Local Wire

Jimmy Eat World Multi-Instrumentalist Robin Vining Proves Size Does Not Matter

Jimi Gianatti - Pop Narkotic
Robin Vining of Jimmy Eat World
In Pound For The Sound, we get technical with local musicians about what gear they use to create their signature tones.

Robin Vining is an extremely musical person.

Full of ideas, he has been grinding in the Phoenix scene for almost 20 years (fronting Sweetbleeders since 1999), and in recent years joined Jimmy Eat World's touring outfit as a multi-instrumentalist, adding some critical extra bells and whistles to the band's ever-evolving sound.

Vining is no stranger to stretching out the barriers of sound, either. He was one of the Valley's pioneers in vocal distortion, creating his own special megaphone microphone he used to use back in his days with the now-disbanded Colorstore.

Vining even goes so far to prove that size for sound is of no importance, as he has even taken his mini Pignose amplifier as his stage monitor for huge festivals worldwide while touring with JEW.

Currently, Vining is out on tour with Jimmy Eat World supporting their new record, Integrity Blues. He also has a record release scheduled for April 14 at the Newton. Luckily, New Times was able to squeeze some words in with this music machine.

New Times: What's the secret weapon of your sound? And how did that help you find your "signature" tone(s)

Robin Vining: As far as having a “signature tone," I’m very into using whatever is appropriate for the song I’m playing, and who I’m playing with. For instance, here on this tour with Jimmy Eat World, we are all using Fractal Audio’s Axe-Fx II XL+ instead of usual amps, and there are no speaker cabinets on stage. ... It all just goes straight to the house mains. With those, everyone tried to match as closely as possible the tones from the albums. The Nord keyboard I’m playing live is just acting as a midi controller for various sounds that are set up for each song in Apple’s MainStage.

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Robin's current tour set up with Jimmy eat World
Robin Vining

What's your favorite piece of gear in your collection and why?

I have two: No. 1 is an upright piano I inherited from the Dueck family, because it feels like home. No. 2 is my Peavey Classic 50 4x10 combo because it’s nearly indestructible. It’s been stolen from me once and I got it back, it’s so versatile and has been with me through nearly all the good and bad times of my adult life. It’s like a marriage, I guess. No. 3 is the Martin J1 acoustic guitar that I bought new in '97. That’s my other home that is not a piano.

Any special pieces of gear acquired over the years? Any special story, or stories, behind your collection of tools?

Ah, I’ve got few decent accordions, a couple organs. Some great bargain electric pianos. I would have a whole house full of garage sale organs if my wife didn’t put a stop to it.

Jimmy Eat World released Integrity Blues in October 2016, and I noticed you recorded keyboards on “The End Is Beautiful.” What did you use to get those touching, watery tones that swim around like a sea turtle floating in the ocean?

Well, I swam with some sea turtles once in Oahu and they were pretty quiet, except when they got up on the beach and moved the sand around. ... Anyway, I think it was a Wurlitzer electric piano layered with some Mellotron sounds and plenty of reverberating studio magic.

When it comes to your Pignose, does size actually matter?

I keep trying to work my Pignose amp back into the live show. I usually travel with it just as a practice amp, but during the Damage record tour it was my actual stage amp for a while. We just packed it into a drum case with some foam cushioning to block out the din of crashing cymbals and drums and the other amplifiers and put a mic in front of it. It doesn’t really matter how big your amp is on stage, you know, that’s just for show. The front-of-house engineer is really going to determine how it all sounds for the audience if you can send a decent signal.

New Times heard that you have a new record coming out soon. What are the plans around that record?

So, I wanted to do a mostly acoustic record of just straight live performances. I went into the studio for a weekend at FiveThirteen Recording and just played some of the songs that I usually play in my solo sets. We kept eight of those songs and also recovered a session of four songs which I had done with Jon Rauhouse in 2008. Those four were originally intended as the basic tracks to which I was going to add several layers and more production, but when we listened back to them, the songs all seemed to be a perfect match to what we had just recorded that weekend, as they were all live takes and stylistically similar.

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Courtesy of Robin Vining