Know Your Tone: Laura McElroy of Comrades


“Know Your Tone” is a feature that spotlights the intricacies and processes musicians go through, to develop their unique sounds.

Name/Instrument: Laura McElroy/Bass

What is your current amp setup? I have a Music Man HD150 and a 70’s Acoustic Model 406 2×15

Describe your thought process and journey to find your unique sound:  I’ve always been into vintage gear. There is something about the quality and the patina and, a lot of times, the price range. My first rig was a Peavey 2×15 with the matching Bass 400 head. That thing was a tank. My bass is a 70’s Vantage I got when I was 14. It just all seems to go together. Since we’re a three piece, I get to have a little more of a rhythm guitar role wrapped up in my bass playing, so I like my tone to be balanced. Definition across the board with punch and low-end can be tricky, but I’ve found something I’m pleased with and it fits with what Comrades needs, so I’m happy. 

Tell us about your current pedalboard setup: I have a vintage Proco Rat distortion, a Electro-Harmonix Freeze, and that lovely old Boss tuner. Real simple.  

Do you prefer a lot of pedals or a few? Presently I don’t need much for what I do. I might be interested in one or two others, but if I need them, I’ll find them. 

What is your thought process behind your pedalboard and what does it do for your sound? I love a good gravely distortion. Some of my favorite bass tones come from bands like Thrice and Project 86, and sometimes you just need grit. You have to get the older Rat with the flat-top housing, they’re a little smoother than the reissues. I also like how you can turn down the highs on the Rat, which is usually the danger in using guitar distortions on bass. It works well with my rig though. The Freeze I got in a trade, and it’s a bit of a one trick pony, but its fun to play around with and great for those tuning pauses live when you don’t have anything useful to say. 

 Is there anything you have gotten rid of that you regret parting with? I had an all black Peavey Patriot bass for a while, and that thing was so light (right now both my basses are over 10 lbs) so sometimes I wish I still had it. It was so easy to sling around. 

Who/what inspired your current sound? Some of my favorites are Thrice, As Cities Burn, mewithoutYou, and tonally, Project 86. I started playing bass learning MxPx songs, so I will always have that punk soft spot. Bass that’s meant to be heard and not simply another layer of guitar.  

If you could change one thing about your current set up, what would it be? Mostly my worry about blowing these old speakers. The Acoustic is crazy light for a 2×15 and I love the tone I can get out of it, and losing these puppies will be a sad day. I watch it like a hawk, but my rig right now is really great. 

What is your favorite piece of gear that you own? Definitely my bass. My dad brought it home one day when I was 14, and I literally have never had an issue with it. Its rock solid. 

What is your favorite piece of gear that you don’t own yet? I’m probably going to have to get a custom case for my bass, which sounds slightly silly, but you gotta protect what you love. I think I might also love a loop pedal for drone sessions in the basement. 

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