Alex Shelnutt – Exclusive OnlineDrummer.com InterviewNate Brown
Alex Shelnutt, drummer for the incredibly unique “punk-goes-pop” band A Day To Remember (ADTR), shells out his knowledge of road life – the ups and downs; the ins and the outs – while ironically, sitting in the back of the ADTR tour bus. Enjoy the ride!
Drummer Alex Shelnutt
OLD: What is life on the road as a drummer like?
Alex: When we first started out, it was fun. I joined the band when I was 15, and I didn’t really know what to expect at all, and then I went on my first tour. That tour was probably the worst tour in aspect of shows – how many people were at the shows – but it was the most fun I ever had because I had never done anything like it.
But, when you’ve been touring for 3 years straight, it’s more like a job now. I wish it was still “fun” in the same way. If you don’t tour that often, it’s probably more fun but less beneficial. If you tour more, it’s more work and more beneficial, but it’s a job.
After this tour we have a month off and then we’re booked for the rest of the year. Before this tour, we were in Europe for a month and only home for 2 days. Two years before that we were probably home for a total of 4 months combined. It’s hard. It’s fun looking back when you get home – you’re glad you did it. But, when you’re on tour, a lot of times you just wish you were home. Then when you’re home, you wish you were on tour. It’s just one of those things.
OLD: How does life on the road compare to what you thought life on the road would be like?
Alex: I really didn’t know what to expect because when I joined the band, I wasn’t really expecting to do it. It was just kind of an on the spot thing, so I jumped into it without any expectations, just kind of seeing where it took me. I had goals that I wanted to achieve, but I really didn’t ever think they would happen. I try to hope for the best and expect the worst. That’s the way you have to be in a band because there’s so many bands doing the same thing. It’s pretty hard to go anywhere.
OLD: What two drumming skills do you think are most important to succeed as a working drummer on the road?
Alex: I never took lessons. I taught myself. So, I don’t really know the technical terms, but how I learned, I played and listened to songs that I liked. I got the feel of them and practiced over and over – practiced for hours a day. On tour, before we play I stretch, I do a few paradiddles, the standard things like that.
An important skill: focus on being solid. No matter what type of music you play, just try to stay solid.
“The Downfall Of Us All” – A Day To Remember – Album: Homesick
OLD: What non-drumming skills do you think are necessary to survive on the road as a drummer?
Alex: You’ve just got to know that it’s hard coming into it. Don’t let anything get to your head because, like I said earlier, at the end of the day, you’re all doing the same thing. Just because someone’s band is bigger than yours, it doesn’t matter. If your band is bigger than another band, it doesn’t matter. Take things how they are, and don’t take those things too seriously because if you don’t take things too seriously, it’ll make touring a lot easier because it’ll be more fun.
OLD: Many times, drummers don’t receive the “front-line” attention that a singer receives. How does this effect the band’s relationship with each other, and what kind of mentality do you think a drummer needs in order to prevent any problems in this area? In other words, what’s the best way to think about this situation as a drummer?
Alex: It doesn’t really bother me. That’s not really why I’m in a band. I just like playing music, and if someone thinks that Jeremy’s cooler because he can sing, that’s cool… I don’t care. It doesn’t really effect any of our relationships. We never talked about it or anything. We do joke about it sometimes because it’s funny, but we never take it seriously.
OLD: In regards to family and loved-ones, do you sometimes find it difficult to keep in touch and involved while on the road?
Alex: It’s really hard. When we tour the states you can use your phone, or whenever you have wireless you have the Internet, but when you go over seas it’s really hard. I never even turn my phone on because the bill is so high to use it. And, the Internet is so hard to find over there. Sometimes we’ll go days without talking to anyone at home.
OLD: Do you think it’s important for a drummer to get involved in the song writing process beyond simply laying the beats down? … Maybe contributing lyrics, melodies, chord progressions… Is this something you think aspiring drummers should study and practice along with their drumming?
Alex: I think every person in the band should be involved in it because that’s what being in the band is all about. I play guitar too, so we all work together. We just hope someone will write a part and we’ll all follow.
OLD: For an aspiring drummer that would like to do what you do, what advice would you give them that they could begin right now?
Alex: You’ve got to work at it. I know it’s a very vague answer, but that’s pretty much the only thing you can do. Practice, find a band that you feel can do something, if you really want to tour, and do it.
OLD: What is something that you’ve learned about your job while being on the road that has shaped the way you think about what you do?
Alex: I’ve seen a lot of places, and it’s cool to be able to see the places we do for free – well, not really free, but we wouldn’t ever see these places if we weren’t touring. That’s kind of a learning experience. You get to see other cultures, even if it’s in the same country, even just different parts of the country. It’s crazy how different some things are from somewhere maybe only 100 miles away.
You get to meet a lot of different kinds of people. I’ve met a lot of fans from everywhere because I don’t usually stay on the bus. I just go hang out anywhere. So, the fans come and say “hey,” and I talk to them for a little bit. I talk to anyone. I like meeting as many people as possible.
OLD: What has been your greatest experience so far as a member of A Day To Remember?
Alex: This might sound really weird, but the feeling you get when you’re on your way home from a tour. You feel so accomplished and you’re so excited to go home and chill out for a little bit. That’s the best feeling I have being in the band. It sounds bad saying the end of the tour is the best part of it. I enjoy playing the shows and experiencing new places, too, but the feeling of accomplishment is great.
Left to right: Tom, Josh, Jeremy, Alex, Neil