April 21, 2019 / 1:14 AM

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6 Great Bands with Unconventional Drumming: Pavement, the Velvet Underground, and more



A drummer can either make or break a band. If they can't keep a beat, or if they play in a style that doesn't suit the songs, then the band as a whole will suffer. These six bands understood the importance of percussion and dared to experiment with what unusual percussion could bring out in their music.

1. Big Black

Big Black was one of the most brutal and sonically violent bands of its era, and they managed this without hiring a human drummer. The band's distinctively abrasive sound was complemented by a Roland TR-606 drum machine, which was credited as "Roland" in the band's liner notes. Roland gave Big Black a relentless, mechanical sound that helped usher in the industrial rock genre.

2. The Velvet Underground

The Velvet Underground introduced a lot of things to pop songwriting: nihilistic lyrics, screeching feedback, raw singing, and for the purposes of this list, an atypical drum set up. Drummer Maureen "Mo" Tucker would use a minimal set up of toms, a snare drum, and an upturned bass drums, which she played while standing up.

3. The Lucksmiths

Australian indie pop crew the Lucksmiths adopted the minimalist drum setup that the Velvet Underground used, but the result is far different from the Velvet's hypnotic simplicity. Instead, drummer Tali White uses brushes to perform bright and upbeat drum parts, and the simplicity of his set-up allows him to serve as the bands vocalist as well.

4. Pavement

Bands often have multiple guitarists in their line-up, but very rarely does a band have more than one drummer, like Pavement did. The band hired percussionist Bob Nastanovich in 1990, when their original drummer Gary Young proved to be too unpredictable to keep time on his own. After Young was kicked out and Pavement hired the infinitely more competent Steve West, they wisely kept Nastanovich in the line-up to serve as a sort of indie-rock hype man, as well as an auxiliary percussionist.

5. Wye Oak

Though Baltimore band Wye Oak consists of only two people, its albums sound much more dense and complicated than would be expected of a guitar and drums duo. The band is able to manage this sound by having drummer Andy Stack play keyboard with his left hand and drums with his feet and right hand. Playing drums with both arms is difficult enough, but having to perform keyboard parts on top of that is a miracle of coordination.

6. Kate Bush

Though Kate Bush including more traditionally pop/rock drums on her earliest albums, she moved away from a typical drum setup as she moved further into experimental music. On her 1985 album Hounds of Love, she forbid her drummers from using cymbals of any kind, which gave the album's percussion a more tribal quality.

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