Photo by Brody Willis.
With the premiere of Seattle two-piece Pony Time’s new music video, “I Like Your Shoes”, get to know drummer Stacy Peck in an exclusive interview with Tom Tom Magazine. Peck also drums in the supergroup Childbirth, who released their first full-length album Women’s Rights in October.
We sat down with Peck to discuss how she became a drummer, her work making music videos and her advice for aspiring drummers.
Christine Pallon: How old were you when you started learning the drums?
Stacy Peck: I’ve only been playing the drums in a band with my own drum set and everything since I was 29, but I’ve been playing in bands since I was 17. I had been fiddling around on the drums and filling in on drums when somebody couldn’t do it, or having a band that lasted two shows. But it’s only been my primary instrument for about seven or eight years now.
CP: What were you playing before the drums?
SP: I started out on guitar because I was like, “Oh, when a girl’s in a band she always plays the bass, so I’m gonna play the guitar” [laughs]. Then I was like, “This so so hard, I hate it!” And then I switched to the bass and I liked that a lot, but I had always wanted to do the drums. Then I finally got the chance to do that. It’s really hard to get a drum set. It’s just so much crap. It’s a big commitment. When you play the guitar, you can do it in your apartment or wherever, but a drum set is just a big deal.
CP: How did you first come to music, and how did you make the move from Iowa to Seattle?
SP: When I was in high school, I hung out with this group of kids who went to the cool alternative school. They were all in bands, and I thought it would be cool to learn how to play guitar. So this guy let me borrow this guitar that had one string on it, and he taught me how to play this song called “You Gave Me Your Dog” that one of our friends had made up. It was classic Iowa because my first show was in a barn. I hung out with all of these cool, creative people and had shows wherever we could have one. I imagine it to be like a lesser well-known Olympia thing, just a bunch of really creative people doing their thing. Everyone was really supportive, and it was cool because I was really the only girl playing so everyone wanted me to be in their band. So I got to be in all of these bands when I didn’t even have a guitar. People just let me borrow their stuff. Then I went on tour selling merch for this band called House of Large Sizes, and they were on the same label as Frank Black and the Catholics at the time. I went on tour and sold merch for those bands for about two months, and I decided that I would find where I wanted to move on that tour based on where I liked the best, and I liked Seattle the best so I moved there. A lot of it had to do with thinking that the Olympia music scene was really cool. I was into all the Kill Rock Stars stuff, and I wanted to play in bands with other women more. Also, I’m gay so I wanted to have a girlfriend [laughs].
CP: How did you end up making the switch to the drums?
SP: I was living with my roommate Mark at the time and his brother worked at a music store in Iowa. Somebody had traded this piece of crap drum set in to get a guitar or something, and he knew Mark and I were trying to start a band. We hadn’t actually done anything – we just made a movie about ourselves but hadn’t actually done the music part [laughs]. He had it sent to us, so then we had this really crappy drum set in our apartment. We moved it around with us a couple of times and then finally Mark said, “you can just have this, I’m never going to play it.” And then I played drums in this band called Telepathic Liberation Army. I was in that band about two years, and then I started Pony Time after that.
CP: After you got your first kit, did you take any lessons before playing drums in a band?
SP: No, I’ve pretty much taught myself how to play all of my instruments. At this point, I think it would be cool to take lessons just because I really don’t know what I’m doing all these years later. But I don’t know, I like not having any rules. How I like to play music, I’m not like, “I want this to sound like how everyone else does it.” That’s not the point of it for me, and I really don’t know a lot about gear or technique. It’s very much about what feels good or about liking how it makes me feel. It’s more about feelings and less about doing really good drum rolls or having a classic Beatles 1960-whatever set. I think it’s cool that people are into that stuff, but that just doesn’t interest me. I’d rather watch House Hunters International.
CP: Having this approach to drumming – being self-taught, not caring as much about gear or technique – have you experienced any gatekeeping from other drummers who may see you as not being a “real” or “serious” drummer?
SP: I get a lot of comments like, “Oh, you played better this time” or “You weren’t as bad as I thought.” But something about me just doesn’t really invite those conversations, or I shut them down so fast that I just don’t have to engage in it. I’m good at changing the subject. But I know enough about [the drums] at this point that I can have a conversation about it, but I would rather not. For me, it doesn’t matter so much about what kind of drum set it is as long as you have a good snare and good cymbals. Because of my weird situation with Pony Time and Childbirth, I don’t have my own drum set at either places we practice, so I end up borrowing people’s drum sets at almost every show. I’m that person who’s always like, “Hey, can I use your drums?” So I rarely know what my drum set even sounds like anymore because I use so many other people’s drums all the time. Which is kind of cool because I can be like, “I like this kind of drum” or “Maybe my drum set isn’t as bad as I thought it was” or “Wow, my drum set sounds like shit.” It’s been cool to be really versatile and be able to deal with whatever situation is happening.
CP: How many bands are you currently playing in?
SP: Childbirth and Pony Time are the only bands I’m in right now, and I just got back from filling in on bass for my friend Jenn Champion’s really cool band called S. That’s all right now – just the two bands.
CP: With Pony Time being a two piece, do you find that your drumming style is a lot different for that band compared to other projects with three or four members, in terms of the space the drums occupy in the music?
SP: I think I definitely think about what I’m doing more in terms of the space the drums take up and not overdoing it while still making everything as interesting as it can be. I try really hard to make everything go together well and have it be the right thing that needs to happen. Performance wise, I try to really give 200 percent and go for it every time. Especially with a two piece, I can’t mess up because everyone will notice. It’s not like I don’t try in Childbirth or anything, but there’s less pressure on me. And in Childbirth, everybody’s paying more attention to the lyrics and stuff like that, and we have hospital gowns on so there’s just a lot going on. While with Pony Time, it’s just the two of us playing music, so I try to do my best and play a lot louder.
CP: How did you get started making music videos?
SP: The same guy who taught me how to play guitar in Iowa also made movies. It was always something I wanted to do, and I wanted to go to college for it and it ended up not working out. Now, everything is so easy. You can make stuff on your phone or a super cheap video camera or something. I approach making videos the same way as drumming: if it feels good, do it. I don’t really know what I’m doing, but it works out.
CP: That approach really works with a band like Childbirth. Those videos are so funny and show exactly who you guys are and what you’re about.
SP: People just take stuff so seriously. It’s not like I don’t try – I think I’m a very hard worker, but I don’t need to take everything I do super seriously. I mean, it’s a band. Maybe we’re saving lives, but mostly we’re just hanging out in hospital gowns.
CP: With Childbirth, you’re coming from a place of humor. These songs are really funny, but still incredibly socially relevant. Songs like “How Do Girls Even Do It?” and “Since When Are You Gay?” are hilarious but still speak to how ridiculous it is when people talk like that. When Childbirth first got together, did you always intend to come from a place of humor?
SP: It’s just kind of how we all are in real life. We’re all just funny gals who like to do fun stuff. I like to say that I have two emotions: worked up and riled up. It just makes sense for us to write songs about what our lives are like and what we experience. I think that is, unfortunately, kind of groundbreaking. Women just don’t really talk about what it’s like to be a woman, what it’s like to be a gay woman or what it’s like to be a bisexual woman. A lot of people identify with that and it’s awesome. None of us thought it would become what it’s become – we didn’t ever think we’d be in the New York Times. We just wanted to hang out and have band practice together. It’s a really fun outlet. We’ll come to practice and be like, “Someone did this stupid thing to me, let’s write a song about it!” [laughs]. It’s cool.
CP: With Childbirth being a supergroup, the three of you are often busier with your other bands. Do you think it will continue to be more of a side project, or do you hope to tour more with Childbirth soon?
SP: We wanna go on tour and do as much as we can with it, but it’s just hard to plan. Especially with Bree [McKenna] and Julia [Shapiro], their other bands are doing really well right now. Julia’s on tour with Chastity Belt in Europe right now. Tacocat is going to have a new album out soon, and Pony Time’s new record is going to be out on vinyl this spring. We can’t abandon ship on the stuff that got us here in the first place, but we definitely aren’t gonna break up or not go on tour. We’re just figuring it out as we go because it’s not totally easy. We all have day jobs, too, since we don’t make enough money from music to live, so doing two bands and working at a job and having a relationship with another person is a lot. It’s kind of a silly thing to do, but it’s cool.
CP: Finally: do you have any advice you would give to young women who want to teach themselves to play the drums?
SP: I think people get so intimidated by the drums because there are so many parts and everything looks weird and it just seems so intense, but it’s not that bad. Start with the least amount of drums you can and then build out from there. All you really need is a kick, a snare and hi-hats. Start there, and build up. I don’t even have rack toms or a crash cymbal, mostly because I don’t want to carry it. Make sure you have really good cymbals. They’re really expensive, but they’re gonna be worth it. When you’re playing shows, set up and tear down your stuff on stage. Do it beforehand and then take everything off and take it apart afterwards. I learned that the hard way. Everybody got really annoyed with me, but now I know and now I’m telling you. Always have a drum tuner. Get one of those cymbal cases that’s a backpack so you can multitask. Oh, and the drum people at Guitar Center never know anything. They’re the worst, so don’t be intimidated by them at all because they don’t know jack shit.
Check out this gallery of some items Stacy Peck can’t live without.