Josie O’Toole is a punk rock drummer and songwriter based between London, UK, and Melbourne, Australia. She first picked up sticks at age 16 and since then has has played in numerous bands and toured extensively across Australia, Europe, and the UK, as founding member of Anglo-Aussie rockers Tequila Mockingbyrd, sharing stages with the likes of The Darkness, Rival Sons, Skindred, and Richie Ramone. Since the band’s debut in 2016, they’ve been a regular fixture on the Euro festival circuit, performing at the Steelhouse, Stonefree, Hard Rock Hell, and Amplified festivals.
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.Want to be featured yourself? Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org telling us more about you.
Where do you live?
Melbourne, Australia via Marlow, UK or Marlow via Melbourne … it’s a long story!
What kind of gear do you use? What’s your setup?
Natal drums, Evans drum skins, Balbex sticks, and a mixture of Meinl and Zildjian cymbals.
Fairly standard rock setup: 12” rack and 16” floor tom, 18″ and 19” crashes, and a 20” ride.
Do you have any endorsements?
I’m very fortunate to be looked after by Natal for drums, D’addario/Evans for drum skins, and Balbex for sticks.
What bands/groups do you perform with, if any?
Tequila Mockingbyrd. We’ve just dropped a new single, “Pretty Picture,” and are currently on tour supporting The Treatment and Airrace across the UK, with a new album due to land early 2019.
What led you to your instrument? What’s your origin story?
I was walking past a music shop on the first day of the school summer holidays when I was 16. I saw this blue metallic kit in the window winking at me and asked my mum if I could borrow £300 to buy it. She said, “Okay, but don’t tell your father.” I spent the next year paying her back and never looked back!
Who is your favorite drummer and why?
Travis Barker. The perfect balance of flare and discipline.
Are there any specific playing tips or techniques, or advice, exercises, or discoveries you’d like to share with Drum readers?
I remember attending a drum clinic with Mark Schulman (P!nk’s drummer) a few years back in Melbourne. One thing he said has always stuck with me: “Play every hit like it’s the last you’ll ever play.”
What’s something you believe about drumming or music that other people think is crazy?
Drumming is 100 percent, hands-down the best way to stay fit. You could spend hundreds on gym memberships running pointlessly on a treadmill going nowhere or you could spend an hour a day bashing the living daylights out of a drum kit. I know what I’d rather do!
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 remember when the band was first starting out in Australia thinking, “If we could one day tour the UK and Europe, even just once, I could die happy.” We’ve since done it several times and I still don’t feel we’re even close to where we want to be, yet if you told three-years-ago-me what the next three years had in store, I’d have melted with joy.
Humans are greedy things and always want more. I think if you’re happy that’s what really matters. If we could do this sustainably full-time and not have to work another job that would be amazing but that’s less and less common these days, so I’m not holding that as the benchmark of success, because that implies you’ve “failed” if you never reach that point. Traveling all over the place doing what you love (even if you have to work another job in between times) isn’t failure to me.
Do you have any quotes or sayings that you live by?
One of my favorites is, “If you put off ’til tomorrow what you could do today and you’ll end up with a lifetime full of empty yesterdays.”
It’s a good one to remember if you’re having a lazy day.
When you sit down to make music and are starting with a blank canvas, what’s your process like?
I’ll usually be in the bath and a melody/riff will just come into my head and it’s a scramble to grab my phone to record a dodgy voice memo. Then usually I’d flesh that out a little on guitar, but my guitar skills are rudimentary at best, so once I’ve got the vague idea down, I’ll send it round to the band to work their magic. Drums usually come last in the process for me and it’s normally a case of trying a few things and seeing what feels right. Then you start playing songs live and they evolve a bit naturally through happy accidents, too.
Any advice for girls contemplating getting started and making it in this arena?
Just do it. If you want to do it, do it. It works in your favor sometimes, it works against you other times. Just like real life. I find the best way to silence the naysayers is to just let your sticks do the talking.
If you had to put together a school or resources for would-be drummers, what would the training include?
Going to as many pub/small club size gigs as possible and hustling your way to the front. I’ve learned more from watching drummers in local bands up close than from any prodigal YouTube tutorial.