Wendy Zeldin is a Chicago native and half of the sludgy post-punk duo, Pussy Foot. When she’s away from the kit, she manages a farmers market, reads a lot of books, and hangs out with her family.
Women are underrepresented in the percussion world. Our weekly series, Woman Crush Wednesday (#WCW), aims to recognize, celebrate, and inspire female percussionists of all stripes. Each Wednesday we’ll feature a profile of a drummer, who will share tips, advice, and videos.
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What is your city, country, and age?
Chicago, Illinois. Age 33.
What kind of gear do you use? What’s your setup?
What bands do you perform with, if any?
What led you to your instrument? What’s your origin story?
I saw that very few girls were playing drums, so rather than that being prohibitive, I decided to take it on as a challenge. They made me feel tough, and since my dad had his old kit in our basement, I had easy access. He taught me the basics at a very young age, and then I took lessons in a strip mall in Columbus, Ohio. One time I was awarded “student of the month” and my teacher who was a super-weird dude named Lars gave me Sid and Nancy on VHS as a reward. I was 12.
Who is your favorite drummer and why?
Patty Schemel [from Hole]! I’m so stoked that there is this resurgence of interest in her right now because she is so deserving of it. She was always so inspiring to me as a baby queer. That said, I also have a huge place in my heart for Micky Dolenz and Phil Collins. My mom played their records when I was little and that was when I realized you could drum and sing simultaneously.
So much of knowing what we want to sound like is knowing what we don’t want to sound like. I think it’s also really valuable in regard to performing.
How do you practice? Do you have a routine?
I have band practice once a week for a few hours every Wednesday. It’s not easy making time for individual practice now that I have a kiddo. I’ve tried to be less reliant on sitting at a kit to practice. I do a lot of thinking up beats and tapping in my car and at my work desk.
As artists, the goal post for “success” is always moving. There’s not one “I made it!” point. How do you think about and define success?
That my music has made people feel emotionally connected is success to me. I think lots of people, myself included, use music as a mirror of sorts, and it thrills me that songs I’ve written have made folks feel seen or understood. Also, success is just a matter of achieving goals. It’s important to recognize it often and be proud and not wait for some big this is it moment. The first time we put out a cassette I felt like I was on top of the world, and it was recorded in my basement in two hours by a pal. That may not be someone else’s idea of success but I felt super accomplished.
Do you have any quotes or sayings that you live by?
“This too shall pass.” It reminds me not take awesome moments for granted, and allows me to not wallow in the ugly ones.
When you sit down to make music and are starting with a blank canvas, what’s your process like?
We used to start by writing guitar and vocal parts and adding complementary drums afterward, but these days we’ve just been improvising at practice, and it rules! We used to be very hesitant to jam, so it feels really nice to have lost our inhibitions. Sometimes what we come up with is ridiculous and we just laugh it off, but other days really incredible ideas are born out of those moments.
How important is failure in making music/performing?
So important! Recently we realized how many songs we’d written and then discarded and it felt like such a big deal. So much of knowing what we want to sound like is knowing what we don’t want to sound like. I think it’s also really valuable in regard to performing. I love seeing bands I like mess up live. Perfection is boring. Messing up reminds people that you’re human and I think it can make playing music live seem more accessible to folks who are eager to try it out but are scared to fail.
Any advice for girls contemplating getting started and making it in this arena?
Go for it! And make the music you want to make. Being a good drummer isn’t about playing quickly or doing intricate fills. As long as you are excited about the music you’re creating, you are killin’ it, in my book. It’s easy to be intimidated by the machismo so often present in the drum world, but just remember there are so many people rooting for you, and eager to see someone who looks like you sitting behind that kit! That goes for all kind of queer, non-binary, and GNC [gender nonconforming] folks as well.
Where else to find Wendy
Facebook: Pussy Foot