Pedalboard Feature: Kyle Merrill of Brothers Gow

 
The funky and sweet sound of the band Brothers Gow has garnered quite the large and loyal following since their early days of playing gigs in and around Flagstaff, Arizona. While the band’s lineup has shifted several times since the band’s inception in 2007, guitarist Kyle Merrill has remained at the heart of the band’s unique sound, creating luscious riff after riff and sharing vocal duties alongside bandmate and co-founder, bassist Ethan Wade.

In addition to touring and recording, Merrill and the band are also dedicated to sharing the joy of music with the children of Ocean Beach, California, the band’s home base, by raising funds and providing musical instruments to elementary schools of the area through the Brothers Gow Music Foundation (BGMF).

We were excited to get the chance to talk with Kyle about his current pedalboard setup as well as his work with the BGMF. If this is the first time you’re hearing of the groovy sounds and vision of Kyle Merrill and Brothers Gow, you are definitely in for a treat.

What is your current signal flow?

PRS Hollowbody II > Boss PW-10 V-Wah > Boss TU-2 Chromatic Tuner > Wampler Ego Compressor > electro-harmonix micro POG > Source Audio soundblox 2 multiwave distortion > Mad Professor Little Green Wonder > BBE Boosta Grande > Strymon Mobius > Strymon Timeline > Strymon blueSky > Rocktron Banshee talk box > Mesa Boogie Lonestar Classic Amplifier


How are you using Mobius in the current setup? What are your favorite settings?

Mobius has completely taken over all of my modulation effects. I’ve been able to add so much more to my board with all the room I’ve saved having an awesome sounding phaser, filter, chorus, rotary, vibe, and more all in one pedal. When I first got Mobius I went through all the presets to see how they sounded. I picked my favorite ones and put them all near each other for easy access. Then I made a few slight tweaks here and there to the sounds until they were just the way I wanted them. My go-to effect on Mobius is the filter. It gives me that great auto-wah, Jerry Garcia like tone. I like to combine it with a quick repeating digital delay on TimeLine and a dry octave and high octave at equal volume on my micro POG. If I do a little palm muting it almost sounds like a steel drum.

Here’s an example of that tone:

How about TimeLine?

TimeLine takes care of all my delay needs and more! All of the delays are so great and I love to switch between quarter note and dotted quarter note timing on the digital and tape delays. My absolute favorite setting is the swell. You can accomplish so much with just this pedal and nothing else. I have one set very high for time and repeats with a slow speed. This lets me create some insane swells. I like to use these on the intros of songs to really create some tension before we all drop in.

Here’s an example, check the intro of this song:

Tell us a little bit about the origins of Brothers Gow.

Brothers Gow started as a group of mostly childhood friends who ended up going to college together in Flagstaff, Arizona. We just wanted to be in a band and have some fun while we were in college. We soon realized that this was what we wanted to do with our lives and made a commitment to each other to dive headfirst into the band and make this our careers. Since then we’ve had our ups and downs. We toured relentlessly for the past four years playing in clubs and bars across the country. We’ve gone through a few member changes recently but I believe we’re stronger than ever for it.

How has the band’s sound evolved since it began?

The band’s sound has evolved so much since it began. It took us a little while to find our voice as a group but I think we’ve finally found it. We have two singers who split lead duty, myself and Ethan Wade. There’s a great contrast in our writing style and in the timbre of our voices. Ethan has a more raspy, deep and raw voice, and writes very introspective and thoughtful lyrics. I have a more sweet, higher register voice with an emphasis on happiness and feeling good in my lyrical content. This has always fascinated me with some of my favorite artists: Lennon and McCartney of The Beatles, and Waters and Gilmour of Pink Floyd. As far as the instruments go we are a four piece with drums, bass, keyboards, and guitar. Being the only guitar player has presented me with a great challenge and plenty of space musically. We originally had two guitarists, myself and Ethan, but with the exit of our original bass player, Ethan has now switched to the bass. I was very used to being able to not play guitar while singing and really focus on my vocals. I’ve had to essentially relearn my own songs on guitar to play the rhythm parts while singing. It’s been a lot of fun and I think the band’s sound as a whole is better because of it!

Can you talk us through your current guitar and amp setup?

Gladly! I play a Paul Reed Smith Hollowbody II 25th anniversary. I absolutely love this guitar! The Hollowbody II comes stock with a saddle piezo system to make it sound like an acoustic guitar. I can play with just the electric pickups, just the piezo’s, or blend both. There are so many tonal options on this guitar. It also plays so smoothly and easily. My amp is a Mesa Boogie Lonestar Classic. This thing is a tank! It’s got a single 12” speaker but the amp is big enough to be a twin. It’s also very heavy so the wheels that come on it are a must! It’s all worth it though for the glorious tone I get out of it. It has such a crisp and stunning sounding clean channel. The drive channel isn’t my favorite but it doesn’t matter because I just use pedals to achieve any drive or distortion sounds I want and the sound is fabulous.

Kyle Merrill jamming with Theory Thursday

 

You also teach guitar and are a passionate advocate for music education. We’d love to know more about The Brothers Gow Music Foundation.

The Brothers Gow Music Foundation was started due to a lack of funding in public schools for music programs. All of us in the band grew up with music programs in our schools that helped influence us into our career paths today. Even if you’re not going to pursue a career in music it is such an important thing for all children to learn. We teamed up with our good friend Tim Johnson and created the foundation to fulfill that need. Every time we have a local show, we raffle off a signed guitar by the band, and all of the money raised goes to putting instruments in classrooms. Our instrument of choice is actually the ukulele. It’s a little bit smaller and easier for children to play and they absolutely love it! We also have held fundraisers in our local community where local vendors and business owners donate goods and services that we silent auction. 100% of the money raised goes straight to putting instruments in classrooms. There’s no overhead with our foundation, every dollar goes right back to the community. We now have a ukelele for every child in our local elementary school, Ocean Beach Elementary, and we were able to supply Dana Middle School with 10 electric guitars for an after-school guitar program that had interest from students, but not all of them had the guitars. We hope to continue to grow and start branching out to schools across the country!

How has teaching impacted your own playing (if it has)?

Teaching guitar has absolutely impacted my playing. It’s very nice to get back to that early beginner’s way of thinking about how to play. You ask yourself, “how do I describe this to a beginner?” It helps you get back to your roots and look at things from a different angle. It’s definitely something I love doing. Sometimes a student will come in with a great song they want to learn and it will introduce me to a new band that I had never heard of. Sometimes they even ask me to learn something and I think, “this would be a great song for Gow to cover!”

What does the rest of 2018 for the band? For the music program?

2018 has been a very interesting year for the band so far. We found a new keyboard player, Alex Mello, who has evolved our sound in many ways. We also had our drummer, Nathan Walsh-Haines fracture two columns in his spine and had to cancel an entire tour. Nathan is currently recovering. We look forward to a fall tour in the works that will see us returning to Arizona, Colorado, Wyoming, Montana, Washington, Oregon, and California. The foundation is in the process of receiving a grant which will definitely help us branch out into more schools. We are very excited about the future over here at Team Gow!

Check out Brothers Gow on the road this fall. Full list of tour dates can be found here.

About October
October October Crifasi is musician and writer based in Los Angeles where she lives with two cats, five guitars, and a pet dragon named Scorch. She has written for Acoustic Guitar and Classical Guitar magazines and also runs a guitar program for girls in Los Angeles called Girls Guitar School. When not making or writing about music, October leads a parallel life as a comic book writer and overall nerd.

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