Evan Burrows – Wand

Evan Burrows of Wand. Photo by Aaron Sharpsteen

So I’m here with…

Evan Burrows from Wand, and this weekend I’ve been playing with Ty Segall in his band.

And we’re going to talk about drums. First question, how long have you been playing drums?

I started playing when I was 11 years old, and now I’m 27, so, 16 years.

And when you were 11, can you remember a moment or series of moments that led you to decide to play drums?

I think at the time, my best friend Laura was learning how to play drums, and I think that was roughly around the time in elementary school when you had to decide to do some kind of musical thing. I think we both just wanted to be in the same section, so when she chose percussion, I think that is why I probably chose percussion. I’ve also always been attracted to gear.

Like the actual drums themselves?

(Laughing) Yeah, like having a collection of things to worry about.

So, who was better?

At drums? Me or my friend? I think she was probably better at the time. But it is tough to measure that.

What about now? Does she still play?

I think she still plays hand drums and stuff but I don’t think its been a focus in her life as much, she’s doing a bunch of other cool things.

Ok. Do you have any favorite drummers over the years?

Yeah. There’s so many. As a kid growing up, Jimmy Chamberlain was an early influence on me, Brendan Canty from Fugazi was a really important drummer for me as well. Lately, Jaki Liebezeit [who passed since the time of this interview, in January 2017] from CAN is a really good drummer. And I’ve been listening to a ton of Television lately and their drummer is incredible.

I was just talking with Garrett from King Tuff yesterday and he mentioned Television as well.

It is incredible what he is playing on the records. It’s so complicated, the techniques are so extended, and he’s somehow barely ever playing the same thing twice, but he’s also completely available and solid on every song. It’s very impressive. Way beyond what I could ever imagine doing.

Speaking about fitting in with the projects you are involved with, do you contribute to the riffs or to the songwriting? Or are the songs pre-constructed and you insert yourself into them?

It depends which band I’m playing in. I guess with Wand, especially lately our songwriting process is becoming more collaborative, but Corey, our guitar player and singer he’s the main songwriter. But he doesn’t play drums.

So you get to decide what is played.

Yeah, I’m writing the drum parts, but I’m also trying to maintain some kind of fidelity to a song that is coming to me from someone else. Just trying to build a rhythmic architecture for a song, without flattening or slicing it up.

With that in mind, a weird question I always ask. Let’s say a song was brought to you and you were trying to decide what to play but you were given specific instructions that they only want one cymbal texture for the entire song. You have pick between your ride and your hi-hat. Which one would you pick, and why?

It really depends on the song, but I’ve really been loving hi-hats lately. I don’t know. There’s a lot of possibilities in the hi-hat. It can become a lot of things, and the amount of pressure that you put on your left foot at any moment that you are also striking the cymbal, the sound can be so different. A lot of subtle differences are there. If you can pay attention to that stuff.

There’s good arguments for both. Most people I’ve asked, like 80 or 90 percent, say hi-hat. I think I’m going with ride because of the question “What are you going to do when you want to crash?” But I agree with you about the subtlety of the hi-hat. Anyways. What is the biggest crash cymbal you would conceivably crash? Or that you have crashed?

In terms of the diameter of the cymbal? I don’t know what the biggest one I’ve played is. Right now I’m playing a sweet ride that I crash on a lot. That’s 21 inches. Also a 17 inch crash cymbal. In some other bands that I play in, or at least one other band called Behavior, it’s more or less a punk band, in that band we really like complicated, traditionally shitty cymbal textures, so we’ll try to find cymbals in thrift stores, really heavy ones with a lot of character.

I did notice there were some cut outs in your hats. Is that true?

Oh, yeah, that’s just wear and tear. I’m not in a position where I’m making very much money yet, or at all, or maybe never, or whatever. So I don’t really have the chance to spend money on gear.

Do you have a favorite drummer besides yourself at Pickathon?

I have no idea what their names were, but the drummers that played with Kamasi Washington, did you see that?

Oh yeah.

They were insane. That was one of the best musical performances I’ve ever seen.

Yeah, that solo at the end.

Yes. They were really, really great. That’s probably my top moment. But there are so many good players here. It’s wild.

It is wild, that is true. Last question: do you have a favorite rudiment?

I’m not a very technical drummer, I’ve never really had much in the way of lessons. I pretty much learned by playing in bands, I took lessons when I was 11 for half a year or something. So the pattern RLRR LRLL…

…That’s a paradiddle…

Yeah, I like doing that but expanding it each time, so it is RLRR LRLL RLRLRR LRLRLL RLRLRLRR LRLRLRLL.

So the way paradiddles work, if you expand the alternating hands, the RL or the LR, that is the difference between a single, double, and triple paradiddle. And if you expand the double strokes, RLRRLL, that’s a paradiddle diddle.

Whoa.

Sorry, I just remembered a question I usually ask in the middle of these: you mentioned earlier that you mostly learned by playing in bands. Do you have a favorite song, or even a favorite fill, that you like to play, or borrow?

I haven’t actually played along and listening to headphones. I would like to start doing that more. I could really afford to put a lot more discipline into my practice. So maybe that is coming. Nothing immediately comes to mind. I just accumulate ideas, I’m always paying attention to the drums whenever I’m listening to records. And maybe when I’m sitting at a kit I subconsciously bring them out.

Being an early John Bonham fan, I rip off the triplets he does around the set all the time. But I think a lot of people do that. It’s just a thing people do.

Yeah, it’s a good idea.

I’m glad you mentioned Jimmy Chamberlain. One of the verses in “Bodies”, when he switches from cymbals to a more tom-driven beat, is fucking sick. I love Jimmy Chamberlain. Did I see that you were from Chicago?

Yeah, I’m from the area. The Smashing Pumpkins are like a hometown thing. I feel like it was a rite of passage getting into that band.

But you’re down in LA now?

Yes, I’ve lived in LA county since 2011. I went there to finish my undergrad degee in art.

So that’s why you’re not making enough money for gear.

Haha, yeah.

I was kind of messing with you. Would you ever consider being a studio drummer?

The main attraction about being in bands for me is that a band is a very interesting social arrangement. There are so many things for that group of people to do, including sometimes living together every day in very unusual circumstances. Waking up in the beds, and riding in the same van, all that stuff. I’m really happy to be included in anyone’s band, if anyone wants to have me, but I’m also not a drummer who is super versatile. I’m definitely coming out punk music, playing in punk bands, so it’s hard for me to imagine being a studio drummer because I can imagine getting into the studio and someone asking for something and just not being able to play it. Or I would need to take it home. That’s my approach, especially in Wand, I’m always trying to write something just beyond what I’m capable of playing. And then by rehearsing that, I expand my skillset. So it sounds really cool, but I think I might be a bad studio drummer.

You’ll never know until you try. Thanks again for talking with me.

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