“The drummer keeps everyone connected to the deepest, most primal feelings of music and movement, to the root of our desire to transcend.” – Molly Allis
Molly Allis is a bad-ass. She goes by “Bear cub,” played in an anarchist marching called Rude Mechanical Orchestra, and is now in between L.A. and New York making and recording music with her newest band (a duo) Huff This. It is no wonder we love her. Read on for an exclusive interview that Molly gave Tom Tom Mag …
Full name: Molly F. Allis
Nickname/pseudonym: Bear Cub
Where were you born: Houston, Texas
Where do you live now: Pretty sure I still live in Brooklyn, although I’ve been traveling for 6 months.
Bands you are drumming in currently: HUFF THIS!, The Rude Mechanical Orchestra
Bands you were drumming for in the past: Bovine Homecoming
Tom Tom Magazine What you do for a living?
Molly Allis I was working as a receptionist at a food bank called City Harvest in Manhattan. Currently I’m trying to make a full time go at the music thing, touring, recording and living in a cabin with my HUFF THIS! band mate, Alison Clancy.
Tom Tom Magazine Tell us something outstanding about you …
Molly Allis I’ve been known to do tri-tom solos while flying on the legs of Team Awesome dancers.
Tom Tom Magazine When did you start playing the drums?
Molly Allis When I was 13, I snuck into my elementary school’s drum room at night and started hitting things. It felt really good.
TTM Reason that you started playing the drums?
MA I think I got instantly excited by how validated playing the drums made me feel, and how fun it was to share that new-found power by playing music with all kinds of people.
TTM How long did it take til you felt like a “real” and legit drummer?
MA In college I became the drummer for Bovine Homecoming, a 3-piece pop-punk band. We played a lot on the Lower East Side. I was in theater school at NYU, but I started defining myself more strongly as a drummer and a musician.
TTM What is your favorite set-up for your kit? Why?
MA I do a pretty straight-forward, full 5-piece set up for my kit. I’ve been playing more tribal-y beats lately so it’s good to have all the toms going.
TTM What would your dream kit consist of?
MA My dream kit would be able to fit in my pocket, so I could take it with me on airplane rides, which would make touring way easier. It would also have to be sparkly purple.
TTM What do you do to get better at the drums / Best way to get chops?
MA Lately I’ve been rocking the Stick Control pretty hard core. It makes me feel like a machine in a good way. I’m a self-taught drummer, so it’s been useful recently to focus on the rudiments.
TTM What is your favorite drum warm up/what do you do to warm up before playing?
MA Oh man, this is bad to say, but I’m usually doing a vocal warm up before my shows with HUFF THIS! because I sing and drum at the same time, and I gotta make sure my voice is good to go! But with the Rude Mechanical Orchestra, we often have quick drum jams in parking lots or basements to get our groove on before we perform.
TTM What do you think the role of the drummer is? (In a band)
MA I think the drummer keeps everyone connected to the deepest, most primal feelings of music and movement, to the root of our desire to transcend. Also as a drummer I try to play with time, not making it so linear, or making it very steady for people to hold onto. In HUFF THIS!, the drums and piano take turns being the more lyrical instrument. It’s a dynamics dance that we are always doing together.
TTM Do you play any other instruments? If so how does that effect your drumming?
MA I play the guitar and piano. The drums definitely make me a rhythmic and driving player with other instruments; I can’t help but consistently pound keys and strings…I can start channeling Philip Glass a little bit, ha.
TTM What do you consider to be the most challenging thing about the drums?
MA I recently started using a click track for the album HUFF THIS! is working on. Usually our music speeds up and slows down a lot on purpose, so it’s been interesting trying to get same that energy using a click track.
TTM What’s your favorite part about playing drums?
MA Playing with space and time. Haha. No, my favorite thing about playing drums is feeling the energy of people dancing to what I’m playing. It’s way better than doing drugs.
TTM Have you experienced any setbacks as a female drummer?
MA Never any clear set-backs. I’ve been in a lot of sound-check situations where I’m the only girl in the room, and I feel that dynamic very clearly, like I’ve entered the “Dude Zone.” But mostly, people seem to get really pumped when they see female drummers rocking out, so I’ve had a lot of positive experiences being a female drummer.
TTM Who are your favorite drummers?
MA Zach Hill from Hella is fascinating to listen to, he’s also self-taught. Lisa’s drumming from the band Kickball out of Olympia is so much fun. I also like the Radiohead drummer because he sounds like a machine, but he’s not.
Huff This Lefted (Music Video)
TTM If you could change one thing about the drums what would it be?
MA I wish it was effortless to sing and rock out on the drums at the same time…but I’m working on that!
TTM Do you do anything else drum related besides playing in a band? (i.e. teach drums one on one, rock camp, drum circles, etc …)
MA Playing the drums with the Rude Mechanical Orchestra is definitely a different way of relating to the drums for me. With them it’s more about bringing strangers together in solidarity over a political cause, or getting people to pay attention to an issue through street music. It’s also about playing with with strangers who have a bucket to bang on and want to join in, which is a great way to break down all kind of barriers.
I’ve also recently engaged in the occasional Northern California drum circle, where they use drums for guided meditations…I went to one on election night, which was a pretty cool way to bring in Obama.
TTM Where do you shop for your drum gear?
MA I’m actually super ghetto with my drums…I got the one I toured with this summer on Craigslist for $200 bucks, because it was cheaper than getting my NYC drums out to the West Coast. As wonderful as it is to play on higher quality kits, I’ve somehow managed to do my thing on some pretty janky kits thus far. Everything can make noise, even trash!
But back in NYC I have a little Pearl “Rhythm Traveler” that a guy at guitar center gave me for $400 bucks. It’s width is scaled down so it can fit in the trunk of a taxi, which can be real nice.
TTM What would you recommend to a new drummer starting off / advice for new drummers?
MA Even if you’re worried that you’re not experienced enough, try to get yourself out there to play with people, just for fun, to get more comfortable. You don’t need to be a drummer with years of experience to jam with people, or even to be in a band.
TTM What are some of your other hobbies / interests?
MA I love being out in nature, riding my bike, making pies, drawing pictures, herbalism, yoga, street bands, doing whatever I can to nourish and heal things. I also sing choral music from the country Georgia.
TTM Who are some of your favorite lady drummers right now?
MA Again, I love Lisa from Kickball and Explode Into Colors; she is sick. Janet Weiss is always an inspiration for me, her beats are so solid. And all the ladies in Caka!ak Thunder, the Samba drum core based out of Greeensboro, North Carolina! You can’t have a movement without a groove, right? They make my booty shake.
TTM Who are some of your favorite bands right now?
MA There’s a band based out of Tacoma, Washington we played with on tour called Kusikia…they tear it up so beautifully! Des Ark out of North Carolina always rocks my world. Luke Janela, who was playing cello with us in Nevada City and is recording on our album. His songs take me to a very magical place. And I’m always a rabid fan of the What Cheer? Brigade out of Providence…they have some killer lady bass drummers!
more Huff This & Molly: www.myspace.com/huffthis
Tom Tom Magazine