"I haven't really played my guitar a lot in the last year," Beliefs guitarist and multi-instrumentalist Josh Korody says, perched on a chair across the living room from a white Jazzmaster in his Bloor-Lansdowne apartment. With an '80s Japanese body and a Mexican neck, it's a bit of a Frankenstein affair. The original pickup section has been gutted, and a tone capacitor replaces the stock tone knob. These changes were intended to open up the sonic possibilities of the instrument and increase its reliability for live contexts but, Korody admits, it was also "a weird mod that I regret a little bit."
"I can't go to the bridge or the neck; it just stays in the middle." Now it's all a little too specific for his taste.
Taking cues from '90s guitar innovators in bands like My Bloody Valentine and Sonic Youth, both Korody and Jesse Crowe (with whom he formed Beliefs in 2010) rely on these classic Fender models for specific features like the tremolo arm and the option to pick behind the bridge, but more generally for their expressive versatility.
"If it's a really simple Jazzmaster, it's basically like a white canvas," Crowe explains from a nearby couch.
"If I have a guitar ideology — which sounds really silly — [it's] all about having headroom and not just capping out too soon," Korody says.
Crowe shares this inclination, and it is largely responsible for the broad, disorienting shoegaze music they build together in Beliefs. Crowe makes a point of streamlining her pedal train, priding herself on delivering an explosive, sweeping array of sounds while showing up to gigs with "less and less every time." That means a once discarded, unfamiliar delay pedal she found at an old jam space makes appearances all over their freshly released album Leaper.
"That's not my base sound or whatever, but in any of the kind of washier songs like 'Leaper,' or 'Ghost,' it's on the whole time," Crowe says. "'Drown' it's just kind of on in the background. With 'Leaper' it just kind of carries everything."
In a similar vein, Korody estimates that together with their Box of Rock distortion pedal, he used ZVEX's Fuzz Factory for 80 percent of his own guitars on the album. He calls it a "guitar ideology," but his preference for gear with headroom is also one that informs his approach to producing bands at Candle, the studio he owns and runs in partnership with Leon Taheny.
"I've stolen that [Fuzz Factory] sound for its ability on a lot of people's recordings as well. The Dilly Dally record [Sore] — any guitar records I've done," he says. "It literally is endlessly tweakable."
In his solo electronic work as Nailbiter, Korody focuses on distorted techno music, but dedication to genre is only for aesthetic continuity. When he started purchasing synthesizer equipment, he made a similar point of avoiding gear known for definitive sounds, opting for adaptability instead. What he got was a 16-channel setup essentially involving three pieces of gear: a customised suitcase synth with modules from different companies, a controller and a mixer. "If I decide next week or next year or next month that I wanna make something a lot softer — more ambient, more chill — I could easily do that with that same gear."
So could this new fascination find an application in Beliefs? "It probably will on the next record," Crowe predicts.
With Leaper just released, and between Rolemodel and Nailbiter, Crowe and Korody (respectively) have both made recent debuts in other projects, but the pair are already talking about new Beliefs material.
After expanding into a five-piece — a lineup that has since dissolved — Crowe and Korody are back to treating Beliefs like a two-piece, and the pair are using the opportunity to build music under looser dynamic restrictions.
"When you write starting with guitar," Crowe advises, "you fill in way too much space."
Now, Korody says, "I don't think I would really present Jesse a song on guitar." That's already resulted in one experiment that saw Crowe and Korody writing to the synthesizer as a drum machine.
"The one time we kind of got together and recorded something post-Leaper, it was like a ten-minute-long, droney psych song," Korody teases.
"All I sang was like, 'Do you ever see it?'" Crowe grins. "That was it for like ten-and-a-half minutes."
"It'll definitely be different. It'll probably end up being a little bit more experimental, a little bit more jammy, probably less poppy. And that's okay with me," Korody reflects. "It would be really sweet to just kind of constantly push forward."