Nani Serna stumbled into the world of effects pedals when he heard Mars Volta for the first time. He was 13 years old, living in a small town called Filmore in Ventura County and, like most angsty kids who came of age in the early 2000s, was really into Weezer and Tool.
“And then Mars Volta came out,” he remembers, "and I was like, ‘Holy fuck! What is going on?! Delay pedals! I gotta get ‘em!'"
Over the years, Serna, who fronts Long Beach-based band Bundy, has developed a keen sense for pedals. Over a decade of collecting and experimenting with dozens of makes and models has made him somewhat of a picky collector, on that endless quest to find the perfect tool to shape his tone just the way he likes it.
“I just want one board with all the pedals that I love,” Serna says. “I buy ‘em and I say, eh, it’ll work for now, but it’s not really what I want. Eventually when I find that pedal, it’s not coming off my board. I think right now I have the best pedal board I’ve ever had.”
Serna’s board is minimalist than most. Aside from the two standards — an Ernie Ball volume pedal and a Boss chromatic tuner — his chain consists of five pedals he uses actively: Zvex Effects “Super Hard On” boost, TC Electronic Hall of Fame reverb, Stacks FX Dabber overdrive, Stacks FX Native Lung reverb, and his most recent addition, the Stacks FX Lil Masher compressor.
The Native Lung, he says, is his all-time favorite and has quickly become his main songwriting tool. Case in point: it can be heard on every single track off Bundy's forthcoming full-length album, Bastard Performer.
“The entire album is based around that fucking pedal, I swear to god,” Serna explains. “When I got that pedal, I started writing things to that reverb that I just liked, and it inspired me to write a lot of songs. For example, on ‘Bastard Performer’ I do the swells on that pedal, and it just made me go, oh shit, that’s the sound I’m going for. Or ‘What Blood’ — that’s our artsy Radiohead song — I used the Native Lung and the pitch shifter, but with that reverb it gave it this weird ethereal feel.”
The album, which features 10 new songs, explores the gut-wrenching themes of expectation and disappointment that are universal in the human experience, particularly as a young, self-conscious artist. Serna, who has played in a variety of “shitty rock ’n roll bands” since age 15 (he is 29 now), has some experience in that, he says.
Following a brief depressive stint living in Humboldt, Serna moved to Long Beach in 2009 to live with his brother. Eager to make music, he joined some bands playing everything from power-pop to bluegrass, but he found the experience lacking and not truly aligned with himself. So he founded Bundy in 2016 with support from his then-roommates and released two EPs that year.
“To be honest, when I started Bundy, I got rid of all my pedals except my tuner,” Serna says. “I was like, I’m not gonna have any pedals. I wanted the music to speak for itself. But then I started figuring out how to incorporate those crazy sounds and to make them accentuate the song, not mask it."
Heavily inspired the likes of The Walkmen, At The Drive In and Radiohead, Bundy’s current sound and iteration is its best and truest yet, he says. Johnny Lim, the longtime guitarist of post-punk band Feral Kizzy, joined forces with Serna early last year, co-writing the new album as well as recording and producing the band in his Long Beach studio. The lineup also includes drummer Mike Mezza (also previously with Feral Kizzy) and bassist JB Vasquez. The group likely will be embark on a short tour up to the Bay Area this summer.
Bundy’s first full-length album Bastard Performer will be released on Jan. 28. For more information, visit bundytheband.com.