In your own words,write a brief description of your band
Music dedicated to and for the soul-crushers, the avid listeners, the everyday feelers, and the impossible dreamers.
Name: Lia Simone Braswell
Hometown: Van Nuys
Nickname(s): OshKosh B’gosh
Current band (s): A Place To Bury Strangers, Mirah, Lalande
Favorite place for takeout: Chez Alex, Toad Style, CocoLin, Lucy’s, Indian food
Story and photography by John Carlow/ Finding Charlotte Photography
Tom Tom Magazine: Source of the nickname? (I have to ask)
Lia Braswell: Omar Rodriguez-Lopez would joke about how I was always somewhat gliding above ground in giddiness, perhaps aloof or just happy to go with the flow. He described me as a little kid in overalls with my toy tools and a big grin on my face ready to help the big kids with the project at hand. Considering I am usually the youngest of the groups I play with, it suits me quite well.
When/ how did your interest in drumming begin?
It wasn’t until about three years after I started playing that I made any connection. I can’t remember exactly why I started playing (besides the fact that it ran in my blood), but it must have been because there was this urgency for my family to pick up whatever creative distractions we could to grieve the early loss of a family member. I would jump on my older brother’s kit just to play around, but my mom insisted that I start taking it seriously and take lessons from someone my dad met while at the park with us, Beattle Price. I was his first student ever, but he ended up becoming one of our closest and most loyal family friends.
Have you ever taken lessons?
I took lessons for about eight years weekly. I was also in a few music classes in middle school, but I didn’t consider myself a traditional drummer. My mom would always say I should learn songs like “Rock ‘N Roll” by Led Zeppelin, but I wasn’t really into that old school rock ‘n roll. Something about the masculinity of it was unappealing to me. I guess I was more interested in the emotional aspect of music and not so much the genre or the tone. If a song or album made me feel like I was in love or happy or sad, I would like to emulate what my reactions were into the drum kit.
What was the first song you learned to play on drums?
I can’t remember!
Can you write music/ lyrics?
I sure try to! I have been hesitant to dive into composition though. It’s a dream of mine to compose/write music for film.
Do you play other instruments or sing?
Yes. Using vocal melodies interwoven with an exchange of words and intent is undoubtedly my favorite thing to do in the world. Regardless of where I am at, the words and the melody will always be there.
Tell us about the first show you played in front of an audience as a drummer
We used to host parties at our house. Whether it be a birthday, anniversary, impromptu jam session, we would make a killer time out of it. It didn’t matter if there were only a few neighbors who showed up, or a massive house party with friends of friends of musicians of friends. We had everyone from the Local 57 union to a local church, high school friends, old buddies, crushes, baseball coaches, stepdads, random girls I didn’t really get along with at school but whose parents really loved mine, etc. These gatherings were where I first began to play in front of people. This was where my brother’s friends came to keep me connected with him as well as lose my fear of playing in front of anyone. My friends were all excited to get their hands on instruments as well. They encouraged us young ones to play no matter how sloppy it was. We tried to have everyone in the room participate with a shaker, a microphone, a guitar, or a recorder. I remember my dad slapping his lap to the beat with a big, bright smile on his face.
Describe your gear
I am still searching for the most comfortable (and affordable) set up. I am really fortunate to have collaborated with C&C on a design with MPM (Maple Poplar Maple) shells and a wide yet shallow kick drum (24×12). It is super light and sounds absolutely wonderful. We play around with different methods of dampening or muffling it, but I keep in mind the iconic Jacob Cardwell (co-owner of C&C) when he told me that everything started to click once he realized that “bass drum goes boom”.
My cymbals are Dream Cymbals. They’ve been my reliable source for over a year now. I used the set I currently have (14” bliss hi-hats, 18” contact crash, 20” energy ride) on the new album, Pinned, and borrowed a set for the drums I recorded with TR/ST. The hi-hats remind me of the first pair of hats I ever had, without knowing the brand because of the paint having been beat off. They were so crisp and precise. These have a much more glorious feeling of contact than that set, but just as much crunch which is what I need when in a band that requires me to keep the hi hat open for most of the set!
What is in your own musical collection?
Well to be totally honest, I live in a very small apartment with an accumulating collection of smaller toys. Very different compared to the space I had in the house I grew up in. I took a lot for granted, no matter how much time I spent in there. I was too naive to realize how rare and welcoming the environment of my home was. The fact that my parents encouraged me to be a musician all throughout my childhood was a gift in disguise. I am eternally grateful for their patience with me as I was growing up and trying to figure out where I wanted to concentrate those energies.
What’s on your walls in your room ?
A left-handed Ibanez acoustic guitar, a hand drawn poster of the Melvins by Brian Walsby, a Clarice Lispector quotation given to me by my friend Maisy, a photo of my mama, a photo of my brother, a hand-drawn sage by my grandmother, my “heartbreak of green” mural, and a 2018 Nature Conservancy calendar.
Do you have musical idols?
My mama, first and foremost. Otherwise, the list grows and changes all of the time.
Who are the bands that inspire your band’s sound?
Considering I am new to the band, I feel like my influences are quite unique to the other guys, though I think we all appreciate each other’s mutual love for Can, The Silver Apples, Mazzy Star, The Modern Lovers, T.Rex, Cocteau Twins. I really enjoy their musical taste and their approach to creating music through those influences.
Where do you practice / how often?
Unfortunately, I am in a lull right now. I only practice rudiments at home, or play around when I am in a place that has a kit (mine is currently in Seattle for the second US run). I have been working on playing guitar and writing, or working with drum machines more often lately.
Tell me about your other 2 projects
TRST from Canada but based out in Los Angeles. It’s a synth and track heavy project so I pretty much just embellish the live performance of the compositions created by Robert Alfons by bulking up the acoustic drums to compliment the programmed beats.
Lalande is a project that I have been working on for the last few years without any deadlines or timelines or restrictions of any sorts, besides my own confidence in it. I have it to dig into my vulnerable and more emotional side of my musical interests, but am still searching for the format to fit it into. I have the words and the flow of the music itself, but no direction! I am using this time to continue building into it so that I can feel more assured of the intentions behind it.
Can you list prior projects you’ve been involved in?
Le Butcherettes,Toplady,Gothic Tropic,Mirah,White Sea,Arrington de Dionyso,Kino Kimino (formerly JAN),Clear Plastic,Peter Pants and Ostrich Eyes.
Mostly just touring/improvising with these bands and not writing (except for the last three).
What have you taken away from playing live?
How to be human.
What does pre show preparation involve?
If I told you I’d have to kill you…
Are you exhausted after a show?
What’s the most unusual/funny thing to ever happen to you at a gig?
There are unusual moments in every single show I have ever played, for better or worse.
Having recently witnessed your live stage show, I have to ask…Inside the physical chaos of your live performance, how do you maintain the direction of the songs when 98 percent of your show is in strobe lighting and blackouts?
The thrill of the show is apparent from the moment we step on stage. There is this performance that we have to immerse ourselves in individually, or else there is no way any of the setting would actually be effective. I don’t know what it is, but the moment you are thrown into something that you can’t escape, that takes over any usual environment or comfort . Your options are to either try running away, or run through it at full force regardless of the end result. That’s what I love most about the show. It’s like parachuting out of an airplane, or saving a dog from a flash flood, or enduring a near-death, out-of-body experience if I am to be so bold to say.
Most of the songs themselves are all muscle memory at this point, and the improvisational parts are all so freeing. We consider the visuals as a part of the show, of the music itself. So whatever goes on with that is something that we play with as opposed to it just adding the nuances of a usual stage-light show. Not gonna lie though, you’ll probably see my eyes closed the next time there’s a strobe light blasting from my kit and straight into my face.
How would you describe the local scene for bands like yours?
They like the noise. They like the sounds. They like to dance.
What are the best/ most practical clothes for drumming?
Whatever is clever! The comfier the better. I drum with my shoes off and usually with slacks that don’t get caught in the pedal (though it happens all the time). Dresses or shorts don’t usually get in the way. I tend to go for the most suitable to the performance. Trial and error though.
What appeals to you about a magazine like Tom Tom?
I am thinking of the young girls and boys who read these kinds of magazines featuring empowering, educational, and liberating people just like them, that they too can be capable of creating and collaborating and sharing and exploring the world if they find what they love early on. I didn’t know I loved the drums until I started singing. Somehow, singing and playing the drums made me want to play more. Still does to this day.
What are your goals as a musician?
I’ve been thinking about that lately. The goals I set for myself have already been accomplished. I’ve been reading this book a friend gave to me called, “What’s Stopping You?” by Robert Kelsey which has an excerpt regarding how to set goals beyond the immediate thought or premonition. A goal of mine right now is to write a really incredible album with the band and hopefully compose a film/television score at some point in the future. I also envision becoming a professor, but that’s not until I finish getting a degree (if ever). I have also been fascinated with invoking creativity in early adolescence or creative therapy for terminally ill/disabled youth, as well as creative coping mechanisms for those who suffer from trauma, anxiety, or depression. Not sure how yet, but I hope sharing these aspirations it will lead me in the direction.
What’s in the future for you musically?
Getting better at it and encouraging anyone who feels that they can’t play any instrument has just as much potential as I ever have.
What has been the biggest change in your life since lifting up the sticks?
That’s a difficult question that probably takes many different versions of me to answer correctly. Overall, I think it taught me to go with whatever I feel is necessary for me to do as opposed to the expectations of our elders, or those who have slapped expectations on our society as we know it. I started making decisions for myself and became set on a path that has yet to disappoint me (though there have been MANY mistakes and MANY setbacks, no doubt about that).
What should people know about you?
That I am not perfect, will never be perfect, nor strive to be perfect.
Do you have advice for young women starting out in music?
Do NOT be discouraged by those who try to make you think that it is a man’s job. It is nobody’s job but the one who wants it, and a job that is fulfilling for all people, including yourself. It is a gift that we all have within us and will be there for you when no one else can. Don’t quit! Keep going! Hydrate! Love yourself! Learn about yourself and the breath and life force through music! One of my favorite musicians, Maia Macdonald (aka Kid In The Attic) once said, “the only way out is through”.
What are your interests away from drumming?
Writing, running, walking, reading, deep conversations with friends, anything appealing to the restlessness I possess.
At the end of the day; when all is said and done …you play the drums because …..?
Why anything else?
Any last thoughts?
Educate yourself on the greats. Always find ways to grow learn and evolve no matter what tries to block that from happening. You are worth it. WE are worth it.