Erin Roberts

Formed in 2004, The Juliet Dagger caught the attention of Goo Goo Dolls bassist Robby Takac, who signed them to his indie label, Good Charamel. Since then, the punk-pop band has composed for Saturday morning cartoons (“Pez Animated Feature”), appeared on charity compilations, and released its debut album, Turn up the Death (the follow-up, Hi-Ya! is due this September). But none of this would have happened if lead guitarist/vocalist Erin Roberts hadn’t dealt with her creative frustrations.

“I studied theater arts in college,” she explains, “and then I decided I had to sing in a band—which is a totally different environment from the sheltered world of musical theater. I soon found I was having trouble translating song ideas to guitar players, and I became irritated because it was getting in the way of the music I wanted to play. That was the initial catalyst to teach myself guitar. I’m kind of a control freak, and playing guitar put the control in my hands.”

Although you have a pop-rock sensibility, your guitar tones are pretty heavy.
What I listen to affects how I use my gear. I pulled most of my tones from hardcore and metal, but the heavier stuff doesn’t really enter my songwriting process. I use more of a pop approach, and I’m obsessed with Juliana Hatfield’s Only Everything [released in 1995]. I hear something new every time I listen to it, and my songs are really influenced by her.

What’s your main guitar?
I love SG-style guitars! My very first electric was an Epiphone SG, and I’m currently playing a Jay Turser JT-45. It’s the cheapest guitar I’ve ever bought, and it’s a champ. I just swapped out its original P-90 for a humbucker. My strings are D’Addarios, gauged .009-.046, and I use .60mm Dunlop Tortex picks.

What about your amp?
I like a punk-style attack to my sound, so I play through a Sunn Model T head and a vintage Marshall 4x12 with 25-watt Celestions. The Marshall was this sad little thing in the corner of a dusty secondhand shop, but it turned out to be the most awesome-sounding cabinet ever. It breaks up nice and has a very warm tone. I’ll be really upset if anything ever happens to it. My boyfriend is still in trouble from the night he borrowed it for a show, and then stabbed his guitar through one of the speakers. He’s not allowed near my gear anymore.

Your sound is also pretty much straight into the amp.
Yeah. I have a lot of pedals, but they’re mostly used for recording. The one pedal that always goes out with me is my Voodoo Lab Sparkle Drive. When you kick it in, you don’t lose volume like you do with some other overdrive pedals, and you get a lot of punch and boost for leads. I’m a huge fan of Electro-Harmonix Big Muff and Rat Pro Co pedals, but they can be a little temperamental and hard to control onstage. I also make heavy use of my Boss Metal Zone to cut through the beefy distortion of the Sunn amp.