Vivian Girls Drummer Ali Koehler Tells the World About Her Love!

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Ali Koehler went from being someone who enjoyed being a homebody to being on tour constantly with her wildly popular band Vivian Girls. While she wasn’t the band’s drummer when they reached their initial success she easily slipped in in July of 2008, recorded a full-length album with the band, and has since been carrying the torch and making waves behind the kit. Find out why Tom Tom Magazine loves Ali Koehler …

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Full name: Alexandria Koehler
Nickname/pseudonym: Ali
Age: 22
Where were you born: New Jersey
Where do you live now: New Jersey
Bands you are drumming in currently: Vivian Girls
Bands you were drumming for in the past: Just basement punk bands with my friends, nothing anyone would know.
What you do for a living: Play drums with Vivian Girls
Something outstanding about you: Nothing, I’m a pretty un-outstanding person. (Tom Tom Magazine disagrees!)

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“Drums should be loud as hell. Music in general should be loud as hell.” – Ali Koehler

Tom Tom Magazine: When did you start playing the drums?
Ali Koehler: In the school band when I was in fifth grade.

TTM: Why did you start?
Ali Koehler: I started because I wanted to play something that other girls in my school didn’t play. I had a couple of copy-cats after starting drums though, which was cool. The drumming section turned into 50/50 boys and girls.

Tom Tom Magazine: How long did it take til you felt like a “real” and legit drummer?
Ali Koehler:I still don’t feel like a “real” drummer.

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“I like both aspects of music, but sometimes it’s nice to just beat the hell out of something and forget about who you are.” – Ali Koehler

Tom Tom Magazine: What is your favorite set-up for your kit? Why?
Ali Koehler:It really depends on the band. For Vivian Girls I just use snare, floor tom, kick and a crash and ride. I just recently started to incorporate a tambourine on the hi-hat since Vivian Girls is very tambourine oriented, (a percussion piece I’ve really come to appreciate). If I were in a pop punk band I’d probably have another tom and crash without the tambourine.

Tom Tom Magazine: What would your dream kit consist of?
Ali Koehler:I’m not much of gearhead. I think Gretsch kits look and sound beautiful. I’d also like to have massive drums like Dave Grohl did. Drums should be loud as hell. Music in general should be loud as hell.

TTM: What do you do to get better at the drums? AL: I’m an awful example for what drummers should do. I never practice in my own time and even didn’t sit behind a kit for a good two years after I learned how to play guitar. Vivian girls is the first band I’ve drummed for since I was 19. If I cared about improving, I’d play along to my favorite records with headphones on, but I’m lazy and always on tour.

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TTM: What is your favorite drum warm up / what do you do to warm up before playing? AL: Drink a beer.

TTM: What do you think the role of the drummer is? (In a band)
AL: The backbone. The drummer keeps everyone together in time. If your drummer sucks there’s no hiding it, it’s painfully obvious when songs are off tempo or you forget how something goes, which is why I’m a really self conscious drummer. If I have a night where I make a lot of mistakes I immediately think it was the worst show ever, no matter how well we all sang and played.

TTM: Do you play any other instruments? If so … how does that effect your drumming? AL: I play guitar, I don’t think that affects my drumming so much as my drumming affects it. I’ve been a drummer for a long time, guitar is very new to me, so I can only help but to be a very percussive guitar player. Solos and finger-picking are beyond me.

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TTM: What do you consider to be the most challenging thing about the drums? AL: The endurance it requires. Drumming is so physical, when I see we have three fast songs in a row on a set-list I immediately think “Oh fuck, that’s gonna be rough.”

TTM: What’s your favorite part about playing drums? AL: How mechanical it is. Other instruments are very melodic and require so much creativity and thought whereas drums are more carnal. I like both aspects of music, but sometimes it’s nice to just beat the hell out of something and forget about who you are.

TTM: Most notable show you ever played? AL: Most definitely opening for Sonic Youth this summer. It will take A LOT to top that day.

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“Drums should be loud as hell. Music in general should be loud as hell.” – Ali Koehler

TTM: Have you experienced any setbacks as a female drummer?
AL: As a drummer I always want to hit harder and play faster, which is sometimes difficult when you don’t have a ton of upper body strength. I try to channel Dave Grohl and Bill Stevenson for those areas, respectively, but when it comes down to it they are way tougher dudes than I’ll ever be.

TTM: Who are your favorite drummers? AL: Well, Dave Grohl and Bill Stevenson definitely are drum idols of mine. As for my friends and peers though I’d have to say my top three favorite current drummers are Mikey Erg of the Ergs, Alex Kerns of Lemuria and Angie of Cheeky, Eachothers Mothers and Dead Dog. That girl is fucking INSANE. I also really love Adam from Times New Viking’s style. He uses a lot of driving kick drum, which I’ve started to incorporate in Vivian Girls songs.

TTM: If you could change one thing about the drums what would it be? AL: I’d somehow make it all come in one piece. Watching your band-mates plug a guitar into an amp while you have upwards of six bags of shit to unload and put together every night is the worst.

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“I’m the nerd of the band. I wear glasses and I’m allergic to everything too.” – Ali Koehler

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 …)
AL: No. I keep my drumming skills under wraps.

TTM: Where do you shop for your drum gear? AL: Anywhere. We’re on the road a lot so any music store I can find to pick up whatever I need is good enough.

TTM: Best piece of advice you got as a drummer? AL: It’s all in the wrists. That drastically increased my stamina.

TTM: What would you recommend to a new drummer starting off?
AL: Start a band, no matter how bad you suck. It will force you to play and develop a style. Don’t worry about being the next Neil Peart.

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“When I see we have three fast songs in a row on a set-list I immediately think “Oh fuck, that’s gonna be rough.”” – Ali Koehler

TTM: What are some of your other hobbies/interests? AL: Video games, reading comic books. I’m the nerd of the band. I wear glasses and I’m allergic to everything too.

TTM: Who are some of your favorite lady drummers right now? AL: Angie from Dead Dog, Cheeky, and Eachother’s Mothers. (Tom Tom Magazine is in the process of interviewing Angie!)

TTM: Who are some of your favorite bands right now? AL: PENS, Times New Viking, Nodzzz, Lemuria, Davila 666, Fucked Up, Let’s Wrestle, Betty and the Werewolves, etc.

Read her interview with Pitchfork here

Interview by Tom Tom Magazine’s Creator Mindy Abovitz
Photos courtesy of Vivian Girls

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