Sacramento, California–based band A Lot Like Birds will be releasing their new album, DIVISI, on Friday, May 5, 2017 via Equal Vision Records. A Lot Like Birds are known for their technical skills and DIVISI is no exception; it is an impressive and beautifully cinematic look at the change and growth that comes from loss. The band’s lineup comprises Cory Lockwood (vocals), Michael Franzino (guitar), Ben Wiacek (guitar), Matt Coate (bass/vocals), and Joseph Arrington on drums.
Drum Magazine is premiering this exclusive video of drummer Joseph Arrington playing through “The Sound Of Us,” which is the second single from DIVISI; the track premiered on Noisey at the beginning of April. This Playthrough video was filmed and edited by Damien Verrett; the audio was recorded by Josh Benton at Pus Cavern in Sacramento, Calif.
In addition to A Lot Like Birds, Arrington plays drums in post hardcore group Sianvar; in the past he has filled in for bands including We Came As Romans and Chiodos, among others.
In this video, Arrington is seen playing:
DRUMS Gretsch Renown (Vintage Pearl finish)
22″ x 18″ Bass Drum
14″ x 6.5″ Hammered Brass Snare Drum
10″ x 7″ Tom
12″ x 8″ Tom
16″ x 14″ Floor Tom
14″ A Custom Mastersound Hi-Hats
19″ A Custom Crash
20″ A Zildjian Medium Thin Crash
21″ A Custom 20th Anniversary Ride
Joseph Arrington also uses Remo drumheads (Toms: Emperor Vintage Clear; Snare: Controlled Sound X Coated Black Dot; Bass Drum: Powerstroke P3 Renaissance). He notes, “This is one of my favorite drumhead combos I’ve ever worked with.”
The microphones used in this Playthrough video include Shure Beta 91 (bass drum), beyerdynamic M 201 TG (snare drum top), Shure SM57 (snare drum bottom), Sennheiser MD 421 (floor tom), and Audix D2 (mounted toms).
Drum Magazine caught up with Arrington to ask him about the story behind this Playthrough video production.
Tell us about the album’s production and the song “The Sound Of Us.”
The entire album was digitally tracked and mixed by Dryw Owens [whose credits include From Indian Lakes, Sianvar, and Consider The Thief] at Little Russia Recordings in Sacramento, California. It was mastered by Joe Lambert [whose credits include film score mastering, City And Colour, Animal Collective, Deerhunter, and Circa Survive]. We stand by real drum tones and performances, and I owe a hell of a lot to Gretsch Drums, Vic Firth, Zildjian, and Remo for being so undeniably part of my voice.
How did this Playthrough video come together, and what was involved in its production?
It pays to have talented friends, and this is why you pay talented friends. Both Josh Benton — engineer at Pus Cavern in Sacramento and a guitarist for various acts on the road — and Damien Verrett, a multi-platform intellect and fantastic musician, collaborated on this vision with me. I have done some of my best work with Josh Benton on records like Sianvar’s self-titled EP and Kurt Travis’ Everything Is Beautiful LP, along with many live jazz/fusion sessions in a group called Love Mischief. He tracked and mixed the audio. Damien is the brains behind Anti Records–signed solo endeavor So Much Light, which I have had the pleasure of recording studio drums for on three occasions.
Damien used two real swanky looking cameras that looked like they cost more than my car, and we snuck a GoPro above me and a GoPro by my feet. It was surprisingly smooth for it being the first video with the three of us as a team. After a few takes of each song it was a wrap — yes, there are more of these videos lying in wait. My lovely wife visiting for inspiration and the best Pad Thai in Sacramento helped.
What was it like for you to record “The Sound Of Us,” and how did you come up with the drum parts?
This is a song I wrote most of the drums for before the rest of the music was applied to it. I recorded rough “drum skeleton” ideas and handed them off to our guitarist, Michael Franzino, and he played his 3 A.M. “mad scientist” composing-layering game, and soon a song was born. I had no idea it would end up being a single because it actually has some deceptively tricky rhythms in it.
What is your background as a drummer, and how did you apply your drumming technique and skills in service of “The Sound Of Us”?
I come from a diverse background of studying and playing all styles of music. I’ve learned that one of the most challenging things as an obsessive drummer is to maintain your identity and satisfy the little syncopation devil in the back of your mind, while still allowing the song to breathe. How can you cram your chops in and still have people tapping their feet and singing along? I suppose I’ll never know for sure if I’ll ever land the balance properly or not.
But some things you may not catch on the first few listens are: Even though the song is in common time there are many variant phrases of 5 scattered all over the place — the easiest to hear perhaps being the bridge. But during the first verse I am bouncing them back and forth between my kick and snare and filling in the gaps with hi-hat strokes, a la David Garibaldi’s Future Sounds concepts on crack, to achieve what was so cleverly labeled in a comments section “Powerpuff beats,” referencing the absurdly hectic sounding music from the show Powerpuff Girls.
These are complexities masked by tastefully simpler guitar motifs and a badass bassline. And in the second chorus I play these figures similarly and utilize a quick B section with the ride bell on the upbeat and the kick and snare playing some illusory dotted eighths.
You know you are deep in the nerd cosmos when you can talk about a pop single like this. Alan Dawson always said, “The kick and snare had to have good conversation.”
Find more information about A Lot Like Birds, including upcoming shows, at alotlikebirds.bandcamp.com.