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Margaret LaBombard: "If a song makes you feel something, you can thank the bass player"

Margaret LaBombard
(Image credit: Future)

I play bass in Slyboots, a melodic new wave band. The songwriter and guitarist, KG Noble, and I have been playing together for years, both in bands and backing different types of singers around New York City. 

Three years ago, she and I decided it was time to start our own band, and that became Slyboots. In 2017, our third gig took place at Liverpool’s Cavern Club for the International Pop Overthrow Festival.

That was quite an accomplishment, because our singer had never been in a band before. We worked really hard to get a set together and develop a vibe. Our original drummer couldn’t go to Liverpool, and my husband, Ted Marcus - who used to play in the Meat Puppets - was talked into being our drummer for the festival. 

After that, he kept on showing up to rehearsals, and organically became a member in the band.

I grew up playing trombone in elementary school through high school, and I continued to play in concert bands when I first moved to New York. I was always connected to the bass clef. I remember taking guitar lessons as a teenager and I wanted to learn Brown Eyed Girl, so my teacher taught me the chords, and how to strum, and gave me the homework. I was so confused. 

The following week I said, ‘Doesn’t the guitar part go like this?’, and I sang what I heard. My teacher was like, ‘Mags, that’s the bass line. You need to play the acoustic guitar part.’ I didn’t even hear the acoustic guitar - my ear naturally turned to the bass.

Later in my mid-20s, I moved to New York with my brother, who is a guitar player. He and I went into Guitar Center and I bought my first bass and a Hal Leonard book. 

Shortly thereafter, my brother made friends with a guy at an art opening who happened to be a singer songwriter and we formed our first band. I haven’t stopped playing bass since. 

My first bass was a sparkly blue OLP, which mirrored a Music Man. It was fine. I didn’t know what I was doing when I bought it, I just liked the color. About a year later I saw an ad on Craigslist for a Geddy Lee Jazz for $400. 

I swapped out the pickups and Jimmy Coppolo of Alleva Coppolo rolled me a set. I love that bass. It has a piece of my soul in it.

we can take a little solace in this crazy world knowing that we bass players are all connected through the low frequency

I also just picked up a Mustang from the Squier Custom Vibe line. That bass is awesome. It’s incredible how great it is. The bass is so well made and the price is more than right - it feels really good.

I’ve started to incorporate the Mustang into my everyday playing. I also have a Carvin JB5 and it’s so nice. KG and I used to back a young teenage singer and at the time her music called for a five-string bass. I needed that low B string. I’m glad that it’s in my collection, but it’s not my go-to-bass.

I mostly play a four-string. I just love that uninhibited low E ring. For effects, I use a Red Witch Zeus Bass Fuzz, an MXR Bass Chorus Deluxe and an MXR Bass Envelope, and my choice of amps includes Euphonic Audio, Markbass and Hartke.

The bass community in New York City is exceptionally supportive. The network is amazing and so much of that is because of bass player Mike Visceglia. He’s been with Suzanne Vega from the start of her career. Mike is a true connector. Knowing that there is a community who generously offers any advice on playing, and has provided me with amps, strings and basses, is extraordinary.

Tone is part of what makes you special as a player. There’s only one Margaret LaBombard and I love the process of developing my tone and doing my own king the listener feel good. If a song makes you feel something, I believe that you can thank the bass player. 

Tone is part of what makes you special as a player. There’s only one Margaret LaBombard and I love the process of developing my tone and doing my own thing.
That said, if the tone supports the song, then I’ve done part of my job.

Bass players are the best people. They are supportive and calm and cool and confident. We’re a community. We can take a little solace in this crazy world knowing that we bass players are all connected through the low frequency.