Hourglass Cats Guitarist Cori Rios on His Secret Weapon, a Guitar He Calls Jasmine

Cori Rios at the now defunct Live Wire.
Cori Rios at the now defunct Live Wire. Trippin Billies
In Pound For The Sound, New Times gets technical with local musicians about what gear they use to create their signature style.

The Hourglass Cats lead singer and guitarist Cori Rios comes equipped with a "signature howl" and the hats to match. A well-dressed player, he has the chops to support his quirky style and intricate guitar-playing.

Rios is a second-generation Phoenician. He grew up playing guitar and really started getting into music around the age of 14; that's when he got Jasmine, his first electric guitar love. He studied from an early age, and it is evident by his finger-picking and fret board theory abilities.

Cori is an active musician about town. Not only is he the frontman and lead guitarist for The Hourglass Cats, he also has a self-titled solo project, is a live member of CooBee Coo, and has sat in with Scattered Melodies. He recently formed a new acoustic duo, River Jones and Lady River, and collaborated with Ryan "Stilly" Stilwell from Black Bottom Lighters.

As if all that wasn't enough, Rios also owns a clothing line called AiRizona Wear. This is a new endeavor he actually started this year. It's been a busy 2017 for this guy.

Cori, and the rest of the The Hourglass Cats, are scheduled to perform live at Last Exit Live on Saturday, August 26, supporting The Movement with fellow locals Clint Stevens. New Times was lucky to get some words in via phone about the upcoming show, his guitar Jasmine, and his love for nature.

New Times: What's the secret weapon of your sound? And how did that help you find your "signature" tone?
Cori Rios: I think my secret weapon of my sound is my baby girl Jasmine, which is a Fender Stratocaster double humbucker. I think that helped me find my signature tone because of the fact that it's a clear Fender sound that's got a lot of brightness to it, but the double humbuckers add a lot of darkness. And I think that's a huge part of my sound is creating clarity like a bright happiness, but also allowing it to have a lot of dark, kind of sexy evilness as well kind of shrill so I can bring out the flamenco and Slavic scales that I use.

What's your favorite piece of gear in your collection and why?
Right now, my personal favorite all-in-one trick pony is my Boss - RE - 20 Space Echo. It's the best pedal that you could ever own if you ever want any type of dubbi-ness, any type of delay; it's pretty much my one-off pedal. No matter where I go, I'm rocking that. It's what King Tubby and all the great artists use, but instead of a giant modulation pedal thing, it's just condensed into the small pedal. It allows me to make all those weird oscillations, and that really has allowed me to play guitar less, but still make noises while I'm playing and kind of create what I feel like I've created a lot with The Hourglass Cats and on my other projects. It's definitely allowed me to give noises that wouldn't necessarily come from a guitar, but I'm still using the car to create those noises.

click to enlarge Jasmine. - CORI RIOS
Cori Rios
Any special pieces of gear acquired over the years? Any special story, or stories, behind your collection of tools?
I would go back again to referencing Jasmine, my first guitar ever. My pretty much all the time guitar started my entire move into music. Not just that, but she's literally been through hell and back. Maybe 13 years of beatings, shredded, thrown on the floor. One time, Brannon from Last Exit Live ran it over because I left it in the parking lot and it was pitch-black. He thought it was a person, and I was able to get it back in a working order. She's even been left in different states. Shit, we even played beach festivals in Mexico and pool parties, where somehow the pool or sand got in the guitar, and we still got it rewired. So yeah.

You recently released your single “I’m Sorry.” Awesome song: I love the way it all comes together. How did you go about tracking your guitars for this song, specifically the colorful electric tones creeping in and out throughout the piece?

We started tracking at two different studios. The first studio was at Skypoint Productions. We laid down double acoustic guitars, a left and right, and I used my Guild, which has a really deep, dark tone instead of bright, which is kind of one of my things. I really like bassy, dark tones. Although we started with pretty much keeping it all organic and acoustic, we tracked everything and then it sounded a little flat, so then of course I went in with my electric and of course the space Echo, and I started laying in all the electric guitar fillers as only one extra track of guitar fillers as far as electric goes. And there was just some delay and reverb on the guitar.

You spend a lot of time in nature. How is that reflected in the music you write?

I feel like that a lot more of my solo material and a lot more of my music outside of The Hourglass Cats material is really inspired by nature. Recognizing the gift of of nature and Mother Nature and just all of God's beauty, it really has inspired a lot of that kind of writing because when I'm doing stuff outside THC, I feel like it's easier to be a little bit more introspective and little bit more personal. When you're out there and you just see the beauty of what things are like untouched by humans, and even just your own human nature, it has a huge impact. It’s almost easier for me to write a song playing music in the backyard, because for some reason singing in the sun has always been one of those things that just clears my head and kind of clears away all the worriedness about what I'm creating it. It helps me stay more true to the art and true to nature.

click to enlarge The Hourglass Cats - BEN GARCIA
The Hourglass Cats
Ben Garcia
The Hourglass Cats are performing this Saturday at Last Exit Live. Any words you wish to share with fans about the show?
Our show on Saturday is actually a pretty special one. We asked the boys from Scattered Melodies to back us up on rhythm, and we are going to have Jake and Josh from Scattered Melodies playing with us and then me and Chaz going to be holding it down Hourglass Cats-style. We are playing with our good friends Clint Stevens and we will also be playing with The Movement. They are one of my favorite reggae bands coming out of the scene right now. Chaz actually got to see them in Alaska, so he’s stoked!

The Hourglass Cats are performing on Saturday, August 26, at Last Exit Live.
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Henri Benard
Contact: Henri Benard