Hey, MD readers! I’m Matt Hearn, drummer for Turbo Fruits, based in Nashville, Tennessee. We recently finished a sixty-five-day tour with Deer Tick and are gearing up for the release of our next record, Butter, due September 11 on Kings of Leon’s Serpents & Snakes Records.
I started drumming in 1996 when I was twelve. I started off playing snare but moved to a drumkit pretty immediately and played in the high school jazz band. That helped me a lot as a performer because I was holding together a twenty- to thirty-piece band. At home I was jamming for hours with my best friend, Matt Hajacos, experimenting with instrumental psychedelia, rock ’n’ roll, jazz, funk, and whatever we could come up with (and get our hands on). This really opened up my mind to the fact that you can drum over a melody in a million different ways, you can turn mistakes into fills and new rhythms, and you can learn to read your bandmates and catch and carry each other through songs.
My favorite drum teacher was Clint Black’s drummer, Dick Gay. At our first lesson I learned “Smells Like Teen Spirit” and “In Bloom.” When we stopped having lessons because Dick was too busy touring, I learned to play along with records. I always loved Dave Grohl’s deliberate, hard-hitting style, Mitch Mitchell’s colorfully unpredictable fills, Jimmy Chamberlin’s unrelenting precision, and John Bonham’s explosive sound.
I have two drumsets that I alternate between from tour to tour. One is an electric-blue DW Collector’s Series kit and the other is a 1978 blue Ludwig Vistalite kit. Both have a 13″ tom, a 16″ floor tom, and a 22″ bass drum joined by a white pearl Gretsch American Classic 14″ snare. I play Zildjian Constantinople 14″ hi-hats and a 20″ Medium Thin Low crash-ride. I have additional toms and cymbals and used to play a larger kit, but eventually I stuck with a small one because it forces me to focus on the core of the rhythm and how it interacts with the overall sound and composition. Larger kits can be a lot of fun to play, but they can also be distracting.
When we recorded Butter with Jim Eno (producer/engineer/drummer of Spoon) at his Public Hi-Fi studio in Austin, Texas, I used a mix of my DW kit and Zildjian cymbals and some of Jim’s vintage Ludwig and Rogers drums and Istanbul cymbals.
Butter was recorded live to 2″ tape, so there was no overdubbing or studio tricks for me to rely on. I felt like Jim had a lot of faith in me as a live performer, and he talked about capturing that energy from the onset of preproduction. Most of the time I was experimenting with new things for the first time as we were doing takes, because we were working on a tight schedule, completing ten songs instrumentally in four days. You can hear the use of two different hi-hats in “Gamble Tamble,” for example, in which I’m going from a brighter, closed hi-hat in the verses to a darker, open set in the pre-choruses.
Most of the songs took about four to six takes, since we were well rehearsed and toured for a week on our way down to Austin. In general I didn’t listen to a click track, but we had tempos picked out and I would watch a visual metronome on my phone so I could catch myself if my tempo wavered. When it comes to performing live, like we did on Butter, I resort to muscle memory on a lot of things. In the end Jim and I found drum sounds that I’m really proud of and that capture the live energy that we’re known for.
I’ve been reading Modern Drummer for over fifteen years now, and it’s a real privilege to be a part of it.