To say that Northlane’s Josh Smith is a pedal nerd would be an understatement - with a rotating roster of the finest boutique pedals on the market, Smith is constantly looking for new additions to add to his arsenal to expand his sound, here are some of his current favourites.
Josh Smith: While there are hundreds of other Klon’s on the market, The Archer is my favourite. J-Rockett was commissioned to build the original mass produced Klon’s when they were released as the KTR, so these guys really are the authority on Klon-style overdrives. It’s the most natural sounding boost I’ve ever used and it makes the added gain sound like it’s coming from the amp, rather than colouring or squashing my sound. We first started using Klon-style boosts on our latest record Mesmer and as soon as I left the studio I went on a quest to find my favourite variant. This one will never leave my board.
The first big Empress pedal I came across that I loved was the reverb. There’s many multi-reverb options out on the market - like the Strymon BigkSky and Eventide Space - but neither pack as many options and as much functionality into such a small footprint. Everything on the reverb is right in front of you, 12 models and zero menus to scroll through. I’ve found it’s got the lowest noisefloor in its class and seems to be the easiest pedal in its class to coax the right sound out of for what I’m going for. Ease of use and less time spent tweaking is more time spent on the important thing - playing guitar.
STRYMON EL CAPITAN
The El Cap’ has been a staple on my board for a few years now. It’s a very authentic tape modeling delay that uses analogue circuitry with digital processing. While it has a lot of cool features, like multiple modes and tap tempo, the thing I love about it the most is the freeze function. You can have infinite repeats going and then start manipulating the tape with the controls on the pedal, which can make for some really wild sounds. It’s extremely thick sounding with some super convincing ripple effects and warbling.
The Echosystem is a relatively new pedal but takes a similar approach to the Empress Reverb in packing huge sounds and functionality into a small footprint. This thing is wild - there are 12 main modes with four variations on each, almost too many options. The reverb it’s really quick to dial in and sounds absolutely fantastic. I use a lot of really thick, spacey ambient sounds and it excels at those more avant-garde tones, while nailing all the classic stuff too. The coolest thing about it though, is the dual delay engine - you can run two completely different delays at once, in serial or parallel or panned, which is nuts.
WAY HUGE SWOLLEN PICKLE
Occasionally I’ll use a fuzz for some big, thick, wicked, sustaining sounds. There are a lot of cool options out there but the only ones I’ve loved for what I do with Northlane are the Empress Fuzz, and the Swollen Pickle. The pickle is really unrefined sounding and gunky, but has a huge range of available sounds on tap because of how responsive the controls are. It has a very distinct and present upper midrange to it which is what sold me in the first place. You can really get this one to cut through and it works well in low tunings where most fuzz pedals suffer. We originally used one of these on the Node record and I ended up grabbing one about a year afterwards.
Northlane will be touring nationally from Thursday October 19. Mesmer is out now through UNFD/Rise Records.