Circus Freak Stomp Boxes are visually enticing and sonically impressive

Pedal for the metal

When a bunch of musicians looked down at their feet and realized the pedals they were pushing were pretty dull-looking, a desire to create something both visually enticing and sonically impressive blossomed into the company that is Circus Freak Stomp Boxes. With four pedals ($179.95 a pop) available and more on the way, these are exciting times for a company that marries the usage of each pedal with circus performer carnival art; the FuzzTone pedal is the Bearded Lady, the Compressor is the Lion Tamer. See how that works?

Circus Freak's marketing dude is Jeff Hupp, and he tells us the company officially launched in 2012. "We had everything in development up until then, and then we launched the site live December 7 and began selling to the public," he says. "We're all musicians and we've been playing a long time; we all have a bunch of different pedals from a lot of different manufacturers, and a lot of them are really cool. What we didn't really get out of these pedals was the aesthetic. Circus Freak sprung from that."

They look stunning. It's odd though, because nobody will see the pedal besides the band. It's almost a waste of a great design. "It's a little weird," Hupp says. "There's definitely a pedal fandom out there though — guys who know that they can get a digital system, but really love the flexibility of an analog pedal. We're marketing toward those guys."

The company was co-founded by A.J. Dunning, formerly of the Verve Pipe. "AJ is the sonic profiler," says Hupp. "He's the guy who says, 'This is the sound I want.' From the beginning, I thought they're some of the finest-looking pedals on the market. They're all analog, they're all hand-built. There's some difference between pass-through. Some pedals have this bypass that, when you hit the pedals, there's some existing sound. This is true bypass, and that's one of the things we're very interested in."

The pedals are created and assembled in Grand Rapids, while Hupp does the marketing from metro Detroit. "We took home a gold Addy Award this year for packaging and design," he says. "We also got a good review in Premier Guitar. So far, so good."

Not content to rest on their laurels, Circus Freak has plenty of other products in development. "We're working on an analog delay called The Juggler," Hupp says. "It's been a very difficult development because you have to get the timing of the delay just right. That's been in development for nearly a year. Then we have one called The Strongman, which is just like a clean boost. Then we're hoping to make a board. All the pedals have a click at the back for a board. That will be on the horizon after we release The Strongman."

The company is evolving too. "Originally, the company was formed to make amps," he says. "We're hoping that, once we get the first eight pedals out and get that rolling, we'll be able to turn our attention to the amplifier division, and we're excited about that."

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