SET AND SETTING Drop a Live, Two-Drummer Playthrough

The boys in Set and Setting recently released Reflectionless, their new album recorded by the mighty Ryan Haft (Torche, Wrong) at Black Bear Studios in Florida. Particularly notable for our readers, this band has TWO drummers in Mark Etherington and Stephen Handal!

So we had the boys prove their chops by shooting over a dual-drum-playthrough for the track “…The Mirrored Self,” along with some little tidbits about their composing process. Check it out below:

What is the process like for you guys when writing a drumbeat? What happens first?

Mark: Well, usually [guitarist] Shane comes to the table with a riff and a basic drumbeat and then we try to build off that. Our dual drumming starts to build once a foundation is in place. Then we basically just feed off each other and throw around ideas within that rhythm.

Who comes up with what, first?

Stephen: It depends on the part. Sometimes it’s Mark playing first, or whoever has the first idea. We just jam on the riff for a while until we get an idea of what we want to do.

How long does it take to go from jamming to becoming a set drumbeat for the part?

Stephen: Multiple practices.

Mark: Until we like it.

Stephen: We’ll record it on our phones and then listen to it over and over and then come back and sometimes we scratch the whole thing and sometimes we have other ideas and we add onto it. It’s a progression.

Mark: Yeah it’s kind of like chipping away. It’s like the idea is up here and then we finally solidify what we want. It’s like sculpting.

Who typically does what in the drumbeats?

Stephen: In our typical blastbeat thing, Mark plays the ride and snare, and I’ll do toms. Other parts, I’ll do more rhythmic tom parts and he’ll do more snare…

Mark: More standard hi hat, cymbal, snare, bass drum, and he’ll stick to more rhythm…

Stephen: Rhythm and lead, we try to make it kind of like guitars, double guitars.

Is there anything particularly difficult about working off each other that way?

Stephen: No, the only thing is keeping tempos and good time. That’s the only thing, timing. And maybe more intricate fills, making sure they’re clean.

Mark: Yeah I think it’s more so the general tempo of the song, not keeping in time with each other, because we’re pretty good about locking in together.

Stephen: Yeah, I mean, we’ve been playing for so long now, we know how each other play.

In “…The Mirrored Self,” who does what in this video?

Stephen: It’s that tom-heavy part for me.

Mark: During that part I stick to Shane’s polyrhythms and I’m basically accenting what the guitars are doing.

What are the main things you were trying to accomplish with that part?

Mark: I think with that song we started writing a little more heavy and smart. Every hit we do is intentional.

Stephen: We try to play off each other, where it goes from him hitting a part, to me going into it, and also it goes along with different guitar parts, different licks that go on, back and forth.

Mark: We balance the melodies.

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Max is a senior editor and producer of Gear Gods and member of the collective Party Smasher Inc. He studies jazz composition and improvisation in New York City.