Angela Lese was a meteorologist for the National Weather Service for 15 years before deciding to pursue music full-time. The Nashville-based drummer has since helped start the band The Dead Deads, and after several tours opening for Bush, Chevelle, Stone Sour, Halestorm, P.O.D., and others, she left to join the outlaw/garage rock outfit The Raelyn Nelson Band, fronted by Willie Nelson’s granddaughter. She also drums with the rock-and-roll flavored Taco Mouth.
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?
Nashville, TN, 38.
What kind of gear do you use? What’s your setup?
I’ve used Tama drums most of my life (hence, all of the “tamachick” social media handles). I own a Tama birch-bubinga Starclassic custom blue-violet sparkle kit (sizes 13”, 16”, 18”, 22”), with a 14” starphonic snare and double-kick pedal. I use a mix of Tama, Pearl, and DW hardware. I use Sabian cymbals (15” paragon hats, 18” and 20” AAX crashes, 22” paragon ride, and 18” AAX ozone). I use Promark Forward 5B ActiveGrip sticks, Evans heads, and I’m a proud endorser of a set of custom-colored Humes & Berg Enduro road cases.
What bands/groups do you perform with, if any?
I gained notoriety with The Dead Deads (I was “Billy Dead” from 2013–2017). But I’ve recently joined The Raelyn Nelson Band (she’s Willie Nelson’s granddaughter). Plus, ex-Dead Deads guitarist Erica Sellers (“Betty Dead”) and I have formed a new band called Taco Mouth, which is being produced by Michael Wagener (Metallica, Dokken, Skid Row, Great White, Alice Cooper, etc.).
What led you to your instrument? What’s your origin story?
I always wanted to play drums as far back as I can remember. I just had a knack for it, too. My uncle owned a drum set, and I remember my family visiting one time — they were all upstairs playing games, and I sat down at the kit in his basement, and I could just keep a beat. From that point, I knew I wanted to be a drummer. It probably wasn’t until ten years later that I actually owned a drum kit. I played flute throughout junior high and high school — I went to college for flute performance. After a while, I knew it wasn’t my calling. I had two loves — music and weather. I ended up transferring schools, majoring in meteorology, and buying my first drum set (a Tama Rockstar kit) around the year 2000. I taught myself how to play, with a handful of private lessons thereafter.
Who is your favorite drummer and why?
My first favorite drummer was my high school’s pep band and jazz band drummer, Marc Accilien. I was several years behind him in school, but it was his playing that made me want to drum. He was my original inspiration.
As far as well-known drummers go, though, my favorite has to be Taylor Hawkins. He was Alanis Morissette’s drummer when I first saw him perform. I watched him as much as I watched her — and she’s my favorite artist of all time. I just felt like that concert was a true awakening for me. I knew then that music would be a huge part of my life, and I owe Taylor (and probably Alanis too!) everything. I’ve even crafted my drumming after his, so I’ll always be grateful for that concert — it changed my life.
How do you practice? Do you have a routine?
I start with simple stretches and snare exercises, I drink plenty of water, and sometimes I stretch after I rehearse. Being in two bands, and volunteering for other projects and jam sessions, I usually rehearse songs I need to memorize or learn for a gig as opposed to running through rudiments, etc. So, I practice for the gig, not necessarily with the notion of improving in mind (although that does happen).
What’s something you believe about drumming or music that other people think is crazy?
Drumming does not give you strong arms! My arms look strong, but I’m weak as hell.
In all seriousness, I think music is meant to be political or a kind of change agent. I see so many “fans” of music on social media that complain about wanting the artist or band to “stick to the music, not politics.” To me, music is an avenue for free speech, taking down the man, fighting for the working-class heroes. I think it’s crazy not to have music and politics go hand in hand. People’s voices should be heard, and music is a perfect way to hear them.
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?
I agree with the “always moving” aspect — success to me is working. If you can sustain a music career, then you’ve done what most people can’t do. That’s success. I don’t have to be the best nor be famous, I just want to be a working drummer. I guess I’ve made it! [Laughs]
Do you have any quotes or sayings that you live by?
Not anything in particular except the golden rule. I know the music business can have a bad reputation, and some things are true, but if you treat everyone nicely and with respect you’ll only have good things coming your way.
When you sit down to make music and are starting with a blank canvas, what’s your process like?
That depends on the project. With The Raelyn Nelson Band and Taco Mouth, I’m not the songwriter, so I’m given a template and I work on putting my own flavor on the main beat. Or I come up with a different beat and let the songwriter decide which they like better. It’s kinda the same process for being a hired gun or any studio work, too. Now if I’m just coming up with my own beat, it usually happens at the weirdest times (grocery shopping, driving, etc.). I can’t tell you how many voice memos I have of me beat-boxing so I don’t lose the idea.
How important is failure in making music/performing?
Really, the only failure is not attempting, or being too afraid to try. But society’s idea of failing, well, I’d say it’s necessary. You may have to try several different paths before the right one finds you. I have been in so many bands that were terrible; some of the worst cover bands [laughs]. But I put myself out there and got better, less afraid, and eventually, I ended up where I am today because I tried.
Any advice for girls contemplating getting started and making it in this arena?
Use all the naysayers as fuel for your fire — if you end up drumming, it’s because you got there. Use the underrepresentation to your advantage, stand up for yourself, and be good. You won’t make it, male or female, if you can’t play well. And lastly, don’t be afraid to hit those damn drums!
Where else to find Angela
The Raelyn Nelson Band has an EP coming out this summer, and Taco Mouth will have its first full-length album out this fall.