Drumsmiths Vol. 4 – Mayer Bros. : Boys and their toysZack Albetta
By Zack Albetta
Bring up just about any subject having to do with drums or music and Jack Mayer’s eyes light up. There are many reasons to get into drum building, but Jack is clearly in it for the fun. The Los Angeles native has all the outward appearances of an adult—he’s a master craftsman, business owner, husband and father—but just below the surface there is still a little kid, wailing on his CB700 drums, begging his dad for an upgrade to Ludwig. Jack has been a drummer all his life and still plays around LA, but he talks more passionately about building drums than about playing them. “I like the idea that something I made is on a stage somewhere with somebody; it’s like I’m there too. And it doesn’t have to be a big stage either. I’ve made drums for The Who, but even if it’s a little jazz club or a coffee house gig with 20 people and someone is using my drum kit, it’s still just as exciting for me.”
Jack and his brother Mark started the company 15 years ago. Mark is not a drummer and was only involved in the early stages. Jack describes the birth of the business as a natural progression after years of tinkering with his drums and experimenting with doing his own paint and stain jobs. Mayer Bros. drumsets are available in maple, maple/poplar, and maple/mahogany, usually with 8-ply shells. He also builds snare drums out of brass, aluminum, steel, titanium, and single ply steam-bent Craviotto shells (Jack has been employed by Craviatto for many years, doing their finish work).
The Mayer Bros. sound, as described by Jack, is distinct yet classic. He never liked sharp bearing edges and bright tones, but doesn’t quite go for a full-on vintage sound or construction either. His clients value his input about what specs will best suit their needs. “I think I have a good ear for what would apply, as far as shell types and sizes. I can also suggest things that I like. For example, a lot of square floor toms sound great, but I’ll suggest a 16 x 15 or a 14 x 13, because I think they tune easier and quicker. Or, if a guy plays a lot of rock gigs, he might want a 22 x 18 kick but after I hear what he’s doing, I might suggest a 24 x 14.”
Chad Gamble, a Mayer Bros. endorser, with Jason Isbell & The 400 Unit
In addition to the right sound, Jack also prides himself on providing a drummer with the right look. Many of his clients play a wide variety of gigs and don’t want their drums to look out of place on any of them. Mayer Bros. drums bear custom-designed lugs and badges, but the finishes hew toward the classic (Jack’s hand-painted glitters and stains are especially pretty). “If you’re in a band and that’s all you do, you can have a crazy kit with flames shooting out the side. But if you play different gigs and you want to be hired and then hired again, you don’t want to show up with some obnoxious-looking shit. It’s about fitting all the moods.”
Jack’s commitment to quality is evident in the drums, but he is perhaps most proud of the relationships he’s cultivated through his business. He takes drum building personally, in the best sense of the word, and says some of his best friends started out as clients. While the world of custom drums can sometimes take itself a bit too seriously, Jack remains focused on why we all thought drums were cool in the first place. “When someone gets something from me, I want them to open the box and think, ‘This is Christmas!’ It doesn’t matter what age you are…when you get a cool piece of gear, it’s just fun. At least it’s still fun to me, and I want to work with people who it’s fun for too. If you ever grow out of that feeling, one foot’s already in the grave.”
Check out more videos, pictures and products at mbdrums.com.