She Bangs: A Spotlight on Female Drummers
Interview by Katie Heins
Intro and Photography by Rachel Cabitt
Illustrations by Robin Eisenberg
I, like any other female, always like an attractive male drummer, but let's be real, there's a whole sea of 'em, and a girl drummer... well that's rare and a lot more bad ass. So we gathered up three female drummers of the most up and coming NYC bands: The Prettiots, Larry & The Babes, and Chimes, and brought them to Fontana's on the Lower East Side on another one of the hottest days of the year. So meet Rachel Trachtenberg, Lauren Early, and Sarah Peterson; girls that deserve a lot more than a corny Ricky Martin song, but hey, it's punny so give me a break.
POND: What made you want to be a drummer?
RACHEL: Both my parents are very big music people. My dad had a band in Seattle in the early 2000s and all of his drummers kept flaking on him. Then one night he was talking to my mom and he was like we should have Rachel join the band, and I was six years old at the time and she was like no, that’s the silliest thing ever, she’s not going to be able to handle that. And then I started taking lessons at Seattle Drum School with Steve Smith and I’ve been playing ever since.
LAUREN: When I was younger I played saxophone and bluegrass fiddle. But you can’t be in a rock band and play bluegrass fiddle, so of course when I got a little older I wanted drums, guitar, bass… I remember I really wanted to play drums after a morning I spent in homeroom in middle school when I listened to that Yeah Yeah Yeahs song with the cool drum beat, Gold Lion, over and over again (lol kind of embarrassing, but also not).
Drums are a really extravagant thing to ask for, so before I built up the courage to ask for a drum set, I wanted to make sure it was something I was going to follow through with. I’d spend hours every night teaching myself drums by watching YouTube videos of really nerdy boys with 100 piece drum sets play drum covers to Korn songs on YouTube. Finally I asked my dad for a drum set for a middle school graduation gift, and he got it for me, something I’ve always been grateful for. I remember we went from Guitar Center straight to dinner at our family friend’s house. The mom of that family told my dad, “Drums? You know she’s not a boy, right?” and my dad said, “It’s not 1960 anymore.”
SARAH: I started out playing guitar, piano, and bass, basically, and what I really liked doing was trying to learn an entire song, but play every instrument… And I mean in order to do that I had to learn how to play drums… and I mean that’s a lot to ask for, so I still don’t even have a real music drum set, I’ve been using electronic drums. But I guess I just tried to learn all the motions and by playing other peoples’ drum sets forever.
POND: How did you get involved with your band now?
LAUREN: The band that I play drums in at the moment is Larry & The Babes. I moved to New York two and a half years ago and knew I wanted to play in a band, but it didn’t happen for a while... I vaguely knew Larry from around school and vaguely knew that he played music. I ran into him once at a show at Shea Stadium. We danced like crazy people and I knew he was someone I wanted to know. We would “jam” (worst word) occasionally, and eventually The Babes needed a new drummer. Larry’s songs vary from Roy Orbison to funk to twang. Sean is a guitarist/gear/recording extraordinaire. He looks stoic and bored when he plays, but he’s actually the most into it. Wilson is an amazing bassist and just does it without thinking twice. I play drums. We practice at their apartment and the only thing to eat within a mile radius is bodega turkey sandwiches.
RACHEL: Kay, who’s the lead singer of The Prettiots, was opening up for my band, an older band of mine, and we had mutual friends and I started playing drums for her and then brought Lulu Pratt into the project who was also playing with my old band for a couple tours and it all kinda came together and we’ve been playing a little under two years.
SARAH: I knew Chimes sort of through other people. My friend is a visual artist and his art was in a show that Winston (bass player) curated. I was actually at Chimes’ first show a long ass time ago at this place called the Index that burned down. I saw them then, and they were really different, they were like a synth-pop band, and they had a lot of members come and go. I knew Winston, and Winston is a super weird guy and we kinda hit it off like right away. Then one day, two years later maybe, he was just like do you want to play drums for our band?
POND: What are you listening to these days?
SARAH: I just use my phone and basically just use Spotify… but I’m recently listening to this band called pinkshinyultrablast and they’re really good.
LAUREN: I listen to a lot of Mississippi Records compilations. I listen to the same things over and over again forever. They’re these unmarked compilations, so I don’t even really know what any of it is.
RACHEL: I’m listening to a lot of playlists that I made like 5 years ago cause I always like realizing that my music taste actually doesn’t change. Like I’ll enjoy something that I liked when I was ten or thirteen or whatever... like a booty popping Beyonce song that I loved or a really good Led Zeppelin song or just random things like the Cardigans or... girly stuff or like a lot of Black Sabbath. But as far as albums, I’ve been listening to Crooked Rain, a lot by Pavement, and Terror Twilight by them as well and some Sparkle Horse (my boyfriend just got me into him) a lot of Daniel Johnston and Joni Mitchell, I feel like is good summer music, as silly as that is, I usually listen to it in the Winter so it’s nice to listen to something like that in the summer to make you feel cold.
POND: Who are some musicians you look up to?
RACHEL: I really love Syd Barrett. I like musicians that do visual art as well, so Daniel Johnston is a very big inspiration. As far as drummers go, I really love Janet Weiss from Quasi and Sleater-Kinney, she’s one of my biggest inspirations.
SARAH: I respect all musicians for doing what they do because it takes a lot of hard work, dedication and stamina. I don't think I really look up to anybody in particular or maybe I look up to everybody, I feel weird idolizing people.
LAUREN: I look up to my friend Nick (Surf Curse, Current Joys), who is one of the most honest musicians around. This is embarrassing but the first time I saw him play I literally wanted to cry because I had been in this slump where I was like, music is dead, everyone’s too “cool” for emotions and sincerity now, and every new band I see sucks. And Nick is like, an emotional super hero. And I saw him play and was so grateful this kind of thing sometimes still happens.
POND: What has been your favorite performance so far?
RACHEL: I don’t know, that’s a hard one, cause I have really bad memory and I’ve been touring since I was eight, and had so many crazy times and I hate when people ask, “Tell me a funny road story,” or something like that because I always wish that I had journaled when I was younger to think of that stuff. But to stay in the moment you can’t be journaling because then you're losing those moments while they’re happening if you’re trying to talk about stuff that happened two hours ago. But I think the fun ones are never the good ones... Like the fun ones are always the ones you remember because they were so terrible and you were laughing really hard or last minute you had to run because you forgot the kick pedal or stuff that’s like so important. That’s the stuff I always remember because it’s always funny… next year.
SARAH: We recently played in Chicago where I had never been before. The DIY scene there is incredible. There was this person doing awesome interpretive dance moves all night on a pole right in front of the bands with a bunch of cellophane and stuff. The vibe there was just so welcoming and positive and I fell in love with every band we played with.
LAUREN: One of my favorite performances of all time was in my drippy high school auditorium. I played drums in my high school jazz band... At the end of the year we had this big performance for parents and families
and stuff. It was in the school auditorium, and one of the songs we played was Sing Sing Sing, which aside from being a total joy of a song, has like two two-minute long drum solos. The whole night I was super concentrated. That’s the thing about drumming, your brain turns off and you’re overcome with just, playing. But Sing Sing Sing is different, because those two minute solos reverse that spell, and you become lucid and start to think again, even though your hands and legs are drumming on their own.
So one of my favorite moments playing music ever was playing those solos. Suddenly it was just me alone and I was playing this ridiculous solo that I felt like I was faking. Even though it sounded really good I felt like I was just pretending to be a jazz drummer, like I was just doing something the way I saw someone do it in a movie, and it was working. And I was looking at like 100 people in folding chairs, all these funny looking parents with Handycams and people’s little brothers and sisters and stuff who were just like, eating snacks, staring at me drooling. The acoustics were really bad and the drums were so loud and reverby, and I was just flailing around and looking at all these funny people looking at me for what seemed like forever. It was this really funny, nice moment. I lost count and eventually the band came back in and we finished it off.
Special thanks to Anna at Golightly Media & Fontana's.