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American Catastrophe

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On The Beat with Amy Farrand

We have drummer, bassist, solo artist, emcee, reverend, and jack of all trades Amy Farrand in the hot seat this week. She tells us about her longstanding drumming career in this city, along with her penchant for toy drum kits. Catch the beat right here!

On The Beat is typically brought to you by Sergio Moreno, but has been overtaken this week by drummer and The Deli - Kansas City editor-in-chief Michelle Bacon. This weekly interview features some of the many talented drummers in the area.

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On The Beat with Amy Farrand

 

If you're involved in Kansas City music, chances are you've heard of Amy Farrand, be it through her work as a drummer in Sister Mary Rotten Crotch, Atlantic Fadeout, or Whiskey Boots; her work as a bassist in American Catastrophe; her career as a solo artist (she recently took home the Pitch Music Award for Best Female Singer-Songwriter); and any other number of things. Fortunately, we were able to pry her away from her busy schedule to talk drums with us for a bit.

The Deli: You've been a mainstay in the music community in KC for several years. Did you start out playing drums?

Amy Farrand: Drums were my first instrument. I started playing them when I was 7 years old. I'm sure it was pretty awful to listen to then.

The Deli: So, how did the drums find you?

Amy: Music in general found me. I was the little kiddo who would run up to any instrument I saw and put my hands on it, despite the "No! Don't touch that!" I would usually hear. It would never stop me, and in most cases I would have to be physically removed from the instrument. I wanted to play everything. I asked for drums, and I used to tap and beat on things, so I was given a toy Muppets drum kit. I beat it to shreds, so it was time for a real set. I still play that kit to this day.

The Deli: Besides the Muppet kit, tell us about the kits you currently use. I especially want to know about the toy drum kit you busted out at a Weirdo Wednesday a few months back.

Amy: The kit I play now is the one I got when I was a little girl. Early '70s Slingerlands. It is a rare, copper-plated 7-piece kit. I believe they were only made for a very brief period. I play it as a 4-piece. I use the second rack tom instead the first, because I like a bigger, deeper sound. I also converted a mid-60s marching snare (15 x 12). I had to mount floor tom legs on it as it was too tall for my snare stands. When I started playing with Sister Mary Rotten Crotch I covered them with red plaid. I decided to leave them like that after I left the band.

As for the toy kit, it's just a crappy thing I bought at a megamart. My old roomie had one too. We would put them together for toy drum double kick badassery. Yes! They actually sounded really good recorded. Who knew?

The Deli: What have you learned about your approach to drumming through all the different bands you've played drums in?

Amy: I have learned that my style is pretty unorthodox, and it is an adjustment for some to get used to, so I'm told. I'm predominantly self-taught, except for my brief stint in Africa. I'm sure that has a tiny little bit to do with it. Ahem.

The Deli: You mentioned that you're starting a new project. What can you tell us about that?

Amy: It's still under wraps right now. Baby stages. I will say that I'm playing drums with Heather Lofflin, who I played with in Whiskey Boots, and two other people. No further comment.

The Deli: Obligatory question: favorite drummers?

Amy: John Bonham, Rob Ellis (PJ Harvey), Phil Puleo (Swans, Cop Shoot Cop), Bill Ward (Black Sabbath). There are many more, but these were the first that sprang to mind..

The Deli: You're not only a drummer; you play bass, guitar, you're a solo performer, an emcee, an artist, a host, and you probably do a lot of other things I don't even know. Is there anything Amy Farrand can't do?

Amy: I am a crappy bowler, and I'm horrible at Battleship.

The Deli: You mentioned to me once that when you were starting out, there weren't a whole lot of female musicians in town, so they weren't taken seriously. Do you think that's changing now?

Amy: I took a lot of crap when I was starting out. A lot. "Pretty good for a girl," or, "I didn't think girls could play drums." That kind of bullshit attitude. I would be setting up on stage and hear things like, "Oh, a chick drummer. This band is gonna suck." All it did was encourage me.

I remember once Sister Mary was playing a huge street punk fest at El Torreon. There were bands from all over the country and the UK. By the second or third song in our set I noticed a pack of guys standing off to the side of the stage with their arms crossed, just staring at me. They were watching everything I did. I later found out that all of them were drummers in other bands. None of them said a word to me after our set. Later, one of the guys came up and asked me about something I was playing. He was the drummer for Beerzone from the UK. I took him into a practice space and gave him a lesson before his band took the stage. Ha! He was a pretty nice guy. I was 15 years old when I played in my first band. That was 23 years ago. Thankfully a lot has changed since then. It has been quite some time since anyone told me I was pretty good for a girl.

The Deli: If we ever form that lady percussion circle, would you rather play triangle, toy drums, or other? 

Amy: I will play junk and toys. I don't even own a triangle.

Amy hosts the Weirdo Wednesday Supper Club each week at Davey's Uptown from 7 to 9 pm. It's fun and it's free! She'll also be performing on Friday, September 7 at the Slap 'n' Tickle Gallery. We look forward to having her as one of the featured artists in The Deli KC's first music showcase on Friday, November 9. Details to come. 

--Michelle Bacon

Michelle is editor-in-chief of The Deli - Kansas City. She also has a weekly column with The Kansas City Star and reviews music for Ink. She plays with Deco AutoDrew Black and Dirty Electric, and Dolls on Fire. If you ever joke or attempt to taunt her with an eight-legged creature, she will hate you forever and that's no lie.

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Amy Farrand

Photo by Michael Forester



Photo by Michael Forester
 
 

 

 
 

 

 

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Show recap: American Catastrophe Farewell Show at recordBar, 7.14.12

This past Saturday, American Catastrophe performed its final show to a packed crowd at the recordBar. The band was preceded by Omaha duo drakes hotel and Kansas City's Noir-a-Go-Go darlings The Latenight Callers. Though both opening bands performed strong sets to a growing audience, the focus was clearly on American Catastrophe.

For 2 hours, the group played its acclaimed version of dark Americana to a crowd that continually hungered and hollered for more. The band performed favorites from its album Excerpts From The Broken Bone Choir, along with other signature songs including "Six Foot Whisper" and "Swing Edmond." By breathing life into these songs, American Catastrophe gave listeners a chance to hear why it's been a mainstay of the Kansas City scene, despite releasing only one album in its lengthy career.

That night, each piece of music proved just as vital as the other. While the deep rhythmic foundation of Amy Farrand and Eric Bessenacher held down each song, Shaun Hamontree laid the groundwork with vocals that switched between a haunting low register and a brazen roar. As the multi-instrumentalist of the group, Terrence Moore enhanced the immediate mood of each song. An ominous banjo with a fearful, foreboding undertone; a chugging harmonica, navigating the listener through the nine circles of hell; or a screeching guitar, ripping clean through the soul. These are the types of sounds the successful 4-piece experimented with during its run and fully brought to fruition on Saturday. A fitting farewell to a fine, dynamic group.

--Michelle Bacon

Photos © Todd Zimmer, 2012. Please do not use without permission.

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Show of the week: American Catastrophe/The Latenight Callers/drakes hotel at recordBar, 7.14.12

This Saturday, Kansas City favorites American Catastrophe will be playing their final show at recordBar. The band has been going strong for about 11 years, with an impressive resume. Its first and only album Excerpts from the Broken Bone Choir received positive reviews from reputable sources like Pitchfork and Paste, and the album debuted on the CMJ charts. The band's signature dark Americana sound summons acts like Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds, Tom Waits, Bauhaus, and Swans, with a tinge of hard-hitting folk. Saturday's show promises to be an exciting one, featuring songs from the band's entire catalog.

American Catastrophe will be joined by The Latenight Callers and Omaha's drakes hotel. This show will likely sell out, so get your tickets at the link here.

$7 cover
9:00 p.m. Doors
10:00 p.m. drakes hotel
10:45 p.m. The Latenight Callers
11:30 p.m. American Catastrophe

 

 

 

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