Australian Guitar - - Feature - BY PETER HODG­SON

So, what’s it like grow­ing up with Paul Stan­ley as your dad?” Don’t worry, dear AG read­ers, that’s the last thing we’d think of ask­ing Evan Stan­ley in our interview with him and The Dives’ lead singer/co-gui­tarist Mike Lefton. The fact that his dad is a rock leg­end who stands out front of KISS ev­ery night is cool trivia, but it has no bear­ing what­so­ever on the catchy late ‘70s/ early ‘80s-in­spired power pop of The Dives (think The Knack meets Cheap Trick). As the band’s de­but EP, Ev­ery­body’s Talkin’, makes clear, this is a mu­si­cal en­tity with its own sound and its own set of in­flu­ences that have very lit­tle to do with the Starchild. And Stan­ley nei­ther re­lies on the fam­ily con­nec­tion for at­ten­tion nor uses it as a crutch.

The first thing that re­ally hits you about The Dives is the nat­u­ral in­ter­play be­tween its two gui­tarists. “I don’t want to say it was a happy ac­ci­dent, but when we started jam­ming, we re­ally hit it off as friends and as mu­si­cians,” Stan­ley says. “We both grew up on the same stuff, so we play off each other nat­u­rally rather than just re­peat what the other is do­ing. We try to not copy our­selves, so if Mikey is play­ing one in­ver­sion of a chord, I’ll play a dif­fer­ent in­ver­sion or add a sus­pen­sion. We’ve both been in enough mu­si­cal sit­u­a­tions that we un­der­stand that in a band with two gui­tarists, it’s usu­ally counter-pro­duc­tive for them to both be play­ing the same part.”

“To­tally,” Lefton agrees. “It’s about mak­ing sure that we’re not stepping on each other’s toes, and about mov­ing the song along.

“Both of us are very Gib­son ori­ented,” Stan­ley says. “When I first met Mikey, I had writ­ten some songs on a Rick­en­backer 12-string. I’d al­ways loved the sound of a 12-string – ‘Mr. Tam­bourine Man’, ‘A Hard Day’s Night’... You can’t beat that. And this guy can rip on a Rick­en­backer 12-string, for sure! We’ve both got Strats that we love, but we’re Gib­son guys. You can’t beat a great Gib­son.”

Lefton tends to lean to­wards a par­tic­u­lar Gib­son SG Cus­tom. “I use that for most of the shows,” he says. Mean­while, Stan­ley favours a late ‘88 or early ‘89 Gib­son Cus­tom Shop Les Paul – “Right when they were com­ing out of the Nor­lin era and start­ing to make great gui­tars again,” he tells us. “It is a pro­to­type for the ’59 Les Paul reis­sue, and they only made a few of them to show around to artists and deal­ers. The specs are to­tally off for a ’59, but it plays like no other Les Paul I’ve owned or played. I’ve been lucky enough to play a num­ber of ‘58s, ‘59s and ‘60s, and to me, this gui­tar is the per­fect model. It fits in my hand in a way that none other has, and I adore it.”

Amp-wise, Stan­ley re­lies on a Mar­shall JTM45 and a Fender 1x12 cab­i­net, but the EP was recorded ex­clu­sively with 50-watt ENGL com­bos. “As soon as we started play­ing them, we were sure we had to use them on the record­ing be­cause they could do ev­ery­thing,” Lefton says. “Every­one tends to think of them as high-gain amps, but they just sounded like us. They just sung, and they had the per­fect amount of break-up.” Stan­ley is con­sid­er­ing switch­ing to an ENGL Artist 50 as his live amp as a re­sult.

“My favourite pedal to use as a main source of over­drive is a Full­tone Plim­soul,” he con­tin­ues. “I tend to go back and forth be­tween a very clean sound from the amp and a some­what dirty-to-fairly dirty sound for cer­tain songs, and def­i­nitely for soloing. The Plim­soul has such a nat­u­ral, bro­kenup Mar­shall qual­ity, rather than sound­ing like that fake buz­z­saw dis­tor­tion of cer­tain ped­als that I try to stay away from. Both of us are gear nuts, but most of the time I think the best sound comes from the gui­tar plugged straight into amp, which isn’t al­ways prac­ti­cal live.”

Lefton’s main drives are a Way Huge Red Llama and an Alexan­der Sil­ver Ju­bilee. “The Llama has a bit more of a Fender Tweed flavour,” he says, “And the Ju­bilee is like a Mar­shall – it sounds so awe­some. It re­ally does sound like an amp in a box, and it’s one of those ped­als that sounds great with a wide va­ri­ety of amps.”

So given that Stan­ley grew up sur­rounded by mu­sic and gui­tars, what was the mo­ment that made him re­alise the axe was some­thing that fit his own iden­tity and sense of self? “When the store ran out of trum­pets,” he as­sures us.

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