by Willie Rose
Metal and pop-punk mainstays A Day to Remember are getting set to release their sixth studio album, Bad Vibrations, in early September. MD Online asked drummer Alex Shelnutt, the band’s powerful backbone, about the influences and techniques he calls on to propel the band.
MD: What’s A Day to Remember’s writing process like?
Alex: Every song is usually different. Most of the time Jeremy [McKinnon, vocals] will have a melody or chorus idea. Then he’ll bring it to us and we’ll write a song around it. At other times we’ll start jamming and finish a song within an hour. And when we’re touring heavily and don’t have time at home to write or jam together, we’ll end up writing in the back lounge of the bus with MIDI drums and a guitar interface. Writing is cool because I get to see how much I’ve grown as a drummer from record to record. Hearing the finished product is always very special.
MD: Who are your drumming influences?
Alex: Travis Barker would probably be the main guy since he made me want to start playing in the first place. His stamina is on another level. His diversity in genres and styles blows my mind. Mark Castillo from Bury Your Dead was my main influence for double bass. I owe a lot to jamming along to the Cover Your Tracks album until I knew every kick hit. I also love watching gospel drummers like Aaron Spears, Stanley Randolph, and Tony Royster Jr. They know how to play a groove that will make your head bounce. Aside from that, the drummers we get to tour with have influenced and taught me a lot along the way.
MD: Are there any specific parts on the new record where you drew from these players?
MD: Do you have any technique or practice tips for developing double bass patterns? What did you work on?
Alex: When I was learning double bass, I tried to play along with my favorite heavy bands at that time—Bury Your Dead, Evergreen Terrace, and Darkest Hour. After I felt confident and could play along to it, I would study the different time signatures or the way the kick changes in certain parts of the measure. It’s also fun to write drum parts and weird kick patterns on my laptop while sitting around on tour.
MD: What made you choose the drums?
Alex: I wanted to be in a band so badly, but everyone in my town played guitar. I wound up taking guitar lessons for about a year, but I was always interested in and subconsciously listening to the drums in whatever my parents were listening to. My dad had a rad DW kit that I’d play on all the time, and I knew how to play well enough to finally join a band and start making music. I’m glad I made that choice. Drums are so damned fun.
MD: Did you take lessons?
Alex: I tried to take a few lessons but ended up not being into it. Every day after school I would meet up with one of my friends and we’d work on cover songs for hours. If I was by myself, I’d play along to every CD I had, trying to learn fills and figure out how and why to do certain accents.
MD: What’s a typical day like on tour?
Alex: Hopefully waking up before 2 p.m. There are no windows in the bunk area—don’t judge me. [laughs] There’s lots of coffee. We soundcheck and practice songs we may or may not play that night. We always try to find good close food spots. Then I wait around for a few hours, play the show, eat food, and sleep! On days off we all usually try to find something cool to do in the area or a movie to see. Building Legos is a good stress reliever too!
MD: Do you have a preference or favorite part of playing with A Day to Remember? In other words, do you prefer writing? Recording? Touring?
Alex: I enjoy them all for different reasons. But I guess I’d have to say that touring is the best part. I get to see so many parts of the world that I never thought I’d see. I get to see and share the stage with bands I grew up listening to. All around I can’t complain too much about anything!
MD: Do you have any advice for younger musicians trying to break into the scene?
Alex: If you want to play drums or be in a band, you should find a group of people with that same motivation and go out and do it. Stay humble. Practicing never hurts—I admit I should practice a little bit more. Be nice to everyone you meet, and drink more water.
MD: Do you have any musical projects outside of the band?
Alex: I’ve started countless joke bands and side projects with my friends back home. My favorite of those would have to be Rat Javelin. My friend Max and I demoed six songs with Roger [Lima] from Less Than Jake at Moathouse Studio. Sadly we didn’t have a singer or a bassist. Who knows, maybe we’ll finish it one day. Roger, if you’re reading this, I still want you to play bass and sing on it.
Drums: SJC acrylic
- 8×14 hand-hammered brass snare
- 8×12 tom
- 16×16 floor tom
- 16×18 floor tom
- 16×24 bass drum
- 14″ hi-hats (K Dark bottom/A Custom top)
- 19″ K thin crash
- 21″ K crash-ride
- 23″ Sweet ride
- 19″ K Hybrid China
Heads: Remo, including a Black Max snare batter, Powerstroke 4 Clear tom batters with Ambassador Clear resonants, and a Power Sonic bass drum batter.
Sticks: Vic Firth X5B
Hardware: DW, including a 5000 series double bass drum pedal
Photo by James Hartley