World's busiest drummer relents, agrees to sit still for an interview
Published: Wednesday, August 31, 2011
Updated: Thursday, September 1, 2011 11:09
Joe Plummer is the James Franco of the indie drumming world.
He wants to do it all and is definitely getting there, from his "white dub" and "soundscape-druggie-film" solo work to being simultaneously employed by three bands, there's not much room for anything outside of writing, recording and touring with Modest Mouse, The Shins and his most recently released project, Mister Heavenly – the brainchild of Man Man's Ryan Kattner (aka Honus Honus) and The Islands' Nick Thornburn.
After getting his cup of pour-over from a hipster coffee place in Northeast Portland called Extracto and annexing himself in his car, Plummer fielded a set of questions from College Times about the band's super-indie group status, defining the band's found genre of ‘doom wop' and what it's like to be one of the most-hired drummers in the indie circuit.
College Times: You're in three bands right now, two of which still have albums on the way. Have you been doing anything the last few years outside recording, writing and touring?
Plummer: No. That's what I do.
Does it become overwhelming being pulled from sound to sound?
Yeah, it can. The hardest thing is you just get tired from traveling. But, you know.
Where are all the home bases for these bands these days?
Mostly Portland, except for Mister Heavenly. We've been coincidentally practicing in Portland, but those guys are either homeless or live in New York or L.A. or what they're feeling.
Yeah. By the definition, they're homeless; they don't have homes. Ryan and Nick both tour a lot as well, especially Ryan, so he's not paying rent anywhere. So, Mister Heavenly has been doing a lot of work in Portland, practicing for touring or practicing for the record. We started in New York.
How does working with Nick and Ryan feel different than Modest Mouse or The Shins?
Well, it's got a lighter feel to it. We still are really serious about what we're doing. It's not that The Shins or Modest Mouse are not fun, because it's really, really, really fun, but there's a lightness to Mister Heavenly that I really appreciate.
I think that maybe comes from the super group stigma. A lot of people don't really take them as seriously.
Yeah. In turn, I don't take the term ‘super group' very seriously.
Personally, I would not consider us a super group. I just don't consider [laughs] us to be super, individually.
So you definitely wouldn't put this band near A Perfect Circle or The Yardbirds or Travelling Wilburys?
No, I sure wouldn't. We were talking about A Perfect Circle. I was trying to remember A Perfect Circle. Yeah, we were trying to think of super groups that were successful. I guess A Perfect Circle was one. Wait, were the Yardbirds a super group or did the guitarists become famous after? That's a good one. […] It was Jeff Beck, Jimmy Page and Eric Clapton. Unfortunately, we don't remember the drummer's name.
Yeah, it's okay. I don't either. It's a bummer.
It seems like Nick and Ryan were set on keeping a '50s feel to the recordings. Was that a different style for you to work with?
I had been coincidentally interested in '50s simple rhythms…well, it started with Black Heart Procession, and then I kind of laid off it for a while. I've been recording my own music and trying do stuff like that. […] There's only a handful of real rhythms and stuff and patterns you can do. […] So I was interested in that, then I got disinterested, then [Thornburn and Kattner] sent me some of their music and I was like, ‘Oh, this is cool. I maybe have something to add to this.' Then it kind of forced me to think more creatively about that stuff.
What does "doom wop" mean to you?
To me, doom wop is that dark love story but with this doo wop reference using '50s pop rhythms and basic silly, good love songs. […] It could be misconstrued that I ruined doo wop because doo wop is typically just vocals; it doesn't have drums. It has a rhythm, though.
So you were making vocal rhythms with your drums, maybe?
Yeah. [sighs] Sure. [laughs]. I think I'm more borrowing from The Crystals and [Phil] Spector stuff and maybe even some '50s soul stuff.