Vintage Guitar - February 2017 - Open - 28
.A.-based rockers The Soft White Sixties prove you don't have to be old to be
classic. Originally from San Francisco, the
quintet deftly blends early R&B influences
with '70s glam rock while also managing to
sound quite current.
With its recent release, The Ocean Way
EP, and a full-length record in the can, lead
guitarist/songwriter Aaron Eisenberg delivers
first-rate tone and sets the bar high.
"The classic inspiration is really a caliber
reference for us," Eisenberg said. "There was
definitely a standard for musicians back then.
It's something we've always noticed about
that music. Now, with technology, you can
take your time, do multiple takes, comp them
together and all that, but that's never really
been a mentality for us. It's much more about
having it together and really focusing on the
In the studio, Eisenberg maintains a simple
"My studio setup is pretty much just my
Vox AC30. There's a couple parts on The
Ocean Way EP, like on 'Miss Beverly,' where I
didn't use an amp; the guitar is straight into
the Trident desk. It's very Beatles 'Revolution'
style, just blown-out preamp. I also use a Zvex
Mastotron Fuzz, which is my main fuzz, and
an MXR Blue Box. Live, I usually use a JHS
Colour Box, which is a pretty accurate preamp
simulator. I'll leave it on as a preamp and it
makes the tone so much better and full bodied.
The new record has the Colour Box pretty
much on every song."
For the new album, the guitarist decided to
broaden his dynamics. "I ran a stereo rig with
my AC30 and an old Silvertone guitar that
had this natural resonance, kind of a ringing
that I don't think was intentional. You can't
really find happy accidents and imperfections
like that with new gear. When you find it, it's
a special thing. I also used a late-'60s Fender
Vibratone with a '65 Bassman head."
Aaron Eisenberg: Mat Dunlap.
On the road, Eisenberg relies on his Vox.
"The AC30 has been a solid foundation for
trying different pedals. I have a decent-sized pedal
board, and different amps tend to react differently to certain pedals. The AC30's been a really
consistent foundation to sculpt different sounds."
In a live setting, re-creating sounds from
their records requires a few tools.
"I have a vintage Small Stone Phaser, a POG,
and a wah that I'll leave half-open, then a
couple of standard tremolos and delays. For
most of the set, I'll also use a Keeley-modded
Line 6 DL4 for slap-back to fill everything out,
especially when we're playing as a three piece
with a singer; the bass player and I have to get
more creative. Now that we have another guy
playing guitar, I can be more selective with
pedals and save things for special moments."
His affinity for Guild started with the
acquisition of a vintage Starfire.
"A friend bought a '68 Starfire a few years
ago and until then, I'd never really seen electric
Guilds. A year later, I bought it from him and
now it's more or less my main guitar. It's got the
stock bridge pickup and at some point someone
put an early-'70s Gibson mini-humbucker in
the neck, which is really great. It seems to grab
hold of the fuzz pedal really nicely. About a
year later, I bought an early-'70s Polara. I really like the sound of the stock pickups Guild
was using for that era. They have a really nice,
woody quality to them."
Soon after, Eisenberg developed a relationship with Guild.
"At NAMM one year, I met the guys and
they were already familiar with the band and
we started working together. They have a new
line of Starfires that are really great, which I
bring on the road instead of the vintage stuff.
It's nice to have something new that holds up."
Choosing the right guitar presents little
"My selection process is simple; if it looks
cool and it feels good, then I'm in. You can
change the pickups, run it through pedals or
different amps, and dial in the tone. There's
really something to the Guilds. I end up talking
to people after shows and they ask, 'What is
that? Where'd you get that? How old is it?'"
In the age where the lines are often blurred
between creativity and manipulation, Eisenberg feels hopeful.
"There's some realm of current music that's
swinging back into the area of that imperfection. It's nice not to have everything sound
like a computer. For us, there's been a lot more
encouragement of the human side, like don't be
tied to a click and don't fix all the little stuff.
Just let the music push and pull and be this
human thing." - Johnny Zapp