Longtime musical collaborators Lucinda Livingstone and drummer Conor Dawson, reinvented themselves into Kamikaze Girls in 2014, and set to work creating a huge wash of sound that combines 90s alt-rock, pop, riot girl-inspired punk, and more.
Last month, the Leeds and London-based duo released their debut EP, “SAD,” a powerful listen that is aimed at destroying the stigmas surrounding mental health and give support to those who are suffering from conditions including depression, anxiety, and addiction.
Along with the potential of music to bring people together and create social change, one of Livingstone’s greatest musical passions is for guitar pedals. Her interest started when she and Dawson played in a trio called Hearts & Souls with guitarist Andy Castle, whose own love of pedals rubbed off on her. “I used to show up to shows with a TU-2 tuner and nothing else,” Livingstone says. “Eventually I grabbed a compressor for my bass, and then one day Andy, Conor and myself went into a music store and I tried out my bass with an Electro Harmonix Pog 2 and a DD7 Delay. I left the store with both and then our shows and sound got a lot more interesting. Eventually I expanded A LOT as a bass player and built a board. It’s an addiction, once you start getting into pedals you can’t stop. You’re always searching for the perfect setup for your sound and you can always build on that.”
Her love of pedals, especially fuzz pedals, led her bandmates to dub her “Ladyfuzz,” and, as Hearts & Souls morphed into Kamikaze Girls, the nickname inspired a song, and then a zine of the same name (though she notes, “There was also a great band called Ladyfuzz too though!”). The zine was originally intended to be released with the band’s EP, but when Livingstone found herself in Brighton and out of work for a few weeks, it turned into something more. “I started making this zine, and I realised that I had a bunch of really talented friends all over the UK whose work needed way more recognition and exposure then it was getting. At that point I sent a bunch of emails around and got a really positive response and before I knew it the first issue of Ladyfuzz was born.”
As a two-piece, Livingstone’s pedals play a major role in filling out Kamikaze Girls’ full-bodied sound. “When we recorded the record, myself and Bob [Cooper, producer] spend a long time getting the crunchy, fuzzy sound you hear in most of the songs. The pedal chain we used was an OCD, a Fuzzrocious, and a Blues Driver. We layered up this sound however there are very few places on the records where there will be two different guitar parts at the same time. I think that happens once on the whole record (“Hexes”) with the exception of feedback running over things which does happen a lot.”
Due to comparative limitations of performing versus the studio, Livingstone has developed a different live setup. “I have a splitter at the end of my pedal chain that splits my signal between a guitar amp and a bass amp. I then have my Electro Harmonix POG 2 turned on 90% of our set which gives me a lower octave of everything I play for the bass, and a very subtle higher octave that isn’t hugely obvious but if it wasn’t there I would miss it.” She also counts a Freeze Pedal, a Fulltone Full Drive, two delay effects, and a chorus among her live essentials. “I used to have a bigger pedalboard but I had to force myself to scale it back a bit and try and be way more consistent with my sound. It’s so easy to overdo it, I guess.”
Check out a few of Livingstone’s favorite pedals below and see Kamikaze Girls when they tour the US this month. “SAD” is available for purchase now.
Colorsound Bass Fuzz: Colorsound is a little company based out of Macari’s, a music store in London. Their pedals are used by Smashing Pumpkins, The Cure, and a bunch more great bands. The Bass Fuzz they have is next level and it was also the first fuzz pedal I ever bought. It doesn’t translate to guitar too well but it’s easily the best bass fuzz pedal I’ve ever heard.
Electro-Harmonix POG 2: This is the pedal that fills out my guitar sound and as a two-piece that’s so important. It’s basically our bassist. The other great thing about the Pog 2 is that you can make incredible organ and theremin sounds from it as well. There’s definitely been times where I’ve hit the wrong preset during a show and some incredible noise has come out of it instead of what I initially wanted. It’s great!
Third Man Records – Bumble Buzz: Another fuzz pedal. I bought this pedal from Jack White’s Third Man Records store in Nashville last year when we were on tour. This pedal isn’t great for playing more than one note, but it’s fantastic for riffs made up of single notes or guitar melodies and solos that you want drenched in fuzz. When we went into the store and I saw that pedal I was a goner. They have an amp / guitar and test pedal set up in the shop and as soon as I plugged in there was no going back. There’s just on and off, there are no tone or level controls on it so you can’t change it at all, it’s just fuzz or no fuzz and that’s why I love it.
Blue Ocean Delay: This pedal only costs $20 and is just your run of the mill delay, but I just use it for making weird noises live. Tyler [Bussey] from The World Is a Beautiful Place and I Am No Longer Afraid to Die recommended me this. I went to one of their shows in London, and after the show we nerded out about pedals for a bit and looked at his board together. I was asking him about a specific part in their set where he made a very drawn-out sound that went on forever. It turned out to be a $20 pedal and I ordered it as soon as I got back from the show. Pedals don’t always have to be expensive to be great and this is a solid example of that.
RE20 Space Echo: I don’t own this pedal but I’ve used one on a few occasions. This is a space echo pedal and again it’s just incredible to making some really unique sounds. By now you might have realised I’m into making very strange and eerie noises. On our record we have a lot of weird feedback under and over my guitar parts in a bunch of places. The thing I like about this space echo is it has two main stomp controls and you can really customise the type of echo you’re getting out of it. You can also completely just go off on one and make horrible (but brilliant) shrill, loud, delayed feedback, which I love.