Recently, our bands Trophy Wife and Whore Paint went on tour together. Katy plays in Trophy Wife, a duo from Philadelphia, and Meredith plays in Whore Paint, who hail from Providence, Rhode Island. We’ve been friends for years, and in the past few years our bands have forged a deep connection as well, rooted in both aesthetics and politics. Both of us had plans to tour the west coast early this year, and so we combined forces to tour together.
It was a little more challenging than the average tour, as we were coming from the east coast to the west coast and had to arrange for gear and a vehicle. In addition, we had to bring a few items to make us feel confident in our set up as drummers. Katy brought a copper snare she borrowed from her friend Stef, formerly of Catharsis and Resistern, an incredible Tama Starclassic G Copper Limited Edition snare drum, which arrived in the mail post-tour. This was transported in a backpack style snare case, with room for sticks in the front, which has proven especially useful – particularly as the copper snare weighs a ton and it’s good to distribute the weight evenly.
Katy also brought a DW pedal and a set of Sabian and Zildjian cymbals in a backpack designed bag, perfect for traversing the airport! Having these few items helped make us feel a little more at home, even though we were borrowing a kit.
All five members of the two bands flew to SeaTac Airport from five different cities. Beforehand, Katy arranged a drum kit through a friend of a friend. We borrowed hardware,throne, rack tom, floor tom and a kick drum. In exchange we offered new heads for the drum set’s owner. Since Meredith had a slightly different set up, she purchased an extra rack tom, a Dream 14” China cymbal and hardware mount upon arrival in Seattle.
The first show of tour, however, was in Vancouver with our friends Shearing Pinx and new friends, Lunch Lady. We had concerns about the Canadian border, we used a rental car and borrowed the kit when we got there. We brought our cymbals, kick and snare, as well as Meredith’s extra gear. After the show, we picked up the van we borrowed for the duration of the tour and had all the gear on hand. We also picked up a new head for the copper snare to keep it as snappy as possible.
Using a borrowed setup can be challenging. In some ways borrowing equipment gives us greater confidence as drummers and our ability to adapt to new equipment and still play our songs. At the same time, the combination of all the variations from cymbal size and style, tightness of the drum heads, as well as material of the drums, combine to create an overall sound that is very divergent from our own kit. A couple years ago Meredith spent her entire tax return on new cymbals, which included a 19” Sabian Paragon cymbal and a Sabian 7” Radia Cup Cymbal. For tour she decided to forgo the Radia Cup, and instead of bringing the Paragon, she found a 14” used China cymbal at a local drum shop in Seattle. The difference in size and style made its resonance much shorter and quieter. She also tunes her heads as low as they can go while still being in tune. The heads we borrowed were all tuned much tighter and higher, which also took some getting used to.
When Meredith first started playing music and touring, her musical inspirations were punk drummers who played on inexpensive kits that were in rough shape, but who played with an intensity and emotional rawness that really resonated. Recently she’s been noticing how a solid set of drums can enhance the sound in a dramatic way. There is something so incredible about seeing a band who has equipment that measures up with their capability. A fresh set of heads and well-tuned drums can really enhance all the nuances of a great drummer. When we were in Seattle and saw Helms Alee, we were mesmerized by Hozojii’s drumming. Not only is she an incredibly talented musician, but she plays on a drum kit that matches her mad skills. She’s a total drum hero.
Being on tour feels a bit like going on a series of blind dates each night. As a band, we arrive with a set of expectations and desires: questions about who the audience will be? Will people appreciate our band? Will we be paid enough to cover gas to the next city? For the audience, they too arrive with a similar set of questions: will this band be exciting? Will we want to bring a record home with us? Are the bands nice people? Different scenes have different reactions to bands; in some cities people will dance to show their appreciation, while in other spaces, a silence which can feel like disinterest may really mean demonstration of a deep respect. Learning the ways an audience communicates is part of the excitement and challenge of touring.
The relationship and communication between the band and the audience is the heart of the tour experience. Some of the best shows are the ones where we engage with the audience about our music and the ideas behind it. On this tour we all came down with a horrible flu. Being sick on stage each night really shifted the communication between ourselves and the audience. The most incredible part of being sick on tour was the immense generosity that band promoters and audience members extended to us. We were offered vitamins, bottles of water, handkerchiefs, and comfortable beds to help us heal.
Right before everyone got sick, we played with a band that was a drummer’s dream, Hot Victory, from Portland, Oregon. This show was at the Know, one of two shows we played in Portland. Caitlin Love was one of the two drummers. She also played in Davies vs. Dresch and Desert City Soundtrack. Her current band, Hot Victory, uses two drum kits and pentagon midi trigger pads. Their music was driving, danceable, and totally refreshing, we couldn’t keep our eyes off them.
We learned a lot on this trip and faced some challenges, both with gear and health head-on. It’s great to know we could make a trip like this happen with the help of friends both old and new.
By Meredith Stern and Katy Otto
Opening photo by Brady Hall
Whorepaint live photo by Brett Bays