Eva Friedman is the drummer for Staircase Spirits, which released three EPs last year, and has been playing for 16 years. She has immersed herself in as many genres and styles as she could, from marching band to jazz to pop to fusion to rock. She also played in the 2018 performance of Keala Settle’s “This Is Me” from The Greatest Showman at the Oscars.
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What is your city, country, and age?
Los Angeles, CA, 26
What kind of gear do you use? What’s your setup?
It took me a few years, but I finally have my dream kit! I play a 4 piece DW Performance Series kit (20″ x 16″ bass drum, 12″ x 9″ and 16″ x 14″ toms, 14″ x 6.5″ snare) with Remo coated Ambassadors on the snare and toms and a clear Powerstroke 3 on the kick. The snare is very versatile and has worked in every studio situation I’ve brought it to. The toms and bass drum have the perfect amount of warmth and punch that I like in my playing. All of my cymbals are Zildjian. I use 14″ Constantinople hi-hats, an 18″ A Avedis crash on the left, a 19″ K Custom Dark crash on the right, and a 21″ A Sweet Ride. Depending on the gig, I’ll have a cowbell or tambourine on the kit, as well as having the Roland SPD-SX sampling pad. For sticks I use Vic Firth 55As.
What bands do you perform with, if any?
My band Staircase Spirits is based out of LA. We released a trilogy of EPs last year (Ghost Stories, War Stories, and Love Stories). We’re currently working on new material, as well as our live show. I also play with Safely in Las Vegas and various solo artists.
What led you to your instrument? What’s your origin story?
When I was in fifth grade I joined the school band as a trumpet player. I was so bad that my teacher called my parents and asked if she could switch me to drums.
Who is your favorite drummer and why?
One of the first drummers I gravitated to when I started playing was Tony Thaxton from Motion City Soundtrack. Tony comes up with so many quirky, creative grooves that never get in the way of the vocal or what anyone else is doing. I’ve always admired his balance of creativity and taste. I could go on forever but I also really admire Jason McGerr, Sarah Thawer, James Gadson, Griffin Goldsmith, and David Garibaldi.
How do you practice? Do you have a routine?
I start by doing warm-ups that exercise both my hands and my brain (usually taking a rudiment and playing it in various subdivisions) as well as different coordination, timekeeping, and technique maintenance exercises. Then I’ll work on whatever my focus at that point in time is, as well as any problem areas that have popped up. If I don’t have any gigs or sessions to prepare for, I’ll pick one or two random songs to work on learning as well. I try to end every practice session by playing one or two songs that I already know and enjoy playing to make sure that I always end on a positive note.
What was it like to perform at the Oscars? How did that come about?
That performance was an incredible experience and I’m still pinching myself! About a week before the show I heard they were looking for drummers so I sent a clip and the next day found out I had been selected. Everyone I met throughout the experience was amazing and I’m so grateful to have been a part of it. Seeing all the positive feedback from people who felt represented and seen as well as people who just enjoyed the performance has been overwhelming in a good way! I’m glad people connected with it since we had such a blast performing.
Are there any specific playing tips or techniques, or advice, exercises, or discoveries you’d like to share with Drum! readers?
Recording myself practicing and at gigs changed everything for me. There are a lot of times I can’t figure out what isn’t working in the moment, but when I listen back I’m able to isolate what’s happening and get to the bottom of the issue. Sometimes I’ll also think something is messy and then hear it back and realize it’s better than I thought it was.
Do you have any quotes or sayings that you live by?
“Be the person you needed when you were younger.”
When you sit down to make music and are starting with a blank canvas, what’s your process like?
For Staircase Spirits, we’ll talk a lot about what the song is about and how we want to represent that musically. Anna [Maria, singer/songwriter] will come to us with the melody and lyrics. From there we’ll talk about tempo and what kind of feel the song should have. I try to find where the pocket falls in the melody and then build the groove around that.
Any advice for girls contemplating getting started and making it in this arena?
Just do it! I know it can be hard when you’re the only girl or you’re being told drumming is just for boys, but there’s plenty of space for us to exist in the drumming world. We have the same right to pick up a pair of sticks as anyone else.
If you had to put together a school or resources for would-be drummers, what would the training include?
One of the best resources I’ve found over the years is actually the book It’s About Time by my mentor Fred Dinkins. Everyone tells drummers to work on their time but most people don’t talk about what to do aside from just playing to a metronome. Fred’s book takes it a step further and provides some great exercises that I think any drummer can benefit from.
Where else to find Eva
Staircase Spirits can be found on all streaming/listening platforms