Las Vegas, NV - I had the opportunity to chat with Nick Raya (guitar), Brandon Jones (guitar), and Ron Wells (bass), three of the members of Las Vegas based Amarionette. Check out the interview below as we talk about their musical influences, the search for a new vocalist, their live setup, and more.
1. Tell me a little about how you guys began. How long have you been around?
Nick: Me and Justin (drummer) were in a different band previously. Our band had just broken up, and I had called Quinn, our ex-lead vocalist to jam, because we always liked his voice. It clicked right away musically. Quinn was all for Ron (bass), and we had another guitarist before Brandon, but eventually we recruited him to the band.
2. When and where was “Dangerous Times and My Dangerous Ways” recorded? How long did the process take for that EP?
Nick: It was recorded in October of 2011. It took about four days to record. We also have a full-length! It’s not released on iTunes, but we do have physical copies that we released on tour, and it should be on iTunes sometime this month. It’s a self-titled album.
3. Since the EP is just four songs, would you guys mind doing a track by track?
Nick: For that entire EP, I wrote the entire guitar parts for it in a really good mindset. I was really happy. I was getting really into Dance Gavin Dance. I was really into the really clean guitar sounds, and it really rubbed off. I enjoyed the hell out of that EP because it was so fucking happy. Vocally, I have no fucking clue what was going on in Quinn’s mind.
Brandon: I think he wrote about a few girls or something like that.
Nick: His lyrics are very teen angsty. He basically wrote whatever he felt.
Brandon: Yeah, I think we give avenue for everyone to try and express themselves. I was new to the band at that time, so I didn’t have as much clout as I do now, but the full-length was much more of a band collaboration. Everyone pitched ideas. That’s kind of our writing style now, in contrast to the “Dangerous Times” EP, which was mostly Nick. The direction that we’ve headed in is much more of a band-oriented writing style where we try to whatever it is we like from our influences, and incorporate it into what we do.
Nick: It’s a lot more of Brandon and I writing together as opposed to “Oh I’m gonna write something, and then have Brandon write a part over it.” It’s like “Oh, we both came up with shit and it sounds awesome”.
4. I hear a LOT of Circa Survive, Emarosa-type influence in the sound of your music. Very technical, fast paced, well-put together songs with higher-range vocals. Where do you take specific musical inspiration? One to two genres, or are your musical tastes all over the board?
Brandon: I’m a huge fan of progressive metal. I listen to a lot of Dream Theater, Periphery. I’m big into the virtuoso style of playing, so I listen to a lot of the 80’s shredder guys. Steve Vai, John Petrucci, Paul Gilbert. I’m getting into jazz-fusion guys, like Guthrie Goven, Tom Quail.
Nick: I’m a huge Van Halen nerd. I’ve been about Van Halen forever. Lately, I’ve been really into Dance Gavin Dance. I’m also a huge Saosin, Circa Survive fan.
Ron: I have too many influences. I can go from progressive metal into, like, Saosin. I’ve also been into hip-hop lately, like Childish Gambino. This dude (Brandon) has turned me onto the best band on the planet (laughs).
Brandon: Oh yeah! I’ve been getting into hip-hop myself. I’ve been listening to a lot of Frank Ocean, and then there’s this band called Bad Rabbits. My mind has been blow and so has Ron’s (laughs).
Nick: I listened to them today at coffee, Ron showed them to me. My thought was “Holy shit, this dude can sing his fucking ass off!” (all laughs)
5. It was recently announced that Quin (vocals) will be leaving the band. If I may ask, how did that whole situation come about? How are you guys approaching looking for a new vocalist at this moment?
Nick: It was definitely personal issues, and we felt it was necessary for him not to be a part of this group anymore. It was not him jumping up and leaving. It was a decision that we made, and we felt like it was necessary for him not to be part of this anymore.
Brandon: In terms of new vocalist, whatever works. We’re trying to keep the doors open. Obviously, we do have to take into consideration that this new singer is somehow going to have to pull off older material, which is pretty difficult because he was kind of a vocal acrobat. At the same time, we want someone who just fits with what we’re doing. We’re not looking for anything in particular.
Nick: My approach to it is, if we all get along, then great. I also want to try and find someone who doesn’t sound super similar to anybody else. I just feel like our music is very original. I mean, you can hear our influences in there, but if you have an original vocalist who sounds a little different, we could really stand apart from a lot of these other bands out there.
6. What kind of gear do you use when recording and in your live performances?
Nick: I’d say that ninety-five percent of the amps we used on the full-length were Soldano amps.
Brandon: We use different stuff live, we all have different preferences.
Nick: I use an EVH 5153 50-watt head. A Marshall cabinet. I’m not sure the exact model. It was in the Purple Series. It was some crazy, British series that they did. It got for 300 bucks, and normally is a $1400 cabinet. For pedals, I use a DL-4. I have a custom MXR compression, OCD, a TU-3 tuner, a normal CryBaby Wah.
Brandon: I’ve personally been a long time fan of Carvin amps. Right now, I’m using the Steve Vai Legacy II. I’m a big Steve Vai fanboy, I play his guitar and his amp because I’m just a wannabe (laughs). I just recently got that amp a couple months ago. I really like it. It’s very warm, very user friendly. It rocks for leads and solos. It’s very geared towards that. I also have a Carvin 4x12 cab, but I replaced the speakers with Eminence Governors. It’s part of the Red Coat series. It’s kind of like a V-30, without the harsh highs. It’s my favorite speaker on the planet. In front of the amp, I’ve been putting a Morley Wah out, but I haven’t been using it as much. Planet Waves tuner, EVH Phase 90, MXR Wild Overdrive, and an H20 Chorus by VisualSound. Through the back of the amp, I have a Carbon Copy analog delay. That’s about as simple as I can keep it at the moment. In the future, I want to invest in an Axe-Fx. For a guitar, I mainly play Ibanez, but usually I’ll replace the pickups with stuff that I like a bit more. That vintage, pickup style. I also have a Carvin 8-string that I got to experiment with, I have no idea what to do with it.
Nick: I play a Partscaster (laughs). It’s basically a custom Telecaster. I also play a J-Frog. It’s basically like a Kramer, but with an Eddie Van Halen “Unchained” paint job. He used it on one tour. Ed Roman actually built it for me, and he made two. I think there’s only two remaining in the United States besides Eddie’s. Eddie (Van Halen) personally told me that he lost his on the ’81 tour, but his guitar tech I met at NAMM and was like “No man, he’s still got the fuckin’ guitar.” (laughs)
Ron: My gear is simple. I use an Ampeg classic setup, tube-head with SVT tubes. I use a few pedals. A tuner, Analogman Compressor, a couple Aguilar pedals. I use the Aguilar “Agro”, which is the Overdrive pedal, and the Aguilar ToneHammer which is their DI. I also use a Voodoo power supply. I play on a Fender Marcus Miller four-string bass, and a Corona five-string bass. Both Fenders, both J-basses (jazz bass). I plan on taking the Marcus Miller bass and putting a pair of Aguilar 4J-HC pickups in it.
Brandon: Notable mention, I’m the band guitar tech. (laughs).
7. What kind of message would you like fans to walk away with after listening to your music?
Nick: If they can grasp how much time and energy goes into it, and how musically inclined we are, I think it’s always cool when people can understand “oh these guys are great at their craft!”
Brandon: I think that I just want people to know that we genuinely enjoy what we’re doing. The reason we do what we do is because we enjoy what we’re doing. The good responses that we get only reinforce that. That’s the biggest reward there is. This is our outlet at the end of the day. Most of us are in school, I’m taking five classes this semester, I work part time. At the end of the day, I come here and get to decompress and relax. It’s fun. We try to keep it a positive environment, and one that’s really productive and creative. I think if the process and music are genuine, that will come across automatically to the listener that it’s a genuine product.
Ron: For me, music’s always been my outlet. Music has definitely saved me through a lot of bullshit in my life. Break-ups, family deaths, things like that. We had this girl from Australia come up to us who personally came on to her Facebook, and told us that our music was helping her through her father’s issues. He was in the hospital, I believe. To help someone get through a hard point in their life makes me feel good. If I could help anybody get through anything, it’s something that I enjoy doing.
Brandon: To elaborate on Ron’s point, there’s a song on the new album that I wrote the lyrics to that’s kind of an expression of getting through certain difficult times. I think, to reiterate his point, there’s kind of an intimate attachment to the band. And as we play more together, that bond grows stronger and we become more emotionally invested in what we do, and the harder it is to tear yourself away from it.
8. What are the future plans for Amarionette?
Brandon: We have demoed a brand new song to start circulating for people to audition over (for a vocalist). For the audition process, we’re going to have people come in and sing over a song that we already have out, and there we’re gonna see what they can do with us in the future. We’re already writing for album two. Once we get a vocalist, one of our priorities is going to be touring as much as possible. We recently went on a tour shortly before we parted ways with Quin. It was my first week long tour; we went through Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas. It was a profound experience for me, just being stuck in a van with ten guys for an entire week traveling the country was frickin’ amazing. It’s something we want to continue doing. I think that’s the only way that we can go at the moment, to expand and broaden our fan base the old fashioned way. You can only do so much on the Internet. You have to go out and interact with people, and have that face-to-face contact with those people. We also like to do covers on the side, as a hobby. We covered an 80s song for a local themed show. For another show, we covered E.T. by Katy Perry ( ). Before Quin left, he and I did a Periphery cover. There’s been talk of doing a Justin Timberlake cover. Just kind of paying tribute to the people that we like to listen to. I’ll probably be recording other artists in my town at my house, as a secondary source of income.
Ron: We’ll have new music, new vocalist, new everything. Expect new stuff!
Be sure to check out the band on Facebook at www.facebook.com/Amarionettelv, and follow them on Twitter @amaribandlv for more info, new music, tour dates and more.