Those of you who are musically or technically curious might have noticed a few instrument changes over the past year. Our front line includes three players with different styles and philosophies that inform their instrument choices.
Figuratively speaking, Tim Garrett plays a half-dozen different instruments on the guitar. There’s the harpsichord figure from In My Life, or the piano segue from Hey Jude, or the 12-string solo from A Hard Day’s Night, and he is always tinkering and adjusting to get his acoustic guitar to sound more like an electric guitar (one of the band’s core tenets is playing acoustic instruments in order to avoid the excess volume that often comes from electric instruments). Ease of fretboard access necessarily drives his instrument decisions. A lifelong Stratocaster devotee, Tim recently pastured his long-tenured sunburst Yamaha for a black Fender Stratacoustic, which has a cut-away body that allows access to the higher frets and a “faster,” more electric-style neck than the Yamaha. But don’t get overly used to the black Fender just yet. We’re hearing it may disappear briefly for a little make-over. Trust us — you’ll know when you see it.
Paul Frields plays upright, acoustic 5-string, electric 5-string, and electric 4-string bass. Each requires a different approach, and he is supremely conversant with each. While the upright is undeniably cool and suited for more rootsy things such as Little Sister, and the 5-string affords a broader lower range, Paul decided the traditional 4-string is a more appropriate sound for the Onion, and that sent him searching for just the right bass. First stop was a Guild Starfire with a single pickup and flatwound strings, which give that unmistakably Beatlesque “thud,” and then he switched to the two-pickup Starfire for more versatility. Eventually, constant badgering from a co-Onion wore him down until his hands came to rest on an immeasurably iconic black Rickenbacker, the definitive rock ’n’ roll bass, which growls and grooves like no other.
Whereas Tim Garrett needs the ease of access that comes with a cut-away guitar body, Douglas Ebert spends the night chucking chords, so the deeper tone that comes from a full dreadnaught acoustic body has more appeal. Long committed to older, player-grade guitars, he has an affinity for shaded tops and began his Onion tenure playing a well-traveled Gibson Hummingbird, which the band gradually decided was a little more sonically dynamic than ideal, before switching to a 1975 Martin D-18 last summer. However, as the saying goes, what goes around comes around, and with some relentless urging (“relentless urging” is another way of saying “badgering”) from a musician friend, he recently landed a 1959 Gibson J-160E, otherwise known as the Beatle guitar, which will make its Onion debut in a week or two.
We’re always looking to get better, and any of us is happy to talk guitars any time. Stop by after the show and say hello.