaotic and sometimes nasty shit, but it’s those textures that I really enjoy, especially when I’m recording; but I recognise not everyone is going to be into those sounds!
What plans do you have over the next few months?
Well, we’ve just put out a new EP “Good At Television” which is on http://longfallboots.bandcamp.com along with all our other stuff. That was a really fun EP to do because our friend Amy Smith played bass and sung on it and her vocals really elevated the songs. We’ve nearly finished our first real full-length album (the logistics of getting it finished with all the guests we wanted has nearly driven me insane) and that’ll be out at the end of the year hopefully. On top of that we have our YouTube channel where we demo all our pedals; if you have any pedal nerds reading they should head over and enjoy the fuzz!