Oh my goodness, we have another edition of Three Music Thingz today! That's the blogseries where I ask musicians for three thingz that are essential to their music.
Today we're featuring the thingz of the members of Miracle Sweepstakes, who hail from New York, and who released a psych-y, space-y rock album Last Licks last October full of delightful proggy touches: tempo shakeups, extraterrestrial guitar tone, roaming snare fills.
But the groovy vibes never stray far from structure—there's a ceremonious feeling throughout that tethers the album to reality, even when the band participates in the mid-song noise frenzy of "Bad Bee" or the wispy, '60s pop photo-negative of "Aah Ooh."
I think my favorite tune on the album is "Ooh Aah," which has the gentle paranoia of later-period Elliott Smith, and winds from suite to suite like a ghost floating through the halls of a rambling mansion.
You can almost get a sense of their eclectically formal sound through their listed Bandcamp lineup: Doug Bleek (bass, vocals), Craig Heed (vocals, guitar, piano, organ, Mel9, midi, fake harpsichord, dial), Justin Mayfield (juitar, vocals, percussion, synth), Ian Miniero (drums, v-drums, Roland SPD-SX, percussion). There's a lot going on with Miracle Sweepstakes but it's all good stuff. So I needed to ask them for some thingz! Read on for Doug Bleek and Craig Heed's essential music thingz...
- Fender Marcus Miller Signature Bass
Back in college I worked at a Guitar Center. To this day, even with all the cooler, independently run guitar shops around the city to choose from, I still feel oddly at home moseying in front of the wall of guitars at GC, circling the rustic decor of the acoustic room, tapping on the keyboards, looking for one that is actually plugged in and ready to rip.
Anyhow, the best reason to work at a music shop is buying gear at cost, or roughly 20-30% off. I had initially planned to buy a bunch of microphones and recording equipment, but those plans were delayed when I saw it hanging there, the Fender Marcus Miller Signature bass. It just looked so cool, the yellowed natural finish, with the black pickguard and the big, block inlays. It turned out to be a great impulse buy and I have used it almost exclusively throughout the band's history.
The only time I played another bass live was about a year ago and I broke a string during a between-song gag where I fake shredded to make for a ridiculous photo op. The thing couldn't even handle fake shredding. The Marcus Miller, however, is built like a rock, I always feel like I could swing my way out of a bad situation Scott Pilgrim-style if I really had to. It's all over the new record. - DB
- The Boss Me
Ian got this Boss multi-effects pedal for Christmas way back in either 2007 or 2008— the Boss ME-50, or as we’ve forever called it, the Boss Me. I hijacked it pretty early on, and used his until I finally bought my own off eBay a few years ago.
A hilarious grift in the pedal industry is there’s this pervasive bias against multi FX pedals. Some dorky “expert” will tell you that if you want the best tones, you can’t just buy one single pedal with every effect in it, you’ve gotta get separate pedals for each effect. Coincidentally, that single pedal costs like $300-400 new, and each of those individual ones is $100-200 a pop. Everyone from other bandmates, to people at shows, to recording engineers will all be like, “damn, how’d you get such good sounds outta that thing?” It’s almost as if music is more about what you play and how you use your equipment, rather than whether it’s analog-true-bypass-whatever.
Maybe the biggest benefit of having every traditional effect in one box is that when I do buy additional pedals, it’s always the craziest effects, like an arpeggiator or a mellotron pedal. You can hear the fruits of those effects in things like the swells on “Let Something Happen,” or the swirly intro of “Nor’easter”— no synths, all guitar. I’d probably never splurge on niche pedals like those if I had to worry about buying a delay pedal or a tuner or something. I’m practically the Tom Morello of indie rock, and I owe it all to the Boss Me. - CH
- Lane Thomas
Every year I participate in a fantasy baseball league called Big World. I was invited by my friend Dan back in 2018, it’s him and like a dozen or more finance bros he knows from Boston. In addition to having so many people in it, the defining characteristics of Big World are that it has a steepish $100 yearly buy-in, and they do a player auction instead of a traditional draft. The auction lasts about four hours, and is in many ways a bigger event than the season itself— basically a chatroom full of dudes all game theory-ing each other for an entire evening once a year each March.
Anyways, this past season I made it to the finals. The matchups run Monday through Sunday, and I was winning until Sunday afternoon, when my guys all kinda shit the bed and I coughed up the lead. As each real-life game wrapped up, my hopes for a comeback dwindled. Eventually I had just one hitter left, Nationals outfielder Lane Thomas. The Nats game went to the ninth, and Thomas was due for one last at bat. The way the categories were split, the only possible way I could comeback was if Thomas hit a home run. I know my opponent knew this as well, because he was apparently watching the Nats game at a bar and texted our league commissioner, “as long as Thomas doesn’t hit a dinger here I win.”
The instant he hit send, so I’m told, Thomas golfed a line drive into the left field seats, essentially walking it off for me and bringing home my second ever Big World championship. The prize money was $900, which, after factoring in $100 for this year’s dues, plus another hundo for a past year where I forgot to pay (my bad fellas), meant I netted $700. Funnily enough, it cost exactly $700 to master our album Last Licks, which was pretty much the only overhead cost we had in making it. With one swing of the bat, in an otherwise completely meaningless late September game his team would ultimately lose, Lane Thomas financed an entire DIY record. How can you not be romantic about baseball? - CH