Here is the interview I conducted with Olivia Hu, drummer of the Brooklyn band Day Dress, as well as some questions with the full-band towards the bottom. We love them and I think you will too.
Tom Tom Magazine: How long have you been gigging with Day Dress? Since the beginning of the group or was there a drummer prior to you?
Olivia Hu: Emily and Lydia tried out a couple drummers before we met. One of them left Day Dress to go on tour with Frankie Rose and the Outs. The three of us have been practicing together since March. I played Day Dress’s first show at Shea Stadium, which was also DIVE’s second show.
Who picked who? (i.e. – Did the drums pick you or did you pick the drums?)
I always thought that the drums were an insanely badass instrument. It’s so instinctual and primal, and it takes so much energy. Sometimes, I drink too much caffeine and get really restless. All my limbs just want to move. Drums are the perfect outlet for me to just spazz out, productively.
How long have you been drumming?
I started drum lessons when I was 15 years-old, but it was hard for me to stay motivated at the time without playing in a band. My drum teacher was a Hell’s Angel and always told me that I wasn’t progressing to his standards. One day he stopped lessons because he was supposedly going on a cross-country motorcycle tour with the Angels, but I think he was just frustrated. When I moved to New York City two years ago, I went to shows all the time and saw other people playing things that I knew I could do. I needed to be in a band, so I started practicing drums again, but much more passionately than before.
Do you feel practice is important?
Yeah definitely, and practicing is just really fun. Doing something everyday and feeling myself get better at it is the most amazing feeling to me. Practicing with Emily and Lydia is awesome. Our practices are full of laughs and that bonding is one of my favorite parts of rehearsal. A wise man named Josh once told me, sitting on the couch and eating Cheeto’s with your band is just as important as jam time.
How often do you practice?
I try to at least hit pillows everyday. I set a metronome, play the sixteenth notes and gradually increase speed. It builds wrist muscle to practice on a surface that absorbs force, and it doesn’t disturb people around me.
What advice would you give to someone who is a fan of the drum kit but might be afraid to take the next step and hoist themselves onto a throne?
I first started getting into drums again when I was still living in dorms. I shared a room with two other girls, and space was so limited that I once cut a salad on a cutting board on top of our toilet seat. I’ll never forget that. I practiced by setting up pillows at my desk, and the only time I could play actual drums was when I went to Emily’s house to play on their kit that the Beets gave to Total Slacker. When they were first trying me out, I was really nervous, but playing on pillows gave me the skills to translate onto drums. The moral of the story is, no matter what your situation is, the desire to learn will always pull you through. Buy a metronome and jam to your favorite songs.
When you begin to play a new beat does it simply come to you or do you hear it in your head first?
Usually Emily or Lydia comes to practice with a new song, and I improvise. We run through the new song a couple times and talk about what works. I like simple beats because the drummer’s role is primarily to be the human metronome, but I still have enough room to be creative.
Can you list your top 5 inspiring drummers?
I like jazz drummers a lot, like Buddy Rich and Papa Jo Jones. There’s video footage of Black Sabbath playing “Fairies Wear Boots” in Paris 1970, and when I watch Bill Ward perform, it makes me want to rock out forever. Emily Rose Epstein is great…she drums for Ty Segall’s band. I saw them in a semi-secret venue called the Hub in Sacramento, CA a year ago, and while she was warming up, she looked so relaxed. When their set started, she wailed. My friend Jack Scribner is a great drummer, he used to drum for a band called Marital Impulses, and now he plays bass for Spitting Image. He’s always inspired me and encouraged me to keep going with music. He also taught me some stretches so I don’t hurt myself.
Do you play any other instruments?
I started playing guitar when I was twelve years old, and I write songs sometimes. There’s one song in our set where Lydia and I switch, but I wouldn’t call myself a bassist. I sing back-up vocals for another song that Lydia brought to the table. I always want to be able to play more instruments, like piano. I love piano music, but I’m focusing on being skilled with guitar and drums for now.
Full Band Interview ~
Emily Oppenheimer (Guitar) Lydia Gammill (Bass) Olivia Hu (Drums)
How long has Day Dress been a group?
LG: We’ve been spreading the myth of Day Dress since last January. Emily and I were playing together under the name of Day Dress since then.
EO: Well, we had a name, but only all started playing as a full band last spring/summer.
What was the catalyst for the formation of the band?
EO: I learned guitar before I played bass in Total Slacker and while I love playing bass, I wanted to get back into playing guitar because I didn’t want to lose my chops. I wrote some songs that I really liked but were clearly not Total Slacker songs, so I thought it would be cool to try them out with some friends. I enlisted Lydia. I just found this great compulsion to bring her into the band and music in general. She’s got so much charisma.
LG: To be fair, that compulsion was my roommate Amy who favorably spilled the beans of my secret musicianship to Emily one late night almost a year ago today.
EO: And I liked it, so we decided to keep doing it.
Is the songwriting process collaborative or does someone bring in the songs fully formed?
LG: It’s a mix.
EO: Lydia and I both write songs. Yeah. Most of the songs we write individually before introducing to the group. But a few of them are collaborative.
LG: Some of them ooze together and others we write separate. The thing is, whenever you bring a song to the group, it stops being your song and it becomes the group’s song. It becomes everyone’s interpretation. There’s bound to be more oozing in the future.
Is there space for improvisation in the songs or is there a precise structure?
EO: They’re pretty structured. There’s room for improvisation in certain parts, but the songs are heavily structured.
LG: We’re still marinating the songs. Anything can change.
OH: We have like simple verse, chorus, verse, bridge structure to our songs, but as the drummer, I improvise the most. I change what I play every time based around the structure.
LG: That’s what’s so fun about our music, we all follow the skeleton of the song, but if say, someone is feeling more rowdy, and want to mess around with the parts, she can.
Why switch around instruments?
EO: We all play a number of instruments, so we each write different parts on a number of them. It’s easiest to play the parts that we write. People don’t expect the change-up most of the time, and get excited about it.
OH: Lydia really wanted to play drums for one song, and I play guitar, so to play bass for one song is fun for me too. It’s like playing the guitar’s hot cousin.
LG: I like to think of the bass as the guitar’s oddly attractive elder uncle.
What are the group’s main inspirations, musically or otherwise?
LG: I have a no-longer secret love for the band Cake Like, which is fronted by Kerri Kenney. She’s in “The State” and “Reno 911,” she plays the bass, and she rocks and is hilarious. It’s nice to see ladies like that.
EO: The Breeders, early Replacements, Tiger Trap.
OH: Jesus Lizard inspires me to shred. I love Janis Joplin and Billie Holliday.
Any plans to release any music to the masses in the near future?
EO: We’re working on a new batch of demos that are coming very soon. Hopefully release a 7” too.
Interview by Jared Olmsted
Photos by John Kelly