Caitlin Kalafus is a Philadelphia-based drummer and graphic designer who currently performs with CK3 and a Led Zeppelin tribute band called Jen Zeppelin. Kalafus got her first kit at age eight, and was playing gigs in bars nearly every weekend by age 12. Years later, her old band, Kicking Daisies, became her full time gig and even took the place of going to high school. In 2010, Kicking Daisies won Disney’s Next Big Thing Contest and were featured on Disney’s hit show So Random as musical guests.

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What is your city, country, and age?

Originally from Milford, Connecticut. I now live in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Age 25.

What kind of gear do you use? What’s your setup?

I’m currently playing my Gretsch New Classic kits. I have a gold sparkle kit and a turquoise sparkle kit. I play Zildjian cymbals and my current set up includes my 15″ Avedis hi-hats, an 18″ K Custom Dark Crash, a 23″ Sweet Ride and 21″ Sweet Ride. I also love throwing my 21″ K Custom Special Dry Trash Crash in the mix! Last but not least, I’m always hitting the skins with my Vater 7A sticks.

What bands do you perform with, if any?

Right now, I’m still playing with a lot of musicians from back home in Connecticut. I’ll travel there on weekends from time to time. My current band, CK3, does a lot of jam-band material, which I love because it gives me the chance to try new grooves and have fun playing off one another. I’m also in a Zeppelin tribute band called Jen Zeppelin that features Jen Durkin of Deep Banana Blackout on vocals. As far as local gigs in Philly, I’m still new to the scene but I’ve been going to shows and making friends as I go. I’d love to find some people to jam with.

My future plans are to continue to grow as a drummer and to connect with as many drummers as possible. With social media being so big these days, posting videos and making friends with other musicians has been so easy to do. I also have an album coming out this year with a new band that I’m in that I’m very excited about. On top of that, I’d love to go on more tours!

What led you to your instrument? What’s your origin story?

My dad is a middle school music teacher and has played guitar in various bands all my life. When I was seven, I started going to his rehearsals because I had fallen in love with the drums and loved to stand behind the drummer in his band and watch him play. I started begging my dad to get me a drum set, so one summer, he brought home the kit he had in his classroom. I remember getting off the bus on the last day of school and heard drums coming from my basement. I hopped on the kit and my dad taught me what he likes to call “Foot Tap, Hand Tap” (the basic 4/4 beat we all start off learning) and picked it up right away. He grabbed his guitar and started playing Kashmir by Led Zeppelin. I was eight years old.

By the time I was 12, I was playing gigs in bars nearly every weekend. Sometimes my teachers from school would come out to see me play. Years later, my old band, Kicking Daisies became my full time gig and even took the place of going to high school. We traveled back and forth from NYC to LA and many states in between playing shows. In 2010, we won Disney’s Next Big Thing Contest and were featured on Disney’s hit show So Random as musical guests.

Since the Disney days, I’ve recorded drums for various artist’s, and had the opportunity a few summers ago to fill in for one of my favorite drummers, Gunner Olsen, with his band Mother Feather on Warped Tour.

How do you practice? Do you have a routine?

I don’t typically have a routine, but there are a few things I like to do when I practice. Sometimes I like to challenge myself to learn songs with difficult drum parts. Other times, I like to repeat a groove or a pattern and add on to it as I go along. When I’m learning music for an artist, I take time breaking down each section and really lock it down before I move on. Then I take a break and come back to it so it becomes muscle memory.

Are there any specific playing tips or techniques, or advice, exercises, or discoveries you would like to share with Drum! readers? 

I’m really interested in the difference between a studio drums on a song and live drums. Sometimes I’ll check out some of my favorite songs and study how the live drummer adds their flare to it.

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 think success is making goals for yourself and working towards your goals. Your goals can be both big and small and can be used as bench marks to help yourself grow. I feel most successful when I’m seeing growth in myself not only as a drummer, but a musician.

Do you have any quotes or sayings that you live by?

Everything happens for a reason.

When you sit down to make music and are starting with a blank canvas, what’s your process like? 

When I create music, I typically open a session on my computer and start exploring sounds. Sometimes it will be an interesting sound or synth that I like that will get me inspired to create a beat. Lately, I’ve been interested in exploring beats outside of what I can play physically on drums. Then I like to hop on my kit and mix it up with the electronic sounds that I created on my computer.

How important is failure in making music/performing?

Failure can only make you stronger. I feel that the word itself is misunderstood. Failure doesn’t mean that it’s over, or the end in your career. I’ve had a lot of great opportunities so far and some didn’t work out the way I wanted. I feel that these moments are what make me want to try harder, or find another way to work things out.

Any advice for girls contemplating getting started and making it in this arena?

The community of women drummers is amazing. When I first started playing at eight years old, I didn’t know any other female drummers. I feel lucky to have social media now as a way to reach out and connect with other female drummers. I definitely suggest reaching out to other musicians and checking out what others are doing. Our continued support for one another will help young, aspiring female drummers feel confident in knowing they rock!

If you had to put together a school or resources for would-be drummers, what would the training include?

I enjoy teaching drummers of all ages who are just starting out. I like to make the lessons fun by getting to know my students and the way that they like to learn. Everyone is different. Some people learn by watching you play, others like a copy-cat kind of breakdown of a beat or fill, and some like it written out. My training is catered to each individual.

Where else to find Caitlin

Instagram: @caitlinkalafus