Don’t ask me to sing karaoke- Andrea Demers of Glad Rags

In your own words; write a brief description of your band

Glad Rags plays fast loud punk music fueled by the frustration of living in a sexist society.

Name  Andrea Demers

Age 29

Hometown Vancouver BC Canada

Nickname(s) In normal life some people call me Demi, Dreamers, or Dremers. In the band, my name is technically “Shitsticks”, because of drumsticks, and because we developed a habit of making poop jokes. Not many people are aware of that yet.

Current band Glad Rags

Favourite place for takeout Pizza Garden, Sushi Den, anywhere with a good breakfast sandwich. (For when I don’t have time to make my own breakfast, which is a meal I love to both cook and eat.)

Tom Tom: When/ how did your interest in drumming begin?

Andrea: I’ve always been drawn to percussion in general. As a kid I thought it would be cool to be the timpani player in an orchestra. As I got older and started going to rock shows, I’d find myself watching the drummer the most. I didn’t actually act on this interest until I was a teenager.

Have you ever taken lessons?

My parents bought me the Yamaha kit I still have to this day and kind of suggested that part of getting it would be taking lessons, so I took a handful of lessons at that time.

What was the first song you learned to play on drums?

I’d have to go back to the weird sheet music my drum teacher assigned to me to find out… I remember being pretty excited to figure out the hi hat and snare pattern on ‘Sunday Bloody Sunday’ by U2, which was in that book…

Describe your gear

I use a Yamaha YD series kit that my parents got me when I was 16. The matching snare was stolen one time while we were loading out gear so I’ve been using a Westbury snare that a friend of mine “threw in for free” when I bought some cymbals off him. I’d like to pick out my own snare soon. As long as the kit is mic’ed well it actually sounds pretty good even though the drums themselves are on the small side. Sometimes I wish my floor tom was bigger.

Can you write music/ lyrics?

Not yet… I’d like to try? I volunteered at Girls Rock Camp Vancouver last summer and watched firsthand as a bunch of kids formed bands and wrote a song in a matter of a couple days… It was kind of humbling – they just came up with as many ideas as possible and ran with one. I haven’t found the time or will to make myself come up with something yet. (Or maybe I just need a deadline.)

Do you play other instruments or sing?

I grew up playing piano. I haven’t played for a long time but it definitely helped me develop my ear, and is useful for communicating in bands. I really don’t like singing on my own but I don’t mind singing (or shouting) in support of other vocal parts.

Andrea Demers
Andrea Demers of Glad Rags at Vinyl Envy– Victoria BC Canada

What is in your own musical collection?

In my vinyl collection is a mix of indie rock, weird pop, and some local house and techno. Some examples: Crash Course in Science, Caribou, Oneohtrix Point Never, Julia Holter, Destroyer, Aquarian Foundation and Mood Hut releases…

Do you have musical idols?

There’s no one artist that I’d single out as an idol of mine. I am very sincerely excited by Grimes and watching her career and hearing what she has to say. I love that she is largely self-taught in everything from singing to production, and is an advocate of doing everything oneself. Bjork is someone I’m in awe of as well. I really love Caribou; they are possibly my favourite band to see live. They usually have two drum kits and it’s so awesome when Dan Snaith; aka Caribou himself hops behind one of them for some double drumming action.

Who are the bands that inspire your band’s sound?

I would say three bands that all of us can cite as primary influences are Joy Division, Nirvana, and Bikini Kill. After that, we each have slightly diverging interests in punk and rock, (and beyond)…  I think you can hear the Ramones in there as well.

What have you taken away from playing live?

Playing live has taught me how to play better with the band, in that we have all become better at communicating our needs with each other and with the sound person before we even get on stage. Although bass is most important for me to hear live, there are often little vocal moments that I use as cues. If I can’t hear the vocals I don’t get as enthusiastically into the content of what we’re doing and it’s important to me to enjoy Sarah and Selina’s performances.

Playing live has also been an opportunity to train myself to not be self-critical while in the middle of a performance or a creative project. I used to be really nervous about making what I thought were dumb mistakes on stage, but I realized that dwelling over them in the moment would only lead to a greater chance of slipping up again. It forces me to focus on what’s coming next and get over it, rather than continue to criticize myself, which has been useful in other aspects of my daily life as well.

What does pre show preparation involve?

At the venue, I relax with a beer (but not too much or too fast). I make sure I’ve had a solid meal as well. I definitely need food and lots of water in the hours leading up to a show. The last step is hanging out with the band and copying out set lists.

Andrea Demers
Are you exhausted after a show?

Actually, I find the loading and unloading of gear multiple times in one day to be the most physically and mentally tiring part of being in a band. Being on stage and playing is the fun part. That having been said, I do get tired during the performance, but feel really amped up afterwards. Certain songs feel more athletic than others for me to pull off. Lately I have been trying to chill out a bit and breathe and hydrate more between songs.

Tell us about the first show you played in front of an audience as a drummer

I was in an indie band in high school and our first and only show was in our friends’ back yard. The host and his friends were headlining, and their band had played live quite a bit already so we were a bit intimidated, even though it was a very low-stakes setting. I was actually so nervous about putting myself out there though that I can’t even remember at this point if we played our one original song, or threw a couple of our covers in there as well.  It’s all a blur.

What are the best/ most practical clothes for drumming?

I always think the hardest about my shoes. I like to be consistent with how thick or high the sole is (flatter the better). Then I make sure I’m not picking some weird thrift store shirt made of artificial materials from the 70s – it gets way too hot, especially when you factor in lights. Then I make sure it’s something kind of fun, or that I feel happy in. If I have a day off near a show I seem to coincidentally find myself in a thrift store, browsing for something odd or silly to wear. I started thinking more about clothing when I started riding my bike a lot more several years ago, so basically anything I’d ride my bike in, I’d also feel comfortable playing a show in.

Do you have an aggressive style in your drumming? (Do you hit hard?)

I’d say my style is calm and fast, rather than aggressive. Some have called me stoic. I don’t like to expend too much energy banging on the drums 100% of the time. There are certain moments and certain songs where I try to let go a bit more though.

What appeals to you about a magazine like Tom Tom?

I think having women being visible and represented in music –and publications that cover music– is very important.  From the layperson’s perspective, the North American independent scene still looks like a man’s world; it’s still a surprise to see women in bands, let alone working as stage crew or as sound people, and yet there are definitely women out there, playing music. Although I do think that the indie rock and punk ‘world’ is still kind of a man’s world, I know that even since the 80s, there have been amazing women performing in awesome bands who have not received the recognition they should have. It’s not so much that women in bands don’t exist, because I know they do – it’s that history hasn’t memorialized any of them. A publication like Tom Tom Magazine is doing the great service of pointing out the fact that women drummers do exist, despite what many music fans may conclude from a random sampling of listening to music and attending shows.

What are your goals as a musician?

My goals as a musician are to have fun, improving my skills to serve the band’s growth, and to continue to be visible as a woman who plays drums who will tell you that you do not need to wait until you are able to play complicated beats and improvised wild solos in order to join a band or get on stage. You learn by doing and I think a lot of people, regardless of gender, may feel there is a barrier to entry because some people still hold the perception that the point of playing music is to demonstrate technical proficiency. It can be that, but it is also so much more.

Andrea Demers

What’s in the future for you musically?

I’m not sure really. I’ve always wanted to work with analog drum machines. (Or digital synths and sample pads.) I have a lot of side interests that get in the way of me moving forward with any one new interest though so the theme of the past few years has been to remind myself to pick one thing at a time… Maybe I’ll get to this sometime soon…

What has been the biggest change in your life since lifting up the sticks?

I don’t tend to be nervous about as many things anymore, since I know what it feels like to get over self-doubt and nerves in the moment. I do still occasionally get nervous before (or while) performing but it’s a feeling I know how to manage better. I also feel happier, because playing percussion in a band was something I always wanted to do, and rather than wonder what it would be like, I’m just doing it and trying not to overthink it.

What should people know about you?

Please don’t ask me to sing karaoke.

What are your interests away from drumming?

Cooking, wine, riding my bike casually, listening to house and techno, reading/writing poetry (probably in that order)

Do you have advice for young women starting out in music?

I would say try your best to put up your blinders and disregard anybody who has anything negative to say about you as a musician or a person. Surround yourself with collaborators who you like and trust, and do your best to not to judge or throw out any ideas before you give them a shot.  People will have opinions about your appearance, your technical abilities, and your art, but you don’t owe those people your attention. Don’t take the harsh opinions of strangers to heart – seek out feedback from people you know.  (Do let yourself enjoy the positive opinions of strangers – it can be really heartening to find out that somebody you don’t know at all appreciates what you’re doing.)

How would you describe the local scene for bands like yours?

I would say the scene in Vancouver is fairly supportive of young independent bands. The thing I think is toughest is that there are only a handful of venues appropriate for bands of a certain size, and it’s a challenge to get people to come out to shows on weeknights, so there are some limits to when and where shows can take place.

I am really grateful for the campus radio stations and all that they do to lift up young bands as well. CJSF at Simon Fraser University plays a lot of local stuff, and CiTR at UBC is very involved in nurturing and celebrating new (and old) talent with their publication Discorder, their annual festival Music Waste, and other events throughout the year.

Where do you practice / how often?

For a long time (until last year) my only practice was during band practice. I think I was actually too bewildered to even imagine playing drums with nobody else around, let alone to get it together to go to the jam space on my own. It was a bit limiting, as I could only try new techniques or beats within the context of whatever song we were working on. I have a digital kit now that I can play in my apartment, which I sit down at a couple times a week.

At the end of the day; when all is said and done …you play the drums because …..?

It’s so fun! Everybody should play the drums! It’s a physical and mental experience, and it’s fun to be responsible for the beat in the context of a group jam. The drummer is rarely the center of attention, which suits me fine, but without them, none of the songs would sound the way they do.

Story and Photography : John Carlow ( Finding Charlotte Photography )

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