Name: Melissa Kuipers
Hometown: Vancouver, BC Canada
Current band: Necking
Favourite place for takeout: Sushi (I’m kidding, it’s McDonald’s breakfast, and I get it delivered, does that count?)
Tom Tom Magazine covered Sled Island Festival in Calgary, Alberta Canada last summer. This is the fourth of several featured drummers from that festival.
Tom Tom:In your own words; write a brief description of your band
Melissa :Energetic punk. Good for getting sweaty to.
When/how did your interest in drumming begin?
I’ve always thought drumming was the coolest thing. Anytime I went to a show I would focus on the drummer, completely mystified by how fucking fun it looked and how hard drummers go. When we decided to start Necking, I immediately said I wanted to play drums ,even though I’d never even sat behind a kit before.
Have you ever taken lessons?
I took one lesson a few months after I started playing to make sure I was doing the right things with my body while I was playing. Turns out I wasn’t. Lessons are a good idea. Since then I learn from watching drummers at shows and getting tips from drummer friends.
What was the first song you learned to play on drums?
The first song I learned to play was the first song we wrote as a band . Stop Singing (on our Mediation Tape EP).
Tell us about the gear you use.
I use Sabian AA hi-hats, a Sabian Hand Hammered 21” Ride, an old and kind of busted Zildjian Avedis 18” crash a friend of a friend gave me for free, and a Yamaha Recording Custom snare. I went two years before actually getting my own kick pedal. It was a gift from the band, probably because they were embarrassed for me. I still don’t own my own kit (I know, I know).
Would you eventually like to rep a brand of drumming gear ? What are your thoughts on that?
Yes! Gear is expensive!!! Someone sponsor me!!!
Can you write music/ lyrics ?
I wrote lyrics to most of the songs on our latest album, Cut Your Teeth. Lyric writing is something I’m really into and I love being in a band that really trusts me with writing (and also isn’t afraid to tell me when something I write is too lame to ever be uttered in public).
Do you play other instruments or sing?
The first instrument I learned to play was guitar, and you can catch me at any karaoke bar pretending I know how to sing.
What is in your own musical collection?
Post-punk, pop-punk, some heavier stuff, mostly a lot of sappy music.
Do you have musical idols?
Nobody tell them, I don’t want them to think I’m soft.
Who are the bands that inspire your band’s sound?
We all have super different music tastes so it is tough to nail down an exact inspiration. X-Ray Spex is a band that we’re all into and who got us stoked before our first ever practice together. The Slits as well. We get compared a lot to bands like the B-52s and Gang of Four. Whatever is on heavy rotation while we write influences how we approach songwriting.
Where do you practice / how often?
Our jam space is in a big yellow building in the Hastings Sunrise neighborhood of Vancouver. We’re there twice a week, but I’m drumming all the time—in my head, on my lap, on anyone who lets me.
Any thoughts on streaming and how it affects bands as opposed to standard formats for selling music ?
Streaming services really hurt artists. On the one hand, it’s the most effective way of getting our music out into the world. Having some of our singles on Spotify-curated playlists for example, got us a lot of traffic and buzz. Our music is also a lot more accessible around the world that way. But we don’t see any money from those streams. Even though we never anticipated making money from music, money certainly helps. Working a day job and side gigs to support the high cost of playing music (from gear to recording, travel to making merch, etc.) really gets in the way of making more.
In what format is your bands music available?
What have you taken away from playing live?
The more I think about it the more likely I am to completely bomb. The best shows are the ones where I focus on enjoying the other bands, talking to people, whatever, then get on stage and rip.
Your gigs are high energy events. How important is a show visually as well as sounding good?
We try to have as much fun as possible, try not to take ourselves too seriously and I think people can tell when they come to our shows. We don’t plan out what we’re going to do on stage or anything like that, but I think having fun and not trying to pretend like you’re not is really important. Too many people play shows intentionally looking absolutely miserable and that energy rubs off on people–that’s really not our thing.
What does pre-show preparation involve?
Have at least 2 beers, a lot of jumping around, a quick pee, and then writing a set list a minute before we’re supposed to be on stage.
Do you have an aggressive style in your drumming? (do you hit hard?)
I’ve been told I’m a hard hitter. I think I just have a lot of feelings and like to take them out on the drums. I also just learn from watching other bands; and the bands I tend to like hit really hard. It’s a lot of fun and really high energy and that’s what I’m into.
Are you exhausted after a show?
No. I’m normally really stoked and sweaty, searching for more beer.
What’s the most unusual/funny thing to ever happen to you at a gig?
That we even get to play them is unusual and pretty funny to me.
In consideration of mobility and keeping cool , what are the best/ most practical clothes for drumming?
Best is probably jeans and a t-shirt. Most practical is a big shirt and shorts, I guess. Worst is a short skirt but I still haven’t learned that lesson.
Tell us about the first show you played in front of an audience as a drummer
It was Music Waste 2017 and I was fucking terrified. We had been a band for like two months, wrote our entire set in the month prior to the show, and I could barely play through our songs without feeling like my entire body was falling apart. We played at a very sick local venue called the Toast Collective and the room was packed. It was like 300 degrees inside and I felt like I was going to hurl the entire time. I remember at one point my crash fell off, I dropped my sticks and I forgot a fill. It felt like a mess but it was so much fun. The feeling of complete relief and adrenaline and thirst (for beer beer beer) I had when I was taking down my breakables after the set is the same feeling I get now after every show. Really special!
Your thoughts on arena shows versus smaller venues?
Prefer smaller venues 100%, whether we’re playing or just going to a show. I don’t care what band it is–I will not go to an arena show. I’m not sure that we’ll ever be asked to play an arena show, but even venues with a 200 or more capacity are not as fun to play as small venues. There’s a lot more energy in a room with 30 sweaty people packed tightly together than in a huge space.
Dream bill / Who would you like to be on same stage with?
Bikini Kill, or like Fall Out Boy but they only play songs from 2006 and earlier.
What are your goals as a musician?
Write as much as possible, tour as much as possible, make more and more and more. I love drumming but I’d like to try guitar and vocals in another project. There’s so much time and so much I want to do.
Touring, writing more, creating more.
What has been the biggest change in your life since lifting up the sticks?
I feel so much more connected to my friends, my brain, and my body. I feel like I’ve found the thing I’m supposed to be doing and that’s a cool feeling. The biggest change is I get to hit things really hard all the time now, I guess.
Do you have advice for other young women starting out in music?
Don’t stop! It can sometimes feel like we’re a part of a boys club and that’s a bummer, but as long as we keep making music and playing shows we’ll make sure it doesn’t stay that way.
How would you describe the local scene for bands like yours?
Super supportive! No matter where you play, what day of the week it is, what the weather’s like, whatever it is, people come to shows and they’re stoked to be there. We’ve also got some really incredible venues like Red Gate Arts Society that are supportive and safe and just really beautiful.
Is it still a thing being an all-girl band?
I don’t know exactly how to answer this question. Are we an all-girl band? Yes. Do people still constantly ask what it’s like being a girl in a band? Yes. People are always surprised that I play drums because I’m a woman. People tell us we get booked for good gigs because promoters need to be inclusive. But we’re not revolutionary and we’re not doing this to make a statement. People absolutely love to categorize us as a Riot Grrl band. We’re constantly compared to Sleater-Kinney (who we love, but sound nothing like). So in that way, I guess it’s still a “thing”, and it probably will be for a while.
What appeals to you about a magazine like Tom Tom?
I was actually gifted a Tom Tom Mag when I first started drumming. At the time I thought it was the coolest thing to see this much representation in a music magazine. I’m used to seeing really male-oriented music and gear content, and seeing a magazine focused on female and non-binary people just blows me away. It’s nice to feel seen and to feel like there’s an entire community behind you wanting you to succeed.
What are your interests away from drumming?
Writing, laying down.
What should people really know about you?
I might hit hard but I’m a real softie!
At the end of the day; when all is said and done …you play the drums because …..?
It’s so much fun.
Any last thoughts?
Story/ Photographs : John Carlow/ Finding Charlotte Photography