Andrew Bird Builds a Wall of Sound Using Line 6 Delay Pedals
Seeing Andrew Bird in concert is almost like watching a master chef perform a live cooking show. He takes the ingredients—violin, guitar, glockenspiel and his own signature whistling—and concocts a mixture of melodies that will leave you wondering how one man could produce so much sound. While Andrew’s musical style has evolved greatly over the years—from his early work with Bowl of Fire and Squirrel Nut Zippers to his latest release Hands of Glory—his unique improvisational approach has remained constant. Whether he’s fronting his band or performing an intimate solo “Gezelligheid” show, Andrew relies on two trusted Line 6 DL4 delay pedals to achieve his signature sound.
How did you first get to know Line 6?
It was about 12 years ago. I thought the DL4 delay pedal would make a good compositional tool. Initially it was a way to demo harmony and counterpoint, but it soon became far more important.
You’ve made the DL4 pedals an integral part of your live performance. How are they currently being used?
I use two DL4 pedals. One is dedicated more to rhythmic pizzicato. That's where I start to build the song, feeding in different manipulations of the violin sound from octave pedal bass to filtered metallic rhythm, and sometimes vocal or whistle. The second DL4 is dedicated to the ambient bowed strings and has more post effects, including a spinning Victrola speaker.
How does your setup vary from studio to stage?
The most recent record features a DL4 loop that the band plays along with live. That way I know the feel I've been developing for months translates to the band. It helps demonstrate to them the weirdness of the original vision. I often prefer the DL4 loops to multi-tracked parts because it chews up less space and sounds less scripted.
What are your favorite features of the DL4?
The most successful feature for me is the automatic fading of old parts as you add new parts. This allows the ideas to morph into sounds you never imagined could come out of you. The other loopers I know of record subsequent tracks at the same level leading to an unpleasant build-up of the same frequencies. Also, the lack of memory means you must move on to a new idea and erase the old, which is really good for the creative process. The DL4 is low-fi in all the right ways.
What projects are you currently working on?
I'm working on the Sonic Arboretum—a museum installation of 96 speaker horns that I send multiple loops to, moving them through the space. I'm also developing a children's music-science show called Professor Socks and a film about the songs of The Handsome Family.
What can your fans look forward to in the near future?