Girl drummers ya know? Providing a band with a heart-beat, staying in time, and having finesse is no easy feat, but these talented women sure know their way around a drum-kit!
Anyone who spent their formative years in a sweaty garage or bedroom, jamming out to Mick Fleetwood’s solos, will know it’s possibly the best way to spend your teenage days. That is unless someone has other ideas about what you should be doing because, I don’t know, you’re a girl?
Luckily, we’re not really into that kind of thing. So we’ve put together a list to celebrate some of the amazing girl female drummers hitting the skins in Australia. Mostly because they’re awesome musician with amazing individual styles, and also a little bit because no one should ever think that only men are allowed to hit things with sticks.
Kate Wilson – The Laurels / The Holy Soul
The product of a well-rounded, renaissance style upbringing, Kate Wilson’s parents insisted she try another instrument when she quit the piano aged 14. Although apparently lacking a certain hand-eye coordination, Wilson enjoyed whacking those drums so much that she stuck with it. The bottom line was it was more fun than tinkling the ivories, and still is for the veteran percussionist.
Having come up with Sydney legends The Laurels, Wilson left to pursue new project The Holy Soul last year. She’s got a tight, quirky and kicky style of drumming. With a talent for pulling out the individual sounds from different elements of her kit, and also for nice fast work. Often bringing a rolling beat, a lot of her playing has an interesting military bend to it.
Scarlett Stevens – San Cisco
It’s not everybody that gets a star studded introduction to their instrument of choice. But San Cisco’s Scarlett Stevens was first shown the sticks by Jack Johnson’s own drummer Adam Topol. Then just ten years old, Scarlett was messing around on a kit when Topol came over and demonstrated a basic rock beat to her. Forming her own band, The Flairz, at the same young age, they even made it to SXSW. But Stevens found fame with her current outfit, indie-pop band San Cisco.
Having being quoted as saying that she prefers to be the “backbone” of the band, rather than in the spotlight, Stevens brings a relaxed groove to her performance. She’s tight and firm but there’s almost a swinging style to her playing, which perfectly matches the band’s sun-drenched vibes.
Known for playing barefoot – simply because no shoes feel comfortable enough for a whole set – Stevens also contributes backing vocals while drumming, which is no mean feat.
Jen Sholakis – Jen Cloher’s band / East Brunswick Girls Choir
Jen Sholakis has been recording and touring as a drummer for over ten years, and with a number of different outfits. She is perhaps best known for her work with Jen Cloher, The Orbweavers, and also the excellent East Brunswick Girls Choir. A really versatile drummer, Sholakis’ various projects have all brought out different feels from those sticks of hers.
Check out the latest release from East Brunswick Girls Choir and you’ll hear Jen’s hefty undercurrent carrying the tracks but without taking the spotlight. Edging towards splashy, ambient cymbals, she often creates a wide reaching sound that can either be steady or furious.
Sholakis has also carved out a varied career for herself outside of her drumming. Currently working with Milk! Records, she has also been a Broadcast Technical Assistant and Audio Producer in the radio world. Plus, she founded her own touring company called D + D Music Factory, so if anyone had any questions about being a woman in the music industry…
Lindy Morrison – The Go-Betweens
If the name Lindy Morrison hasn’t crossed your radar at some point, now is the time to get acquainted. One of the most legendary female drummers in Australia, Morrison’s career with The Go-Betweens during the 1980’s helped to light the way for so many women in music. Now working in Community Music and as a Music Educator, Morrison didn’t step away from the industry once the band called it quits.
On her drummer’s stool, she has a gift for making off-kilter rhythms sound natural, with a nice solid “thump” to her playing. She also picks out accents in her playing, almost the same way a guitarist might add little moments of harmonics or string screech. Morrison once advised prospective female drummers against becoming “slashies”.
A common affliction today, where everyone is a musician/photographer/artist/beekeeper… Morrison’s word to the wise is that, to be a drummer, you need to give it all your focus. Interestingly, Morrison may not have taken her own advice as she was actually successfully working in Aboriginal Legal Services during the 70’s and in a satirical theatre groups even as she embarked on her own career in music.
Bree Van Reyk – Holly Throsby / Sarah Blasko / Massive Band
Drummer and composer Bree Van Reyk has also lent her skills to a number of different outfits. Perhaps best known for her work with Holly Throsby, Paul Kelly and Sarah Blasko, Bree began playing drums aged ten.
She also has a real passion for getting more girls involved in music. As the Artist In Residence at Campbelltown Arts Centre, Bree pretty much set up a rock school for girls. Under the moniker Massive Band, she ran sessions and workshops to encourage girls to see the positivity in music.
Using Patti Smith and Aretha Franklin as her examples, she aims to stop girls being intimidated by what they might perceive to be a man’s world. In her own style, Bree has a really nice loose groove that accompanies her classic style of drumming. She’s a snare driver, but not showy or overwhelming. You can even check out online tutorials by Bree on YouTube; where she demonstrates basic beats to classic songs.
Monika Fikerle – Love Of Diagrams
If it’s some hard hitting, thrashed out drumming you’re after, then look no farther than Monika Fikerle of Love Of Diagrams. Originally from Hobart, Fikerle has since relocated to Melbourne where her current band is based. A multi instrumentalist, she initially played drums for Tassie band Sea Scouts having apparently only picked up sticks for the first time about a week earlier.
Known for having an “energetic, quirky” style, in her early work she was known for her preference for the toms. Creating a deep tribal sound, her style has evolved to be more snare and cymbal based with Love Of Diagrams. Fikerle has a talent for keeping her beats quite frenetic, working in fills to become part of her basic beats, and she is excellent at carrying the band through the changes in pace that they favour throughout tracks.
Jo Syme – Big Scary
One half of the awesome Big Scary, Jo Syme is also a great example of what good mentors and inspiration can push people to do. She originally took up the drums after becoming fascinated with her older cousin’s kit. When said cousin stopped playing, she passed her drums onto a young Syme – who never looked back. She also credits her female tutors as inspiring and encouraging her to take her drumming further.
She’s a strong advocate for jamming with friends; by Syme’s reckoning one hour playing with other people is better than ten hours of solo practice.
With a background in jazz, Syme brings as kind of easy syncopation to a lot of her drumming with Big Scary. A real human metronome, the sparse indie sounds of the duo really leans on her percussion skills. Producing what is almost a live rendition of a programmed beat, it really is perfect lo-fi drumming. Syme also contributes her vocals while playing, which I will find eternally impressive.
From what I can gather none of these outstanding musicians see much appeal ego-driven drum solos or sprawling kits. Sorry Tommy Lee and Nicko McBrain – your rotating drum kits and five thousand toms may have to be consigned to the category of ‘wank fest’ make way for the girl drummers!