The ever-busy sticksman backs the seasoned indie songwriter on her latest international tour.
The Los Angeles–based touring and session drummer Kyle Crane has steadily built a busy and successful career working with producer and songwriter Daniel Lanois, M. Ward (She & Him, Monsters of Folk), and Björn Yttling of the indie hitmakers Peter Bjorn and John, among others. Beyond balancing those gigs with his own solo project, Crane has joined the indie singer/songwriter Neko Case on an international tour in support of her 2018 effort, Hell-On. Crane first joined Case for an impromptu percussion performance on Hell-On, after the drummers Matt Chamberlain, Barbara Gruska, Dan Hunt, and Tobias Tagesson had already laid down the album’s drumset parts. This month he’s backing Case on her Australian dates before the group heads stateside for a North American leg that lasts until June.
To match the open, roomy textures that define Hell-On’s drum sounds, Crane made a few adjustments to his touring C&C setup. “Neko’s drums are really blended in with the music,” Crane says. “So I didn’t want drums with a lot of tape on them, like super-focused thuds—I wanted it to be live. At the most, I have a Moongel on the rack and floor. The kick has a little padding, more just to hold a mic inside of it so it doesn’t flop around. But it’s a pretty open-sounding kit.”
Before joining Case on the road, Crane did his homework, studying YouTube clips of her performances. But once in rehearsals with the group in Seattle, he discovered some substantial differences in the live approach to the songs. “The hardest thing about playing with Neko,” Crane says, “is navigating the different tempo feels within a song. On ‘This Tornado Loves You,’ for example, the B section drops around fifteen bpm and just puts on the brakes. During a two-bar fill coming out of that section, I have to get it back to where it was. Neko will want things to push and pull depending on the section. And sometimes she’ll want the first verse of a song to be slower than the last verse. So I had to adapt to certain requests like that.”
Crane says that during rehearsals he homed in on tempos and focused on the way Case’s tracks were supposed to feel. “On a song like ‘Hold On, Hold On,’ where the guitars start it,” he says, “I’ll put on a click and count it off, but I’m not playing for a while so I turn it off while the guitars are going. And I’m the only one who hears the click, so I’ll turn it back on maybe midway through their intro to see if I need to push it a couple bpm. You have to find a way to get it back to Neko’s favorite tempo without it being jarring.
“Every song is a little different,” Crane says. “There’s a song called ‘Oracle of the Maritimes’ that starts out slowly, and by the time I come in with the full beat—because I’m just playing tom mallet parts—it’s been ramping up over the course of three minutes, and I’m just trying to get it to where the pianist wants it to be for him to play his part. You have to be really aware that things are going to get to where they have to be for everyone to be happy with how it should feel, and know whether to push it or hold it there.”
Kyle Crane plays C&C drums and Istanbul Agop cymbals, and he uses Vic Firth, Remo, Tackle Instrument Supply, and KillSpencer products.
Also on the Road
Jean-Paul Gaster with Clutch /// Adam Deitch with Lettuce /// Shannon Larkin with Godsmack /// Barry Kerch with Shinedown /// Scott Fuller with Morbid Angel /// Paul Mazurkiewicz with Cannibal Corpse /// Jon Syverson with Daughters /// Nico Rayman with Dust Bolt /// Ray Hearne with Haken /// Francis MacDonald with Teenage Fanclub