Chris Vest – Exclusive OnlineDrummer.com InterviewNate Brown
Framing Hanley – Chris Vest, far left
I had the opportunity to sit down with Chris Vest in order to put together a piece to shed some light on what life is like on the road. Chris offers some great insight and advice for success on the road as a drummer. Read and learn!
OLD: What is life on the road as a drummer like?
Chris: Just going out and being able to go to a different state every night and be in a completely different place… Sometimes I go to sleep in one state, and when I wake up I’m in a completely different state. It’s an amazing experience to be able to see the whole US, and at the same time get to play my music and meet different people every night that would have never heard of our band. It’s pretty amazing.
OLD: How does life on the road compare to what you thought life on the road would be like?
Chris: It’s so much more than I ever expected. Honestly, the most I expected our band to do at the time was to do some small venues, probably go to a couple of states around us, and now I’ve been to every state except Hawaii, Alaska and Rhode Island.
We played a couple of festivals in Florida this year, playing for 5 to 6 thousand people, and that’s just something I never envisioned… I always dreamed of doing that, but I never thought I would see it come true.
Framing Hanley – Lollipop Music Video
OLD: What two drumming skills do you think are most important to succeed as a working drummer on the road (i.e. rudiments, timing, showmanship, sound consistency, sticking)?
Chris: I think showmanship is very important when you’re playing a live show. Obviously, when you’re in the studio you want to make sure your chops are solid and everything is right on the click, but I think the live show is definitely about entertaining the crowd.
Other than that, it’s just practice time. Guitar players can just pick up an acoustic and practice. Not many drummers can have that on the road. I’ve got a full practice kit that I set up in the trailer. It’s a bunch of pads that go off of one cymbal stand. You’ve got to practice a lot or you get tired of playing the same thing over and over again.
OLD: What non-drumming skills do you think are necessary to survive on the road as a drummer (i.e. social skills, people skills, etc.)?
Chris: I think in general you’ve got to have a hard work ethic as a drummer on tour because you’re typically the guy that has to pull a big work load, unless you have a tech or something like that. You’re usually the first guy unloading your stuff off the trailer and the last guy packing it up. You’ve got to have the drive to do it all. You’ve got to work hard at it.
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?
Chris: It’s one of those things I think that every drummer has that relationship with the singer. You know, the singer walks in with one thing and you’ve got 30 things to setup. It will kind of dig at you sometimes, but it really is a team effort. I’ve played sports all of my life, and that’s the way I’ve always looked at it. There’s no one person in our band that means more than another. I think everybody respects each other enough in our band to help each other out. You’ve got to make it a team thing.
It’s understood as a drummer you’re not going to get that attention. You’re going to sit in back most of the time. I definitely try to put on a show. Morgan Rose is one of my favorite drummers growing up. He was one of the first drummers that I actually watched him instead of the lead singer.
OLD: In regards to family and loved-ones, do you sometimes find it difficult to keep in touch and involved while on the road?
Chris: It’s not difficult for me. I love to be on the road. I don’t have as many ties at home as some of the other guys. As long as mom gets a phone call once a week knowing that I’m ok, I’m good. I think everybody in my family supports what I’m doing . They know that when I’m going, I’ll be back. When I get home I spend time with everybody individually, and then it’s usually time to go.
Chris Vest, backstage before concert in Lima, Ohio
OLD: Do you think it’s important for a drummer to get involved in the songwriting 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?
Chris: For sure… and, it just goes back to it being a team effort. That’s just always the way it’s been with the bands I’ve been in. We’ve always sat down together and tried to write a part out, and it’s give and take from all sides. There may be a guitar part that I look at differently than the guitarist does, and they shoot ideas to me like, “Hey, try this kind of drum pattern here instead of this.” You’ve just got to be open to suggestions across the board.
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?
Chris: You can never give up. You’ve got to try hard and you’ve got to always keep on pushing yourself. That’s one of the things I love about drums. Whenever I set my mind to something, I stick on it until I think I’ve completed it or conquered it. With drums, it’s like you’ve never learned enough. There’s always something. Just when I think, “I’ve got that figured out” there’s something out there that I’m looking to do. You’ve got to keep your mind open to new things and listening to different types of music. If you get stuck into one type of drumming, you get boxed in.
And other than that, click track… That changed my world. I was a really sloppy drummer, and I went into the studio and they started cracking the whip. I finally became comfortable with the click track, and then once I felt comfortable with it, it just opened up the way I play. It made me play with more confidence knowing that I can hear that beat.
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?
Chris: I ended up getting robbed, held at gun-point at one of our shows, getting some merch out of the trailer. I ended up playing the show 30-45 minutes later, and it’s just one of those things that kept going through my head the entire time, how lucky I am to be alive and to be able to do the things I do. I’ve been very blessed and fortunate. If this whole thing were to end tomorrow I would look back on it and be like, “Wow, that’s so much more than I ever expected it to be.” I think you just got to keep that in mind. It’s a very hard business. It’s a very hard industry. It makes you really appreciate it.
OLD: What has been your greatest experience so far as a member of Framing Hanley?
Chris: It’s hard to even put it into one thing because there’s been so much. Playing theNext Big Thing festival in Tampa, Florida… that was the first show I can remember sitting behind the riser and not being able to see the end of the people. I would see hands in the air, but I couldn’t see the line of where it ended. And, at the same time, we got to play with some of my favorite bands. It was great. That was definitely a big one.
Nate Brown (left) and Chris Vest (right), backstage before concert in Lima, Ohio