SILVERSUN PICKUPS ON SILVERSUN PICKUPS’ THIRD RELEASE, NECK OF the Woods, Nikki Monninger crafts driving and droning bass lines that inspire conviction to the band’s emotional, often volatile sound. Tracks such as “Skin Graph” and “Busy Bees” depict Monninger’s grasp of simplicity and the impact it has on orchestration. Having assumed bass duties during the conception of Silversun, Monninger found her identity with the instrument immediately, developing a steady pick hand and venturing to adapt acoustic bass guitar as an important element in the band’s performances.
How did you approach the bass parts for this record?
When we showed up to the studio I had the ideas for bass all mapped out, but [producer] Jacknife Lee took my notes, threw them on the ground, and told me to play what I was feeling in the moment. It was hard, because I like the idea of rehearsing something so that it is polished. He also wanted me to listen to a lot of funk bass before we began writing, which isn’t necessarily my style of playing. When I listen back to the album, I can definitely hear traces of it.
A lot of your riff s are driving ostinato lines.
I grew up liking bass lines that were repetitive, but I also like when the bass is melodic, so I tend to combine those two approaches. I like doing repetitive things and then throwing in a little change here or there, because it becomes more impactful.
The band has been playing some acoustic gigs. How does that change things for you?
It’s a little harder to play acoustic bass guitar. I have mainly been practicing with acoustic basses now because it’s like when baseball players swing with a weighted bat; playing electric is much easier after that. My first goal was to avoid feedback with the bass, which is something I’m still working on.
Do you feel that women approach the bass differently than men?
I think there’s a little less showboating with females as musicians in general. We tend to play more of a supportive role, which may be why a lot of girls gravitate toward the bass. There are probably differences with physical technique, but that changes from player to player.
What are your main goals sonically?
I’m a traditionalist; I try to keep the low end my first priority. Bassists definitely have the foundational job within a band, and having a big low-end sound holds that up. I don’t make the bass jump out if it doesn’t need to.
Silversun Pickups, Neck of the Woods [Dangerbird, 2012]
Bass Gibson Thunderbird, Epiphone El Capitan IV Acoustic
Amp Ampeg SVT-CL head and 8x10 cab
Effects Malekko Barker Assmaster, Zvex Woolly Mammoth bass fuzz, Boss OS-2 Overdrive/Distortion