Saint Agnes set out to thrill - whether it’s stunning raw rock n roll live shows, putting their blinding new single Sister Electric out on lathe cut vinyl, or merch that’s a special ‘The Fuzzy Agnes’ hand-built effects pedal.
Saint Agnes’ new single Sister Electric is a blinder, a hot slice of psych rock swagger. The limited edition lathe cut vinyl 7” is a already a sell out but you can grab a download.
The band consists of - Kitty Arabella Austen (Guitar, keys + vocals), Jon Tufnell (Guitar, harmonica + vocals), Ben Chernett (Bass), and Andy Head (Drums), and we talked to Kitty and Jon a while back about their gear.
This time we set out to find out more about Ben - his bass sound, and making the amazing ‘The Fuzzy Agnes’ effects pedal.
Saint Agnes - by Ed Edwards
What’s it like being in Saint Agnes?
It’s really exciting at the moment - we’ve just released a single, Sister Electric, which has gone down really well and we are busy planning lots of big stuff for the near future.
How would you describe your bass sound?
I’m as much influenced by guitarists as I am bassists and I’ve always hated being restricted into that low end box. So I guess that is why I’ve always been drawn to bassists that straddle both sonic territories, people like Robert Levon Been, Jack Lawrence and Geeza Buttler (I can’t get enough of Butler at the moment, Such a glorious tone, incredible playing and just the most menacing riffs).
Guitarists within my genre would never dream of playing completely clean or without at least a few pedals at their disposal, and I’m exactly the same.
What is your go to music gear, and why have you chosen those things?
My Fender Coronado has been my number one for a while now. It has so much character and is super reliable. Then I’ve got to be running into both a bass and guitar amp. At my feet, you’ll find as many dirt and fuzz pedals as I can get my sticky paws on.
How did you get into making pedals?
I’ve always been into the technical side of how my favourite music was made and I love all the mythology surrounding studios and the gear people used to get ‘that tone’. When I first read that the guitar sound on The Kinks ‘You Really Got Me’ was achieved with a torn speaker, I instantly went to get my practice amp and a Stanley knife and went to town on that poor paper cone. Needless to say it sounded terrible - a flatulent hippo could produce a more compelling bass tone. But it was fun to try, and that’s the point. Trying to sound like your heroes and blowing up your gear quickly becomes expensive, so making equipment myself was really a way to keep me from bankruptcy.
Also have you seen Mike Matthews, founder of Electro Harmonix? Who wouldn’t want to be him?
Why did you decide to make a Saint Agnes pedal?
We always try to do something interesting when it comes to physical manifestations of the band. We hand printed the first batch of t-shirts (each one unique), have collaborated with the amazing artist Laura New on artwork, and for the latest single, Sister Electric, our vinyls were individually lathe cut on old Japanese karaoke machines. So it only seemed natural to try and make a pedal that encapsulates our sound. I also just wanted to see if I could do it.
It’s on Kitty’s pedal board now, what did she want from it and what did everyone else chip in ideas-wise?
In many ways it was a happy accident. I made a prototype and brought it into rehearsal for everyone to try. Kitty was the first one to use it and that was it, no one else got a look in.
Are they all hand-made?
Yup, all drilled, soldered and ensembled by my fair hands. Then Kitty casts a spell on each one to imbue it with extra fuzzy powers.
What’s special about it and how does it sound?
The most unusual thing about it is that it only uses one transistor, unlike Fuzz Face based circuits that have two and Big Muff based ones that have three. It also uses a LED as a clipping diode, which is much more common in “tube like” overdrive pedals.
The combination of these two things gives you quite a transparent responsive fuzz. It’s aggressive but retains note definition and the fundamental character of your guitar.
Why has it only got one control?
So it could have a massive knob.
But seriously, because I like the simplicity of it. The Fuzzy Agnes does what it does and it can do that either quiet, loud or very loud.
It sounds great on bass as well as guitar, how did you achieve that?
To be honest it was more luck than planning, but being a bassist probably helped. It is the nature of The Fuzzy Agnes, I guess, to sound like your guitar, so if that’s a trebly single coil or a deep bass humbucker, it’s still going to sound like that with the Agnes on… that but face melting… Obviously.
What has the reaction been and have you got more designs in the pipeline?
I was surprised by how quickly the first batch went, as well as the diversity of players. I had a lap steel player grab one, another went to a doomy sludge bassist, and another went to a Rolling Stones style rock n roll guitarist.
I had very few expectations when I started this, so it’s been great that people are loving The Fuzzy Agnes.
I’ve been busy sorting all the behind the scenes stuff, setting up an online shop - krakeneffects.com, getting samples delivered, and learning PCB designing software. But the next pedal is starting to take shape, and that shape is trapezoid.