A week or so ago, I had a chance to play the SoundBrut DrVa Overdrive/Varitone Boost and wrote a post about it here – SoundBrut DrVa Overdrive/Varitone Boost. It’s a great sounding overdrive with – espeically with the varitone portion of the circuit.
I’ve mentioned it before, but when I discover new companies and new pedals – I get real excited. And, I always want to learn a little bit more about them. So I sent Özüm İtez a few questions to see what SoundBrut, as a business, is all about. He was kind enough to answer them for me. Check it out below!
Talking with SoundBrut!
– Where are you located?
We’re in Stockholm, Sweden.
– How long has SoundBrut been in business?
Since January 2017.
– How did SoundBrut start?
three years ago we started talking about building effects. Initially though, we were not particularly interested in building stompboxes per-se, but effects in general. I guess, we could’ve just ended up producing plug-in effects, but at that time we were touring with our band Hayvanlar Alemi regularly so we said, “OK let’s boil down some of the ideas we gathered so far, do some prototyping and see if we can come up with some pedals we can use live”. Once we were satisfied with the results, the idea of starting a company took shape.
– What inspired the DrVa as your first production pedal?
We were usually discussing on new approaches to familiar effects or straight forward new musical tools. But before launching on to more radical ideas we decided that first we need a solid drive circuit. The idea was to have a signature gain sound that can be coupled with whatever effects we would build later.
So, we experimented with separate drive, tone and fuzz circuits that could go together or solo. A number of things inspired us but the most fundamental ideas that shaped these circuits actually came from negative influences. We are dealing with at least 40 years old technologies; there isn’t much room for innovation in the field of analogue overdrive and boosts. Yet, from the get go, we knew that we would not try and to recreate already established and well-built pedals.
To simply put it, we do not like the abundancy of mid-boost overdrives, their tonal and harmonic dampness, equalizing range of one knob tone circuits. First, we started looking for alternatives to the tone circuits used on different OD pedals. The convenience of operating only one knob in a live situation is great but that one knob really curtains your guitar tone. We had our eyes on the Varitone circuit and decided to give it a shot because having a tone circuit with the ability to sit on different EQ ranges is quite unique and fun. Less usable than a full–on three band active EQ but definitely more fun! Varitone circuit has a very interesting sound yet it was rightfully discarded by guitarists years ago, since it introduces a gain loss due to the varying capacitances. Once we came up with a solution to couple it with a boost circuit, to overcome the gain reduction problem, it worked.
The tone circuit was going to be rather complicated so we wanted to make the drive section as simple as possible. Tweakability is great but having a knob clutter on the face of a stompbox is not. Finding a right balance between the two is crucial for a live musician. We focused on an op-amp operated hard clipping drive and tried to build it one knob, blend-only, fixed gain overdrive. It did not work the way we expected and we settled down with traditional gain and volume controls.
Returning to your original question, we would say that the sound you got when both effects are on, sort of self-inspired DrVa. When they are both on, the sound blossoms.
– What do you find is the most challenging when it comes project ideas?
An obvious answer might be “time and money”! Besides that, knowing what would work and having the foresight to assess the situation as a business matter, is quite hard. Since we are musicians, we tend to work on stuff that we would like to use but that does not necessarily mean that it is useful for all. You can have a great idea, but that great idea can easily be useless to %90 percent of the artist population.
– What are some of your biggest challenges you encounter in regards to business?
Not all musicians are guitarists. Not all guitarists use effects pedals. Not all guitarists who use effects pedals are into boutique units. So, we are in with a very small pond and it’s swimming with hundreds of great effects builders. Standing out is a problem.
– What is the next pedal all about?
We are getting more and more positive reactions to the Varitone boost part of DrVa so the plan is to release Va as a separate pedal in a couple of months. Of course, it will be housed in a small enclosure but the circuitry is the same. The only difference will be the Q switch. We ditched the middle setting and now it has two positions instead of three.
– Are there any pedal builders out there that inspire you?
Sure. Among the big cats, EHX is great. They are one of the oldest but still they come up with, not just new pedals but new effects, every year. Of course, while selling thousands of Muffs every month, they have the luxury for not playing safe but still…
Dwarfcraft Devices, EarthQuaker Devices, Death By Audio, Stone Deaf FX, Chase Bliss and Red Panda are all rather new builders which all have at least one pedal that made us say “That is brilliant! I wish I could’ve came up with that idea!”.
– Tell me a little about your band Hayvanlar Alemi.
Hayvanlar Alemi is a psychedelic rock band founded in Ankara back in 1999. We play instrumental music influenced by folk, pop and hybrid sounds of South East Asia, East and West Africa, South America and Russia, as well as Jamaican dub reggae and Californian surf.
You can check out more about the band here: www.hayvanlaralemi.org
– What is your long term goal with SoundBrut?
There are a couple dirt pedals, already prototyped and made ready for production. We plan to release them all this year. After that, the plan is to create a digital pedal platform that can house more novel and exciting effects ideas.