On the Beat and Track by Track with Cyrus Bolooki of New Found Glory

Cyrus Bolooki

Hello MD readers! I’m Cyrus Bolooki, drummer for the band New Found Glory, and I’m writing this while in the middle of our Twenty Years of Pop Punk anniversary tour. This tour has been really fun for us as we’re playing multiple nights in most markets, and each night we’re playing two of our first six full-length albums in full. We decided last year to celebrate this year, our twentieth year of being a band, by doing these album tours, and the response has been nothing short of amazing.

There was a decent amount of preparation for this tour however, starting with “relearning” some of our material as we’re playing some songs that we’ve never played in concert before. Remembering not only the patterns and parts, but even the songs in general, hasn’t been easy but it has been fun to try and put myself back in the same headspace I was in while we were writing and recording the material. For some songs, I actually changed patterns and parts because I found “better” ways to play them, or I just thought of new ways to play the same stuff from years ago.

Over the course of this tour we’ll be playing seventy-five different songs, averaging about twenty-five songs a night, so I had to make sure that I was in good shape. Starting a few weeks before the tour I did some extra cardio and short workouts each day in addition to playing. I’m a firm believer in lots of stretching before shows and it’s definitely even more important now that our sets are pushing the ninety-plus-minute mark each night. Advertisement

In addition to this year being our twentieth anniversary as a band we’re continuing to write and record new material. We have a new album coming out entitled Makes Me Sick. This is our ninth full-length album, and I’m not only proud of the songs on it, but also the drum parts, drum sounds, and overall production. We recorded this album in Nashville, which was a change for us as most of our prior records were done in the Los Angeles area. I was still able to use an arsenal of drums/cymbals while tracking, including some of my own snare drums by SJC Drums, Gretsch, Tama, and Ludwig, and then a whole bunch of different types of Zildjian cymbals—even adding some splashes to a few songs, which for me was a cool thing that I don’t often do.

New Found Glory

We’re bringing this tour all over the world this year, so come and check it out! I’m very thankful and honored to be able to say that New Found Glory has been together for twenty years, and I’m looking forward to the next twenty!

Track-by-Track: New Found Glory’s Makes Me Sick

“Your Jokes Aren’t Funny”
This is not only the first song on the album, but was one of the first songs/riffs that we had for it. We began jamming this riff at sound checks almost a year before we entered the studio, and I always loved how the main beat was straight but contained the little extra snare accent on the upbeat to give it more of a bounce. While recording this song I had to pay extra attention to keep my dynamics on the cymbals even and make the eighth notes on the hats and ride pronounced and not sound like quarter notes, which I have a tendency to do. I also ended up recording an extra take of this track, trying to get ahead of the beat and literally sitting up straight on my throne to make the track sound more stiff. But in the end, we decided that the pattern, although pretty straightforward in nature, should have a human feel to it so we went with my original approach. Advertisement

“Party on Apocalypse”
There are a couple real cool things about this track. First off, the snare on this song is tuned way higher than any of the other songs on the record, and for us that was a little throwback to some of the bands that we grew up listening to like Snapcase and Helmet. Second, this is one of the tracks on the record where I added a splash in the verses because I loved the tightness of the guitars and wanted to add accents that weren’t as big as cymbals, yet something more than the bell of the ride. This song also has a reoccurring theme where the riffs all start on the upbeat, and therefore I tried to make sure that I would use my left hand for those crashes and accents whenever possible so that I could play through the song and keep the groove going without needing double strokes to get back to my right hand.

“Call Me Anti-Social”
This is one of my favorite tracks on the record, and was the first mix that we received back from Tom Lord-Alge. Tom killed it on this record, and in a world where so many bands are using triggers and tons of drum samples to get their larger-than-life drum sound, I feel like Tom was able to use the organic, real drum sounds that we gave him to make the album sound huge in the end. I like how I used little open hat accents to play along with the keyboard line going on in the intros and re-intros, and then brought those same accents back but on the crashes during the guitar solo section. I also love the four-on-the-floor beat that we threw into the second half of the chorus. At the end of each chorus we used three single hits on a kick and China to create a cool fill that I was able to use throughout the song. We also used one of my favorite recording snares on this track, my own ’70s Ludwig Acrolite that can be heard on plenty of New Found Glory songs we’ve recorded throughout the years.

“Happy Being Miserable”
In addition to being our first single, this was also one of the first songs that we completed for this album. We did a lot of writing for this album while on last year’s Vans’ Warped Tour, and I would set up a laptop recording rig in the back of our bus and record Chad (our guitarist) playing through the basic song on guitar and bass, and then put that together and create drum parts using Toontrack’s Superior Drummer to have a demo to use for writing lyrics. I’ve been using Superior Drummer for a few years now to write drum parts this way, and although we will always spend some time before entering the studio playing the songs in a live setting, it’s great to be able to mess around with different patterns and move hits around without having to worry about relearning parts. Sometimes you come up with very creative and interesting fills and patterns that you wouldn’t be able to pull off on the spot and then the challenge is to go back and teach yourself how to play them while tracking. Two quick notes on this song, I used one of my prized possessions for this song, a Tama Bell Brass snare with brass die-cast hoops just like the ones used on Metallica’s Black album and Nirvana’s Nevermind. I love that snare! Also, I love the fill coming out of the bridge, going back into the last chorus, where I threw in a herta on the snare. I’m not a classically trained drummer, so I often do things like that without even knowing the technical name for the pattern/beat, but if it sounds cool I’ll go for it! Advertisement

“The Sound of Two Voices”
This song is definitely a new direction for us, but it’s got a cool story on how it came about, and the writing was so easy and organic for us that we knew we had to include it on the record. We basically wrote the song in one afternoon while in preproduction for the album. While all in the car we randomly heard Paul Simon’s “You Can Call Me Al” come on the radio and started jamming a riff similar to that when we got back. I figured I might as well take inspiration from the drums on that song, and that’s where I came up with the verse beat having a snare only on beat 4 of each measure, and using the hat for a lot of the groove. After writing the verses, I just kept the theme going into the choruses and bridge, accenting beat 4 of each measure. I also loved how we tracked the song; it was the last song we tracked on drums, and we basically muffled all the drums a ton and even brought in extra baffles to get a super tight, very ’80s-sounding kit. I’m also proud of the beat at the end of the track and how I was able to incorporate the bell accents on the ride on the upbeats, which isn’t something I normally do.

“Blurred Vision”
This was another song that we wrote pretty early on in the whole writing process, and although it’s a slower tempo track, the challenge here was to not overplay on it. I wanted to allow the music and lyrics to really shine, and so I tried to keep my fills to a minimum, or at least only put them in spots where they wouldn’t overstep the melodies or other instruments in the song. The key to the song is the swung snare hit in the intros and choruses, as that was taken straight from the rhythm of the guitars—it would definitely change the way the song sounds and feels if it was omitted. This one had another of my cool personal snares on it, a Tama 8×14 Superstar that I bought years ago on the advice of the studio drum tech guru Mike Fasano, who has the same drum and was used on “November Rain” by Guns N’ Roses.

“Say It Don’t Spray It”
This is one of the coolest grooves on this record in my opinion—I love the choruses. We were jamming the main riff and I was trying to come up with different ways to play the same beat, and that’s when we came up with the idea of playing 16ths on the open hat. I also like how the third time around I accent the guitar chords with crashes. Here’s a little secret: the cymbal patterns at the beginning and middle of the song were overdubbed because I wanted to make sure they came out clean and that the fill leading into the song was powerful without my dynamics on the cymbals changing in anticipation of that fill. My favorite fill on the entire record is on this track and is the one going into the second chorus. That was made up on the spot while jamming the song in preproduction and the band and our producer said to play something crazy. I came up with a fill that, in my opinion, is a nod to a song that was all over the radio when I first started drumming—“Two Princes” by Spin Doctors. Advertisement

“Barbed Wire”
Overall, I think this song has some of my favorite drumming on the album. It starts with a cool but powerful four-on-the-floor beat, and I love how I follow the guitar lead with my fills while still keeping my kick drum going on the quarter notes. In the verse, I took inspiration from an album that we used to listen to in our van all the time when we first started touring, Braid’s Frame and Canvas. The opening track “The New Nathan Detroits” has such a super cool beat in the intro and verses of that song, and I was totally feeling that vibe when coming up with the beat for the verses of this song. I also like the snare groove that I play coming out of the bridge, and how I tried to get the accents to match the bass guitar.

“Short and Sweet”
I love the verse patterns on this song. Even though I’m playing different patterns each verse, I like how groovy the verses are between the drums and bass guitar. It was fun to use the hats, ride, and splash to add little accents in between the notes to make the drum pattern a little more interesting and less straightforward. Other than that, this is a pretty standard song where I’m doing what I normally do, which is to ramp up my dynamics, use hats on the verses, and gradually work to the crashes for the choruses. For me, I always thought of Smashing Pumpkins’ “Today” when we were writing this. My snare work and fills in the choruses are a little nod to Jimmy Chamberlain and his amazing drumming on that song.

“The Cheapest Thrill”
This song is all about the snare drum, and once again I used one of my favorite snares for the recording, the ’70s Ludwig Acrolite. I definitely had to concentrate to make sure the snare patterns had enough difference between the regular hits and the accents so that when mixed and compressed it would still have dynamics. I took some of the same fills from one of the songs off our self-titled record “Black and Blue” and threw them in the choruses. It’s not something that’s blatantly obvious, but I figured if I were to take inspiration from anyone, it might as well be myself! And a cool little side note, I came up with the idea of ending the song with the same drumbeat as the intro, so I have the pleasure of knowing that my drums are the last things you hear on the album! Advertisement

Cyrus Bolooki

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Photos by Paris Visone