Let nobody say that Matt Ramey is not a guitarist with balls. Four tracks into Gods of Harvest’s gorgeously jangly songs in lowercase EP, he only goes and busts out a ring modulated lead. And it works. If you can scarcely believe what I’m saying, take a listen to Make It Honest below and be suitably astounded.
Hailing from Raleigh, North Carolina, Gods of Harvest are an intriguing amalgamation of four-part vocal harmonies, psychedelia and wall-of-sound rock. Matt handles guitar duties, as well as providing one quarter of the band’s wonderfully sun-kissed vocal caress. In terms of songwriting influences, he cites Brian Wilson, Pink Floyd, Sigur Ros, MewithoutYou and Radiohead, with some of his more unorthodox guitar heroes including Omar Rodriguez-Lopez, Jonsi Birgisson and Johnny Greenwood, as well as the obligatory David Gilmour nod.
As you might guess from taking a look at the photo of Matt’s guitar, this is no ordinary axe. He plays a Moog E-1, one of the more innovative advances in guitar technology in the last decade.
“At its most basic, it has two active singlecoils and a piezo,” Matt says. “But underneath is a revolutionary guitar: it has the ability to infinitely sustain all strings, or just the strings you’re playing (while muting the others), or to mute the strings (creating a plucky sound).”
On top of this, there’s a Moog ladder filter, controllable via the control pedal, as well as a 13-pin MIDI output, which allows Matt to hook the E-1 up like a guitar synth, along the lines of the Roland GR-33.
For recording, Matt has a similarly impressive range of axes, including a Fender American Tele and Strat, a Gibson reissue of “The Paul” equipped with Seymour Duncan Seth Lover pickups, a Fender AVRI Jaguar and finally a heavily-modified Squier Jagmaster with Schaller locking tuners and custom-wound P90 pickups from Gene Reinert at Guru Guitar Shop. Phew.
With such a wide range of guitars, some classic, some futuristic, you’d expect Matt to have a similarly diverse range of amps. However, that isn’t the case here. “Although I use very experimental pedals and guitars, I love classic amps,” he says. “You can’t beat the sound of a Fender or a Vox.”
That would explain why his main love is a 1964 Fender Bandmaster, which he also runs through a 1×15 cab with a Fender branded Eminence 15″ speaker. That’s one hell of a weight to carry around, but, judging from the tones on Gods of Harvest’s debut EP, it’s a worthy payoff.
When it comes to pedals, we’re back to the future. It’s quite a unique and intricate rig so I’ll leave it to Matt to explain exactly what’s going on here…
“My pedalboard is really my source of inspiration; I love creating new sounds and tones. It’s split into 2 parts: one half is on the floor and I control it like a normal pedal board. The other half is on music stands and is controlled by Jillian, one of our other singers. This allows for much more creativity and experimentation; we get sounds we couldn’t otherwise because she can manually manipulate the effects while we play.”
The floor part of the chain consists of (deep breath) an Electro-Harmonix POG 2, Boss TU-2, Boss SD-1, Keeley-modded Boss BD-2, Blackout Effectors Deluxe Fix’d Fuzz, Strymon Lex, Strymon Blue Sky Reverb, Moog Cluster Flux and Strymon TimeLine. From there, the signal is taken up to a quartet of Moog pedals on music stands: the FreqBox, Ring Mod, Phaser and Analog Delay. But why so much Moog?
“I really love using Moog effects not only because of the lush analog sound, but the ability to control different parameters via Control Voltage. This allows for sounds you wouldn’t be able to achieve otherwise.”
It certainly does. Gods of Harvest’s songs in lowercase EP provides a veritable smorgasbord of effects-heavy moments which will turn any stompbox skeptic into a believer. The Strymon Blue Sky’s “shimmer” setting features on Melody and Thunderstorm (1:30), while, as mentioned earlier, the Moog Ring Mod plays a crucial counterpoint to the lush vocal harmonies of Make It Honest.
It is, however, the album’s close which provides perhaps the best example of Matt’s creative effects usage. Birds Without Eyes (Part 2) is a subdued, psychedelic trip where delay, chorus, ring mod, filtering and phasers all find their part to play in the song’s nuanced solo section. It’s all truly inspiring stuff and it soon becomes clear that Matt has a grand vision of what he wants his equipment to do and, more importantly, what he wants it to sound like.
With regard to songwriting, Matt is, once again, a man of many contradictions: despite his wealth of equipment, he has called his songwriting process very basic, citing the importance of a song still being a great song, even when stripped down to its bare elements. Starting the composition on solo guitar, it’s only when it gets brought to the band that the sounds, effects, feel and dynamic of the parts get developed.
Of course, with two guitars, keyboards and four sets of vocal cords, Matt has to be careful just what he’s doing with his instrument(s): “We have to work very hard to balance each other out; dynamic balance is everything. We have to make sure no one is stepping on anyone else sonically and allow the songs to breathe.”
You can hear Gods of Harvest’s debut EP, songs in lowercase, above and purchase it from the band’s Bandcamp page. Gods of Harvest regularly gig around the Raleigh/Durham/Chapel Hill area in North Carolina. For more information see their Facebook or Twitter pages.