We’ve past our baker’s dozen of blog posts now- and the fact that we’ve nowhere near scratched the surface of Birmingham’s endless pool of talent just goes to show how thoroughly healthy the scene is right now. Pandemic shandemic! Today we’re making time with a true shining star of the more recently emerging, multi-disciplinary psych scene- Jakob of Brain Food and Tremorsz.
Anyone who’s been lucky/foolish/stubborn enough to float around the Birmingham ‘indie’ scene for the past decade or so would surely agree when I say it has become a far more inclusive, optimistic and kind place. And that is in no small part due to the increasing crossover between the visual and musical arts- of which the monthly night Kaleidoscope has become instrumental in facilitating. Showcasing live music and local artists under one roof on the first Thursday of each month- for free! My Friday mornings have never been worse, frankly- the night has fast become a true institution of the cities nightlife, and the Brain Food ménage have been a big part of making it happen. And lucky for us, they also happen to be a talented, oddball bunch in their own right- with Jakob providing an ethereal, reverb-soaked backdrop to singer Liam’s rootsier delivery (more on him forthcoming). But like any true creative type, Jakob is a man of many talents- skating, painting, and also rocking rather hard in the relatively new riff-merchants Tremorsz (again, watch this space). So feed your face with some Brain Food below, and then jump with us into the catacombs of Jakob’s music box.
Talk us through your guitar history from your first to your most recent.
“My first guitar was a glossy red Ibanez Destroyer! It was £40 from Cash Converters and I got it around 7 years ago. I’d originally bought a bass and was jamming with my mate Clark (now drumming for Tremorsz) however my mate Will (bassist, Brain Food) picked it up and was a natural, so my hand was kind of forced to pick up and learn guitar. I then got myself a Squier Affinity Telecaster which I’ve never really got on with and still never really play to this day. I think I had an Epiphone SG, Squier Strat and a small handful of 70’s Teisco/Kay guitars before treating myself to a proper Fender Strat (which is actually a bit of a relic of it’s own). I also have a vintage Burns Batwing which I got recently, and a Burns Double Six, which is my main guitar for Tremorsz.”
Who inspired you to pick up guitar, and who inspires you to keep on playing today?
“First of all a big shout out to my Mom who, as an original 70s skinhead punk, influenced my taste in music massively as a kid, losing her was my whole reason for ever wanting play music – I love you forever X
Tell us about your music, and how you approach your guitar playing within the context of it.“Brain Food is very much psychedelia. Lately we’ve been exploring a lot of jazz elements. Myself and Will didn’t actually play our instruments prior to starting the initial project with Clark (Liam joined shortly after, Clark left and we had a few drummers before luckily landing on my childhood friend Connor), so the duration has been nothing short of a learning experience for us both, which I think has contributed to a more genuine and organic sound. However, being a natural left-hander who plays right-handed, I don’t think I’ve made things as easy for myself! Most recently I’ve taught myself how to play piano with some help from my wonderful partner Hannah (of Mount Pleasant, Tremorsz) and applied this to synth/keys for Brain Food- exploring new chord variations & flavours like diminished, augmented, 7th and 9th chords, and exotic scales like the Ahava Raba to really push our sound into unchartered territory. Tremorsz are pushing for a heavier sound, which is a great outlet for me- downtuned guitars, 12-string for that droney sound, high-gain set ups – it’s early days yet but I’m really excited to see where this project takes us!”
What setup are you currently running, amp and pedal wise?
“Brain Food: 1993 Fender Strat -> Vox wah -> Korg Blackout tuner -> Boss Wazacraft BD-2W (always on for extra cronchy cleanish tones) -> Proco Rat 2 -> MXR Classic 108 fuzz(dialled in ‘waspy’) -> Earthquaker Devices ‘The Depths’ Vibe Machine -> Boss RE-20 Space Echo -> Earthquaker Devices ‘Levitation’ Reverb -> Fender 1973 Silverface Twin Reverb
Tremorsz: Burns Double Six (tuned to C standard) -> Vox Wah -> Danelectro Wasabi Distortion/Boost -> Behringer SF300 -> TC Electronic Alter Ego x 4 -> Death By Audio Reverberation Machine -> TC Electronic Spark booster -> Egnator Renegade 65
Tonally, I’m dialled in to chase and occupy high end scratchiness for both bands.”
What’s the one pedal that you couldn’t live without?
“The Boss RE-20- hands down. It’s such a versatile pedal- I use it for everything live and during production, and I love the hold function on the tap tempo, or “MASH” as I like to call it. I really hope to one day own a proper space echo unit for studio use. Hell, I might even use it live if I ever get my hands on one!”
What’s your current main guitar, and why so?
“I can’t put my Strat down! I bought the Burns Batwing to replace it, however the Strat just outperforms it in every way. There’s a big air of mystique around these 1993 MIK Fender Strats- apparently they were made in the Korea factory shortly before a chunk of operations were moved to Mexico, parts-wise they’re very standard but there weren’t many of them made, and they’ve always been a hot topic of debate on guitar forums.”
Are there any other local guitarists you particularly admire?
“Loads! My Brain Food band mate Liam McKeown is one of the best to have ever done it (tricky to learn from however due to his unique upside down, reverse strung set up – but an absolute pleasure to play with), Matt Jenkins aka Uncle Dad of Tremorsz has taught me a lot in our short time playing together, other local heroes like Scott Vincent of Table Scraps, Connor Boyle of The Cosmics, Thom Edwards of God Damn, Steve Baker of Black Mekon, Connor Hemming aka Con Dwyer of Bad Girlfriend (big time rippers), Brandon Robinson of Exhaler, Kaila Whyte aka Blue Ruth (previously of Youth Man), Tubes, Dianne Burden aka Sofa King, Rob Oulton aka Robby O’ Rock, Hamish of Hamer (Leeds based but had to mention), Jack Younger of DOXA and previously Mother’s Earth Experiment, as well as Mark Roberts of DOXA and previously of Mother’s Earth too, Liv Gardner and Josh Sellis of Monastry (keep an eye out for these absolute shredders), James Brown of Mutes, Kit of Pretty Vile aka Brum’s answer to Ty Segall and last but not least my partner Hannah Al-Shemmeri of Mount Pleasant and Tremorsz is just an all around inspiration and support. There’s too many to mention, sorry if I’ve missed anyone!”
“You can find Brain Food’s 2nd EP as well as Tremorsz first 2 offerings on Spotify. Live show’ are yet to be figured out as I’m sure you all know but I’m itching to get out there. Some exciting live sessions are currently in the works for both bands, and I’m in the studio 24/7 recording EP3 with Brain Food, as well as some fresh singles and potentially a first EP with Tremorsz – I can’t spill too much at the moment regarding Tremorsz; all will be revealed very soon, keep ’em peeled!”