Kevin Garcia of the Steel Wheels

Photo by Souki Mehdaoui

On Integrating Percussion and Latest Album

Hey MD readers! It’s a real pleasure to share what I’m up to with you here “On The Beat.” My favorite conversations after I play a concert or festival are with my percussionist friends, many of whom I know read Modern Drummer, as I have since the late ’80s. I feel like I’m getting to talk with a huge room filled with friends right now, and I’m very grateful to MD for giving me this opportunity.

I’ve been working in New York City coming up on twenty years and am proud to say I have made my living entirely in music, mostly playing drums and percussion. I’ve performed and recorded with some extremely talented artists and bands like Duncan Sheik, Wheatus, the Duhks, Hazmat Modine, 9 Horses, and Gato Loco. I’ve also played on Broadway in the pit and on stage for Fun Home and Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson. I’ve been fortunate to have some great opportunities to tour all over the world playing legendary concert venues.

In 2016 I got a call from the Steel Wheels. They had hired producer Sam Kassirer (Josh Ritter, Lake Street Dive), who put keys and drums on the record they were gearing up to release, and asked me if I would be interested in touring with them, putting my percussion ideas on their entire songbook including some keys parts. The timing couldn’t have been better because the Duhks were on hiatus, and I was mostly subbing on Broadway and looking for another full-time gig. Two and a half years later and 250-plus shows performed with the Steel Wheels, I have become a member of the band, fully integrating drums, hand percussion, and keys into the live show. Advertisement

Photo by bob Adamek

Late in 2018 we went into the studio with Kassirer to make our new record Over the Trees. While tracking I drew from a deep well of sounds. I used a calabash, an udu, a pandeiro, two brake drums, and a reco reco with my four-piece Hendrix drumset, and overdubbed riq, djembe, doumbek, triangle, and shakers. I also tracked four-mallet marimba, vibraphone, and several of the orchestral instruments that live in the studio, including a 52″ bass drum.

My favorite piece of gear in the studio was my stave mahogany custom snare by Hendrix Drums. It sounded great on every song as a snare and worked really well as a hand drum with the snares off. I am currently a Hendrix HD artist and play a Perfect Ply Walnut Custom drumset with a 24″ kick, 13″ rack tom, and 18″ floor tom, in addition to my stave snare on stage.

Now that we have released Over The Trees my drumset has grown to accommodate the new songs. I have an aludu udu drum by Valter under my ride, and a calabash to my right so I can play hand drum rhythms with my kit parts. I also have a keyboard on my left next to the hi-hat. I play sounds that are close to what I tracked on mallet keyboards, and some of the piano and keys parts Kassirer laid down as well. It has been a lot of fun getting the new songs ready for performance. Advertisement

Below I’ve included a track off Over The Trees with a video we made for “Keep On” (which debuted on It’s a fun indie rock track.

Watch “Keep On” music video


Watch Kevin Garcia and Gato Loco performing live in Paris at the Banlieues Bleues Festival, 2012 here: 


For more on Kevin, including tour dates, visit

Follow Kevin on Instagram @kevinjoaquingarcia