Rocky Mountain riff: Gear talk with Joey Costello of Gleemer

Photo by Jack Garland

Colorado’s Gleemer turned industry heads full circle last year with their lush, reverb-soaked blend of dream pop, emo & shoegaze, & 2018 finds them picking back up right where they left off. Currently on tour supporting Movements, lead guitarist Joey Costello was kind enough to chat with me ahead of their show tonight at Cat’s Cradle in Chapel Hill, NC about his approach to finding the right pedal, his go-to staples in a live setting, & his hot take on the Rockies World Series chances this season.

Hey Joey, I appreciate you taking the time to nerd out with me about your set-up. How are you doing today?

Of course! I’m good. Just cruisin’ in the van on our way to play The Foundry in Philly.

What was the very first pedal you purchased when you began playing guitar & messing around with the sounds you could make?

The first pedal I ever bought was a Big Muff Pi (the big reissue one). At that point I had been playing for about 2 years and my friend who I “jammed” with got one and I thought it was so cool! Naturally I had to get one too. I actually still own and play this pedal but it’s heavily modded.

What has been your personal process of finding the desired sound when adding pedals to your arsenal?

I think the process of adding pedals to your rig is just to try stuff. There are so many great pedals out there but depending on your instrument or amp it might not be the right fit. Most of the effects I use are pedals used by musicians I look up to! At the end of the day I like to keep it simple and make sure my focus is still playing guitar.

Photo by Adam Chase Fields

Are there any bands or guitarists in general who have influenced your playing style & approach to your gear/sound?

Absolutely! Particularly in Gleemer we are really influenced by the guitar sounds from The Smashing Pumpkins and The Cure. I’m not sure that’s influenced the actual gear being used, but sonically the sounds are aimed towards those bands.

What is your go-to pedal that you’ve incorporated into more songs than not in a live setting for Gleemer?

Well the base tone for the whole Gleemer set is a little compression (Diamond Comp) and chorus (Boss Ce-2). Those stay on the entire time and that would be considered my clean tone. From there I’m basically just punching in and out with the fuzz and occasionally I use a little bit of reverb or slap back delay.

What’s a recent addition to your board that you’ve been particularly excited about using?

The only pedal I have that’s new is the Atlas III from Spaceman Effects. It’s a medium gain boost pedal. Before I got it in the mail I felt a little silly for spending so much on a boost pedal but when I got it I was so impressed! It’s very simple, just one knob for volume, but when you turn it on it make its sound like your amp doubled in size and has so much more depth. It adds beautiful harmonic content to your signal. I literally only get to use it twice in the current set but I run it in front of my other gain pedals and it’s really expanded the gain stages on my board. It’s perfect for boosting overdrive into a slightly more clipped, grindy distortion.

Photo by Alexa Chihos

Have you found a guitar to amp go-to that you’ve stayed true to, or do you like to experiment?

I am not very forgiving when it comes to amps, so I’d say yes. The Fender twin reverb. I could play other guitars and pedals and still get a sound I like but the twin is a must have for Gleemer. I currently play our drummer Charlie’s Fender Twin Reverb ‘65 Reissue. I’m a Fender guy through and through and have a Bassman at home, but for this live set the twin is exactly what we need. The clean tone never breaks and has enough headroom to accept basically any pedal you throw at it. I’d recommend them to anyone looking for a good loud live amp, new or vintage. It’s the perfect platform to build on.

Are you a fan of having a trail in a live set, or keeping most riffs to a clean stop?

You know it really depends on the part. I would say for most of the set my parts are pretty percussive so I don’t use reverb or trails. For example on the pre-chorus of the song “Gauze”, I come in with the bass and we stop together at the same exact time and it goes back down to one guitar. That part would be a little mushy and not tight if I had reverb on so in that case I ditch anything that would trail. There are other parts of the set where I use a long reverb and let it sit behind everything to kind of smooth things out and create a little bit more space. Something we learned about playing live is that the room does a pretty good job of giving you a little bit of reverb so you don’t have to add artificially too often.

Was there a moment or occasion when you realized the burden of being infatuated with your set-up, or has it always been an exciting aspect of being a musician?

Haha! Really the only thing that infuriates me is trying to fit the big muff on my board. It’s comically large. Going back to the topic of simplicity, I think that’s allowed me to be pretty satisfied with my board for very long time. Some people may look at it and think it’s a lot but I really only have a few gain stages, a little bit of modulation and delay and reverb. Those are really common effects for any guitar player and in moderation can all be used very tastefully.

Photo by Joey Costello

What have you found is the most important thing for you personally when it comes to deciding what the right pedal is for you?

 That’s simple. You just have to enjoy playing it. At the end of the day you should be seeking what sounds good to you because that’s going inspire you to play more. I’ve tried numerous fuzz peals and delay pedals, etc. If you enjoy your set up, don’t change anything.

If you had a fan of Gleemer’s sound who wanted to evoke those similar sonic aspects, what pedal would you recommend them above all as a great beginning point?

I’d have to recommend two. A chorus and a fuzz will get you most of the way there. The chorus give you that Cure/Cocteau Twins clean tone and the fuzz can give you that Smashing Pumpkins/ MBV thing. Fuzz is very versatile too. At low settings a lot of fuzzes can sound like an bad ass overdrive.

As far as specific suggestions go you can’t go wrong with big brands like Boss and MXR. The Ce-5 was my first chorus and did a great job. If you can shell out a little more dough, the Ce-2 is my all time fave. The fuzz market is endless but big muffs are great. If you want to go high end, Wren and Cuff makes the best muff and fuzz face copies around. It’s hard to reccomed pedals simply because the market is so big and it really depends on your guitar and amp.

Any general insight or advice you would give to any readers out there looking to get into the gear game?

I would say start used. There is so much pedal trading going on these days that you can find some great effects that are really cheap. Also start with big box brands. I certainly fell into the trap of boutique effects a few years ago but it’s not necessary, so many pedal companies have caught up! Boss is my favorite effects company ever. They rock in every category.

Photo by Jack Garland

Any final thoughts or words you’d like to share? Go Rockies?

Well always go Rockies! They are the best baseball team ever. They’ll probably win the next 30 World Series. But other than that, just gotta shout out all the bands we are on tour with; Movements, Can’t Swim and Super Whatevr all rule so hard and we have played some of the best shows I’ve ever gotten to be apart of. Not to mention they are all super great people. Thanks Jarrod, you’re the man. Shout out to Oddboy!


Gleemer plays tonight at Cat’s Cradle in Chapel Hill, NC with Movements, Can’t Swim, & Super Whatevr. As of press time Wednesday, the show is sold out.

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