Drummer Ben MizeMost rock drummers hit hard and play loud. But Counting Crows drummer Ben Mize prefers a different approach. “I love to play quietly, with brushes,” he explains. “It seems to be more musical for me. I enjoy the ability to be understated in a song.”

As examples, Mize refers to “Goodnight LA,” a song on the band’s latest album. Discussing the new record, Mize points to the title track. “I have to give our keyboard player, Charles Gillingham, credit for having the concept on that song. The piano is like The E Street Band, but the drums are more like The Replacements–more straight-ahead–and that gives the song more edge.”

Mize’s grasp of the subtle elements of rock drumming serve him well. “In this band, there is an emphasis on listening,” he insists. “With seven people in the group, you must be in tune and know where the others are. I can’t just hit a cymbal any time; I need to be more conscious of where everyone else is. It’s a big team, and there’s a lot to listen to.

“A producer once told me he likes that I’m aware of everything that is going on, and what every instrument is doing,” Ben continues. “But sometimes that can be a shortcoming. Sometimes the drummer needs to just play the track, lead the song, and be more bombastic.”

Harriet Schwartz