Sara McKercher is the other half of Jackson based band, Ice for Eagles. Started with her husband, the two have been playing venues all over the South. With influences from the blues and indie, McKercher blends the two styles together, creating tight and catchy beats. Tom Tom had the opportunity to find out a little more about McKercher and the Jackson scene.
Tom Tom Magazine: When did you start drumming? How did you start?
Sara McKercher: I started playing the drums in 5th grade concert band. My parents bought me a used snare drum and a stand. The next year I played the bass drum in the marching band and continued through my junior year in high school. I started playing a kit my freshman year of high school by pure coincidence. Drew, who was my boyfriend at the time, now my hubby, was going to play guitar with a group of guys for the talent show. I went with him to practice, and the drummer didn’t show up. There was a kit, so I ended up on drums. We played “Sunshine of Your Love” by Cream. The rest is history.
Where are you from? When did you come to Jackson?
I was an Army brat, so I was born in Virginia on an Army base, then moved to Hawaii and ended up in Vicksburg, MS where I grew up. I went to college at Southern Miss in Hattiesburg, MS, moved to Athens, GA for a year after graduating, then back to Jackson to be close to my friends and family.
Where do you practice?
Currently we practice in the recording studio my husband and I own. Prior to that, we rented out an old shotgun style house with 4 large rooms. We called it “The Bandhouse.” We shared it with 3 other bands, all who became great friends of ours. At that time (2007-2009) we were playing a lot of gigs. Some weekends we would play a show with one of the other bands, then we’d come back to the Bandhouse, set up all our gear again and jam out all night. Ah, those were the good ole days.
What band are you in? What genres/styles are they?
Ice for Eagles, a two-piece, my husband Drew and I, song-based rock with indie and roots tendencies.
What was your favorite local show and why?
Show that I’ve attended: There are so many awesome bands in Jackson, I don’t think I could pick one specific show. I’d say any outdoor show in the fall is a good one. Sneaky Beans, a local coffee shop, usually has a showcase of bands outside in the back when the weather is nice. That’s always a good time.
Show I’ve played: Probably Roosevelt Noise’s final show in Jackson. One of our guitar players was moving to New Orleans and I was pregnant, so we had to call it quits. Our last show was a ton of fun, and we had a huge crowd and a lot of support. It was emotional for me because I knew my days of hard core rocking were over.
Have you played shows in other parts of the country? What are some of the major differences you have noticed between shows in Jackson (or MS) and those other places?
All the shows I’ve played have been confined to the South. I’ve played New Orleans, Memphis, Mobile, and everywhere in between. All those shows had a similar vibe, people just want to hear good music and have a good time. People around here know how to throw down and party, so a lot of drinking is involved. But at the same time they really appreciate and support local musicians, and will let you know.
One thing about shows here in Jackson is that they start so late. At a bar show, the 1st band usually doesn’t start till about 10:30 or 11:00. Then there’s a band after that, so they don’t finish till 2 a.m. Maybe that’s typical, but it does limit the bands I get to see. Now that I’m a momma, I pretty much only see bands that play in our record store. We intentionally start shows early, like at 7, so everyone gets a chance to come out, even if you have a kid. There’s always a good turnout.
In Jackson, is a lot of attention given to the fact that you are a female drummer? Or is it just not a big deal?
I’ve never liked to distinguish myself as a “woman drummer.” In my mind, I’m just a drummer. When I decided I wanted to play the drums, I got nothing but encouragement from parents and band teachers. My gender was never an issue. I think it’s important for kids who want to play music to have that kind of support. There are so many talented female musicians and you see more and more females drumming for big name acts. I think music fans are supportive of that and get excited to see a bad-ass lady behind the drums.
How does the Mississippi blues culture and its musical heritage play a role in being a drummer in the south?
Growing up here, you can’t help but be exposed to the Blues. You go to any food or music festival, a flea market or whatever and there will always be a blues band. We have all sorts of Blues festivals all over the state. Growing up, I listened to a lot of Delta Blues – Robert Johnson, Muddy Waters and John Lee Hooker, and blues based bands like The Allman Brothers, Government Mule and The North Mississippi Allstars. We used to cover Boom Boom by John Lee Hooker and people just loved it. Drew has a pretty deep voice, so he kinda sounded like him.
Of course there are other influences for me too. I was a huge Metallica fan. Phish was my favorite band for a long time. Now my music library consists mostly of indie rock & indie folk – Kurt Vile, Bon Iver, Grizzly Bear, Passion Pit, you get the idea…
I noticed that there are many wife/husband bands in Jackson and I love this! Is there something about Jackson life/culture that encourages this?
It does seem to be a trend around here. Honestly, I have no idea why. Drew and I have been playing music together for 14 years and we will continue for the rest of our lives. It’s just part of who we are. Our kids will learn an instrument or several. Ollie is two and already playing the drums. He loves it. I’m sure when he’s older his dad will teach him the guitar.
Have you ever wanted to be in an all-female group?
Nope, it’s always been easier for me to hang out with guys. I’ve always felt accepted and totally equal by my musician peers.
What makes your drumming personal?
I’d say I’m an organic drummer. I just do whatever feels right with the music and try to keep a solid beat. I try to pay extra attention to the melody of the song and play to that.
Interview by Kiran Gandhi for Tom Tom Magazine