The Beths on the unconventional amps and DIY improvisations that created the standout guitar moments on Expert In A Dying Field

Elizabeth Stokes on how the New Zealand outfit went about recreating thunder, finding “plucky” guitar parts and taking it out on the “most pathetic” finger of them all.

The Beths

Image: Press

Knees Deep

“I have a real soft spot for starting a chorus on the tonic chord and a big beat one. So it’s not the first pre-chorus we’ve had that holds on the V chord for a satisfying pay off. But I didn’t want to just chug on that chord, so I wrote a little riff for the guitar, with a scratchy tone, and had the bass drop out. So it’s a real focused moment under the pre-chorus. The riff ascends in a way that feels like it builds tension, and then kind of deflates, which fits the theme of the song. We recorded this using an old Sony reporter’s tape recorder as an amplifier, which has a tiny oval speaker.”

Expert In A Dying Field

“My demo-making process is very rudimentary. So when I was making the demo for Expert…, I was going straight in with my guitar and using free plugins. I was playing around with having some kind of atmospheric sound in the intro, but I didn’t know how to make a stereo ping-pong delay in Reaper, so I just played this plucky guitar part in and panned one hard left and one hard right. When we came to record the song, we ended up doing the same thing. The fuzzy chord part that goes with the ‘bleeps’ is played in 5ths on a Hofner Violin Bass, through a fuzz pedal into our Jansen 620 tube amp.”

The Beths
Image: Frances Carter

Silence Is Golden

“This song is influenced by a couple of bands from back home in NZ – Wax Chattels and Lips – who both have great songs playing with this kind of rhythmic feel. I was playing around trying to write a riff that felt in that vein, but with more ‘Bethsy’ harmony, and with an overwhelming fast vocal delivery. It’s a song with a really fun picking part to play, that took a lot of practice for me to get, and to then sing at the same time. It’s a workout for the left-hand pinky finger, which is my No 1 most pathetic finger.”

Best Left

“We re-wrote this song about four times. The original riff that I had written over the verses turned out to be too similar to a song that already exists, but we all liked the verse melody enough that we spent months and months searching for something to replace it. When we went to record the final part, we tracked a single guitar DI’ed, then created a stereo tremolo effect using two instances of the Soundtoys panner plugin, and re-amped this via our vintage made-in-NZ Fountain Mustang amp, with heavy distortion from a Chase Bliss Brothers pedal.”

The Beths
Image: Frances Carter

A Passing Rain

“This was a late addition song. It’s about how when you’re at your lowest, it’s impossible to believe that the people who care about you will still care about you when you come out of it. ‘You stay like it’s a passing rain’. So after some clean and tender verses, Jonathan had a lot of fun embodying the storm with some thunderous big chorus sounds. We had microphones set up to record the drums, I think we just turned one of them on as a room mic, which was a big part of the sound of the part.”

The Beths’ Expert In A Dying Field is out now.

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