Lately, I’ve found myself being asked several questions: Didn’t you use to be in Gym Class Heroes? Whatever happened to those guys? Are you still making music? Essentially, they want to know where I’ve been. So I want to take a moment and briefly talk about my experiences, on and off stage, over the past few years.
I still AM in Gym Class Heroes, which is a band that I co-founded at the age of 14 with my friend, Travis. I really hate to use the “H” word to describe our status. So I will just say that when our last album cycle ended in 2013, our schedule became fairly inactive. Okay, okay…entirely inactive. Totally fine. We’d been in a loop of recording and touring for about 9 years, and I thought that I might benefit from some time away. Soon after, restlessness set in.
I spent the final few months of 2013 pursuing other non-musical interests. Hiking incredible trails. Cooking dope food. Designing and building sick ass furniture. Pretending to be a ninja with my daughter, Zooey. That stuff was all great.
I also started regularly talking to a therapist. I had been experiencing some feelings that were related to my own creative dissatisfaction. Since I was a teenager, Gym Class Heroes was the main (and often sole) outlet I had to create and perform - and now, well, I didn’t really have that. Inactivity, it seemed, was a very bad thing for my emotional wellbeing. At the top of 2014, I decided I wanted to get back out on the road, independent of my own band. In other words - touring as a session drummer with other artists/bands. I began looking for new opportunities and approached each day like a “9-to-5" full-time job. In the morning, I would step outside my house and make the 15-second commute to my recording studio (which I built, btw) where I would drink coffee, write emails, and strategize until lunchtime. It was during this period that I also became interested in yoga and the practice of mindful meditation - filling any gaps in my schedule with such activities. Typically, I would spend the afternoons writing and recording music. Having always been interested in composing music for film, TV, and visuals - this became a natural focus for my songwriting. Throughout the year, I produced around 40 short musical cues - frequently collaborating with my close friend, Milo Bonacci of Ra Ra Riot.
I was happy to be productive, and I created some music that I’m tremendously proud of during this time. Still, I couldn’t shake the feeling that I wasn’t doing what I ought to be doing. I was eager to be performing regularly, but I was patient enough to wait for the right opportunity. While scanning Billboard’s Emerging Artists chart late one afternoon, I discovered the music of Ryn Weaver. She had casually released her song Octahate, which soon racked up a million plays. I loved what I heard. It was quirky and unconventional yet accessible to a large audience. Ryn was exactly the sort of artist I had been hankering to work with. I took a leap of faith and reached out to her manager, Kellogg - inquiring to see if she had thought about putting a live band together. Kellogg explained that they hadn’t quite made it to the touring side of things yet, but that they would keep me in mind. As months passed I would check in occasionally, but never so much as to be annoying (I hope). I was not initially offered the gig. Though I was talented, reliable, creative (and arguably handsome) - it became difficult for me to break through the web of pre-established relationships and so they went with another drummer. It happens. I was disappointed and so I ate an excessive amount of Mike and Ike’s - exhibiting all of those symptoms that accompany being rejected, turned away, and/or passed over. SIDE NOTE: One of my closest musical friends is the record producer, Infamous. He once explained to me that “music is mostly rejection.” And this guy has Grammys…PLURAL! I guess the point is that I’ve chosen a career path in which failure is a potential, if not likely, outcome. So the only constructive solution I could think of was to resist failure altogether. Or rather, build upon it. Adversity can be a powerful motivator.
I shook the dust and went back to my 9-to-5 routine. I practiced more. I created more. I exercised more. And I put myself out there. I cultivated new relationships and I tended to existing ones. To my satisfaction, Kellogg kept me in the loop - running ideas by me and giving occasional updates.
It seemed there were some scheduling conflicts in the Ryn Weaver camp, and so during the first week of 2015 I was called in to sub for her drummer. It was Ryn’s television debut, and we would be performing on The Late Show with David Letterman. Things went smoothly and the following week I was called to fill-in again - this time for a showcase in LA. Afterwards, I thanked everyone involved for the tremendous opportunity and flew home. When I got back to New York, I once again resumed my daily routine. A few weeks later, I received an unexpected email inquiring if I would play with Ryn full-time. I was thrilled to accept and have continued to tour with her extensively - rocking faces @ Coachella, Bonnaroo, Late Show w/ Jimmy Fallon, and elsewhere.
At present, I’m in Upstate New York. I’m in the studio recording Birdman-inspired drums this morning, potentially for use in a “sports” commercial. Who knows if anything will happen with it. I do know that I’m on a path and I’m happy. I’m a drummer. I tour and perform for a living.
For now, things are cool - but I also recognize that there are going to be some more Mike and Ike years. All good.