Why Barefoot's Eric Folts Will Never Go Acoustic

Folts live on stage with Barefoot.
Folts live on stage with Barefoot. Troy Honaker
In Pound For The Sound, we get technical with local musicians about what gear they use to create their signature tones.

Eric Folts, lead guitarist of Phoenix band Barefoot, is what you might call an almost-native Phoenician, with his roots deeply engrained in the Valley. He and his family moved to Arizona from New York when he was just 4 years old. And it's here that his journey to musicianship began.

Folts is a proficient player and a pedal connoisseur of sorts. Watching him perform, it is obvious that he's very talented and loves his pedals. That's also evident on his Instagram, where he has amassed quite a following for his passion. With constant revamping and fine-tuning of his pedal board setup, it's easy to see why the tons of photos of pedals and gear are so popular with his followers. In fact, he wanted to hold off an extra day on photographing his current setup because he was waiting on the arrival of another new toy that he wanted to include. That is the kind of builder of sound he is.

When digging deeper, we also found out that Eric is 100 percent electric to the core. He owns several different axes, but he does not own an acoustic guitar. And for good reason: They just don't do it for him.

This week, the gents of Barefoot are taking their act on the road all across the great state of Arizona, hitting Tucson's The Rock, Wasted Grain in Scottsdale on April 28, and Flagstaff's Hotel Monte Vista on April 29. Luckily, Folts was able to squeeze some words in via phone and e-mail before they hit the pavement.

New Times
: What's the secret weapon of your sound? And how did that help you find your "signature" tone?
Eric Folts:
Really, the whole pedal board is my "secret weapon," but the EP Booster by Xotic effects is a hidden gem. The "secret" universal formula to good sound for me is a compressor, overdrive, booster, distortion, delay, and then reverb. These are the essentials, and I add in anything else as needed.

The “signature” tone I’m after is just to sound Zappa-esque. In the beginning that’s what I was aiming for, and I’ve sort of just branched off from there, trying to push it farther and farther. Lately, I’ve tried to sound more like Tame Impala’s live stuff with the infinite delay trails and phasers.

What's your favorite piece of gear in your collection and why?
The EHX SuperEgo Synth Engine pedal is pretty awesome. It’s hard to explain what it does. It has an "auto" mode that you can dial in just right to fatten your tone, so I have it on 100 percent of the time. You can also use it to generate soundscapes behind your lead parts as you’re playing them. It’s a really crazy pedal; look it up! I don’t think I’ll ever take it off the board.

click to enlarge
Folts' ever-evolving pedal board.
Eric Folts
Any special pieces of gear acquired over the years? Any special story, or stories, behind your collection of tools?
Recently I’ve picked up this PRS guitar you see in the picture [above]. It’s great for playing everything. It’s my first "real" guitar and I get why they're so expensive now. But besides that, I don't really have any special pieces of gear. I’m constantly buying and selling my gear online, so my setup is always changing.

On the band’s most recent release, Yesteryear, you guys absolutely rip it from the intro until the awesome and abrupt ending of the title track, “Yesteryear.” It is a very guitar-driven song, and moving from tight and spacey staccato riffs to huge, rocking choruses, all with a lunar-like solo in between bridging it all together. How did you go about making all of this happen sonically in the studio? (Note: Yesteryear is uploaded as a full album. To hear the title track skip to 3:53.)

Thanks! Well, actually our other guitarist, Dylan Heinrich, wrote the entirety of the title track "Yesteryear" and plays that solo. His solo on that song is definitely my favorite that we’ve recorded so far, and it’s really fun to play for the whole band.

Heinrich has a lot of high-end pedals that make that solo great though. To record it, from what I remember, he used his Fender Strat through a Laney Lionheart [amp], and pedal-wise, there was a Keeley Compressor, Mosfet Full Drive 2, an EP Booster by Xotic, and a Memory Boy Deluxe involved.

We share guitar solo duties throughout each album. My solo is during the end of the last track "Driving Blind" and for that I went with phaser and delay. This solo is great because I improvise it each time, which keeps the song fun to play for me. I don’t like to learn solos note for note; [it] makes me feel like a jukebox.

Phaser was really the main effect I used for any solo parts on this album. You can hear the same Boss Super Phaser PH-2 during "Friends in The Gutter."

You told me you hate the acoustic guitar and do not own one. Can you please expand upon on your position?
I really just hate making the sad, formulaic, introspective breakup music that is sometimes synonymous with the acoustic guitar player. You’re very limited to one thing unless you can play flamenco, classical, or you’re very gifted. Really though, they're just uncomfortable as heck and not versatile at all.

So for me personally, I don’t see the point. Electric guitar pickups are just so damn good, and you can get many different clean tones with the pickup selector.

I don’t play or listen to anything that would make the acoustic guitar useful. I’m just into weird song writing and improv, so I really don’t think there’s anything new that I can bring to the acoustic guitar. I need the effects.

Plus, on top of that you have to strum and fret like a mofo. The electric guitar is just much better suited to lazy, beer-drinking Americans like myself.

With electric guitar, you can affect the signal so much. Compress it and throw on a bunch of overdrive and delay, and you’ll have way more fun. Plus, they have whammy bars. Can your ancient stringed abomination do that?

You guys have an AZ mini tour coming up this week. What are the details?
Yes! You can find all the details [on our website] ... basically we’re playing with our good friends in Sunset Voodoo and Something Like Seduction all over Arizona the 27th, 28th, and 29th.
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Henri Benard
Contact: Henri Benard