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Interview: Lynn Perko-Truell

I had an excellent conversation with Lynn Perko-Truell, the drummer of Imperial Teen, about the band’s upcoming Europe shows, soon-to-be-released music video, and her experience living through the changing music scenes of the 1980s to today.

Lynn Truell Interview

Photo Credit: Pat Chen
nrrtr.co

After The Show: That’s great that Feel the Sound comes out in the UK next week – how are you feeling about playing the Isle of Wight festival and the London show?

Lynn Perko-Truell: We’re excited – we haven’t done a show in the UK for probably a decade. I’m not sure how we got in the Isle of Wight mix – we were pretty surprised. It wasn’t really on my radar, so we’re looking forward to it. And then we’re playing a small club in London called The Borderline…two totally different types of shows.

Congratulations on making the Spin 100 Greatest Drummers list a couple weeks ago. I know you were in The Wrecks as a teen…how did you realize that you wanted to play drums professionally?

Once I got started it was really a different connection to music. I had been a music fan with radio and some pop but I was more into rock like Zeppelin, Aerosmith, Neil Young. I went to my first punk rock show, a band called 7 Seconds, in Reno. I was so close and could feel the energy. Hardcore/punk rock in the early ‘80s was really pop – so many sing-alongs with the choruses and getting people involved. I can still picture myself in that basement and that blissful feeling I had.

I got my first kit when I was probably 17, and I wish I still had it because it was a classic Ludwig kit. I moved to San Francisco to try and be in music in a bigger city and be around a bigger population. The scene was so supportive and I just felt like a drummer, not a ‘girl drummer.’ Drumming sort of chose me too – I couldn’t help it. I just loved it.

Can you talk a little about your process recording drums in the studio?

It’s changed, the whole recording process, as you know. You feel a lot of pressure because you have to play it perfectly. If you hit the wrong cymbal or did the wrong roll you had to live with it. They can just do it digitally now – that takes a lot of that pressure off. I recorded the drums live in the studio (for the last album). It’s still really satisfying when you know you don’t have to do it again and again. I always set my kit up the same when I play live, absolutely.

There’s a YouTube video of you drumming with Dinosaur Jr. for a tv show in Europe – how did that come about?

That was really cool. Sister Double Happiness [Lynn’s old band] was playing a show in San Francisco and J [Mascis] was there. Murph, the drummer for Dinosaur Jr., had broken some bone so he needed somebody to do this big TV show called The Word, which was really popular at the time. They asked my manager if I had a passport, and I went over there and found out it was live to an audience…over 2 million people! We practiced for a couple hours before – that’s the only time we played it. And J and I are still friends to this day – I see him a lot.


I just read that the venue Maxwells is closing next month…is a live album something you might want to do again?

Oh in Hoboken? That’s so sad. That was really well captured on that album [Live At Maxwell’s – 2002]. I don’t know that we’d want to do that again, with everything on YouTube. I don’t have any desire to do a live album.


I noticed that when you play “Don’t Know How You Do It” live, you postpone the snare and play tambourine instead, which sounds so good.

Oh good, does it? I’ve never listened back to that. We chose to do that just to set a different mood live. It’s one of my favorite songs on the record. Roddy and I both get to play tambourine together which is really a dream come true.

Interview Lynn Truell Imperial Teen

Photo Credit: Marina Chavez

What can you share about the upcoming Imperial Teen music video?

It should be out by the 9th – it’s for “No Matter What You Say.” An old friend of mine – his name is Norman, he used to be the editor of that magazine called Alternative Press – now he works at Warner Brothers with Kimbra, a really popular singer.

This guy, Guy Franklin, does all of Kimbra’s videos. He really likes the song “No Matter What You Say.” He lives in Australia and he knows Emily Browning, this up and coming actress. It’s a fascinating video to me – it doesn’t move really quickly at all. Her acting – you can see so much emotion in her face. I’ve never met Guy and I’ve never met Emily (we’re not in the video).

Can’t wait to watch. I was thinking about your line “then and now seems like a different scene.” Does it feel like you live two separate lives, or are your music and family roles a little more intertwined?

They are totally two different lives. I have three kids and a pretty busy husband and a house that’s chaotic, so getting out of here and getting everything organized and everyone’s schedule figured out… That song comes from the place of my first band and that solidarity and living as a musician, and everything was about playing music and getting on the road and seeing shows. And now, it’s like a machine, it’s scheduled. Life changes as you get older and you can’t do the things you used to do. And also I don’t have that same community – my community is split in many different ways.


Have there been any unexpected benefits of being a mom and a musician, and how do you balance your time between running a household/family and doing music?

I am forced to listen to [mainstream] pop music more. The kids think it’s cool that I’m in a band…that’s kind of fun but they don’t really care that much, honestly. We watch The Voice together, it’s fun.

I haven’t been writing much at all lately. I have a studio in my basement – I don’t practice that much at all. I have little stuff on my computer I’ve written down because it was in my head, but right now it’s not much of a balancing act. I’ve been playing so long that all the old Imperial Teen songs, we don’t even have to think about those songs, mechanically, when we’re playing.

Photo Credit: Billboard

“It’s You” and “Shim Sham” both seem to be about the passage of time and friendship enduring that passage of time. Why do you like to explore those themes in your songwriting?

I guess it’s just pretty natural when I think about how I’ve really had a lot of luck in many ways – being able to tour so much and be part of that whole grunge movement – seeing the best and worst of it, and moving into a pop/major label culture, getting ‘played on the radio for real’ culture.

The passage of time and where my life has taken me, from running from one show to the next, to now the whole family life which is something you can’t imagine ‘til you’re living it. So I guess I just can’t help it. That music and that creative outlet for me is so important. We [Imperial Teen] are a family, the four of us. We have a tight knit between us and we’re lucky to have each other.

Yeah I love “Too many songs we sang are left unsung / Another dream unwritten / The record’s done.”

We have tapes and cassettes –‘cause we’re so old fashioned [laughs] – of parts of songs. There were so many pieces of songs that never were completed, so that’s where that comes from.

Are there any Imperial Teen songs you haven’t played in a long time but want to?


Yeah we just started playing “Room With A View” again, that was good. Here’s my iPod I have to look at some songs to answer that. I listen to them when I’m doing the dishes [laughs]. I like that song “Fallen Idol” and I really like “Captain.” And “City Song” is fun too.

You’ve witnessed such drastic paradigm shifts and fluctuations in the music industry – are you more discouraged or encouraged by the current state of the business?

I’m encouraged by it. I think to be discouraged would sort of be unwilling to accept the changes and I don’t want to be that person. I think it’s really cool how so many bands can get their music out now. It does put out the pipe dream of being discovered by a major label and getting advances. I lived through that time – we spent so much money on a Sister Double Happiness record and it was a debacle and led to our demise. I appreciate Merge Records and XL and labels that are having such success because those are real music lovers who started those labels. It’s coming from a really pure place – it’s not so much business as the integrity of the music and the artist.

Thanks Lynn!  Imperial Teen plays London 6/18 at The Borderline and Isle of Wight 6/16.

Feel The Sound is out in the UK this Monday 6/10.

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Interview with Drummer Tripp Beam

Tripp Beam Interview

Photo Credit: Marina Chavez

Tripp Beam is an LA-based drummer and one-half of the band Psychic Friend.

After The Show: So you recently got back from SXSW with Psychic Friend – how did that go?

Tripp Beam: Great! It was my first time visiting Austin and the festival so I was real eager to get to do that. Our shows went very well and we met a lot of nice people. And so much music! The town itself is growing so much…a really cool place. Only downside, I was bummed I missed Prince [laughs].

Is playing live more fun for you than recording in a studio?

I think I’ll always be comfortable in the studio. Both are great but different. Playing live can be a boost and there’s a real thing or excitement about having musicians in the same place making music together.  For me it’s more about being a part of the creative process that may involve coming up with parts, working with producers, and capturing a moment on tape that I love.

You recorded My Rocks Are Dreams at Dangerbird Studios. What was that experience like?

It was great.  We were on a quick schedule so it was kind of a ‘one right after the other’ sort of thing when it came to laying down the tracks but fun at the same time. The studio is in a house right by their office so it’s got that home studio vibe.  Lots of great gear and very cool sounds. The staff were super nice and accommodating.  That’s them doing hand claps on track 7 of the record.  Just a really fun experience. We were scheduled in between two pretty big bands so we were honored to do it.

“Never Burn, Never Bruise” is my favorite song on the album, and I think the drums are most potent in “Softer Side.” What’s your favorite song to play?

It’s funny because that song was never really thought of as a potential single but people are loving it!  “Quality Control” comes to my mind just because it has a cool, tough groove to it. Live, people really seem to enjoy “We Do Not Belong.”

Psychic Friend Interview

Photo Credit: Marina Chavez

How is Nashville vs. LA in terms of being a good place to be a drummer?

Both are great places I would definitely recommend.  At the end of the day it depends on the musician and where he/she feels comfortable or inspired to create.  I had always seen myself going to LA but chose Nashville first mainly because lots of people were moving there (and still are)…More affordable, closer to my family, the list could go on and on. But in the end I found I wasn’t going to be happy unless I took a chance and did what I thought was right for me.  I’ve been in both places for the same amount of time now and for me LA has been better in the way of opportunities and the music scene. People give LA a bad rap but Nashville was VERY hard for me to break into.

You’ve played interesting one-offs like with Moby and the Paul Williams night…How do you find opportunities to play?

Both of those situations happened because I either knew the Musical Director, or someone close with the artist. So I would say relationships are very important in getting opportunities to play. When I first moved to town I knew no one and had no gigs… zero.  It took a while but gradually I began making friends with songwriters and started playing with them who introduced me to more and more people in the industry. It takes time but eventually people will have a reason to call you and then you gradually get worked in.

How did you realize that you wanted to play drums professionally?

I didn’t really grow up in much of a musical family.  During high school was when it really hit me that you could make a living at being a musician and that’s when I started taking it more seriously. It was one of those things I knew I wanted to do but had to find out on my own how to do it.  Playing music professionally was always in the back of my mind but for some reason I was intimidated by it mostly because it’s a bit of an odd profession and seemed like a ‘too good to be true’ sort of thing.  After college I moved to Nashville to work on the business side of things and then I knew right away playing was what I wanted to do.

Are you discouraged or encouraged by the current state of the music business?

There’s definitely pros and cons in my opinion. As a songwriter I can see where it’s frustrating because obviously revenue has taken so much of a hit these days compared to what the industry was used to long ago.  As an artist I can see how now the playing field is as big as it’s ever been.  As a musician I think it’s a good time to try and break in, which is where I’m at. I mean the upside of not having big budgets for records and stuff is that people might be more likely to give someone else a chance verses an A list session guy they can’t afford. And I would imagine it might be the same with tours and other aspects of the business.

Regardless, we’re all in this sort of big transition that still after 10 years has not resolved itself.  I think it’s on the right path; I read an article recently in the NY Times that global music sales rose for the first time last year since 1999.  Maybe it’s a freak thing but I think the digital market is on its way to being profitable.  It’s just a whole new world now and I think it’s here to stay.

Thanks Tripp! For more info. visit TrippBeam.comPsychic Friend, and Psychic Friend on Facebook

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Sisu: “If You Don’t Cry”

SISU is a side project led by the drummer of Dum Dum Girls.

SISU did an excellent (better than the original Magnetic Fields’ version, I think) cover of “If You Don’t Cry”:

Check out SISU’s (original) music

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Interview: Drummer Nicole Childrey

Nicole “Nico” Childrey is a drummer (The Mynabirds) and writer (for publications like SPIN, CMJ, Rolling Stone, Billboard, USA Today, Modern Drummer, and Nylon).

After The Show: When and how did you know that you wanted to play drums professionally?

Nicole Childrey: I started drumming a little later than most, I think — around 18 or 19 — but I got drawn into playing music at 14. A friend had an old, out of tune acoustic guitar in her bedroom, and I picked it up and started poking around, eventually finding a melody. The thrill of creating music out of nothing — even just a weird bleating melody on a beat-up out-of-tune guitar — was all it took to keep me permanently stuck on it.

And I think you have to be that ridiculously, illogically glued to the pursuit of that feeling to keep doing it nowadays, when it’s certainly not getting any easier to keep doing it.

How do you balance drumming and writing? Is there enough down time on tour to write and run your website East Nashville, With Love

For about five years, I kept a full-time writing job while I was touring, with a band called Cassino, then with Destry, then with The Mynabirds. I’m really appreciative that that’s even possible — I had a broadband aircard, and worked eight-hour days from the hotel, van, club, etc., and it made me able to pay my bills and still tour, even if we weren’t making much money.

My intent when I started East Nashville, With Love was to work from the road, too. I started the site while our singer, Laura, was touring as part of Bright Eyes, so we had a long stretch of downtime. But once we started touring heavily, things didn’t work out exactly as I planned, mostly just because of the cost of keeping an aircard. But I do freelance work from tour, usually just four or five assignments a tour, and I work late at night or on off days. I’m really thankful to be able to do it; having a second job that can be done from anywhere is pretty ideal, and it’s helping me be able to keep touring, which is all I’ve ever wanted to be doing.

Creating a website that focuses on a very specific locale seems like a reaction against the more peripatetic lifestyle of touring. Have your feelings about touring vs. staying in one place changed over the years? 

I get really fidgety when I stay in one place for a while, which is probably part of why touring appeals to me as much as it does. I think most of what led me to creating East Nashville, With Love boils down to East Nashville itself — it’s a really unique community, with a really unique culture, and most folks who live here have a really unique sense of pride about it. People in Nashville kinda pick on how self-obsessed East Nashville is, which I’ll admit is true (and funny). But there’s this great focus on entrepreneurship, support of local mom-and-pop businesses, overall creativity and creative culture, and the community’s really diverse and devoted.

I never get bored in East Nashville, and when I get home from moving around so much, I’m really glad to have that. So starting a website about the neighborhood was largely just a response to that, and an opportunity to love on a place that’s really given me a lot.

You’ve played with The Mynabirds, Brendan Benson, Destry… Do you alter your setup when you tour with different musicians? How does your drum set-up differ for live shows versus recording in a studio?

I wouldn’t say I alter my set-up too much, but there’s definitely a different approach in general with different people. A lot of the early Destry stuff was Americana-based, so I was playing a lot of country-rooted stuff; Brendan has some incredible, explosive rock songs that come from a totally different angle. It’s really fun to get to play with different moods. And The Mynabirds I think has become really broad these days when it comes to mood — we play stuff that’s rhythmically rooted in soul, rock, hip-hop, dance music.

It makes things really challenging and interesting. I don’t change the set-up much between shows and studio, but the mental/emotional challenge of recording is definitely a different animal, for me. It’s the challenge of trying to be precise and controlled, but retaining the energy and looseness that comes through at shows.

What do you do to keep your playing fresh and continue to grow and challenge yourself as a drummer? 

Playing for a lot of different people has been the most helpful and challenging for me — just learning songs, playing with rhythms that’ve come out of drummers who play completely different from me. It’s kind of … constantly being taken out of your comfort zone, and I think that resets you in a really good way.

Nashville’s also a great place to constantly get inspired by players. Some of my favorite current drummers live here, like Patrick Keeler, who has this incredibly inspiring fluidity, and Rollum Haas from the Features, who has this perfect balance of explosiveness, feel and precision. The person who gets me the most inspired about drumming, though, is Levon Helm — I think he’ll always be the most perfect image of a gut-forward drummer, and all I’ll ever really strive for as a drummer is to be as in the moment as he always seemed to be.

How do the music scenes in New York and Nashville compare? When you first moved to Nashville from New York, were you concerned about the preconception that Nashville is all/just country music? 

I’d spent a fair bit of time in Nashville before I moved, so I was aware of how great the music scene is, and how broad it was. I feel like there are a million different experiences of the music scene in New York. Mine was a struggle, which probably had more to do with me than New York — but it was so hard to afford a practice space, to always have to rent vans to tour since I was largely living month-to-month, everything else that goes along with trying to do something that’s financially challenging in an expensive city.

Nashville’s much more affordable, and that makes playing music more doable. That there are so many incredible players here is a great bonus, too. In the nine years I’ve been in Nashville, the rock scene’s become a lot more fractured, I think, but also really fertile. There’s a lot to get excited about across a ton of different aesthetics. I was born in New York, and I’ll always love it, but Nashville’s really become home.

Are you discouraged or encouraged by how the business of music has changed? What’s your view of new models for artists to finance record releases (sites like Kickstarter and Pledgemusic)?

To be completely honest, I’m still just confused. I can’t figure out whether I’m more encouraged or more scared about where we’re at and where we might be going. I’m excited that there are other viable ways to finance the creation of music, but I don’t know how sustainable that is, and I don’t know if we’re moving toward a point where new ways of bringing money toward musicians are offsetting all the places where musicians aren’t making money anymore. Ultimately I just hope as a culture that we’ll all put energy toward supporting musicians we believe in by sending money their way, in whatever form that might take.

Check out Nicole Childrey’s twitter.

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Interview with Elliot Jacobson

Elliot Jacobson is the drummer for Ingrid Michaelson and Jenny Owen Youngs. He was voted the #1 Up and Coming Drummer in Modern Drummer Magazine in 2010.

Elliot has drummed on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, Late Night with Conan O’Brien, Good Morning America, Late Night with Jimmy Fallon, and Live with Regis and Kelly amongst others.

After The Show: You’re currently on a US tour with Ingrid Michaelson. Any memorable shows or experiences on this run?

Elliot Jacobson: I think we all agree that Austin was hands down the best show so far. The audience was huge, loud and fun, but also respectful. It’s rare to have that balance. We played really well and connected with the audience in a very special way.

You’ve talked about Evans drumheads. How does your drum set-up differ for live shows versus recording in a studio? Do you alter your set at all when you tour with different musicians who play different styles of music?

You’re referring to a testimonial video I did for Evans about the heads that I use. My set up changes from tour to tour, artist to artist, session to session. I bring what’s necessary for the music. I’m using the biggest set up I’ve ever used on the current tour. I’m also running tracks with my laptop and Abelton Live for any parts on the new record that the six of us can’t cover.

I think on the surface, a basic drum beat is really simple, but there are so many styles and complex techniques too – there’s always more to learn. What do you do to keep your playing fresh and continue to grow and challenge yourself as a drummer?

There are endless ways to play a single beat, you’re exactly right. To do my job, I have to always play the right feel for the song, even if the beat itself is the same. I am always working on expanding my knowledge of the shuffle or swing that happens between hits. I also make sure I’m bringing the right touch to the drums for the song, artist and musical environment. My session work has made me very detail oriented. But I am always trying to play faster, like any drummer out there!

What inspired you to start your blog, The Healthy Musician? Is there a city or state that you’ve found the most challenging to stay healthy while traveling through?

I started the blog because I wish I had something like that to help me. I was on tour at the time, and had lost a bunch of weight prior to the tour. It’s a struggle to maintain any sort of balance on the road, let alone maintaining a healthy diet and workout routine. So I started posting information based on my own experiences. The smaller towns are always the most difficult because there are not as many options for gyms and food. But even in the bigger cities, the abundance of food makes it difficult to resist temptation.

When and how did you know that you wanted to make a career out of playing drums?

I had been drumming on the side for a long time before I made the leap and chose to make a career out of it. I was more of a music business guy, interning  at labels, working at a music publishing company straight out of college. But when we started playing sold out shows with Ingrid, I saw an opportunity in performing for a living, and I made the leap. It was around the time “Breakable” was placed in an episode of Grey’s Anatomy. I wanted to take the risk and leave the full time job rather than pass up what would prove to be an opportunity of a lifetime. Not an easy decision at the time, but I’m happy with my choice.

Why do you think the number of female drummers is so small compared to the number of male drummers?

I think there are two reasons. Firstly, it’s because girls don’t have a lot of iconic female drummers to look up to in the way that men do. Sure, they’re out there. I could name about 30 right now without looking up any names. But to the common music lover, they know Travis Barker, Tommy Lee, Carter Beauford, and see a bunch of sweaty dudes in the background making ugly faces and beating the crap out of drums. Not very appealing to the majority of young aspiring female musicians when they see beautiful, powerful women commanding the stage. The other reason is that there is sexism in the drumming world. It’s generally a surprise to other drummers and musicians (male and female) when a female drummer can play well. And that’s a huge problem. I always encourage the female artists I work with to expand their knowledge of drums and to play them as well. I have taught a number of young females to play. Why can’t a female singer songwriter play guitar, sing and play drums very well too? I know a lot of guys who do it. We need more role models and more ladies seeking out those role models to move away from this stereotype.

The majority of touring musicians aren’t blogging about their travels, active on Twitter, posting behind the scenes videos on YouTube, and sharing their perspective and experiences being a musician. Where does your ambition/drive come from?

I just love what I do, I’m very busy and I love connecting with other musicians and fans by sharing my work and experiences. I find the social networking experience very rewarding.

Do you write your own music? What are your professional goals for the next several years?

I don’t write, but I’m starting to get back into producing again. I want to begin doing remixes this year and continue making good music with good people.

Check out Elliot’s site for his latest news, photos, and videos.

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The Donnas’ Drummer Retires

Torry Castellano has officially retired as the drummer of The Donnas due to prolonged wrist & shoulder injuries.

She will be attending Stanford in the fall. For more info, click here.

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