This is the old Tom Tom Magazine site. Please visit www.tomtommag.com for an extremly awesome website on female drummers.
Archive for the ‘Tom Tom Magazine Featured Drummer’ Category
This is the old Tom Tom Magazine site. Please visit www.tomtommag.com for an extremly awesome website on female drummers.
This is the old Tom Tom Magazine site. Please visit www.tomtommag.com for an extremly awesome website on female drummers.
My good friend and Founder/Executive Director of the Vibe Theatre Experience, Dana Edell, recently drew my attention to this powerful drumming group stationed in DC. Run by executive director Kristen Arant, the Young Women’s Drumming Empowerment Project, “strives to create a safe space for young women to build community, and to fearlessly express their authentic selves through drumming, spoken word poetry, song, movement and performance.”
Arant is a drummer herself and a performing artist living inand specializes in the West African Mandingue drumming tradition. She is the Founding Director of the Young Women’s Drumming Empowerment Project – a drumming, poetry and performance art empowerment group designed to build the confidence and self esteem of teen-aged girls living in the DC area.
For more on this incredible group go here: YWDEP
There is a two member band from Miami called The State Of that I had the pleasure of seeing this past weekend at a small intimate venue at Moonchine Asian Bistro in Miami. Meeting vocalist/pianist/guitarist Steph Taylor and vocalist/percussionist Nabedi Osorio was a delight and I’m happy to say that soon we will be posting an exclusive Tom Tom Magazine interview.
Steph’s voice is melodic and there is passion in her delivery. Her keyboard style is smooth, but can also get quite percussive giving it an edgy sound. Additionally, there is nothing kitsch or Poppy about her lyrics, they are, in fact, smart and it was a treat to listen in. On stage they have a great camaraderie and it is evident they are comfortable with each other’s style and hence, complement each other.
They played for about an hour, and in that time, offered a nice variety of their original songs including their own special twist on Happy Birthday Miami style. This was very well received as at least five people from the small and loyal crowd were celebrating that evening. Peppered within their set where some fun covers, including The Eurythmics, The Bangles, Madonna, and one especially close to my heart, The Postal Service’s Such Great Heights.
Nabedi, born and raised in Miami, has been drumming since her early teens and her techniques are vast and quite polished. Her musical skills are eclectic including the melodica, triangle, tambourine, banging with a maraca, as well as vocalizing. Don’t let the fact that this is a two member band fool you. There is big sound coming from them, and it’s all live, nothing looped or sampled.
Be sure to check out their new CD Day of Abandon there is information on their website on how to purchase, and their will also be a CD release party at the Awarehouse in Miami Saturday September 19th, 2009.
I will focus more on Nabedi’s style in the upcoming exclusive interview. For now I leave you with one of my favorite pieces from The State Of, Anything for you. Enjoy.
Julie-ann Odell has lived in the Middle East for 32 years. She is an experienced drum circle facilitator who has used rhythm work and group drumming extensively as a tool for team building in the United Arab Emirates and the Gulf Region. She is an experienced executive coach, co-active life coach and organization relationship systems coach (a cutting edge training that develops the entire team using a revolutionary systems-based approach drawn from the best of coaching, psychology, organizational development, mediation, quantum physics, process work and general systems theory). Since starting Dubai Drums eight years ago, Julie-ann and her team have drummed with thousands of people and children at corporates, schools, universities and community events. They drum in all parts of the Middle East and have now opened Cairo Drums in Egypt.
Exclusive Tom Tom Magazine with Julie-ann COMING SOON!
Check this out!! Let us know what you think. xo, Tom Tom Magazine
Andrya Ambro zipped up her gray flight suit right before she sat down at her kit at Union Pool in Brooklyn, NY. Then she proceeded to hypnotize me and everyone else in the room. She drums hard, fast, and with technical ease. Her band mate, Sarah Register watches her drummer for subtle cues and the energy between them could be cut with a knife. Occasionally Andrya pulls us out of the trance with vocal hooks that are equally engaging. In summary, she is a total bad ass at the kit. She prefers her drums tuned “warm and dead.” Talk Normal just finished recording their debut full length at Rare Book Room with Nicolas Vernhes who will be putting out their album in October on Rare Book Room Records. Talk Normal heads out on a tour of the west coast around that time as well. i secret cog Ep was released digitally on Menlo Park Records this June. Pitchfork just reviewed a song of theirs. I caught up with Andrya at her home in Greenpoint, Brooklyn right before she left for a short tour with her band Talk Normal and US Girls that ended at SXSW in Austin, TX.
Full name: Andrya Elena Ambro
Nickname/pseudonym: Andy, Lenny, Rad Ambro, Double aa
Hometown: Wilmington, DE
Where you live now: Brooklyn, NY
Bands you are drumming in currently: TALK NORMAL
Bands you were drumming for in the past: death.pool, Glen Olden, Antonius Block
What you do for a living: musician/sound engineer
“I like them warm and dead. Like cardboard boxes with lovely tone a la reggae drum sounds.” – Andrya Ambro
Tom Tom Magazine: When did you start playing the drums?
Andrya Ambro: I was 13 when I (with the help of my brother Bryan) convinced my mother to get me a drum kit and let me quit piano lessons.
Tom Tom Magazine: I noticed that you play without cymbals and your kit sounds really flat and low. Why did you decide to play your kit in that way?
Andrya Ambro: To be honest, I never understood how people played with drums up to their ears. It seems like such a disadvantage. Also as a woman (who barely stretches to 5’5”), we are generally smaller creatures than our male counterparts. Men can play bigger drum sets and still get on top of their instrument. It takes a smaller drum-set for a woman to get on top (please excuse all the sexual innuendo ;)).
Tom Tom Magazine: How do you tune your drums?
Andrya Ambro: I like them warm and dead. Like cardboard boxes with lovely tone a la reggae drum sounds. I use my ears.
TTM: When did you and Sarah (Register) meet and how did you form Talk Normal?
AA: I met Sarah in 1999 at NYU. She was in the Music Technology Department and I worked there. We were fast friends. It was not until 2006 that we actually played together in the minimal and discordant band Antonius Block (she on bass/guitar and myself on drums). That band went on hiatus in late ’06. On the tails of AB, we both were driven to create a more raw music, stripped down, and basic. Our first show as Talk Normal was September ’07.
TTM: What was the idea behind your tribal drumming and chanting?
AA: I am conflicted over the word tribal. If tribal means direct – I accept this. If tribal means danceable – I accept this, I want to make the people dance. If tribal means incapable of syncopation – I reject this. I ask you this – why is it most woman get the uncanny rap of being labeled “tribal” drummers? i.e. Moe Tucker, Ikue Mori, Lori Barbero etc. Do stereotypes exist for a reason? I constantly ask myself – why does this bother me so very much? Perhaps woman are just more “of the earth.”
As for the chanting, can’t say any of it was a premeditated idea. If I were to rationalize TN’s collective unconscious, I suppose some might consider our music dark and intense. Something’s gotta bring you up and over.
Short answer: Some might attribute both the tribal drum and chant style to my pursuit of African music (beats, song, and dance) in my formative years. Also, in my teens, I very much took to Mahalia Jackson and the black tradition of the rejoiceful shout.
“If tribal means danceable – I accept this, I want to make the people dance.” – Andrya Ambro
TTM: What region of the world influences your drumming style the most?
AA: Black music is a consummate source. Or rather music of what some might call the Black Atlantic is very powerful to me. To fine tune my coordinates – Ghana and Jamaica.
TTM: What do you think the role of the drummer is (in a band)?
AA: I suppose it is the nature of the drums to be the heartbeat and drive underneath the band, usually perceived as non-melodic, and in the back. Personally I think drums can be so much more. Don’t get me wrong, I want to be the heartbeat and the drive. But why must this be the drummer’s only role? Why can’t others take this role? Why can’t I share the front? I want to sing. Yes, this has happened many times before i.e. Phil Collins, Karen Carpentar, Don Henley, Levon Helm etc. Yet somehow, it always looks, sometimes feels, awkward. It is my own personal assumption that these people were ‘fronting the band’ (another idea that perplexes me) and playing the drums as a secondary/subsidiary instrument, not as an accompanying/complementary instrument. With respect to all of the above mentioned and so many more, I say, I want to break this mold, for myself. I want out of that box – audibly and visually. I want to play the drums as an orchestration within an arrangement of sounds. I want extreme dynamics. Texture. I love structure. I want to use drums (just like my voice!) to tell a story. Perhaps this why I don’t see myself as a ‘drummer.’ I just want to write songs and I happen to play the drums.
“As I grow, I realize these “setbacks” are more like a jewel of bondage – giving me the fire to make something new, to fight to make something my own.” – Andrya Ambro
TTM: Have you experienced any setbacks as a female drummer?
AA: Yes. I don’t want to be seen as a dancing dog; in that you’re surprised it’s even done at all. However, these setbacks seem more in my head than reality. As I grow, I realize these “setbacks” are more like a jewel of bondage – giving me the fire to make something new, to fight to make something my own. I just want to be free.
TTM: Who are your favorite drummers?
AA: Influential: Pat Samson, Leroy “Horsemouth” Wallace, Brendan Canty, Max Roach, Moondog, Bob Bert, Mac McNeilly, Jaki Liebezeit, Art Blakey, Budgie. Contemporaries I love: Kid Millions, Matt Marlin, Ryan Sawyer, Tim Dewitt, Deantoni Parks. Aside: I love drummers. I love to watch each as an individual and how they approach their instrument. However, in my pursuit of music with rhythm at its helm, it was not solely the drummers that I studied. I love the rhythms and phrasing of Thelonius Monk, Ahmad Jamal, Alice Coltrane, Henry Cowell, Terry Riley, Al Johnson, Roberta Flack, Mavis Staple and the list goes on. In fact I would often try to imitate (on the drums) how these folks would sing or play their particular instrument, more than I would imitate drummers.
“Guess I just want to make stuff – be it visual, audible, or dinner.” – Andrya Ambro
TTM: What are some of your other hobbies/interests?
AA: For gainful employment, I am a sound engineer – primarily live, some recording/mixing at home. I consider this a hobby from which I conveniently make money. If I had more time to encourage hobbies, I would definitely practice my clarinet more, take hair braiding classes, teach high school history, fix my sewing machine to make my own clothes and so much more. Guess I just want to make stuff – be it visual, audible, or dinner.
TTM: Who are some of your favorite lady drummers right now?
AA: Ikue Mori (don’t think she does too much drumming these days), Susie Ibarra, Allison Busch
“I want to use drums (just like my voice!) to tell a story.” – Andrya Ambro
TTM: Who are some of your favorite bands right now?
AA: Naked on the Vague, Magik Markers, Sightings, Fabulous Diamonds, Antimagic, Kanye West, Little Claw, Pterodactyl, These Are Powers
Interview by Tom Tom Magazine Creator: Mindy Abovitz
Tom Tom Magazine Photography by: Jee Young Sim
This week I feature another drummer from overseas and the second one from Italy. Originally from Torino, her career begins to take flight in the early 90’s with a band called Funky Lips. She went on to do a solo project in which she released the album To The Light and played with the band B-Nario who later with the band ArX of Torino. Although, Allesia has a Pop background, her kit is elaborate and her playing has very smooth Jazz undertones. Check out the video below to see her in action.
More recently she has played for the British rock band The Spins whose website offers some tasty morsels off their Level Eleven album available through iTunes. Little can be found about what Alessia has been working on since then but you can bet she is staying busy. I contacted her early in July and hopefully we can coordinate and bring you an interview soon.
This week I would like to feature another conguera percussionist. Her name is Madelin Espinosa and she has rhythm and style to spare. Check out the video below where she does a solo with a 4 piece set-up.
Born in Havana, Cuba she was formaly trained in the Felix Varela School of Music. Afterwards, Madelin played in various all girl percussion groups and colaborted with other groups and recordings including Raul Torres’ Fenix de Crystal. She is curently living in Madrid, Spain and has toured Finland and Sweden with singer Jari Sillanpaa and band director Carlos del Puerto.
I’ve been fortunate enough to be chatting with Madelin via email and I’m happy to announce that we will post an interview soon. For now I can tell you that she has been a pleasure to speak with and has been very generous and accommodating. She has a true, admirable passion for music and it is apparent in her performances. You will rarely see a video performance of her where she is not smiling.
More recently she is collaborating in a group called Timbako directed by her talented brother Pepe Espinosa.
Talent, style, and class, this sums her up. Check out her myspace page for more info on Madelin.
If you ever get writers block, try putting on some Miles Davis. Seriously. My cousin Frank lent me the Miles Davis live in Munich 1988 DVD and almost immediately, the aura and greatness of this musical giant channels through your soul and begins to wash away any strife, stress, or tension. Conveniently, Miles toured with well renowned drummer, percussionist, bandleader and composer Marilyn Mazur.
Marilyn is originally from New York but was raised in Denmark. She has formal training from the Royal Danish Academy of Music but her work on her instruments is mostly self taught, a very impressive feat.
The video below is a piece called Tutu from the Munich concert. Miles is a true master at his craft and has total command on stage. Yet he has an intimate connection with his band mates, standing close to them or placing a hand on their soldier, communicating with them casually and calmly. It allows his musicians to work their craft without any intimidation upon them, allowing a truly great collaboration to punch through. Marilyn has an impressive solo part at about 6 minutes and 50 seconds in.
To be really good at something you need to practice, A LOT. To become a master, you eventually need to teach. Unfortunately, there has always been a shortage of resources directed for female drummers to get formal training in their craft. Paula Spiro recognized this, and started the Female Drummer Workshop in 1983. Since then, there have been dozens of students who have learned and mastered their skills under Paula’s expert tutelage.
A Native New Yorker, Paula gained her drumming chops at the tail end of the 1960’s at a percussion shop which served some of the greatest drummers and Jazz greats of the day. Getting advice from all different genres of music, she honed her skills and played in several bands. By the early 80’s she had quite a following and started the workshop at the urge of some fans.
My vision for the workshop is to provide quality instruction and support to those beginners who may not have played drums before and to the women and girls who are already drumming to propel their skills and mentor those students who express a desire to go on to a professional career in drums. This is my legacy and my life’s work.”
If you are a beginner or an active drummer looking to kick your skills up to the next level, look up The Female Drummers Workshop in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Get the formalized training that will kick your skills in the pants, and inject the credibility of 40 years of wisdom of great musicians pipped through the master advice of Paula Spiro.
READ OUR FULL INTEVIEW WITH PAULA SPIRO BY DRUMMER HEATHER WAGNER COMING TO TOM TOM MAGAZINE SOON!!!
Each week I strive to feature a different drummer from different backgrounds and genres staying away from mainstream in an effort to introduce someone you may have not heard of. Perhaps someone to inspire or influence you, and always to entertain you. This week however, I jump on to the mainstream jet stream and write about my personal all time favorite drummer, Sheila E.
Perhaps it’s because I grew up in the 80’s, perhaps it’s because I have a latin background, perhaps it’s because she toured with Prince and I happen to be a Prince maniac (this is my second featured drummer that has worked with Prince), but Sheila still reigns as my personal all-time drumming pick, male or female.
It’s easy to overlook and begin to take for granted the talent that resides in mainstream pop. Take for example the recent loss of Michael Jackson, and how the stations began playing his songs day and night in his honor; chances are you forgot how good his music actually is.
Well, I fear people have forgotten about Sheila, people tend to shelf her, overlook the greatness, they are numbed by the easy listening stations constantly droning out “Glamorous Life”. They may fear to fall part of a cliché especially if the 80’s goes back out of style (yeah right!).
But if you put the whole Sheila package together; drummer, percussionist, vocalist, songwriter, performer, arranger, producer, composer, instrumentalist and humanitarian, you will recognize the greatness. Notice in the video below how the crowd reacts strongest during the slow breakdown beats, the parts that are simply Sheila E. Enjoy.
Take a look at the video below: Modern Drummer Festival 2000
This solo by Hilary Jones could be an instructional video. In fact Hilary has done workshops and clinics to teach the craft. Notice the way she feathers the beats to soften the sound and then strikes back in hard and thunderous. She uses the whole stick including the butt, and the side and shows excellent command of awareness of her kit. Through out the six and a half minute performance, the feel and rhythm changes over a few times from jazzy funk, to rock, and even a tribal vibe. I think she has incredible soul and is an amazing talent.
Hilary released a CD in 2001 titled Soaring which I would love to get my hands on. She has been featured in other magazines and writings but unfortunately, little is known about what she’s up to currently. Her website still says “coming soon” and there does not seem to be anything published about her newer than 2002.
Nevertheless, this performance is one I wanted to share, in case you have never seen it. Once, we get a hold of Hilary, we’ll be sure to update you.
After the Tom Tom Magazine / Make Music NY presents show, we interviewed Shannon Funchess (Light Asylum) about what inspired her to drum. Check it out!
Light Asylum will be performing tonight!!
Below Rector – Between Exchange Alley and Morris St.
COME. WE’RE HAVING AN EPIC JOINT BIRTHDAY PARTY. BE THERE.
IT’S GONNA BE A BIG DANCE PARTY WITH ALL OF OUR FRIENDS AND PEOPLE WE KNOW. A SPECIAL EVENING FOR SURE.
PERFORMANCE AT 10PM BY LIGHT ASYLUM !!!!!!!!!!!!
BOOTY SHAKING DJ SETS BY: JESSE HUDNUTT, KATHY LO, KAELIN BALLINGER, SARAH COLLIGAN, MAY KWOK AND MORE!
In honor of a US Marine friend who ships out to Japan today for the 3 years, I decided to feature some extreme Japanese rock. Maximum the Hormone formed in 1998 by Daisuke Tsuda and drummer Nao Kawakita.
A decade later the band is still cranking out throat ripping vocal, fast drum beats and screaching guitar riffs. Tsuda plays guitar, Nao drums and offers vocals. She introduced her younger brother Ryo on guitar and vocals into the band soon after it started and along with Futoshi Uehara on bass, this makes up the band roster today.
Their latest album Buiikikaesu released in 2007 features the song Zetsubou Billy. The video is below, its one of there bigger productions with sets costumes and make-up.
They are currently doing gigs all over Japan and their latest maxi single released last year called Tsume Tsume Tsume. Check out their website for more information and try your hand at extreme Japanese rock.
It’s a common misconception among musicians that the drummer is the least important part of a band. They make drummers the butts of so many jokes. Here’s why they’re wrong.
Obviously, we keep time. I don’t have to explain that to you. But I think our role as musicians goes deeper than that. Think of any song on mainstream radio right now, and it most likely has a unique or very prominent beat. Look at Aerosmith’s “Walk This Way” or No Doubt’s “Hella Good”.
The first thing you hear is the beat, and it grabs your attention. Once the song has your attention, courtesy of the beat, you listen to melody next, then lyrics. Something had to initially grab your attention.
In my opinion, drummers are time-keepers yes, but also attention-grabbers. What do you think?
PS– Bob Lefsetz (@lefsetz) twittered this last week, and I thought it fit well with this post: “An amazing drummer makes a huge difference.“
In the late sixties a Fremont, NH woman made three predictions regarding her son Austin Wigin: That he would marry a strawberry blonde, that he would have two sons she would not live to see, and that his three daughters would play in a band.
After the first two premonitions came true, Austin was determined to aid the last one. He bought his daughters instruments, made weekly trips to Manchester for music lessons, and made them practice everyday. Soon they were playing gigs every Saturday night at the Fremont Town Hall as Austin dubbed his musical daughters The Shaggs for their shaggy hairdos.
A year later they trekked to a recording studio in Revere, MA and laid down 12 tracks that would be released as Philosophy of the World. The sound engineer promised 1000 copies of the album but somehow, only 100 where distributed throughout local DJ’s and events with little fanfare.
They eventually returned to the studio to record a few more tracks but by then the band was slowing down. The drummer, Helen Wigin, eloped at 28 years old much to their fathers Austins dismay. The other Wigin sisters went about their lives as well. Then tragically, Austin suffered a heart attack and passed away in 1975. The Shaggs were finished.
Throughout the years, those 100 albums made its way into the hands of collectors and purists and in the late 70’s a Boston radio station played a few songs. Philosophy of the World was re-released on vinyl in 1980, eight years later both the band’s recording sessions were combined on the self titled CD The Shaggs. Frank Zappa heralded the Shaggs as being “Better than the Beatles” which later became the name to a tribute album, and Rolling Stone magazine declared their album one of the 100 most influential alternative releases of all time.
Their music is off tempo, off key and has a very amateur arrangement with simple and often predictable lyrics. But listen to it all the way through, then listen to it again, then again, and something begins to happen. The story of Dot, Helen, and Betty starts to come through. Saturday nights at the Fremont Town Hall comes through. Hours of practice from the basement of their Fremont home comes through. The innocence, the simplicity, and the cliché philosophy comes through. Austins perseverance comes through.
This is a textbook example of what we know today as the outsider music genre. Music that follows no rules, that sets no presidence or no expectations. Music that doesn’t top the charts, or sell hit records, or play on commercials, or make it to many if any MP3 players. But give it a chance, and it will make it to your soul.
The Spires’ cool, churning indie-rock is a lot like the refreshing ocean breeze that washes over the band’s hometown, Ventura, CA, during hot summer days.
Though much is attributed to swirling, driving guitar and calming faux British accented vocals by Jason Bays, Colleen Coffey underestimates her rhythms – marching high hat, and swooshing ride – which are timed just right, and add to the overall “shimmering” quality of their songs. (Think Luna, The Wedding Present or a mellow Pavement.) Listen to their new recordings, and you’ll be thankful Jason, also her husband, gave her the initial push to try out the drums five years ago.
Joined with new bass player Catelyn Kindred, The Spires’ released the lovely full-length “A Way of Seeing” in May ’09 (Beehouse Records), and have been playing around California non-stop ever since. During a notable show in LA this June, they performed as their idols The Velvet Underground for the second time with Colleen as the awesome Moe Tucker. Below, the drummer humbly gabs about the benefits of counting, what it’s like being married to the lead singer, and the trials and tribulations of recording drums. (No punch-ins, for us!)
Name: Colleen Coffey
Hometown: Born in West Los Angeles CA
Lives in: Ventura, CA
Past bands: None
Current bands: The Spires
Day job: Legal Assistant
“I don’t know as I chose to take drums up so much as Jason strongly suggested (decided) that I should.” –Colleen Coffey
Tom Tom Magazine: First, tell me a little bit about your drumming history. How long have you been playing and why did you choose to pick up the drums versus any other instrument?
Colleen Coffey: I have been playing just about exactly 5 years now. I don’t know as I chose to take drums up so much as Jason strongly suggested (decided) that I should. In early 2004 he had some songs and was wanting to do something more with them. He got in touch with a drum teacher in town and I pretty much started with lessons right away. A couple months later we recorded the “Amplifier” EP. I had played bass as a teenager but not very seriously. I never would have thought I would end up playing drums.
Tom Tom Magazine: What kind of drum set do you use?
Colleen Coffey: I have a Gretsch Catalina Club kit. It is a small, jazz style set; its bass drum is only about 18 inches. To be honest, I didn’t know enough when I picked it out to know what I was buying. I went with a friend of ours who knows about such things to Mike’s Drums in Santa Barbara and they had the whole set with a silver sparkle finish—hardware and everything—for only $700. It was also the one kit that would fit in our Honda Civic. So I put it on layaway and a couple months later it was mine.
Tom Tom Magazine: What do you love best about playing the drums?
Colleen Coffey: I don’t have to remember any notes or chord changes.
TTM: What has been/is still one of the biggest challenges for you as a drummer?
CC: Honestly: tuning the drums. I kind of assumed early on that I would just lean on my drum-playing friends to help me out but they have proved no help at all. Even the best drummers in my circle of friends will swear they don’t know what they’re doing. I’m figuring it out, but it is still such a huge pain in the ass. Fortunately, I’m not a hard player so once I get them where I want them, they’ll stay that way at least for a little while.
TTM: Who are your musical inspirations? The Spires makes me think of an airy version of The Vaselines, which is awesome.
CC: I would have to say Guilded By Voices stands alone for me as an entirely life-changing kind of band. That probably sounds so corny but it is so true. This might be why (as Robert Pollard put it): “GBV showed the world that you can suck and still rule.” There is no one that can touch them for songwriting and performance genius. They really did change my entire perspective on music. They are also responsible for the funnest shows I have ever been to over and over again. I remember when Jason was first getting into them and it seemed like every time I heard him playing a song I liked and I would ask him: “Who is this?” The answer was always: “GBV.” So after awhile I clued in that I must really like this band. It was all pretty much downhill from there.
“I have heard from other couples that play music and they seem to experience it as some kind of deep connection. It has not been like that for us—we compartmentalize playing music from our regular life.” –Colleen Coffey
TTM: What’s it like being in a band with your significant other? What are the positive factors? Are there any challenges?
CC: We get this question from time to time. I think Jason and I might be peculiar in this respect. I have heard from a couple other people that play music with their boyfriend, girlfriend, spouse, whatever and they seem to experience it as some kind of deep connection or experience between them. It has not been like that for us—we seem to just compartmentalize playing music from our regular life. When we’re playing, I barely remember that we’re married and I know Jason is the same way. When we’re home, it’s different. I think the biggest plus of playing together has been that we’re almost always available to play at the same times, so I think we play more often for living together than we might if we lived separate lives. The challenge might be that the band is not such an equal partnership as marriage—as the songwriter, Jason exerts more creative influence ultimately than either Catelyn or I.
TTM: When you first started playing, did you face any criticism/sexism? Did you ever get the whole “Oh, his girlfriend is in the band” thing? As a drummer in a band with my boyfriend, I was always worried about that starting out – that people wouldn’t take me seriously.
CC: That is an interesting question. When I think about it, I may have actually benefited from a kind of reverse sexism. What I mean is: I played so poorly when we started (listen to the “Amplifier” EP—it’s so rudimentary, I couldn’t even hit the cymbals yet). But I think I got a pass on it to a certain extent because I was a girl. I suspect audiences would have been less forgiving of a guy in that situation.
TTM: What bands are you digging on right now?
CC: All three of the Spires have been on a Joy Division/New Order jag for the last couple months. Catelyn has also turned me onto Little Joy, which I really like. And she and I listen to the Parson Redheads in her car at least twice a week (they have a great girl drummer, Brette Marie Way, and she has a beautiful voice besides). And we both love Franklin For Short (another Ventura band).
With the Velvet Underground show coming up I have been listening to perhaps an inordinate amount of VU but I love them under any circumstances. And my drummer friend Tim recently turned me onto Band of Horses—they’ve been a daily listen the last few weeks. And, of course, I have for a long time loved Pavement (their drummer is so rad) and Luna/Galaxy 500 and Built To Spill. And I’m crazy about The Flaming Lips and in awe of their live shows (even though I haven’t seen one for awhile).
But, you know, all of that said: When I’m at home, I rarely listen to rock music. That’s more when I’m driving, or hanging out with friends, or when I’m stuck doing something boring at work. 90% of the time at home it’s John Coltrane, Bill Evans, Johnny Hartman, Django Reinhardt, Miles Davis, Thelonious Monk, Chet Baker, etc. I’m absolutely crazy for that stuff. Of course, I’ll never drum like Jimmy Cobb—never (not a hope in hell!!). But I love listening to him and I’m completely in awe of him and others.
“The brain is a more reliable metronome than the arms. ” –Colleen Coffey
TTM: If you could give advice to a girl looking to pick up drumming, what would it be? Is there a good practice method you can recommend?
CC: I really think the critical piece is to take lessons from a competent teacher. Maybe a lot of other drummers would disagree with that and surely some people have such innate talent that lessons are superfluous, but for me, lessons were critical. My own drum teacher was a kind of real hard rock guy, you know, he didn’t play Jason and my kind of music at all. But he really knew what he was doing. I didn’t even play on a drum set for the first few months because he had me just playing patterns on a pad and learning to read drum music. The other thing he taught me that I still use and recommend is to always be counting. The brain is a more reliable metronome than the arms. By always counting to myself, I think I am able to keep the beat more reliably. That seems obvious but I don’t think I would have thought of that on my own. Fortunately, I’ve learned to count with my mouth closed so it’s not so obvious to the audience anymore that that’s what I’m doing—that took some time though.
TTM: Give me all of the juicy details about A Way of Seeing. (Which is awesome, by the way!) What are your favorite memories of the recording process?
CC: Thank you so much. I think I am funny when it comes to recording: I can only begin enjoying it when my drum tracks are done. To be honest: recording my drum tracks stresses me out. Over the course of a couple albums I have gotten Jason and our engineer to realize that with me it’s diminishing returns: I need to get the song in the first or second take or we have to move on. After that, I just start thinking about it too much and it gets worse and worse.
The one exception to that on this new record is the song “Famous Last Words” (track 5) which I had originally played very differently—you wouldn’t recognize it from the song that ended up on the album. We went in the studio to record it and I just couldn’t pull it together that night. We were on the verge of scrapping the whole song as unworkable—in fact, I think we had pretty much decided that we would scrap it. But the engineer (Craig Costigan) really liked it and persuaded us to give it another shot. That last time through, I dumped the part I had planned and just played it off the cuff (something I never do in recording) and just really straight, right with the rhythm guitar. And that was the take we stuck with—really, an entirely different song from what we started with.
Overall, I think the thing about this record is that it is a bridge between two versions of The Spires. Jason and I recorded half of it with Craig Costigan at Garage Majal [Santa Barbara] starting in January 2008. Then in June 2008 Catelyn started playing with us. From that point on, we just started writing a whole crop of new songs (and the old ones started sounding a lot differently). Toward the end of last year, we got Justin to bring his gear to our practice studio over two weekends and we recorded “TAM,” “Lowercase,” and the others. What we ended up with I think is a hybrid of sorts. I’m excited to see what the next album brings.
TTM: Do you have an all-time favorite personal drumming moment?
CC: So far, the most fun I have ever had drumming was April Fools Day 2007 when The Spires and half of the band Franklin for Short joined forces and played as the Velvet Underground courtesy of Part Time Punks at The Echo (LA). Fortunately for me, Moe Tucker is the one drummer of a major band that I could hope to emulate. The sound guy at The Echo (Scott) is a genius. I told Jason later that my whole frontal lobe must have just shut off because it was pure pleasure for 40 minutes without a thought in my head.
TTM: What’s next for The Spires?
CC: The Spires are already at work on the next record believe it or not. We have shows planned through early summer and more (hopefully) on the way but we want to get back in the studio by August so that we’ll have another release at the end of 2009. Our plan is to play everything pretty much live—a little more ’60s garage I guess you would say. That’s fine by me since I’m only good for one or two takes anyway 🙂
More on Colleen Coffey and The Spires:
-Melanie B. Glover
Its Fourth of July weekend and Brooklyn’s alive with the sound of female drumming! There’s so much fun stuff happening in the next couple of days but none might be as fun as the Woodsist/Captured Tracks festival.
It’s all happening Friday and Saturday July 3rd and 4th at the Market Hotel and at the backyard of 979 Broadway both right next to each other in Bushwick. This event was conceived and curated by Jeremy Earl of Woodsist and Mike Sniper of Captured Tracks. These hometown veterans have put together a really great duo of shows, and it isn’t just because they were smart enough to have the festival headline with awesome female drummers. Highlights from each of the days include some of the foxiest drum chops around. Day one features one of our personal favorites Crystal Stilts’ Frankie Rose
who will soon wow us with a solo side project where she sings and plays guitar. Day two features Ali Koehler of Vivian Girls, who recently finished their second album Everything Goes Wrong (out September 8th on In the Red) and returned from a European tour. They’re going on tour again starting in August. Think back to the last time you could say you saw the Vivian Girls in a Brooklyn backyard, so catch them while you can. Check out their new video for “Moped Girls”
I’m also especially excited about seeing Brilliant Colors.
They’re three girls out of the San Francisco scene (along with Grass Widow) with Diane on drums, Jess on guitar and vox and Michelle on bass. The song “I’m 16” is a perfect evocation of being exactly that, with a sigh and a snicker just as much as a snarl.
Last in celebration of Independence Day I want to post an “Old School Throwback” and ask if we agree that The Runaways are one of the most all-American bands of the ages?
The “Famous Five” version of the Runaways with Cherrie Currie’s equally infamous corset: Sandy West, Jackie Fox, Cherrie Currie, Lita Ford, Joan Jett. Listening to Sandy West’s drumming on Cherry Bomb makes me instantly want to spray some Sun-In in my hair, head over to a BBQ with shorts on, beer cozy in tow and throw some patties on the grill. The Japanese loved them and its the perfect song to celebrate the inauguration of a wet hot American summer.
By the time you read this I will be parked next to the stage at Market Hotel and 979 Broadway, but here’s to you lady drummers and a happy fourth of July to all! Cathy.
Ashley is busy. You may be interrupting her. As the messages sailed back and forth between Portland and Brooklyn, it became hard not to wonder whether that familiar warning splayed across the chat window might really be true. In only eight years since sitting down behind a kit, Ashley Spungin has become one shredding third of the Portland trio Purple Rhinestone Eagle, with a laser-like focus fueled by Bonham worship, babies, and bad weather. Just back from PRE’s spring tour, Ashley shifted her attention to talk about how she gets her thick, dark sound and how she responds to post-show comments from boneheads.
Name: Ashley Spungin
Hometown: Hartford, CT
Lives in: Portland, OR
Current bands: Purple Rhinestone Eagle
Past bands: None. PRE is her first band.
Day job: Nanny
Outstanding bit of trivia: No, she is not related to Nancy, but she is a distant relative of the great producer and Hammond B3 player Al Kooper, “who is known for musical contributions that are a little cooler than Sid Vicious’s notorious lady friend.”
“I guess I had always wanted to learn to play drums from when I first started going to shows, when I was like 12 or something. I would obsess over the drummers and try to wrap my head around what they were doing.” – Ashely Spungin
Tom Tom Magazine: We know you play with PRE; are you currently playing with anyone else?
Ashley Spungin: Not really. I am usually down to jam with friends but there is nothing else I’m seriously committed to. PRE takes up a lot of my time.
Tom Tom Magazine: How did you hook up with PRE? You formed in Philadelphia, right?
Ashley Spungin: Yep. I met Morgan (Ray Denning, bass and backing vocals) at a potluck in 2004. She and Andrea Genevieve, (guitar and lead vocals) were living together and wanting to start up a band. I approached Morgan because she was wearing an All Girl Summer Fun Band T-shirt. We got to talking and she invited me over to play with them. It was awesome, except I leaned on a faulty guardrail and fell off their porch before I even entered the house and contemplated going home right then and there. I’m glad I didn’t, obviously. We started playing shows shortly after.
Tom Tom Magazine: Ow! We’re all glad you didn’t. How did you end up in Portland?
Ashley Spungin: We ended up moving to Portland about a year and a half ago after going on a short East Coast tour with the New Bloods, who were all living here at the time. Basically they saw how we were all kind of bumming on Philly and itching to move somewhere, so they convinced us to move out here.
TTM: How do you think the move has affected your evolution musically?
AS: Moving here has totally helped us get “serious.” It’s just a far more mellow place. None of us are working our asses off just to make rent. We’re usually able to practice about four times a week. The weather sucks a lot but that can be helpful for locking ourselves in the practice space and working on song ideas. We moved here with the intention of just going for it, and that’s just what we are trying to do.
TTM: Speaking of making rent, what do you do when you’re not drumming?
AS: I’m a nanny. My job rules. I hang out with an awesome 6-month-old baby named Eleanor.
TTM: Sounds like a great life. It’s funny to imagine a 6-month-old named Eleanor….
AS: The name suits her very well. It’s a good job to have, because the family is super supportive of me and understanding about my weird schedule and touring and all that.
“I eventually got my own kit and traded free coffee for real lessons for a few months.” – Ashley Spungin
TTM: How did you get started playing the drums?
AS: I started playing drums when I was about 18. I was living in Boston at the time and had a good friend who let me go to his practice space and play his drums. He started off just showing me basic things. I eventually got my own kit and traded free coffee for real lessons for a few months. I played with other people here and there, but was moving around the country quite a bit, so I never stuck around to play in a real band. PRE is the first for me.
TTM: What inspired you to play drums in the first place?
AS: I guess I had always wanted to learn to play drums from when I first started going to shows, when I was like 12 or something. I would obsess over the drummers and try to wrap my head around what they were doing. Actually playing and getting over my nerves and really cutting loose was like the best thing ever for me.
TTM: What’s with the wanderlust?
AS: I guess a girl’s gotta know what’s out there, ya know?
TTM: Definitely. Who are some of your favorite drummers, or drummers you emulate, past or present?
AS: My first favorite drummer was John Bonham. I used to sit in my room when I was 17 and rewind the one part in “Moby Dick” over and over again when he comes in with the fills after the drum solo. It kind of still blows my mind.
TTM: That’s funny, because the colors you play with and your technique are pretty Bonhamesque.
AS: He turned me on to Vistalites, so that’s true. He and also Keith Moon will always hold a special place in my heart for their amazing drumming. Some of my other faves, hmmm: Bill Ward, Dale Crover, George Hurley, Robert Wyatt, and on and on. It wasn’t until I heard drummers like Moe Tucker and Janet Weiss that I felt more included in the music that I love. It was a good motivator to listen to other women playing drums who were in bands I could really get into.
TTM: Andrea said in an interview last year that PRE’s sound is “heavy riffs laden psychedelic fury with rock and roll roots.” You sound pretty proggy to me. How do you describe it, and how much does your drumming style play a role in shaping the band’s whole sound?
AS: Our music is always hard for me to describe because we aren’t really just going for one thing. We are all pretty big music nerds and are all coming from different musical backgrounds and experiences. We write mostly all the songs together, which works great for us and makes it that much more a special process. Our music has elements of ’60s and ’70s, psychedelic, heavy riffin’ rock and roll. At least those genres are a big inspiration for my drumming style, so I’d like to think that.
TTM: You brought up an interesting point: feeling like an outsider in your own genre (insofar as we can define your genre).
AS: I guess I used to feel like an outsider in the sense that I didn’t have many other female drummer friends to relate to. But that has changed since my move out here, thank the lord.
TTM: Do you still run into the “rocker chick” bias a lot? Like any guy can play thrash or prog or garage rock, but if a girl plays it she must be a real badass, and in fact has to be a real badass?
AS: PRE was touring the U.S. over the past month and a half, and night after night we would get some very weird responses from both men and women, like: “I was really impressed” or “That isn’t what I expected” or the worst, “You play like me!”…like we should feel good that we proved ourselves as female musicians.
TTM: Like you’re supposed to be flattered, or the dude version is the gold standard?
AS: Yeah, unfortunately that mindset is still alive and well, which is both discouraging and fuels my fire, as there is still plenty of work to do! Being able to have teenage girls come up and ask me about how they can start playing the drums after a show, as well as being a part of amazing projects like this magazine, make having to deal with those boneheads much more bearable. Plus, it would feel great to know that some guy in Georgia came up to me after a show and said, “I’ve never seen anything like that before in my life,” and mean it!
TTM: Have you done Rock Camp for Girls?
AS: I’ve only been able to volunteer at workshops because we were touring last summer. This summer I plan on volunteering way more. Portland Rock Camp has got it going on and I want to take advantage of that while I’m here.
TTM: How do you nurture your technique? What’s your setup?
AS: I play a Ludwig Vistalite kit from the early ’70s. Snare, bass, rack and floor tom; ride, crash, high-hats, tambourine.
TTM: How do you warm up?
AS: Warmups include stretching (everything), meditating, and running through some songs if we can.
TTM: What’s your go-to tech drill?
AS: I like to practice paradiddles in the van on the seats or my lap.
TTM: What’s your personal goal for drumming?
AS: My future goals include touring with my band everywhere we can. We’re recording an album this winter and have big plans for tours after that.
TTM: You have an EP recently out, right?
AS: Yes! We have a record out now on the great Eolian Records. It’s our first one and I am very, very stoked on it. It is also turquoise.
Interview by: Meg RyanMeg Ryan’s musical writing has appeared in the St. Paul Pioneer Press, Guitar World Acoustic, the Los Angeles Philharmonic magazine, and Electronic Musician magazine. She has done editorial work for Revolver, Blender, and Women’s Health. Before she started playing with words, Meg was a classical flute player, and she currently performs with Susan Elizabeth and Velvet Hammer, providing hand percussion, flute, keyboard, mandolin, and vocals. She lives in Brooklyn.
“Own drum kit, will travel.”
It is natural when talking to or about musicians to assume that they are part of a band. Independent drumming, however, is a very common and often times preferred status of many drummers. In many cases, it’s the convenience of not having to travel and lug around kits that indie’s like. They get booked by traveling bands as stand ins for local shows or festivals and therefore play a wide variety of venues and artists all in their local area.
Yet the most successful independent drummers often travel and even tour the world. One such independent drummer hails from Tel Aviv, Israel. Nati Niv is a formally trained musician for hire with quite the resume including available drum lessons and volunteer work for charities as well as playing shows all over the globe. The video below is a good compilation of Nati playing different venues. I find it hard not to admire her energetic style and charisma.
Nati also DJ’s and plays live DJ shows with a unique standing kit set up.
If you are a drummer who is concerned about not being in a band, pick up your sticks, keep beating the drum, and consider an independent career. For more inspiration, check out Nati’s website and her MySpace page.
I love the The Specific Heats! They played an awesome set at Tom Tom Magazine/Make Music NY Presents. Here is some footage of their performance from their show last week as well as an interview with their drummer Keira Flynn Carson. Their Back Through Thyme 7″ is available at Academy Records.
This week I’d like to go a little retro, twice over in fact. The Pandoras were an eighties band that had a psychedelic sixties style. Their sound changed a bit during their 1983-1991 run. I think their best sounds were their early garage punk hard edge styles.
Although the band went through several different members, it was founded by front woman Paula Peirce, who was insistent on using authentic 60’s instruments and clothes to establish their retro image. My favorite roster included Julie Patchouli, who played bass and also manages the bands website and MySpace, Melanie Vammen played keyboards, and on the skins was Karen Blankfeld.
The Pandoras released a lot of music during their time recording various LP’s and EP’s with such labels as Voxx, Rhino, and Elektra. Karen eventually moved on to front a group of her own called the Rebel Pebbles who released their debut album Girls Talk in 1991. I think she was one of the most underrated drummers of her time. The Female Drummer Newsletter thinks so too ranking her #44 on their list of the 100 greatest female drummers of all time.
By the Pandoras obtaining this level of moderate success, I feel makes their mystique all the more special. It’s made of the type of stuff that cults follow. It seems to me that Courtney Love may have modeled herself partly on Paula Pierce. Coming from a time where the Bangles and Go Go’s where topping charts with the pop music model at the time, Paula’s vocals were poignant and edgy and eventually became legendary. Tragically, Paula passed away of an aneurysm at the tender age of 31.
From my understanding, ESG is a band that gets to you before you get to them. Early in high school, when buzz finally got from New York to my Miami abode via my mom’s NYMag subscription of those found noise pranksters with a mean hankering for a groove, Liars, beats had only begun to mean something. Those 9 tracks on their first album might seem tame now, but my lack of a concern for dancing (aside from my first inebriation in 7th grade at a family function thanks to drinks left unattended) was becoming something to be concerned about in itself. Liars’ stilted high-BPM groove didn’t really help that much but their song Tumbling Walls Buried Me in the Debris w/ ESG was one of many doors. The use of UFO was by then old hat, historically plundered more than almost any other song, but it was my initiation. Being the time of cult experimentalism and whatnot, it’s that song’s ethereal and otherworldly rumblings that lit up my room at night, playing close-lidded REM games in the dark.
UFO itself came from the age of a dimly lit, smoke-clouded, alleyway-shrouded, and ever enveloping concrete undergrowth, when the streets of New York could easily make their way into a subplot for a supernatural thriller as a psyche-disorienting character of their own. At any nightclub, under the pulse of the strobe light, amid the goading, jagged aesthetic reconfigurations of punkish prowlers any pseudo-scientific lore might seem to be manifesting itself. UFO is almost its curator. UFO’s curators are something else entirely.
Scene – 70’s in the South Bronx: Four sisters left to their own devices by a caring mother attempting to cultivate a trouble-free developmental environment, must learn to play instruments without the aid of lessons. Meager income, economic hardship could only bring home the tools, the craft was a venture to be gained the hard way. Crash course after self-devised crash course through rock and soul music television programs and the girls began to hone their sound. Deborah on the bass, Marie on the congas, Renee on the guitar and Valerie on the drums, they eventually became ESG, a name corresponding the minerals of their birthstones – Emerald for Valerie’s, Sapphire for Renee’s, and since Deborah and Marie had no birthstones hip to the ensuing acronym, a G went to wishful thinking for a record prospect called GOLD. Signed by Liquid Liquid’s label manager, the rest is history.
The same way UFO’s eerie manipulations of aural scratch come to be the first and last thing you notice, the same can be said for Valerie’s drumming. By the end of high school I still didn’t know how to dance (though I’ve since found it’s not really something you learn, but make up as you go along, with the best coordinated in the room deciding whether its up to snuff) but I did have an interest in shaking it. One of the surest ways was turning the switch on ESG, whose ship ran so tight that with the amount of time not wasted you didn’t even notice it leaving the harbor, two seconds in the cruise is already in high gear. Whether that cruise has run into the Bermuda Triangle is something you’re never entirely sure of.
A perfect embodiment of that feeling is this youtube sync done with some television drama’s dream sequence and ESG’S Christelle. The arrangements are sparse, but forceful. Their simplicity is disingenuously innocuous lull that could place you in a lucid transfixion if it wasn’t for the rhythmic pattering underneath which commands you to MOVE!
UFO itself distills the distals of your body til the essence of your groove is ripe for discovery. Valerie shows up unannounced 25 seconds in. Deborah’s bass is in the midst of an introduction when Valerie sideswipes in the most complementary fashion, and soon you’re being dragged through this odd aura of swinging overhead lights, rusty from their years confined to dark tunnels for the hideouts of military secrets. But all throughout, that groove says its cool.
When it wasn’t the atmospherics doing the tricks, it was the vocals, of which everyone took a part except Valerie, ready and steady on the beat. While the previously mentioned songs play with an instinctual urge, this song shouts it out from hiding. Dance is basically it’s title expanded into an experiential manifesto, a how-to by way of being done. This is what I want to do, this is how I get it going and this is how it’s done. It is now an unstoppable force whose longevity can only be pointed out by the sun’s inconvenient arrival the next morning.
On one end of the sampling debate is the unfortunate advent of intellectual copyrights in which faceless corporate mechanisms grip the commodified and already packaged but variegated and boundless forms of human expression, and with an eye on the bank dictate how and where a particular sound or idea should be used and propagated, regardless if said institution devised said sound or idea in the first place. One of the most egregious examples being the Jimmy Page court wrangling of Schooly D for a sampling of Kashmir, forever altering one of the key sequences in Bad Lieutenant. On the other is ESG, who, like the blues artists Jimmy Page ripped off with the aid of success and fame’s insulation, weren’t properly secured during the boom of rap’s earlier ventures into sample happy experimentation. Look at the list of songs ESG appeared in – http://www.the-breaks.com/search.php?term=esg&type=0 – and still Valerie ended up working as a bus driver. In the early 90’s they addressed their penniless popularity via an album called “Samples Don’t Pay Our Bills.”
Valerie ended up the cause of controversy when in 2006 she was indicted for a false insurace claim garnering 13,000 in worker’s comp for a shoulder injury that prevented her from driving while two months later playing reunion shows. Valerie maintained that the candid cam video used on her in the trial shows that her arm was limp and her lawyer maintained that three doctors says she wasn’t fit to drive a bus. It’s kind of silly, since playing the drums doesn’t really put the audience in danger the way driving a bus does passengers, which while not the main point is better than driving a bus when the diagnosis suggests the conditions aren’t affable. Nothing on that mix-up lasted longer than the print date of its conclusion, unlike Valerie’s musical contributions. ESG’s name remains in multiple spectrums of dance music. Larry Levan and Frankie Knuckles dropping a needle on their records ensured their influence in the ever-developing variations on house and club music. Their manager booking shows for them at punk clubs ensured the nasal assault of faux-nihilistic teenagers would be alleviated by a productively danceable backbone, so when the alternation between screeds and apathy was ultimately shown aimless, the hips could take over, and the stale march would be conga fixed.
No coda is needed beyond their own musical output, thus, without further ado:
by adam katzman
Last week we featured a ninety-one year old drummer full of life and soul that has had an amazing career of drumming. This week, we would like to introduce you to a 4-piece band with a combined age of only fifty-five years.
Kicking Daisies, features fourteen year old frontman Duran Visek, twelve year old Ben Spremulli on lead guitar, thirteen year old Carly Kalafus on bass, and sitting at the skins is sixteen year old Caitlin Kalafus who, in 2007, won a world record for fastest female drummer in the feet division with 799 bass kicks in 60 seconds and still holds it.
Check out this video of Caitlin jamming out in the basement.
Kicking Daisies are rehersing and recording right now and their debut album is expected to be out this summer. In the meantime, check out their MySpace for some of their tracks.
Their sound is raw, and pure, and extremely talented. I for one am anxiously awaiting the album especially since most of their songs are penned by themselves. There is no doubt this is a good formula for success.
Jerrie Thill has been beating the drums for seventy years… That is not a typo. Born in 1917 in Dubuque, Iowa she began her illustrious music career in the Chicago area when speakeasies where all the rage and notorious gangster names were in the newspaper headlines. You can read more about her interesting career at her website www.jerriethill.com
Last February another amazing woman, lyricist, and creative great, Allee Willis, wrote a song called “Hey Jerrie” honoring her, and produced a little video gem that took YouTube by storm. Click Play below, kick your chair aside, and do a skuttle shuffle across your floor because although Jerrie needs an oxygen tank to help her breathe, she is full of life and soul.
The video is lively, colorful and just plain fun. With party-goer sound tracks al la Ramsey Lewis’s The In Crowd it also features Carol Chaikin on the saxophone, a young Milo Sussman on guitar, and his younger brother Owen adding addition drum tracks.
I am inspired by Jerrie and Allee, and this only proves that you are never to old to do ANYTHING. All you have to do is dig deep inside you and let it out!
Check out Allee’s website at www.alleewillis.com and also link to her blog from there.
Tom Tom Show Review: Grass Widow at Bruar Falls 5.30.09. See them at Don Pedros 6.05.09, Hillstock Fest 6.06.09In Tom Tom Magazine Featured Drummer on June 5, 2009 at 5:50 pm
San Francisco band Grass Widow played a benefit show (organized in part by your own Jefe de Tom Tom Ms. Mindy) at Cakeshop’s West Egg borough brother Bruar Falls last weekend for the Willie May Rock Camp for Girls with Querent, Taigaa! and Pterodactyl. Unfortunately I missed Querent, who is Natalja Kent, formerly of The Good Good’s current project but I did catch Taigaa!, whose keyboardist Jee Young Sim becomes more fun to watch every time. And though Brooklyn’s new favorite sons Pterodactyl put on a good show as usual in their reincarnation as a three piece after bassist Zach Lehrhoff’s departure the scene stealer was definitely Grass Widow. Hell yeah Grass Widow!
photo by Brian Krueger
The all women trio features ex-members Hannah Lew and Raven Mahon on bass and guitar from old school SF four piece Shitstorm and drummer Lillian Maring and they gave us an impressive and long set at Bruar Falls. Grass Widow had just embarked on a two-week east coast jaunt and they already sounded tight. The first thing we noticed is how nonchalant they were with their instruments: relaxed but precise, energetic without being too loud. These girls were good. Live their sound was a hypnotic, lulling combination of surfy-sweet singing with interesting, angular rhythm and edgy guitar work thrown in that perhaps reference obscure Portland girl punks Neo Boys, who are purportedly Hannah’s ‘favorite band ever.’ The songs had a lot of turn-on-a-dime melody and tempo changes with drummer Lillian always seemingly effortlessly pulling the band through the twists of Hannah’s intricate and to me, very Slint-y bass structures without losing a beat so to speak. The anchor to Lillian’s drums was the vocals, and the vox duties which were shared all around really completed the overall sensibility. The revival of comparisons to Raincoats/Tiger Trap-esque vocal stylings in reference to the current crop of lady bands are matched only by the revival of twee itself and by now a bit well-worn but let that simply be a testament to the disarming and enduring power of a stripped-down yet saccharine harmony section. Bless you Gina, Ana, Rose and Heather. For me the set stunner was the closer “Rattled Call” which live had Raven’s guitar turned up louder than on the album and was strangely reminiscent of Jefferson Airplane, Sabbath and an almost proggy drum style all topped with those haunting vocal harmonic transitions. It works awesomely, especially as the whole group evokes a sort of 70’s Grace Slick vibe if not in the vox department then at least in Lillian’s kick-ass wavy shag!
Lillian in Seattle
The eponymous album is an addictive listen and just as good as the live show, retaining their cross of spritely pop chops and multilayered post-punk instrumentation. Ps – Raven plays a cool trumpet. By now Grass Widow are almost halfway through their east coast tour with Querent so can you imagine how tight they probably sound? We all bought tee shirts after the show (which also had very nice screens I might add) and I suggest you do the same. But let me say that before you buy any shirts, get thee to a Grass Widow show and throw down some love for their excellent debut 12” out on new Bay Area label Make a Mess. I promise you won’t regret it.
Grass Widow play Friday 6.05 at Don Pedros (90 Manhattan Avenue Brooklyn) and two shows Saturday 6.06: at noon at the Hillstock Music Festival and again at 9pm at Papabubble (380 Broome St NY).
Cathy and MM
Stella has been drumming since she was 13 and is quite the accomplished and decorated musician. In 2006, she found a home with front man Neal Carlson, guitarist Nick Maybury and bassist Grant Fitzpatrick and formed MINK.
Their sound is raw in that it has no theatrics, no showy pyro-madness, no electric voice box trickery; Just good, smart lyrics, catchy guitar riffs, and infectious drum and cymbal beats that make them serious players. Having penned over 60 songs already and collaborating with names like Red Hot Chilli Peppers, Kiss, and Perry Ferrell, to name a few, prove their seriousness.
In contrast, Stella’s persona is cheeky, humorous, and likeable. Check out this video which captures a bit of her wit and a bunch of her talent.
Here is Mink’s video for their first single Talk To Me
Get their most recent album on iTunes.
Stella is currently residing in LA working on other Stellar projects, be sure to keep an eye out.
Thanks to Frank Q. for the suggestion.
We have all heard the adage that music is the ultimate international language. Well, sometimes adages get it right. This week we go international and showcase Ursula Rosa of the all girl Italian band Diva Scarlet.
Based in Bologna, Italy this quartet have been playing and touring since 2001 and have released 2 full length studio albums. The latest Non + Silenzio deals with the subject of violence against women and children and to society in general. Check out the video below for their song Souvenir off the album.
OK, my Italian is rusty at best but basically the song speaks of precious souvenirs around the world such as African masks, birds and fish, flowers and roses and warns not to touch because if they break, they are irreplaceable. Peppered within the video are environmental factoids such as stats on how many rare birds, reptiles and tropical fish are commercialized and exploited yearly.
Most of the material is penned by front woman Sarah Fornito and guitarist Cecilia Bernardi. Who together with bassist Camilla Boschieri formed the band Skummer out of High School. In 2001 they teamed with the powerful beats of Ursula to form Diva Scarlet in an effort to kick their talents to the next level. Their powerful lyrics and subject matter in combination with fast energy beats and guitar rifts blend into a formula of poignant and meaningful music.
Ursula Rosa in green jacket.
Crystal Stilts – “Prismatic Room” (2008), “Love is a Wave” (2009), both directed by Army of Kids
Shot on Super 8 the sun-splashed Crystal Stilts video for “Prismatic Rooms” from their debut Alight of Night (Slumberland 2008) feels like a rare peek into some stumbled upon vacation footage of a family of the coolest friends and misfits we’ve all yearned to belong to. There are glimpses of travels from the trails and sea sides of California and Oregon to a cozy kitchen in New York City and a living room full of playful, drunken masquerading. We’ve all been there, and if we haven’t, this video does a very good job of making us wish we had, with Alight of Night spinning on the record player in the background of course.
The Stilts in their new single “Love is a Wave” (Slumberland 2009, Angular Recording Co. in Europe) remain a master of mining their influences and weaving them into highly catchy, jangly songs, and the return of Army of Kids to direct the video for “Love is a Wave” is a perfect choice. They continue the breezy, summery feel of “Prismatic Room” but this time through juxtaposing stills and film snippets inter-spliced with stock footage of everything from eerie bicyclers to chimps on a date at the beach and a carnivalesque sequence of windmills and fireworks in black and white, creating a spiraling psychedelic montage that matches well the song’s more upbeat tempo. Though one misses the charming, shambling presence of the Stilts themselves, the borrowed images, much like the grainy texture that 8mm evokes, perhaps tap more fully the nostalgic feel of and for the eras they love. It all makes sense in these collected moments of the tongue-in-cheek and childhood ephemera as they balance the Stilt’s and especially Hargett’s lyrics, which are a horse of a slightly darker, more pensive breed.
The Crystal Stilts clearly have a thoughtful yet blithe musical and overall aesthetic philosophy, citing equally 17th century French mathematician and theologian Blaise Pascal, the Television Personalities, Communication Blur fanzine and Roadrunner cartoons. They couldn’t execute it so well, however, without the gracefully choreographed tambourined beats (often done standing up) of Frankie Rose on the drums, featured in an exclusive interview soon to be appearing in the premiere print edition of Tom Tom Mag near you. She just might be the ‘heart that has its reasons which reason does not know’ behind Brad Hargett’s smoky haze of a voice, Andy Agner’s trembling bass lines, JB Townsend’s superfuzzed guitars and Kyle Forester’s mellifluous keyboards. Rose’s sunny smile is the counterpoint to Hargett and Townsend’s respective Dylan- and Warhol-esque aloofness in “Prismatic Rooms” just as her drums are the aural counterpunch to the rest of the band’s, filling out and inviting us into the perverse and happy melancholia that seems to be the Stilt’s signature sound. We feel it in a thousand ways, and Army of Kids’ work in both “Prismatic Room” and “Love is a Wave” delivers as if on a drowsily spinning palette wheel those delicate sonic things that the music of Crystal Stilts captures.
Tom Tom Magazine
Drummer of the Week: Cora Coleman-Dunham drummer for Prince
This week we spotlight a Cinderella story with Cora Coleman-Dunham. Originally from Houston, TX, Cora started drumming in High School where she was also active in many sports. Under the tutelage of band director William Portus, Cora excelled in music as well as her studies and graduated valedictorian. From there, she went on to college and played for the Howard University Marching Band as well as opportunities with The Washington Ballet, The Washington Symphony Orchestra, The American University Orchestra, and the Concert Band & Percussion and Jazz Ensemble.
Here is a video of one of her early jam sessions.
After college, Cora re-located to Los Angeles and there she won the 2002 Guitar Center Drum Off Competition. She continued to play along names like Marvin Stamm, Yusef Lateef, Greg Osby, Donald Byrd, Grady Tate, and Larry Ridley. After some touring, she caught the eye of Prince who attended one of her performances. Soon after, Prince compiled a band along with her now husband, Joshua Dunham on bass. She played the 2007 Super Bowl Halftime Show with Prince and recorded tracks on his 3121 album. She regularly plays in his Las Vegas night club as well.
Having a soulful jazzy rhythm as an undertone, Cora also has explosive dynamic energy that go hand-in-hand with Prince’s masterful guitar riff’s. She has an air of confidence yet has remained humble of her successes. Cora Coleman-Dunham is almost a textbook example, that if you dedicate yourself and stick to your passions then your road can be paved ahead. I venture to say we will see many more great things from Cora.
This is a video of Cheikha Rimitti playing a Rai song called Ya Milouda. By the mid-80s, when Rai was becoming established as the rousing dance music of angry young Algerians, Rimitti was being hailed as la mamie du Rai, the grandmother of the style. Cheikha was born in Tessala, a small village in western Algeria in 1923. She was orphaned as a child and began to live a rough life, earning a few francs working in the fields and doing other menial jobs. At 15 she joined a troupe of traditional Algerian musicians and learned to sing and dance. In 1943 she moved to the country and began writing her own songs describing the tough life endured by the Algerian poor, focusing on everyday struggle of living, pleasures of sex, love, alcohol and friendship and the realities of war.
Traditionally, songs of lust had been sung privately by Algerian women at rural wedding celebrations but were considered crude and unfit to be heard in polite society. Rimitti was one of the first to sing them in public and did so in the earthy language of the street, using a rich blend of slang and patois. She eventually composed more than 200 songs but remained illiterate all her life.
Recently there was a short post about her on Arthur Magazine’s blog with another amazing video.
Oh, by the way, Raï literally means opinion but is colloquially used as an interjection along the lines of “oh, yeah!”
Check this band out.
Kelly is a great drummer and we will try and get an interview with her while they are in town this weekend. Check them out at Mercury Lounge this Friday the 15th.
This is their rad music video for “Do It”:
Tom Tom Magazine
In a pretty great confluence of import importance and shat on toss-offs, Terry Lynn and Swiss-based Canadian production partner Russel Hergert took Daft Punk’s much-maligned Human After All track “technologic” and re-vamped it as a populist anthem for Jamaica’s impoverished, exploited and fed up underclass. By replacing software advert ad-libs with weapon readying directives, the original’s cheap, sony-commercial baiting hooks become a dissatisfied reveler’s checklist for starting a violent revolt.
Lynn apparently started as a dancehall artist trying to make it with industry assigned gender roles, singing what she now considers to be de rigueur female dancehall tropes i.e. raunchy songs about fucking, but every music industry being a competitive churning mechanism it wasn’t enough to feed her and her kid. Some years ago Hergert was milling around Studio One brewing up tracks with legendary reggae producer Coxsone Dodd, and her cool-hand fixture in the background, casually tossing off lines, naturally beckoned an inquiry. Point blank asked by Hegert if she’d witnessed a murder, she began to lay down a lyrical macrocosm of the destitute and perpetually screwed-over country she lived in. Soon both of them were pouring their life-savings into what eventually became Kingstonlogic 1.0 + 2.0. The latter, released last year, doesn’t sacrifice gyration-worthy good times for fiery calls to arms, but instead the two modes of discourse complement each other in a way that destroys notions of grim-faced politicking. It’s both a knock to the general horrors and a way to engage them without making the matter innocuous.
Check her out at http://www.myspace.com/terrylynnkingstonlogic
(Bonus: In the Rickard Bros. directed video for System, a meet your meat style visit to a local slaughterhouse is used to highlight the veritable meat industry Jamaica’s economic despondency turns its population into. As the video notes, a two day shoot covered seven animals losing their lives. During those same two days, nine Jamaicans lost theirs.)
This week we take a delve into the Christian Rock genre. Memphis based Skillet has been ripping together since 1996 and have released seven studio albums. Their latest, Awake is due out in August 2009 and will include their newest member of the band, drummer, Jennifer Ledger. She’s 19 years old, she’s British, and she ROCKS.
Coming from Coventry, England, Jen joined skillet during Winter Jamfest in 2008 after their former drummer, Lori Peters, expressed she was leaving. Having been eased in and trained by Lori, Jen continued on with Skillet on their Comatose Tour and was officially announced by Skillet’s front man John Cooper in mid January 2008.
Having received a tepid welcome by ‘Panheads’ at first, Jen quickly grew into her sticks and developed strong dynamics and color while on tour and is quickly growing a fan base. This fast pace color drums, young energy, and touring pyrotechnic showmanship not only helps Skillet pick up where they left off with Lori, but they could further take off, because get this; Jen sings as well. On their live album Comatose Comes Alive, she contributes vocals on the track Yours To Hold and it is rumored that she’s recording vocals on various tracks of their upcoming album.
Christian Rock may not appeal to all, but the only major difference it has to mainstream rock is the message. Guitar riffs, penetrating vocals, monstrous drums, and on stage theatrics hold true through out this genre. If you’d like to become a ‘Panhead’ visit Skillet and stay tuned as a single from the new album is due out this month.
This indie-electro duo like their song, is so fine. Telepathe consists of Melissa Livaudais and Busy Gangnes, two girls that hale from Bushwick Brooklyn. The band started three years ago after the break up of Wikkid, a math/prog rock band. Their new record Dance Mother, which is out on IAMSOUND Records is extremely danceable, with tribal beats and layered synths. We are very excited for them to be in Tom Tom. For now, enjoy this video.
We are very excited to interview Noveller for an upcoming feature in Tom Tom Magazine. She is the first beatmaker/electronic musician to be in Tom Tom! Noveller is the solo project of Parts and Labor’s guitarist Sarah Lipstate. Her LP Paint the Shadows is out on No Fun Productions. She is also featured in a compilation of female noise musicians called Women Take Back the Noise with her track Signal. Check out her myspace:
A truly inspiring drummer and good friend LaFrae Sci has just launched a new blog which will track her adventures as a professional drummer working in New York and beyond. Read below for a quote from the drummer herself on what to expect:
” I am truly honored to be about to leave on a 5 week tour through
Romania, Albania, Monte Negro, and Bosnia sponsored by the state
department and Rhythm Road (formerly known as the Jazz Ambassador
program) with the Eli Yamin Blues group. I will be performing about 30 concerts and 20 or
so clinic/workshops in communities and conservatories alike. I will be updating (the blog)
with photos, video and stories from the road daily (internet
I invite you to subscribe to my Blog o’ Love and join me on my
journey. I have posted a few posts already including one that
explains the Jazz Ambassador to Rhythm Road tour in greater detail.
the site is: fraefrae.wordpress.com
Check it Out!