Collage by drummer Moselle Spiller
You never quite know what you’ll see and hear at Jalopy Theatre‘s “Roots and Ruckus” Wednesdays, but you do know one thing: whatever the line-up, it’s always worth it to get yourself yonder to Brooklyn’s Red Hook ‘burg and pull up a pew in NYC’s most magical little venue for roots revival, jazz, folk, bluegrass, world, and any conceivable transmutation of these genres. But, considering that all the acts I’d ever seen play at Jalopy were acoustic masters of stringed instruments, with the occasional harmonica, piano and brass player in the mix, imagine my surprise one night when a woman in a long, 60’s era dress and long, perfect Winnie Cooper hair came a-lugging her drum kit up onto the stage. The blonde guy behind her, in garb of a similar era, had an amp and electric guitar in tow. What the ruckus was going on?! Who is this “Boom Chick” band?!
In a sentence, Boom Chick is an electric rock n’ roll duo, pulling from 50’s and 60’s rock and early American blues. Think Little Richard combined with the White Stripes, only a lot cuter than the White Stripes (sorry Meg and Jack, but it’s true). Moselle Spiller is the drummer, and if you haven’t seen her play yet, holy crap are you’re missing out! Here’s a bit more about her to fill the hole in the meantime.
Full name: Moselle Spiller
Nickname/pseudonym: just Moselle
Where were you born: New Hampshire
Where do you live now: Red Hook Brooklyn
Bands you are drumming in currently: Boom Chick
Bands you were drumming for in the past: First band
Day job: Designer
“I celebrate being a femme drummer. Bring on the long dresses, long hair, long eyelashes …”- Moselle Spiller
Tom Tom Magazine: The first (and second) time I saw Boom Chick play was at The Jalopy Theatre, which I thought only harbored acoustic acts. You are, in fact, the only band I’ve ever seen set up a drum kit at Jalopy–the next closest thing to percussion being a washboard. So, my first question is, is my Boom Chick experience an authentic one? And if not (although you can certainly argue that different is still authentic), how do your other shows differ?
Mosselle Spiller: Your experience sound wise was very close as they let us play at our natural volume at Jalopy which was very gracious of them. The biggest difference are those darn church pews where everybody is sitting down. An authentic Boom Chick experience would be at a packed loft party, where there is only one mic and one amp, so Frank and his guitar are howling and I am drumming as hard as possible to get over the screaming dancing kids.
Tom Tom Magazine: How did you become the exception to the rule at Jalopy?
Mosselle Spiller: We play early American rock n roll, and Roots and Ruckus is variety show for American music and traditional world music. True, we are one of the few electric acts to play Roots n’ Ruckus, but most people who patronize Jalopy are there because they are interested in the roots of American music and that is where BoomChick’s music comes from. But it seems like we are the exception almost everywhere we play because of what we are doing.
Tom Tom Magazine: During your performance, while you were killing the drums and Frank [boyfriend of 2 and a half years] was making butts bop in the pews, my friend leaned over and wanted to know if your long, flowing dress was a nod to Karen Carpenter. Coincidentally, or perhaps prophetically, on the way to Jalopy he’d been telling us all about the sad tale of how Karen was originally The Carpenters’ drummer (in long, flowing dresses), and how that’s all she ever wanted to be. But, the record industry being what it was/is, she got pulled front and center, where soon began the demise most of us know all about (or, see “Superstar”. It’s got Barbies. Who doesn’t love a movie with Barbies?).
Mosselle Spiller: I did not know that side of Karen’s story. That is so tragic as she must have been amazingly beautiful in all those 60’s dresses, drumming away… To be honest I have never been a pants kind of girl, and you really just can not wear a short skirt and spread your legs to properly use the pedals, so long dresses were a natural solution to this sort of costume dilemma. I celebrate being a femme drummer. Bring on the long dresses, long hair, long eyelashes, but forget high heels…you have to kick those off before you play.
TTM: Are you perhaps Karen Carpenter’s reincarnated desire to tell her family to go eff off?
MS: Unwittingly perhaps…
TTM: You never know! Okay, spooky stuff aside, have you ever experienced any opposition to being a drummer, familial or otherwise?
MS: No…but I have had some odd comments from male drummers after a show. Like, “yeah I really didn’t know what to expect…but that wasn’t bad”. Or “you’re really getting better”. I will probably never play like John Bonham and I don’t care to really. At the same time I don’t aspire to any technical level of drumming, but I also want to always be getting better…better at complimenting Frank’s guitar playing and holding a tight groove. We practice everyday we don’t have show. We’ve even played a shit show at 11pm and gone back to our studio with a six pack to jam for a few more hours.
Collage by drummer Moselle Spiller
TTM: When did you start drumming? Why?
MS: I started because it felt good and my brain was itchy for a new occupation outside of graphic art. Plus it was something that Frank and I could do together at any given time. He is an amazing teacher, and has not tried to push anything on me…just sort of lets me bop around until something sounds cool and then it becomes our new groove to put words to. I first sat at a drum kit in the summer of 2008. I just started banging around and Frank was so happy that I sounded decent I accompanied him at a show that same night. We played “Black Jack Davey,” an old folk ballad by way of a band from Detroit by way of Bob Dylan. And about 1 month later we got my first kit on Craigslist for $300…a full kit…in Southern New Hampshire, as that is where we were spending the summer with my parents. We practiced for the next few months in my childhood bedroom surrounded by all my old toys and posters. Then we moved back to New York and kept it jammed in our Bushwick apartment, where the tenants boom crazy loud music all the time so it was no problem. We decided on our band name “Boom Chick” in the spring of 2009. Now we have a new place in Red Hook and our own rehearsal space/studio so we are not disturbing any neighbors with Little Richard howls.
“If you can dance you can drum.” – Moselle Spiller
TTM: Who are your biggest influences (other than Little Richard)? Favorite bands? Drummers?
MS: Boom Chick is my favorite band! Ha ha, I honestly don’t know much about great drummers, but I have sounds I dig…I like the black stuff with lots of syncopation and natural feel from deep in the body. But I have always been a “rock n roller” even in middle school when all the kids where wearing Abercrombie and Fitch and I would wear my moms 60’s & 70’s clothes and waaaayyyy too much sparkley makeup. Stylistically I would say “glam rock” is closest to my heart…Ziggy Stardust and Marc Bolan. What I didn’t realize when I first heard that kind of music is that it draws so much from Chuck Berry, and Little Richard, and even Elvis. After meeting Frank I learned a lot more about early American rock n’ roll and am still learning.
TTM: How do you and Frank go about writing songs? What’s the process like?
MS: We get really inspired by certain people for a spurt of time, jam all of their stuff we can, and sometimes we come up with our own beat or riff from that. Like our song “Nail Gun” is a surf rocker inspired by Link Wray, who did the classic Batman theme song. The name is “Nail Gun” because we were building our studio at the time and we had to use this horrifying nail gun that freaked us the **** out. The sound of the nail gun blasting into the wood over and over was just like the drum beat.
TTM: You’re a graphic designer by trade, and from the looks of some of your creations, you’re style is an eclectic mash-up of modern art, Dada and vintage kitch. Does your visual artistic process at all mirror your approach to song writing?
MS: Yes in the sense that is is very much based on an” aesthetic feel,” and I do not intellectualize it too much, but others can could intellectualize it if they wanted to. I have been really into horses and naked girls lately…why? Because it must feel good to ride a horse naked I guess….
Photo by Isaac Gillespie
TTM: Any words of encouragement for ladies who might be attracted to drumming but have never picked up a pair of drumsticks ever in their lives?
MS: If you can dance you can drum. For me drumming is moving your body to hit something and produce a sound in a repeated rhythm. It has to be one of the most primal, ancient, and simple ways to produce music. It does not even require electricity and it can still be so big and loud. I think that the loudness in rock drumming was my first hurdle to get over because there is no covering yourself up, all you do is very exposed to the audience. I think I had to become comfortable enough in my body to trust that it was going to move in the right way, and maintain energy and muscle memory for an entire set. So if your brain is well connected to your muscles, and you can really feel music out, plus you like to make some noise than don’t hesitate to pick up the sticks.
TTM: Thanks Moselle…maybe I will!
Exclusive Tom Tom Magazine Interview by: Leslie Henkel
Photos by: Leslie Henkel or courtesy of Boom Chick. Collages by Moselle Spiller