By Jen Marchain for Tom Tom Magazine | Photos: Louise Brady
She is the hypnotic punch behind the cosmic sound of rising UK rock band the Dead Rabbits and for Suzanne Sims, her steady and simple approach delivers on pure, no hold-bars rock and roll. We caught up with her on the eve of Dead Rabbits single launch show and before they begin a European tour.
Tom Tom Magazine: How did you become involved with Dead Rabbits?
Suzanne Sims: In 2011 I’d been playing the drums for a year or so and wanted a band to play with. I saw a local music zine advertising that Dead Rabbits were looking for a drummer and I listened to some of their demos. They weren’t too fast or complex and I thought; Hey, I can play that! So I went along to see them when they were supporting Crystal Stilts at the Joiners in Southampton. I ended up talking with Tom and a week or so later I rehearsed with Tom, guitarist Neil and the then-bassist Chloe. It went all right so they kept me on.
What first turned you on to drumming (How old were you when you began playing, lessons etc.)?
I’ve always been interested in learning music in some way. I played the clarinet all through school, and guitar, though I was pretty hopeless at that. I wanted to play drums for a few years because I missed playing an instrument and I was always tapping in time, so I thought I’d convert it. I started lessons when I was 26 so I’ve been playing for five years now. I have fortnightly lessons at The Garden Music School near Southampton (UK) and have done from the beginning – I did stop lessons for a good six months, but felt like my playing was going backwards.
Tell us about your gear.
My first kit was a Pearl Fusion FX which I’ve still got. I’m now playing a Ludwig Acrolite snare and a Zildjian crash ride.
The Dead Rabbits have played on the same bills as some heavy weights in the shoe-gaze psychedelic scene like The Warlocks and Band of Skulls. What was that experience like for you as a female musician?
The show with The Warlocks was before my time unfortunately. The Band of Skulls show was crazy! It was a sold-out hometown show so the place was packed and it was the hottest day of the year (or it felt like it). The crew didn’t want to interfere with the set up so my drum kit was set up right in front. I couldn’t hide! (laughs) Afterwards I had quite a few people coming up saying how cool it was to see a girl playing drums. If you see a man playing the guitar you don’t go, “Oh look, there’s a man on guitar” but if you’re a girl on drums it’s a bit rarer and it does get pointed out more often. I don’t want my gender to be an issue, I just want to play well and get on with it.
Your style behind the kit evokes tribal qualities in the sound. How would you define your style when you play?
Steady and simple. I like the power and echoes you get from the toms. We’ve got two guitarists, Tom and Neil, then Paul on keyboards, and Colin on bass. They are all playing quite lively parts that could be leads on their own. I don’t want to over-complicate things or compete for attention. When I first came on I was given parts to play that had already been written, but over time my style has evolved. One guy in Switzerland told me he liked my style and was annoyed that his drummer kept playing rolls all over the shop and he wished that they’d stop showing off, I figure that just because you can play something fancy doesn’t mean you have to if it doesn’t fit the music.
How do you mentally prepare for a gig?
I’m naturally a very nervous person, so I just bite my fingers, drum on my legs and drink beer. Not too much though! Drinking can do awful things to the speed of your drumming and makes me play loudly and incorrectly over the quiet breaks.
I’m curious, how is the music scene in the UK these days? Is this brand of sound (shoe-gaze/psychedelic) embraced?
The music scene in the UK is amazing. It’s very diverse. Obviously you get a lot of chart pop and stuff, but the better stuff is happening live and independently in every city. Shoegaze is embraced but is more underground. The bigger festivals are going to have a handful of shoegaze/psych bands but there are a lot of weekenders that focus just on the genre, such as Liverpool Psych Fest and the Bad Vibrations shows.
What bands are you listening to a lot of these days?
I’m a fan of Arrows of Love, some nice dark sexy rock. Is Bliss are a local shoegaze band and they are amazing live, we’re playing with them soon, about time. As a band we also love Goat and Tame Impala.
What’s the hardest part about playing live and being out on the road?
At the moment, it’s the worry about what kind of drum kit the venue will supply. You worry about how wobbly it is and how many toms are included. Occasionally you get a kit where there’s only one cymbal stand so you have the decision over whether to use the ride or the crash. Often it’s not tuned brilliantly either and if you hit a flat floor tom you can still hear it reverberating six months later. So it can be tough with equipment. We’re currently looking for a van but at the moment I usually just bring the basic breakables along with me.
Who’s your favorite gal drummer out there right now? What is it about her style that inspires you?
Leah Shapiro from Black Rebel Motorcycle Club because she’s just bloody awesome! She is so focused and natural and makes it all look easy. I also enjoy Rebecca from Slow Club. She’s not your average sit-down drummer but sings, plays guitar and adds percussion, all with some cheeky banter. She’s great!
Are there plans for Dead Rabbits to do a tour in the United States?
At the moment we’re crossing our fingers for Austin Psych Fest at least. But we’d love to come over. We just need a handful of nice promoters who are willing to pay for our airfare from the UK, surely that’s not too much to ask!
Can you tell us about any upcoming shows or events that Dead Rabbits will be playing?
Yes! We have our single launch coming up on Feb 21st at the Cellar in Southampton (UK), for ‘Where I Go’. Then we’re supporting Telescopes in London a couple of days later. And then we have our longest European tour yet in March, which will take in Paris, Vienna, Berlin, Rouen and Genoa along the way, then we’re back in Berlin in April. It’s going to be our busiest year yet and I’m looking forward to it!