In Pound For The Sound, New Times gets technical with local musicians about what gear they use to create their signature style.
Bassist and guitarist Anamieke Quinn has been playing and writing music almost her whole life. She has been involved in several other facets of the music industry, even acting as the soundperson for her all-women acoustic group, Las Chollas Peligrosas.
Quinn was born in California, but moved to Arizona at an early age, so she considers herself a Phoenician. She started writing songs before she could play an instrument, crafting them vocally. She played bass in orchestra, and eventually tried accompanying herself with just bass, a move that people said sounded "weird." As a teenager, she took the feedback and picked up the guitar.
After graduating and years of performing covers at local coffee shops and open mics, Anamieke moved to Los Angeles for college. That's where her career really began, with her band Anamieke and The Elements. She did the whole "L.A." thing for a while.
Flash forward years later and Quinn is back in Arizona, where she performs with her band Treasurefruit (who will be releasing new music soon) and as an integral member of Las Chollas Peligrosas. She is also part of the events team at The Rogue Bar and has been coordinating the Sidepony Express Music Festival for the past six years in Bisbee.
Quinn, and the rest of Las Chollas Peligrosas, are performing on Friday, August 11, at Crescent Ballroom. New Times was able to get in some words with Quinn about her instruments, challenges of playing acoustic, and her upcoming show.
New Times: What's the secret weapon of your sound? And how did that help you find your "signature" tone?
Anamieke Quinn: As an upright bassist, the trick is to be as clear and present as possible and avoid all interference. So having a dependable pickup and a good communication with the sound engineer is key. I’m a very dynamic and percussive player, ranging from tender to bombastic within the same song. So I generally like a pretty dry, balanced sound so that I can control all the nuances. Too much low end and reverb makes it tough to hear and intense compression throws off my attack/decay. So as true to acoustic and natural as possible is ideal, and let me tell you what, that’s no easy task in most venues, especially with all that other action happening on stage at the same time.
As a guitarist, it’s a continuing saga. Once I got my Gretsch and started using the Fender Champ and Bassmaster — now I’m on to the Bassbreaker — I started to find my tone. The gritty presence of those smaller vintage amps really rings my bell. There’s a lot of character to catch in a smaller box sometimes.
What's your favorite piece of gear in your collection and why?
The Cloudlifter is the coolest. Not only does it do magical things to your microphone, but it also comes from our home turf, just down in Tucson, so that’s pretty cool. For guitars, I love the Malekko Chicklet Mini Spring Reverb. Because it’s adorable and sounds amazing.
Any special pieces of gear acquired over the years? Any special story, or stories, behind your collection of tools?
Yes! In like 2010 or so, I was a finalist in a Taylor/Elixir sponsorship contest thing and won that beautiful acoustic guitar. There was a popular vote and a critical vote, and to my shock a guitar arrived at my door. The song “This Point In Time” on our Treasurefruit album was the first song I wrote on it.
Las Chollas are an all-acoustic band, no amps or vocal mics, just some room mics and the main PA. Thanks for sharing your video of your song “Cuando Vivo” so we have an idea of how group works. Having such an intimate, “true acoustic” sound, what challenges have you faced along the way performing live? Any advice for other “true acoustic” acts as far as sound goes?
Yes we have many times performed and recorded strictly acoustically, with just a couple room mics or none at all. It’s a tricky thing to pull off even with the best of natural acoustics. Our full tech rider is a total nightmare, with like 15 channels minimum. We have six full-time vocalists and six instrumentalists, some of which are switching inputs throughout the set. So somewhere in between has worked for us in certain situations where we bring our own sound. We’ll set up a main mic for whomever is singing the lead on a particular song and just take turns going up to the center mic while the rest of us are all acoustic. Or we’ll add anywhere from one to three additional ambient vocal mics to capture harmonies and the more subtle instruments.
In Treasurefruit, you sing, play guitar, and write the songs. In Las Chollas Peligrosas, you play upright bass, acoustic guitar, and sing. You had even said that you had two songs you converted from Treasurefruit into Las Chollas songs. Can you talk about your approaches to songwriting with each band?
Indeed. My influences as a lover of music are super-duper diverse and that comes through in my songwriting for sure. So I just write whatever I feel and the songs find their way to the right place eventually. For ages we were thinking, “Should Treasurefruit go ahead and get timbales or are we headed down rock 'n' roll avenue?” Then LCP happened and that part of my catalog found a home. The songs that crossed over had a decidedly more jazzy/sax-y/noir vibe to them before getting fully Chollas-ified.
When LCP began, we each brought existing songs to the table, but now are writing for the group and with each other. So the approach is definitely colored by the fact that we have this amazing toolbox of harmonizing vocalists and multi-instrumentalists with which to actualize fantastic ideas, rather than converting solo pieces to ensemble arrangements. I can’t wait to dig in with this stockpile of song nuggets.
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LCP has a show this Friday, August 11, at Crescent Ballroom. Any words you would like to share with fans about the show?
Sure do! This will be the first time back in the ballroom since debuting our violinist, and things have been blossoming. Can’t wait to show you what’s been cookin’. Bring your dancing shoes and all your pieces of flair. We’ll be joined by special guests Mariachi Rubor and DJ Nico.
Las Chollas Peligrosas are performing on Friday, August 11, at Crescent Ballroom.