Drums Make Songs

I don’t care what you think.  Drums make songs.  Tom DeLonge popularized the drone note and heavy vocal reverb in pop-punk with Blink182’s later records and on Box Car Racer’s, and the sound is special and distinctive.  However, if you listen a little closer, the thing that sets a lot of these songs apart is the phenomenal drumming from Travis Barker.  Need evidence?  Listen to Tiny Voices (Box Car Racer) and Not Now (Blink 182).  Check out If You Want To (Travis Barker ft. Lupe Fiasco).  So much of the tension of a song is defined by the beat.  If those songs had truly straight-forward punk drum beats, the songs wouldn’t be as good.  While I haven’t listened to Blink in a long time, I do frequently listen to the Box Car Racer record on my drives, and I’m frequently impressed by Travis Barker’s playing.  Yeah, I’m impressed by some of the hardcore/metal drummers out there, particularly Matt Greiner from August Burns Red, but I need some sort of groove to really get it, and most metal drummers don’t groove.  The first drummer that really made a song for me was Chad Sexton (311), but now, when I start really digging into a song, the first thing I go to is the drums.

The trick is not making it a distraction.  This is an issue with bass players, too.  Subtle but excellent bass parts make songs, even when they are super-complex, but it’s easy for drummers and bassists to transcend from foundation to distraction.  We in the rhythm section make the song but can easily turn it into a busy mess.

While the public-facing action of an organization, like vocals or a guitar solo, often define the public image of that organization, it’s the rhythm section (planning and vision) that holds up that image.  It’s the foundation upon which it is built.  And like in music, the foundation can be lacking or it can be so overdone that it is a distraction.  It can hinder by not providing enough support or it can hinder by slowing things down or getting in the way.  Revolution is figuring this out day by day.  Our public perception (to non-churchgoers) is Sunday morning and events like Feed 500, Feed 40K, trips to Haiti, etc., but each of those things is buttressed by vision and planning.  I think we do a pretty good job, but sometimes things are overplanned and made cumbersome through meetings and meetings and meetings and meetings and sometimes things are underplanned and a little too seat-of-our-pants for comfort.  Our rhythm section sometimes mistakes itself for lead guitar.

The funny thing, is that throughout my life, I’ve been the rhythm section.  I play bass.  For a long time, I was incapable of making a song muddy with bass, but as I get older, I get better, and now, I can really jack things up.  In Ligonier, while rehearsing a worship song, Chip said, “Dude, just chill.”  I wanted to say, “Bite me, I’m good and I want people to know it.”  Except…that’s not my job (and ultimately it doesn’t tell listeners I’m good, it tells them I’m selfish).  So, I chilled out.  In my career, I’m a planner.  I always have been.  I help develop processes and systems that allow the company to execute more quickly and with higher quality and greater reproducability.  In church, at Common Ground and Revolution, I’m the rhythm section.  I relish the opportunity to plan…not necessarily crazy brainstorming (though that can be fun), but more like, “How do we do this as simply and as awesomely as possible?”  And I’m always learning how to better at playing rhythm.

Are you in the rhythm section?  Is your bass playing or drumming making things muddy and cumbersome?  Is it leaving gaps and holes?

Songs made by drums/percussion:

I Can See for Miles by The Who
Ants Marching by Dave Matthews Band
When the Levee Breaks by Led Zeppelin
But For Those Who Fear My Name by The Welcome Wagon
Hunting for Witches by Bloc Party

In the comments, add some of your own…

Songs made by bass:

My Generation by The Who
Penny Lane by The Beatles
Journey to the End of East Bay by Rancid
Super Bon Bon by Soul Coughing
What is Hip by Tower of Power

In the comments, add some of your own…


5 thoughts on “Drums Make Songs

  1. I remember that day… and I could kind of tell you wanted to tell me off, but I’m glad you didn’t 🙂 And I miss your amazing playing like whoa.

  2. Yo Matt,

    It’s been a really long time since we’ve talked. Hope you and your family are doing well.

    A nice post, finally giving drummers some love and good advice. As a “retired” drummer (I haven’t played in several years), I’ve listened to lots of drummers. To me, the best drummer in the world is Phil Rudd of AC/DC. He does exactly what he’s supposed to do–he stays in the pocket and doesn’t leave. His minimalist approach is spot on for that style of blues rock.

    On the other end of the spectrum, check out Ted Kirkpatrick (the drummer/songwriter for the Christian thrash metal band Tourniquet). Their music is an acquired taste, but his attention to detail and inspiration from the masters of classical music amazes me.

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