Upsilon Acrux – Dual Drum Playthrough

You have to be pretty brave to have two drummers in one band. Not, like, a kit drummer and an auxiliary percussionist, two full on drum sets, each manned by one person. First of all, the sheer logistics of miking up two full kits in any typical club has got to be tough, and most stages are hardly big enough to hold an average size band with all the backline gear and whatnot. Next, how can you fit all that gear in one van/trailer? Lastly, if the stage is level, the drool coming out of both sides of two drummer’s mouths must be just hellish (yuk yuk).

But then, it takes courage to plot a new course, and the brief playthrough below (an intro to a much longer piece) proves that Upsilon Acrux are not shy about trying new things. Their carefully choreographed fills and interspersed beats create a soundscape wall without walking all over each other. And even a cursory glance at their live performance and music will show you that carefully composed is their middle name. They make music that would make Frank Zappa proud.

Here’s what drummers Mark Kimbrell and Dylan Fujioka had to say about this song:

This is the two drummer intro to Upsilon Acrux’s longest and most intense song, “Old Dusk Seas: Odyssey.” The band kicks in at full tilt with a very fast and dense arrangement immediately after the last note in this video, so the job of the drum intro is to establish a pace, ramp it up, and springboard us into the bombardment that follows.

The primary element that we’re working with is compound rhythms (octopus mode). The main idea behind this is to using our combined eight limbs to play one big rhythm. Everything is locked in to the same time signature, but nothing is played in unison. Imagine an octopus playing a different drum with each limb — that’s essentially what we’re going for. The opening section is a good example of this: we’re both playing in 9/4, but voicing our parts very differently to make it sound like one big instrument.

The second element that we employ is trading fills back and forth with little/no space between them. We use this to transition between the two extended sections of the intro, then again at the end as we transition into the song proper. This yields a somewhat “normal” sound, in the sense that it resembles something which could be played by a single drummer. The cool thing about this technique is that unlike a single drummer, we don’t have to worry about where our hands are as we move between phrases. Each of us is resting while the other plays, so we can color outside of the boundaries of what we could do individually, while still achieving a (mostly)single-threaded progression of notes that’s fairly easy for the listener to follow. An additional trick we use is to sometimes overlap our fills by one beat, which helps us maintain the continuity of the phrase.

Dylan (right side drums) and I were fairly inexperienced at the two-drummer thing when we started working on this, and it went through a few iterations before we arrived at what you see here. We’ve now reached a point where working together lets us play way beyond what we can do individually, and we’ve really only scratched the surface of what’s possible here. Unfortunately, we don’t have much competition at this point–there simply aren’t many bands working with a two-drummer format, and even fewer with the appetite to pursue it into untrod territory. So for those of you who view our humble effort and envision something bigger, better, greater: consider the challenge issued.

Pretty dang interesting. Here’s what it sounds like:

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As Editor-in-Chief of Gear Gods, I've been feeding your sick instrument fetishism and trying unsuccessfully to hide my own since 2013. I studied music on both coasts (Berklee and SSU) and now I'm just trying to put my degree to some use. That's a music degree, not an English one. I'm sure you noticed.