Matt Pond PA On NPR Music

My name is not on Matt Pond PA’s new album. I didn’t play on it. I did play a bunch of the new songs when we toured this past spring. From the way Chris and Matt guided the rehearsals process when we were working out the new songs for their first live performance, it felt like the songs were labors of love to them.

Now, that whole damn album is streaming on NPR Music. My dumb face and Shawn’s awesome beard are on NPR Music. I’m stoked to have a second of NPR glory, even if I might not deserve it.  Matt and Chris deserve all of this. It’s awesome to see their work come across so well in the album itself, and on a huge cultural space like NPR.


The Importance Of Tape Study


You know when you go to take a picture but your camera is in selfie-mode? You look in horror to see your haggard face staring back at you. That’s what tape study can be like after a gig. But, like flossing, the more you do it, the less terrifying it is. It’s actually good for your playing.

There’s a little tradition we have in DonCat while on tour. We listen to the previous night’s gig while driving to the next one.

We’re all usually drinking coffee, driving on the 5 and giving each other shit for little mistakes. While the critique might be wrapped in comedy, the content is serious. Scrutinizing playing with the people you play with is essential for developing communication skills you can use to express critique without someone getting all sensitive or going into a Hulk rage.

What’s good for the gander is good for the goose too. (Shhhh, let me spit out that idiom in reverse.) After doing tape study for the entirety of the Matt Pond PA tour and now the past handful of DonCat shows this month, I’m well aware of my tendencies in certain songs, in sections of songs, and overall as a drummer.

You’ll notice some ugly truths when you do tape study. But which would you rather have: some ugly truths you can improve upon, or ugly playing that you never correct?

(pick the former)

Mistakes I’ve Made On The Road And Lessons I Should Have Learned


Ahoy. I’m on tour and currently driving through some suburban town in Colorado on the way to Denver. I’ve been on the road for almost a month at this point. It’s been super fun, rewarding, super tiring and everything in between. As a noob to longer tours, I learned a few no-brainers about touring the hard way.

Fast Food is Delicious, Delicious Poison. Salads Are A Necessary Evil

I knew fast food was poison before going on the road. I read much better, more informative tour blogs that plainly state fast food is poison and you shouldn’t eat it on the road. But…chicken nuggets.

Shawn Alpay said to me “tour is a marathon not a sprint” one morning in a Hampton Inn and Suites in godknowswhere, Connecticut. I had no idea why I felt like crap. Maybe it was the nuggets, Maybe it was the fact I sweat out a pound of water on stage and didn’t rehydrate after the gig. Maybe it was because I thought I could rehydrate with IPAs.

Drink water. Eat salads when you can (hat tip to Rob Spectre). Workout if the hotel has a gym. Sleep more. Sleep again.

Be Ready To Roll 

When you check into a hotel, don’t scatter your clothes everywhere. Take out you clothes for that night’s gig. Pack em in you backpack you’re bringing to the gig. There is no way in hell you’ll pack in the morning before van call at 8 AM, after getting into the hotel from the gig at 1am. Don’t do it. Don’t stress. Just stay packed.

Put Your Phone Away When You Get To The Gig

C’mon, you’re not texting anyone about how load-in is going.

Be Positive

Sure, you didn’t get the Americano you want. You didn’t get enough sleep. It doesn’t matter. You get to play a rock show, so go our there and be happy you get to do so. Carry good vibes to the stage and get it done.

That’s all I got so far.

See you on the road.

Going On The Road With Matt Pond PA

I’ve spent a lot of time in vans the past few years, driving up and down the west coast, and occasionally over the Sierras. Each day on tour and on the road is an immersive experience. Despite how sick road food like Jack in the Box makes me feel, I still relish the feeling of focusing on music, and focusing on the friends with you in the van.

This spring I’m going to have a ton of time to do just that. I’m hitting the road with Matt Pond PA for the 10th Anniversary tour of Several Arrows Later.

Matt is a fantastic musician, songwriter and purebred east-coaster. I am very lucky to be accompanying him on drums with the rest of the PA crew. Shawn Alpay (of Debbie Neigher, Tiny Telephone Studios, and a bazillion other bands/studios) will be on cello too!

This is by far the largest/longest tour I’ve gone on and I can’t tell you how thankful I am to be on it. Please say hi and drink coffee with me on the road. You can see the full run of shows here.
Here’s where we’ll be (click on the map).


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DonCat Live In LA

DonCat played a few tunes and did an interview for Darren Rose last December in LA. Check out the video below. This was the most scenic place I’ve ever played in my life.

DonCat – “While I’m Here” – Live

Over the past two months, I’ve had a blast recording for DonCat‘s new upcoming record, Easy Cowboy, due out August 2015. Here’s a video of us playing a tune off the album live in Santa Cruz.


LA Vibes

There aren’t many things that I’ll get out of bed for at 4:45am on a Saturday. DonCat is one of those things. We zipped down to LA for a video shoot with Darren Rose (of 98.7 KROCK fame, and many an astute interview), and a gig at Villan’s Tavern.

As soon as we opened the door to Darren’s place, we were greeted by his adorable dogs Otis and Penny, and loaded our gear on his deck. He was incredibly gracious and dealt with our zombie-like demeanor as the coffee we got in Gilroy at 7am started wearing off.

We played 3 songs, did a quick interview and headed off to Intelligentsia for another round of coffee. On a caffeine high, we headed to Sam Ash and I bought God’s tastiest hi-hats: 15″ Zildjan K Light Hi Hats. I’ve been creeping on these hi-hats for years and years, since I first saw Killers drummer Ronnie Vannucci Jr. The timing couldn’t be any better because we are recording the 2nd half of DonCat’s second album this weekend.

The gig at Villan’s felt like a marathon, in the best way. Almost immediately, thanks to a combination of PBR + cold brew coffee, I hit some “empty mind” vibe and sunk into the grooves. It’s always a pleasure playing as a trio and responding to each member’s inflections. In the Villan’s set we opened up a few solo sections so we had more room to experiment.

It was an incredibly fun 24-sleepless hours in LA. Can’t wait to do it again.

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Edwin Valero

I’ve been a sideman for most of my musical life. It’s awesome. It’s like showing up to a construction site with the scaffolding already built. The songwriter did the really hard part, and now I get to add whatever body and details I want to it, in hopes of building something special. I’ve had the good fortune of working with seriously killer songwriters like Jesse Cafiero, Debbie Neigher, Duncan Neilsen and others (just to name a few). I’ve been nothing but elated to contribute to the songs they build. This past January through June I took a crack at actually writing songs and what came out was Edwin Valero.

In January, Jess Silva, Andrew Nelson and I began working on tunes with absolutely no plan. We were just fleshing out melodic and rhythmic ideas, and enjoying the experience. Eventually those ideas became structures, those structures became songs and now we’re sitting here with a 3 song EP. It’s exhilarating and terrifying.

These songs came from really sweaty nights at Lennon Studios, and from me scribbling chords that made absolutely no sense on little notebooks, left for Andrew to sort out. The process was long, at times arduous and something that I’m sure is pedestrian to any/every songwriter. But as a newbie, it was fascinating to me.


I tried not to sing along with Jess as she sings “lost all your spontaneity” in El Inca at 2:01. It’s hard not to. I’m a sap, so I get easily excited at certain parts in songs, but this was different. A large part of what I loved about writing these songs is seeing tiny moments grow up and mature. Scrutinizing those moments is part of getting a song to a complete state, and when it’s finally there and you can just enjoy playing it, and experience it, it’s a fantastic feeling.

From a drum performance perspective, this feels true to the math rock haven I grew up in, the Circa Survive I listened to as a teenager, and the jazz impulses I still tap into sometimes. That honesty feels good, and it’s something I chase in music. Thanks for reading.

Special thanks to Ian Pellicci, Jacob Winik, Jess Silva, Andrew Nelson, Jesse Cafiero, Debbie Neigher, Chris Sigura, and everyone else who helped with this. Thank you.


SoFarSounds With DonCat: Play Less, Deliver More

Last week I played one of my favorite shows in the city – SoFarSounds. The lead up to the show may seem like a nightmare – you don’t know where you’re playing until the day of, you don’t know what bands you’re playing with, and you don’t know what the venue will be like (because it’s someone’s house). I think SoFar might do this deliberately. The only thing you, the artist, can worry about is the music. That’s a great problem to have.

DonCat played in a living room full of about 50 people sitting on the ground, listening to every little detail, every harmony and brush stroke. It’s a gift to have an audience that attentive, so you need to make the most of their attention and realize it’s in limited supply. This means making the right choices when it comes to what you bring and what you play.

Duncan and Jess sound pretty damn fantastic together. Their vocal exchanges and Duncan’s guitar work are the focus of the show. It’s their job to add the color and they do it well. I wanted to outline that color, and not muddy it up with my drum noodling. Bringing toms or playing with sticks would have interrupted their vocal work. With this in mind, I brought a really minimal set up: Slingerland Radio King snare, 13″ Zildjan Hi-Hats, my trusty 22″ Istanbul Agop ride, and a suitcase for a bass drum.

I came in thinking of two primary things: sections and dynamics. I wanted to punctuate each verse, chorus, bridge and each little lick – draw out the nuances of the song and make clear choices to accentuate them. As far as dynamics, I wanted a lot of room to work so I tried to make my quietest beat super freaking quiet so that my minimally loud playing with brushes sounded pretty loud in comparison.

It’s always a pleasure playing with Duncan and Jess, and playing for such an awesome audience. Here’s the recordings from that night. Stay tuned to my Shows page for upcoming gigs with Jess and Duncan (respectively).

Pro Tips For The Overbooked Musician

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This is what my June looked like time wise:

  • 5 days recording at Tiny Telephone
  • 16 rehearsals with various bands 
  • 3 days of mixing at Tiny Telephone
  • 6 gigs in the month of June
  • 4 of those gigs were with 4 different bands, all in 7 days
  • I spent roughly 25 hours that month practicing songs and shedding on my own
  • I worked approximately 50 hours a week at my real job. 

Here’s what I learned. 

Breakup With Your Girlfriend, Google Calendar Is Your New Wife

Anytime you get an email for a potential rehearsal or gig, do two things immediately.
1. Put that hold or that date in your calendar.
2. Respond to the email.

The more you delay your response the more stress you cause the band leader. People’s calendars fill up fast. Make sure they’re not holding potential dates, missing out on cool shit while awaiting your reply you were too busy to send during a Netflix binge.

The only thing keeping me sane/slightly organized during June was my Google Calendar alerts. Don’t try to juggle dates in your head or on paper, automate that mamma jamma.

Your iPhone Is Your New Bullshit Detector: Record Your Practices

Active listening can help your practicing tremendously. I took voice memos of most of the practices I had before gigs to see what I could improve upon, made notes, and practiced staying in the pocket or picking out better fills to play while I was practicing alone. When I got back with the band for the next practice, the improvement was noticeable (to me at least).

After I played in LA this month with DonCat, we reviewed the tape of the gig. At Slims a week or so later, we sounded way better because we all talked about what we wanted to work on.

Hang Out, Bro

The hang. The mystical hang. It influences your playing so much. Don’t be a ball of stress when you show up to practice, it affects your playing. Have your shit together and spend time after the practice to goof off with your lovely bandmates.

Or go Split Screens style and spend 5 minutes in-between songs making hair metal references or wildly inappropriate jokes about the each others’ parents. Being relaxed and being a good dude helps the music.

Don’t Spam People

social fail
I had a hard time balancing my need/desire to get people out to the shows with my fear/self-conciousness about spamming peoples inboxes, Facebook feeds, and Twitter timelines.

This is a delicate art, getting your friends to shows. I still don’t really quite know how it works, I think it has to do with viral gifs or something. Anyway, keep the FB pleas to a minimum, and if you’re going to do it, be funny (or try). I could follow more of my own advice on this front.

Be Thankful

Lastly, and most importantly, be thankful you’re playing. I cant thank Debbie, Duncan, Chris, Jesse, Jess, Andrew, Phil and everyone that came out enough. It’s a privilege to get to play with you guys and call you friends. Shut up I know I’m too sensitive already.


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