“Pedals are such an integral part of the music we make – potentially more than the guitar”: Meet BDRMM, the Mogwai-backed stompbox addicts behind one of 2023’s essential shoegaze albums

BDRMM
[L-R] Joe Vickers, Ryan Smith (Image credit: Supplied)

When their self-titled debut landed in 2020, Hull, UK-based quartet bdrmm quickly established themselves as one of the most relevant shoegaze outfits in the UK. 

At the dreamy end of the spectrum, singles like Happy and Gush earned semi-mainstream radio play and comparisons to Slowdive, while the untamed racket of deeper album tracks channelled the visionary noise-making spirit of My Bloody Valentine – just with a Yorkshire twist. As guitarist Joe Vickers (above left) puts it, “The first record was built on guitars.”

Three years later, and after a formative stint supporting post-rock pioneers Mogwai – which also led to the band signing to their Rock Action label – bdrmm’s sophomore offering, I Don’t Know, pushes a subtler and more ambient six-string agenda. 

“They’re still an integral part, but we chose to use guitars in a less conventional way,” explains frontman and fellow guitarist Ryan Smith (above right), who, alongside producer Alex Greaves, encouraged a process of building up the new material from a base of synths or drum loops and adding layers of guitar as and when required.

“We were seeing what we could do with the guitar that wasn’t just clicking [on] a distortion pedal, a chorus pedal and a reverb and letting that speak for us,” he notes. “We were trying to create a sound.”

For Jonny Greenwood-inspired wonkiness, pitch-shifting, live reverse and tape-stop effects, Ryan deployed a Red Panda Tensor alongside a Roland Space Echo, which he describes as “an absolute weapon” for perfectly imperfect delays and reverbs. Joe, who tends to provide “a lot of the textures underneath,” relied on a Roland Jazz Chorus amp for his cleans, a Fulltone OCD as his overdrive of choice and an Electro-Harmonix Oceans 11 for a comprehensive array of reverb sounds. 

“Because of the music we make, pedals are such an integral part – potentially more than the guitar,” explains Ryan, who likens his ’board to “a jigsaw where you can constantly change the pieces.” He smiles: “Sometimes the pieces don’t fit. But at least it’s interesting.” 

Unlike the combos at their feet, the pair’s guitar choices remain constant, with both residing firmly in camp Fender. Taking his cue from Greenwood and Blur’s Graham Coxon, Joe is very much a Telecaster man, while Ryan opts for a Surf Green Noventa Jazzmaster equipped with three P-90-style pickups, or a Squier Stratocaster that he’s owned since he began playing the guitar.

“There’s something really special about them,” he says in defence of his “beginner” guitar’s merits in professional music making. “I’d say I even prefer it to the Jazz, but because of how beefy the Jazzmaster’s sound is, it did complement the record.”

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Ellie Rogers

Since graduating university with a degree in English, Ellie has spent the last decade working in a variety of media, marketing and live events roles. As well as being a regular contributor to Total Guitar, MusicRadar and GuitarWorld.com, she currently heads up the marketing team of a mid-scale venue in the south-west of England. She started dabbling with guitars around the age of seven and has been borderline obsessed ever since. She has a particular fascination with alternate tunings, is forever hunting for the perfect slide for the smaller-handed guitarist, and derives a sadistic pleasure from bothering her drummer mates with a preference for “f**king wonky” time signatures.