Friday, October 16, 2009

Drummers of Next Big Nashville: John Swint with the Modern Skirts

Great melodies, haunting harmonies, lush the Modern Skirts out of Athens, GA. This was one of the shows I really regretted missing at NBN...I'm sure it was great. They're completely song oriented and as he points out, driven to stay relevant in this ever changing musical landscape...

How long have the Modern Skirts been together?

modern skirts has been together for about five years now. we have always kept the same lineup, so i have always been the drummer. the other guys go all over the place on stage swapping instruments and microphones. i pretty much stick to the kit.

Are you self taught?

Yea, I taught myself the drums. i grew up deep in the country in middle georgia. my dad had an old drum set that was in storage. it was this very sparkly blue japanese knockoff of maybe an old ludwig kit. there were a couple of really old cymbals too. i didn't have anyone to teach me, so i set them up and started doing what felt right to me. then i basically started mimicking the sounds that i would hear on the albums i was listening to. that was an exciting time because i was completely discovering things on my own. i would play and experiment for hours at a time.

Traditional or matched?

you'll learn from this interview that i don't know much at all about technical issues when it comes to drums. i'm assuming traditional style is the one that looks like you're holding chopsticks. i don't play that way, but i've tried because it looks effortless. i think i play too hard for that. i grip tight. too tight. i'm still learning how you're "supposed to play."

Favorite drummer?

i don't really have a favorite drummer. there are people that when you see them you say, "oh my god. that's nuts!" that's always cool when you see or hear that, when you're really impressed by something. my favorite drummers would be the ones that stay in the pocket and are very thoughtful about what the overall song needs. it takes more than shear power and gimmicks to impress me. i am more a fan of seeing how a song takes shape than watching the drummer.

Do you have a day job? If so, what is it and what do you feel the advantages/disadvantages are in keeping a full time job while pursuing a career in music?

when we're not touring i try and fill my time up with jobs and projects as much as i can. something that's taking up a lot of time back in athens is delivering flowers. it's a fun and interesting job because you see so many sides of life door to door every day. you can go from a sorority house to a nursing home. you give flowers to a new mother at the hospital and then put flowers on a casket at a funeral home. we all have to have part time jobs with cool bosses because we have such a strange schedule to adhere to. flower delivery happens to be the job at the moment that allows me to take off work whenever i need to.

What do you travel in?

we travel in a van. we currently have two vans. we keep one around in case the other one breaks down. actually, now one of them is completely out of order and the other one will soon die. we should do something about that.

Best and worst part of being on tour?

the best part of being on tour is all the places that you get to see and experience. the bands and fans and people that you meet are mostly all incredibly interesting. we've made so many great friends and had so many good times that i can't imagine my life without these experiences.

you also rarely get good sleep or time to shower or good food. a lot of times we are rushing from one place to the next. we end up being on such a tight schedule that it's hard to enjoy certain things. it does get busy and hectic but there are always those times that make up for it. those times usually happen around 4 am though.

What sets your live show apart from others?

our live shows have become much more frenetic and energetic. there is this sense now that it's now or never on stage. we play off of each other's energy on stage as well as the people watching the show. it's an all over emotional experience we hope for everybody. we love when the fans go nuts. sometimes people end up on stage with us with tambourines or other instruments. that's always great when that happens. we thrive on that live unexpected energy. hopefully the energy just keeps getting more and more out of control until it all implodes on everybody all at once, and we are incapable of doing anything about it.

What's the biggest challenge you face as a band?

the music industry has changed so much. nothing really operates at all the same way as it has through the years. it is an exciting but also kind of scary time in this business. the key is to use what you have and to use it wisely. there are so many ways to get your music out these days. there are so many different ways to be creative and artistic. it is so easy for anyone to be heard these days whether it's quality or not. hopefully fans of true art and music can still find something of substance through all of this information. it's our job as artists to give people that, and to give it to them in an interesting way that competes with all the crap out there. these days it's not enough just to get signed. sometimes it's not even worth it to be signed. the key is to stay relevant and interesting in this business.

Photograph by Michael Lachowski (, ©2009


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