Jasmyn Wong is a Bay Area drummer who has contributed her rhythms to an array of bands (The Skygreen Leopards, Paula Frazer & Tarnation, The Sarees). Her subtle beat-keeping has provided a gentle pulse to the Bay Area psych-folk scene and bands crafting quieter music. Born in Santa Monica to artist parents, she grew up in San Francisco listening to a variety of music, from punk and oldies, to R&B hits. She brings her musical curiosity and knowledge to every project she’s involved in, whether it’s her work (as a professional music curator) or her labor of love: drumming.
-By Jem Fanvu
FULL NAME: Jasmyn Wong
HOMETOWN: Santa Monica -Los Angeles, CA
LIVES IN: Oakland, CA
CURRENT BANDS: The Skygreen Leopards, The Sarees, Jean Marie
PAST BANDS: Paula Frazer & Tarnation, Chinatown Bakeries, Helene Renaut, The Otter Pops
DAY JOB: Music Curator
Tom Tom Magazine: Before you started playing drums, what music made an impression on you when you were growing up?
Jasmyn Wong: My parents were really into music and my mom was really into Laurie Anderson and modern-type music that was around in the ’80s. My dad was super into jazz and he’d play jazz records when I was in the womb and when I came out. But because both of them were into these specific genres, I really enjoyed listening to Miami Freestyle Jams! (laughs) As a kid in L.A., I liked the syncopated beats and heavy bass.
Tom Tom Magazine: Did your parents support your hobby?
Jasmyn Wong: Yeah, both of my parents were artists and Chinese-American. Their parents weren’t supportive of their lives, so they were very supportive of my endeavor to play drums. It was really nice to have both of my parents be like, “Yeah, you know, you can borrow the car to go to that gig.” I think that if I had a different upbringing it would have been harder.
Tom Tom Magazine: Can you describe your drumming style? What is your approach?
Jasmyn Wong: I guess it’s very “simple.” I really like Moe Tucker of The Velvet Underground. I think that as a drummer I like to play in bands where I enjoy the music and I want to be able to be a part of that creation. I’m there to make music, but my style is more complementary.
Neil Young always has different drummers, but I love the style he’s chosen. From all the different records, there’s a certain pattern that I noticed. It seems very simple but there are sneaky patterns inside a fill.
TTM: Can you describe an event or experience that drumming has taken you to?
JW: I feel very lucky that I got to play The Green Man Festival, which happens every year in Wales. That was a special, memorable moment because [The Skygreen Leopards] were going to open up for The Television Personalities and people were really excited. Somehow they didn’t show up and we ended up getting their slot. First, there were only 50 people, then 100, then 1000, and then more people started to trickle in because it was raining outside. I think the tent only fit 1000!
I remember being really nervous and sitting there thinking, “I never thought I’d be able to achieve this: I’m playing drums, I’m Asian, American, female, queer, and playing for this interesting crowd.”
I’m glad to help represent something, because I am a minority. I hope to inspire more people to drum, or, girls to drum, or for girls just to play more music. My only goal is to inspire other people to do what they want to do and be happy.
TTM: Is there anything else you’d like to share?
JW: In general, I feel really lucky to have met cool people. I feel like I connect well to people who love music. Drumming has definitely led me to having cool friendships with people who love music too. I think that’s what it’s all about.