Watch Lee Kiernan of IDLES give EarthQuaker Devices a guided tour of his pedalboard

Lee Kiernan of UK post-punk band IDLES has shared his writing pedalboard with EarthQuaker Devices in the latest episode of the Akron, Ohio stompbox specialists' Bored to Death YouTube series.

Shot in IDLES's Bristol studio, the video shows Kiernan with a pair of Pedaltrain Novo 24 pedalboards populated with a quite incredible array of effects, with overdrives, fuzz, and reverb complemented by some gnarly off-menu choices.

Kiernan has quotidian staples such as the Electro-Harmonix Holy Grail reverb sharing patch cables with some truly outré effects, such as Drolo's Twin Peaks tremolo, the Moog Minifooger ring modulator, and EarthQuaker Devices' own Data Corrupter – a pedal Kiernan confesses to bamboozlement with, yet it always stays on his 'board.

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“This has been one of those pedals for me where I have had a fight with it,“ says Kiernan. “But then, every now and then, it comes back to me and does something absolutely amazing. So it has survived on the 'board all this time.

“Most of the time I don't know what to do with it, and then... BAM! This one sound happens. It is used on Joy As An Act Of Resistance twice and actually recorded on the album. Otherwise, it is used for making fucked up noises when I'm playing live.“

There is much wisdom to take from Kiernan's approach. Here, we places the Drolo Stamme[n] at the end of the effects chain, using it to freeze-hold a note and adding effects to colour the sound and send waves of noise through it. 

“The Stamme[n] is an insane pedal,“ says Keirnan. “If I mess around with it more, I can get it to do electronic sounds.“


IDLES guitarists Lee Kiernan [right] and Mark Bowen with their live pedalboards from a few years back. Kiernan's setup for writing involves two packed Pedaltrain Novo 24s. (Image credit: Olly Curtis / Future)

Kiernan also places a Holy Grail reverb early in the chain. "That's something I actually stole off of Alan [Duggan] from Girl Band. He talks about how he puts the reverb early and then one after; sending the reverb into the drives, that pushes things in a different direction.“

But if there is one salient lesson to take from this segment, it's that Kiernan – who along with his IDLES bandmate Mark Bowen is one of the best exponents of pedalboard curation – is that pure experimentation is often the surest path to finding new sounds.

“Something that Bowen and I do a lot is just go into a pedal, extreme first, find out what it can do, and then see if we can make a sound out of it,“ he says. “It has defined our sound massively.“

Check out Kiernan's 'board in the video above and see EarthQuaker Devices for more details on the Data Corruptor, Arrows, Organizer and other EQD goodies as used and abused by IDLES.

Jonathan Horsley

Jonathan Horsley has been writing about guitars and guitar culture since 2005, playing them since 1990, and regularly contributes to MusicRadar, Total Guitar and Guitar World. He uses Jazz III nylon picks, 10s during the week, 9s at the weekend, and shamefully still struggles with rhythm figure one of Van Halen’s Panama.