Do-it-all guitarist working beyond the Graveyard
Thanks to advances in music technology, more and more guitarists are going it alone: writing, producing, programming and playing all instruments themselves. But few do it better – or do more – than Andy Fosberry, otherwise known as Sunset Graves. His material spans everything from acoustic ballads through electronica and all-out metal riffery, which he records in his own Hampshire, UK-based studio, The Graveyard, and releases on his label, 3rd & Debut Records.
But Andy has a key inspiration behind his writing and recording: intent.
“Intent is something that doesn’t get mentioned much in the songwriting process – the intent you had when you start to jam or play,” he explains. “Often, we have nothing specific as players, but sometimes, you’re chasing a feeling, and that grows into shapes and colours.”
Those shapes and colours define Sunset Graves’ latest effort, Then, You Will Notice. It’s made up of six tracks of cinematic alt-metal and atmosphere-laden rock, from the guttural eight-string riffage of Over Your Shoulder to Twistflower Boulevard’s encircling chimes. Andy makes his songwriting and recording sound effortless, but as he reveals, it took a long time to get to that point, and his writing methods have changed considerably, too.
“With Sunset Graves, and where I have found myself with the music now, I have been really compelled to get beyond just writing with an acoustic guitar, because I had begun to find it limiting,” Andy explains. “I play other instruments with varying degrees of success, and they offer so many different angles on my writing.
“I feel like the first of the heavier Sunset Graves records (Trading Stories With Darkest Ours) was kind of a misstep for a few reasons, and I am cool with doing some growing up in public. I had to learn how to record and mix heavier music and get a good drum sound, which that record doesn’t have.”
But there’s no denying the recording, mixing and, yes, drum sounds on the latest Sunset Graves material. And that high-quality production, not to mention songwriting, is born out of Andy’s daydreams of killer supergroups.
“The questions I ask myself have been things like… what if Elliott Smith was backed by Mono?” he ponders. “What if Red House Painters were backed by Deftones? What if Massive Attack were backed by Meshuggah? How about if Boards Of Canada met early Verve?
These are all tantalising propositions, and if you’re looking for the answers, you should probably click on those links to Sunset Graves that we keep throwing your way. But there’s more to it than that: Andy’s dedication to music to deep set.
“What is true for me is true for a lot of people who make music, and that is, we have eclectic record collections and music means the world to us,” Andy enthuses. “So, what comes out is all this and more. The ‘more’ part is you: your life and experiences, your mood, your mind. And that last one, the places you go inside are incredibly important. Selfishly, I am trying to make the kind of music I really like.”
So, if you’re trying to make music you really like, you need a guitar that you like to play – and Andy has two of them.
“I have two primary guitars: [the first is] an Epiphone Les Paul Black Beauty triple humbucker model,” he reveals. “It’s all stock, and about eight years old at this point. It’s weird – it took me a while to get on top of this guitar and feel like it was mine. But since I did, we get on great. My standard tuning is DADGAE, and for this guitar it’s perfect. But when I was dropping to a low B, things were flapping to the point of falling apart, so…”
This is Andy’s cue to unveil his pride and joy, and, yep, it’s got two extra strings: the Schecter Omen-8.
“I got me an eight,” he confesses. “Seven-strings all look so ‘metal’. Getting an eight was pretty much a ‘fuck it’ move on my part. You have the seven available, but you have added options and you come at the whole thing from a different perspective.
“The Schecter Omen kept popping up when I was researching. I just decided to go for it… and it’s the best thing I have ever done, in terms of guitar playing. I am not a shredder and I am not all about riffs; its more about finding textures and colours that can happen anywhere. With an eight, you have more places these things can occur.
“For tuning, I settled on playing EAEADGAE… its like a weird drop A on a seven-string, with the extra E at the bottom… or something. I dig it, and for me, it works.”
With two favourite axes, Andy found he needed a pair of amps to put them through. And his first combo has certainly seen some action.
“Up until I bought the Schecter, I was using a battered old Marshall Reverb 75 that I bought secondhand in Brighton,” he tells us. “I wanted an amp that had a great, loud clean channel, so I could control everything else from my pedalboards. The 75 was originally made in the 80s, I think. It’s solid-state, but it’s insanely loud, with a beautiful, rich tone. I got a lot of use out of it, and still use it today. Most of the knobs are gone and the reverb channel is tanked, but it’s brimming with character. I’ll always keep it.”
But the amp that managed to tear Andy away from his beloved Reverb 75 is perhaps not what you would expect.
“With the constraints of budget, size and all those considerations, I settled on a Peavey Vypyr 30,” he reveals. “Previously, I had a bad experience with a [Line 6] POD and early amp modelling, so I was pretty sceptical, but I need something that versatile. The main thing I have learned is that these things take time. And with masses of amp models and tone variations available, it takes more time! The technology is getting so incredibly good now. I think for tone, after loads of good and bad days, I am there.”
With the patches stored in his amp, Andy doesn’t have need for too much on the floor, but he still employs an intriguing smattering of effects. His signal chain looks a little something like this:
Boss TU-2 Tuner > Boss PH-3 Phase Shifter > Boss DD-20 Giga Delay > Marshall BB-2 Bluesbreaker II > Marshall VT-1 Vibratrem > DigiTech DigiVerb > Boss BE-5 Guitar Multiple Effects > Marshall GV-2 Guv’nor (offboard)
Sure, the Marshall and Boss effects sound good, and they serve Andy’s purposes well… but what the hell is that retro-looking thing in the bottom left-hand corner? Introducing the Boss BE-5…
“The Boss BE-5 is very old, and very cool,” Andy enthuses. “The footswitches are getting a bit worn now, but I get great function out of this. I like to overlap two delays and a reverb at certain times, and have got quite proficient at doing so. There is also a noise gate, compression, chorus and a nice crunchy overdrive/distortion. It was an heirloom, and until something better comes along, it stays.
“I have experimented with racks, but I always come back to stomps. Always. For me, nothing gets in the way of what I am thinking or feeling, and then what I am playing. It’s intuitive and fun. For me, effects are like painting, and I actively encourage the use of any tools you have. Just don’t get in the way of the song; if you haven’t got a song, you haven’t got shit.”
Then, You Will Notice. is available now from Bandcamp, and the track Over Your Shoulder is free to download. For more from Sunset Graves, check out Andy’s in-depth studio blog on the writing and recording of the next album, or take a look at the official Sunset Graves site. You can also follow Sunset Graves on Twitter, Instagram and SoundCloud, and like Sunset Graves on Facebook.