Interview with Jill Palumbo of The Torches
Name: Jill Palumbo
Bands: The Torches (Washington, DC)
Websites: www.thetorches.net, thetorches.bandcamp.com, www.lujorecords.com, www.facebook.com/TheeTorches, www.myspace.com/theetorches
Listen to The Torches “Daughter Leg”
QRD – What was your first bass & what happened to it?
Jill – My first bass was & is a used Fender P with a replacement neck. My dad got it for me for Christmas when I was 14.
QRD – What’s your typical set-up from bass to effects to amplifier?
Jill – Bass - Tuner - Rat - Amp
QRD – What’s the most important part of your rig – bass, amplifier, or effects?
Jill – My bass (see below).
QRD – What’s your main amplifier & why?
Jill – I use a Peavey TKO 65. Same very amp my dad also got me for Christmas when I was 14. It’s not fancy, but it’s lasted me this long & it’s super durable. Loud enough &, though heavy, I was & am still able to lug it.
QRD – Do you prefer upright or electric bass?
Jill – Electric, it would be amazing if I could play upright though.
QRD – Do you prefer to use a pick, fingers, or a bow?
Jill – A pick… I learned to play with Rancid’s ‘Out Come the Wolves’ album... though I am trying to improve on my finger picking skills.
QRD – How many strings do you think a bass should have?
Jill – Four. Period.
QRD – Why do you play bass instead of guitar?
Jill – When my friend Amanda & I decided to start a band in the 9th grade, she already knew how to play guitar & I thought bass would be easy enough to learn. It’s still remained my primary instrument after all these years, thought I’ve picked up others along the way.
QRD – How is a bass different than a guitar other than being lower in pitch?
Jill – It’s just bigger, especially a Fender P. When I play guitar, it’s so much smaller & lighter, it’s like I am playing a Geo... when I play my bass, it’s like I am playing a Cadillac.
QRD – What’s your main bass & what are the features that make it such?
Jill – Same bass I’ve had since I was 14. It’s indestructible; it’s a Fender P.… The action is high & the pickups ought to be replaced, but it’s my baby. Even the replacement neck is really nice & smooth (I’ve had other’s who’ve played with my bass tell me this). My dad picked out a good instrument.
QRD – What do you think of the thumb rests on some basses?
Jill – I have one sitting on my nightstand right now, perhaps waiting to be screwed into my body... I kind of don’t want to do it, really, but I don’t think it’s a bad idea. In the meantime I raised one of the pickups so I can sort of rest my thumb on it, it does the trick when I do play with my fingers.
QRD – If you had a signature bass, what would it look like & what would some of its features be?
Jill – It would just be a Fender P, but 3-quarter size because I have tiny little hands. Which, of course, is on the market.
QRD – If you had a signature pedal, what would it be & what would some of its features be?
Jill – I don’t really like to play with many effects... I’m old fashioned. Too many options... I just don’t like it. I like my Rat for distortion. You just stomp on it, no muss no fuss.
QRD – How many basses do you own?
Jill – I have a Hofner replica, which is fun to play, I do like how it looks, but it’s nose heavy & tends to dive. & the body is awkward to sit with... & it feeds back like a Mo Fo when you play it live... (& got me kicked out of a band once because of that very problem). But it sure looks cool.
QRD – How & where do you store your basses?
Jill – Well, my Hofner replica is wall decoration right now & my Fender P is sitting in a soft shell case at my band’s practice space.
QRD – What features do you look for when buying a bass?
Jill – The only bass I am really interested in buying right now is this amazing sounding bass ukulele that I played in Asheville, NC. It’s called a Kala Ubass. http://www.ukeladymusic.com/store/catalog.php?item=28 I hate how acoustic basses sound all twangy & thin... but this itty bitty thing was loud & full sounding, plus it’s quite the conversation piece. I am interested to start busking or something with the band & everyone is acoustic except for me... I think I need to get it.
QRD – How much do you think a good bass should cost?
Jill – I have no idea. Ideally under $200 so kids/income impaired people can afford it.
QRD – Do you upgrade & customize your bass or just stick with what you get?
Jill – I think we know the answer here. But I did just get a new nicer strap for my bass & my boyfriend is trying to convince me to put better pickups in it.
QRD – Are you after one particular bass tone & locking into it, or do you like to change your tone around a lot?
Jill – I lock in. The tone knob on my bass doesn’t even work properly. If I want to change the tone of my bass, I’ll switch from pick to fingers, or pull out the punch knob on my amp, or hit the Rat.
QRD – What are some basses, amps, & pedals you particularly lust after?
Jill – That kala ubass... as for amps? Maybe Ampeg? My amp is a sham... I feel bad for the musicians who’ve shared our backline. They must be laughing at my rig. I can’t even call it a rig.
QRD – What do you think are some important features to be on a person’s first bass that aren’t always there?
Jill – Hmm... a built in tuner? Seriously, I don’t know. It’s as simple as you can get, really.
QRD – What have been the best & worst bass related purchases you’ve made?
Jill – Maybe that Hofner replica... it did get me kicked out of a band.…
QRD – What are some effect, amp, & bass brands you particularly like or dis-like & why?
Jill – I just can’t abide with the Ibanez (cheaper end) basses. They sound like you’re playing with metallic rubber bands.
QRD – What’s the first thing you play when you pick up a bass?
Jill – “The Taxman” by the Beatles, I walk it around.
QRD – How old were you when you first started playing bass?
Jill – 14 years old.
QRD – At what age do you think you leveled up to your best bass playing?
Jill – 15? I really don’t know. I don’t think I’ve gotten much better. I think just within the past year I’ve started to actually really improve & take my playing a little more seriously... trying to branch out a bit.
QRD – Do you feel bass lines should echo & emphasize guitar & drum parts or be their own distinct elements?
Jill – It really depends, I think of the bass as a supporting instrument. But in punk bands, it’s more of a lead.… You can get super jammy & bluesy... but it gets old pretty fast, I never liked slapping the bass & funk lines (probably cause I can’t play them properly? Hmm…). I can appreciate players like Victor Wooten, but he just doesn’t float my boat. I do like to play some melodic bridges with the bass... walking up with octaves & whatnot, but for the most part, you’ll just see me holding down the fort with the drums.… I’m engaged to our drummer after all.
QRD – Would you rather people hear or feel your bass?
Jill – Both. Just cause it’s low doesn’t mean the melody you play isn’t an important part of the song.
QRD – Why do you think a bass fits you more so than other instruments?
Jill – Like I said earlier, I never liked being center stage... but I really enjoy complimenting other musicians. Bass is perfect for that... there are a million guitar players... & maybe only half a million bass players. You’ll never go out of style.
QRD – Do you see your bass as your ally or adversary in making music?
Jill – What kind of silly question is this?
QRD – Who are the bassists that most influenced your playing & sound?
Jill – Matt Freeman... Paul McCartney... Kim Gordon.
QRD – Do you think people anthropomorphizing their bass is natural or silly (e.g. naming their bass)?
Jill – I think it is both natural & silly. Bula was the name I gave my bass when I got her. It’s idiotic & I don’t call my bass Bula now... but sometimes I think I regress.
QRD – What’s the most physical damage you’ve done to a bass & how did you do it?
Jill – I’m letting mold grow on my soft shell case... that can’t be good for Bula.…
QRD – What do you do to practice other than simply playing?
Jill – I think playing is the best practice. I’m lucky enough to have band practice twice a week. But I really ought to actually practice. Thanks for outing me.
QRD – How many hours a week do you play bass & how many hours would you like to?
Jill – 3 - 6... maybe throw 6 more hours on top of that... then maybe I would be cooking with fire.
QRD – What gauge strings do you use & why?
Jill – I don’t even know.
QRD – How often do you change strings?
Jill – This is going to sound ridiculous... but I’ve never once changed the strings on my used bass since I got it when I was 14... so those strings are probably at least 16 - 17 YEARS old. They have my blood & sweat on them, maybe even tears? But you know what? They sound good. I hate how new bass strings sound. That twangy Seinfeld sound... ugh!
QRD – How often do you break strings?
Jill – I’ve never broken a string on a bass. I told you I don’t slap the thing.
QRD – Which do you feel is more proficient, your strumming/bowing hand or fretting hand & how does that effect your style?
Jill – Probably my fretting hand, but I am working on that. Maybe those 6 more hours of practice would help.
QRD – What tunings do you use & why?
Jill – Just the old standard.
QRD – Do you prefer tablature, sheet music, or some other notation system for writing down your own ideas?
Jill – I play by ear. I can’t read notes . . . even tab is a stretch.
QRD – What’s a bad habit in your playing you wish you could break?
Jill – Not knowing how to read notes? It’s rough when you don’t know what key you’re in to communicate with the band!
QRD – Playing what other instrument do you think can most help someone’s bass playing?
Jill – The drums.
QRD – What’s a type of bass playing you wish you could do that you can’t?
Jill – Upright. It’s sooooo hard & makes my hands so tired.
QRD – What’s a bass goal you’ve never accomplished?
Jill – Playing “Maxwell Murder?” (Rancid - Out Come The Wolves)
QRD – What’s the last bass trick you learned?
Jill – Probably just getting more competent in playing with my fingers.
QRD – Did you ever take bass lessons & if so, what did you learn from them?
Jill – Well, I was in the Jazz Ensemble at my all girls high school. That was a hoot. I did learn how to walk the bass & basic blues exchanges. So I think I probably actually learned a lot!
QRD – What would you teach someone in a bass lesson that you don’t think they would generally get from a bass teacher?
Jill – Don’t play so many dang notes. Root notes are your friends. Move when you are playing bass, it helps. Tap your foot, or nod your head... play with someone else & not along to a song.
QRD – What’s something someone would have to do to emulate your style?
Jill – Be a chick?
QRD – If a band has good bass work, can you ignore the rest of the band not being good?
Jill – Nope.
QRD – What famous musician’s bass would you like to own & why?
Jill – I am faithful to my Bula. (Did that just slip out?)
QRD – Who do you think is currently the most innovative bass player & why?
Jill – Brandon Kalber of Poor But Sexy. He makes me realize that everything I’ve said about not liking the bass being slapped or using effects pedals is just to cover up my inability to do/use these things. He’s an amazing bass player in a completely non-pretentious way, the best I’ve seen.
QRD – Where can people hear your best bass work?
Jill – The Torches on iTunes... & then they can buy the songs!
QRD – Anything else?
Jill – Thanks for asking me to do this