The War on Drugs hit the ground running after Lost in the Dream was released in March 2014, and never slowed down in 2015. MD caught up with drummer Charlie Hall while the band was performing in Miami.
“On this tour I’m playing the modern-day, clear Ludwig Vistalites,” Hall says. “I love how these drums project and also how versatile they are. You can tune them up tight and they have incredible clarity and evenness, or you can tune them down, which is what I do, and they sound really meaty without sounding floppy. The toms have great range and great control. My don’t-leave-home-without-it snare is the 6.5″ Black Beauty. It has a lower pitch, it’s responsive, it cuts through, and it has a big, round tone. I can hit it ten different ways and get ten different sounds out of it. It can be warm, and it can be explosive. With the Evans Dry drumhead to diminish overtones, I get a classic 1970s Mick Fleetwood studio sound.
“Coming from a jazz background, I really appreciate cymbals that have wash and dark tonal qualities,” Hall continues. “When playing louder music I need cymbals with definition and clarity. I’m always looking for cymbals with loads of character, with dark overtones and wash, that can still give the definition that I need when playing rock music. I had the 22″ Om ride customized by installing two rivets a few inches apart and then added an additional rivet about a third of the way around to act as a counterbalance. I use rivets of different widths and thicknesses, and each size gives a unique response. At the moment I’m using the heaviest combination.
“The cymbal itself is dark with great definition, so the rivets help to give it a colorful shimmer and sustain. The 24″ Medium ride is a big, heavy cymbal but is light enough to provide wash and character. It sounds great at low volumes, yet it still cuts through. I’ll occasionally use a 22″ Mel Lewis ride in place of the Traditional. It’s very similar but a bit lighter, and it has more of a washy crash. I use the 24″ when I want to get a little more definition. The 16″ 30th Anniversary hi-hats have tons of character and give me a good chick along with a nice wash.”
Regarding his blend of drumhead brands, Hall explains, “I started using Evans on my snare drum several years ago, after I did a session using an Acrolite snare with that head on it. It was tuned down without any gels, and it had a perfect dry, dead sound. I now live and die by that head. I played around with different heads for the Vistalites, but I’ve stuck with the Silver Dot. They have a little bit of attack, and the dots control some of the ring. They’re a perfect match for these shells.”
The War on Drugs recently changed to in-ear monitors from traditional floor wedges. Hall was a bit nervous about making that switch. “I had a notion that having our ears closed up would somehow separate us more,” he says. “But in fact it’s very much the opposite. Having in-ears allows us to hear each other so much more clearly, so the communication quality has increased tenfold. I can now hear the delay on the piano. Prior to the in-ears, that was a nuance I could never really discern. Now we’re totally dialed in to what each of us is doing. The transition has been amazing.”
Drums: Ludwig Vistalite
A. 6.5×14 Black Beauty snare with imperial lugs
B. 9×13 tom
C. 16×16 floor tom
D. 16×18 floor tom
E. 14×24 bass drum
Not shown: 5×14 Supraphonic transition-badge chrome- over-brass snare
Cymbals: Istanbul Agop
1. 16″ 30th Anniversary hi-hats
2. 22″ Om ride with three rivets
3. 24″ Traditional Medium ride
Not shown: 22″ Mel Lewis ride
Sticks: Vic Firth Buddy Rich wood tip
Hardware: Ludwig, including Atlas flat-base cymbal stands, 1950s WFL Speed King bass drum pedal with Danmar square felt beater, 1960s snare stand (for rack tom), and 1970s Atlas snare stand
Heads: Evans L360 HD Dry or Genera Dry snare batter and Remo Snare Side bottom, Ludwig Silver Dot tom batters and clear WeatherMaster bottoms
Electronics: JH Audio in-ear monitors and Roland SPD-SX multipad
Interview and photos by Sayre Berman