Greetings from NYC, it’s Graham Fisk here from Brooklyn-based band Apollo Run. It’s a huge honor to be given the opportunity to contribute to moderndrummer.com. Since I first picked up a pair of sticks at age thirteen, Modern Drummer has been more than just an invaluable resource for my drumming education; it’s a monthly reminder of why I am hopelessly infatuated with the drums. With every turn of the page, I shotgun that delicious Modern Drummer “Kool-Aid” and feel a great sense of pride for being a part of such a rich and diverse drumming community.
The story begins back in seventh grade, when my brother gave me a lift to middle school. He throws in Led Zeppelin’s Physical Graffiti…it was all too much. From that point on, the drums became my obsession. That same brother had a pair of sticks lying around, so I permanently borrowed them and began playing couch cushions along to Dave Grohl and Lars Ulrich, developing muscle memory on basic drum patterns. (Thanks, guys.) Soon enough, I was behind a kit and playing every day after school.
These days when I get behind the kit, my focus isn’t just on the drums. Apollo Run is a three-piece band, but part of what makes us sound much bigger is our three-part harmonies. While singing and drumming come fairly naturally to me as individual endeavors, combining the two takes some serious effort.
The biggest challenge is, ironically, the added rhythm! I wish I could say that since I’m a drummer, adding a vocal rhythm on top of what the hands and feet are doing is easy. Well…it’s not. When playing a groove or a fill on the drumset, the hands and feet work together naturally to create a cohesive rhythm. The voice is a separate beast altogether. It’s the new kid in class, and sometimes the hands and feet don’t want to play with the new kid. Concentrating on my singing while I’m behind the kit also means I have to concentrate on my breathing. Since Apollo Run’s music is so dynamic and my drumming style is fairly physical, I’ve found that proper breath support is critical, especially when I transition from sixteen bars of heavy rock drumming directly into a section of the same song that requires a subtle vocal harmony.
For those of you who want to give it a shot, my suggestion is to start off slowly and build. Above all else, don’t get discouraged. Be patient; it takes practice, and as far as I know there aren’t any shortcuts. And trust me, when fans come up to you after a show to tell you how impressed they were by the fact that you can drum and sing at the same time, it makes all of the long hours well worth it.
Combining singing and drumming has become a small badge of honor for me, but I am also just as proud of my songwriting. Not only do the singing and songwriting allow me to contribute more to the group’s original sound, but they also help expand and fortify the image of what a drummer can do. I’m certainly not the first drummer to venture into the realm of singing (and songwriting), and I’m definitely not revolutionizing the practice by any means; rather, I see it as a nice reminder that drummers can do more than drum if they want to.
I am fired up to be touring with Apollo Run this fall in support of our debut EP, Here Be Dragons, Vol. 1. You can check out tour dates and listen to tracks from the EP at www.apollorun.com. If you like the music and wish you could get your hands on the EP, fear not, I’m offering it here for free to Modern Drummer readers…because I love you. Just click on the widget below and it’s all yours. (The only string attached is that we ask for your email address so we can keep you updated with Apollo Run news.) All of your non-drummer friends can find it on iTunes. If you have feedback on the EP (or if you just want to say ’sup), shoot me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.