VIDEOS ARTICLES PODCAST STYLES HEALTH RUDIMENTS

“With us, it’s more like a family. It’s like, ‘This is what I got. I’m with you guys through thick and thin.'”

Christopher Guanlao is the drummer for the American alternative band, Silversun Pickups. Chris began playing with the band nearly four years before they released their first album titled ‘Carnavas’. That places Chris’ tenure at eighteen years at the time of this recording. The band rose to popularity when their song “Lazy Eye’ became featured on both Rock Band 2 and Rock Band World Tour. Since the release of Carnavas, Silversun Pickups have released four studio records over the next fourteen years including their 2019 release, ‘Widow’s Weeds’.

What makes Chris incredibly unique is his self-taught, bombastic, open-handed playing style. He also has a head-turning drum kit setup that would make you wonder if he was one of the first members of the “high cymbal gang”. He plays a beautiful purple C&C acrylic kit with a ride, crash cymbal and hats down low on his left. And then one impossibly high standing crash cymbal on his right. This asymmetrical setup has grown into his style and it is something that’s instantly memorable.

In this episode:

You will hear about…

  • How Silversun Pickups has lasted for roughly two decades and is still going strong
  • Rupture and repair
  • Chris’ thoughts on the common “band” template these days
  • How we can create great moments during performances when things go wrong
  • Chris’ thoughts on why musicians crave to play regardless of the risks or costs involved
  • The recording process on Widow’s Weeds, SSPU’s newest record
  • A fan email read and discussed at the end of the episode

Why you should listen:

A great deal of these interviews feature guests who are “drummer’s drummers” who have reached some kind of profound ability and understanding of their instrument and therefore end up working with many different artists and mediums. Far less of them are with drummers who only play for a popular rock band. So, with that being said, this interview gives off a very relatable message to drummers who are dedicated to one group.

To play with one group and essentially not work with other musicians on the side is almost unheard of, as many know. And with that fact in mind, SSPU is reaching two decades of playing together. Consider this: fifty percent of marriages fail. I wonder what that number jumps to for bands with no member changes over five years?

The big takeaway here is this: Bands can get really messy at times, and sometimes great bands are not meant to last. I think it is a different dynamic altogether than the lone ranger who only represents themself. Just do a great job, consistently and with the smallest negative footprint possible during the process. If you can do that, there is a chance that things will work out.

But what about a band? You can end up with a great performer, great songwriter and wonderful social butterfly who is a total wild card professionally. How do you deal with that person if the band is doing well on the front stage and poorly backstage? It is an interesting topic that I want to explore more with drummers in the future.

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