Brutal Youth is a four-piece, raw as ever, power filled, pop-punk ensemble. Once hailing from the waves of Newfoundland, Canada, they’ve surrendered their East Coast hospitality for the punk rock ferociousness of Southern Ontario. The band’s fast paced heavy hitter is the fiercely talented Kaitie Bean. After a horribly attempted, unsuccessful interview in the dark depths of a Kitchener venue last year, the time has come again. Except this time, no faulty recording equipment required.
Tom Tom Magazine: Let’s start this with the basics. How old were you when you started playing the drums?
Kaitie Bean: I started drumming in my last year of Junior High School. I had a close friend named Amy who had been playing for a few years and I always thought it was really great that she knew how to play. The only other female drummer I was aware of was Meg White and I was an obsessive White Stripes fan at the time, so that definitely had a lot to do with it. The reason I started learning is actually a pretty hilarious story and incredibly “un-punk”. When I was in junior high school I played the flute in the concert and jazz bands, I found out that the jazz band in my high school didn’t allow flutes, the only woodwind instruments in the band were the saxophones, so I had to pick a new instrument and learn it fast. I dabbled in my last year of junior high, but I really started learning in the summer leading to grade 10. During my audition I had to play a 16 measure drum solo. Halfway through the solo I hit the snare drum so hard that I punctured the skin and shoved my stick right through its head. My music teacher started laughing hysterically. I was totally embarrassed, but I’m pretty sure it’s the reason I ended up getting the position.
Why the drums? Other than them being badass and sexy, of course. Why not the bass, the guitar, the baritone horn?
Well actually drums weren’t even close to being my first instrument. I’ve honestly probably had the most experience singing publically, but if we’re talking physical instrumentation then piano was my first pick. I used to go to the music section of Costco while my parents were shopping and learn songs by ear. I started steering away from the keys pretty quickly though since the lessons I was taking were a little too strictly constructed for my liking. I then moved on to flute, then guitar, and then drums. I always loved playing music, but no other instrument has ever made me feel the same way drums do. It’s this weird euphoric eruption. A completely raw release of any pent up frustration or rage or extreme excitement. It sounds ridiculous, but even after years of playing I still feel like it’s fucking Christmas morning right before every show.
What was the first song you learned to play?
Back in Black. I’m pretty sure I learned every AC/DC song ever recorded. And to be completely honest, I’d still recommend it to anyone trying to learn to play the drums. I get compliments all the time on how good my tempo is and I definitely owe that to Phil Rudd.
I’ve noticed at Brutal Youth shows that you guys tend to play your songs at almost double the speed. What’s going on with that?
Yeah, speeding things up during a live show tends to be a habit for bands across the board. Obviously I can’t speak for everyone, but for me it’s just an excitement thing. You want to have a high energy show and leave the crowd walking out totally blown away. I’m not the most technical drummer around, but I can play pretty ripping fast, so I guess I just feel like showing people what I’ve got. As far as the other guys in the band go…they don’t have much option other than to follow the speed I count the song in at. I set the pace, so if I count it in twice as fast then that’s how fast we play it.
Brutal Youth’s sound has often been compared to Kid Dynamite and 7 Seconds. What bands or musicians would you say that you draw inspiration from as a drummer?
I get asked this question fairly often and it’s just as hilarious answering it every time. As embarrassing as it is to say, I hadn’t even heard Kid Dynamite before people started making the comparisons. My music taste is unbearably eclectic to most people. It’s sounds kind of cliché, but I really don’t discriminate when it comes to genres. Again one of my biggest musical influences as a child was Meg White, not necessarily because of her ability (although I do think she has a very interesting style), but because of the fact that she was doing something that was so stereotypically male-based. It was a really empowering thing for me as a ten year old girl to watch this small-framed, seemingly meek woman tear shit up in this incredibly successful rock band. That’s definitely what got the gears turning. Dave Grohl was a huge inspiration for me as well. I was one of those hundred pound, 13 year olds wearing an extra-large men’s Nirvana hoodie to the mall on the weekends. Die hard fan. Like AC/DC, I learned every studio Nirvana album, top to bottom. A few years later I discovered Queens of the Stone Age, and the drumming on Songs for the Deaf still blows my goddamn mind. These days the drummers that I take most of my inspiration from are probably Bill Stevenson of the Descendents and All, and Sean Sellers of Good Riddance and The Real McKenzies. Up until I joined Brutal Youth I listened to a lot more indie-pop, garage, and folk than I did punk, and honestly, it’s still the case. I’ve really had to reinvent my drumming style and also amp up my endurance. Bill Stevenson and Sean Sellers were a huge help to me in those respects.
How do you feel about the over-sexualization of female drummers compared to their string playing counterparts? (“Chick drummers are so hot, man.”) Do you feel it ever affects the way people see you as a musician?
I don’t necessarily agree that female drummers have it any worse than any other female musician when it comes to being objectified. It’s definitely a lot less common to see women playing the drums, so that’s probably what makes the jaws drop..I don’t fucking know. Honestly, I’ve had so many infuriating experiences over the years that it’s difficult even to talk about. I definitely think that people look at me different and judge my ability differently because I am a woman and because I am very femme in my presentation. It’s sad to me, really. That the best compliment people can come up with after they see me play is “Wow! You’re really great for a girl!” What I find sad is not the fact that people can’t come up with a better compliment; it’s the fact that they genuinely believe that that comment is actually complimentary. As if me being a woman inherently causes my inability to do anything that requires any sort of physical strength or coordination well. Now I’m mad. I should probably just leave it at that.
What is your kit/drum set up these days?
It’s a basic punk setup, really: Four piece Tama drum kit with hats, two crashes and a ride. I’ve become super fond of Sabian HHX Evolution crash cymbals these past couple of years. They are so thin, but they project so much sound. It’s doubtful I’ll ever switch to another kind. I play AAX hats, and what I like to call a “mystery disc” ride. The brand was rubbed off before I ever got it (it was second hand). It looks like absolute shit, but it’s been incredibly reliable and has great sound. I can play just about any drum kit and feel okay about it, but I’m a bit of a snob when it comes to cymbals.
What are your top three road-trip/on tour albums you must listen to?
Iron Chic – Not Like This Mean Jeans – Are You Serious Attack in Black – Marriage
Brutal Youth’s Facebook page was bragging about 21 new songs in 5 days last month. What’s going on with that, can we expect a new album soon?
Yes, we just finished recording a new full length album with Greg Dawson. It was a pretty exciting experience for me, to be completely honest. Greg was responsible for recording and mastering some older Alexisonfire and Moneen records, which were hugely influential bands for me when I was growing up. The experience was fantastic. I got to sing a lot more on these songs too, which was great. Right now we’ve got plans to team up with our friends at Get Party Records and My Finger My Brain Records to release the album as soon as we can. It’s called Stay Honest and it should be out sometime in early spring.
What does punk mean to Kaitie Bean? Three words. Go.
Fast. Raw. Fun.
By Rebecca Anne
Rebecca Anne is Co-Host and Co-Programmer of Infernal Sirin, the unapologetic – mosh ’till you puke – grim for life – radio show focused on loud and heavy female bands and musicians. You can find Infernal Sirin (currently on a winter hiatus) on Guelph’s community radio station CFRU 93.3, in the archives at cfru.ca, or follow them on Facebook.