“Every time we head into the studio, I probably haul in 10 amps and 15 guitars,” Neon Trees guitarist Chris Allen says, laughing.
“But this time, we tried to simplify it. We really just wanted to do this record with a couple of amps and a few guitars.”
Despite the comparatively stripped-down approach, Pop Psychology, the third album from the new wave–influenced, Utah-based alternative rockers, is awash with a rich array of ringing, sparkling guitar tones.
Produced by longtime friend and collaborator, Sugarcult frontman Tim Pagnotta, Pop Psychology songs like “Love in the 21st Century,” “Living in Another World” and the lead single, “Sleeping with a Friend,” are powered by Allen’s skillfully intertwined guitar lines, most of which are painstakingly processed through a smorgasbord of echo, delay, chorus and compression effects.
“It’s funny,” Allen says, “but if I’m just sitting around with an acoustic guitar and someone asks me to play one of our songs, I’m like, ‘Well, it’s not gonna sound right with one guitar.’ Each of the parts are so specific, most of our songs require two guitars to make any sense of what’s going on.” (Live, the band is abetted by touring guitarist David Charles.)
Though Allen owns a wide variety of guitars and amps, his Fender Eric Johnson Stratocaster and Laney L20H head ultimately form the heart of his rig onstage and in the studio. “I just love everything about that guitar,” he says of the Strat, which is fitted with a Lindy Fralin Split-Blade in the bridge position.
"The pickup allows him to keep the guitar’s classic Strat tone while cancelling out the extraneous noise often caused by stadium lighting rigs. “The Laney is pretty loud for a 20-watt, and it’s definitely as loud as I’ll ever need. My sound guy really likes it, so that’s the most important part. If he can make it sound good out front, then I’m happy!”
GUITARS Fender Eric Johnson Stratocaster, Fender Cabronita Telecaster, Fender Custom Telemaster, Silvertone 1446, Silvertone Vanguard
AMPS Laney L20H with Laney 2x12 cab, Divided by 13 JJN 50/100 with 4x12 cab
EFFECTS Ibanez TS808HW Tube Screamer, Eventide Timefactor Delay, Strymon El Capistan Tape Echo, DigiTech Hardwire CR-7 Stereo Chorus, Malekko Trem, Malekko Vibrato, Janglebox JB2 Compressor
STRINGS D’Addario EXL110 nickel-wound
Photo (above): Jimmy Hubbard