WESLEY MITCHELL BULLY
Power and control drives new US alt-rock quartet
One of the newest signings to the iconic Sub Pop label (once home to Nirvana etc), Bully make raw, two guitar/bass/ drums alternative rock, fronted by the captivating and fantastically-voiced Alicia Bognanno. Hole drummer Patty Schemel is a big champion of the band, and it’s Wesley Mitchell’s skilled and up-in-the-mix punk rock drumming that is the real driving force in the band’s music. Check out superb tracks like ‘Feel The Same’, ‘Running’, ‘Hate And Control’, ‘Kills To Be Resistant’ and the title track from their second and newly-released album, Losing.
What was your introduction to drumming?
“I began playing snare drum in a school band whenI was 10 years old. In middle school I just played here and there and never took it seriously. The real drive to play began at the age of 14 when two strangers, now my closest friends, invited me to play with them in their punk rock band. I was the weakest link in the band, but we were only having fun. However, being the worst player in my punk band and high school band quickly turned into motivation to better my drumming. I started setting small goals to improve and worked on them relentlessly any time I could until I achieved what I considered acceptable.”
Who are your drumming heroes?
“John Bonham, Dave Grohl, Travis Barker, Chad Smith and guys from underground punk bands like Chas Snyder from Tanka Ray. I can’t get enough of Mark Guiliana, Benny Greb, Jojo Mayer, Stanton Moore and David Garibaldi. Those guys are pushing the boundaries and innovating drumming on a whole different level.”
How did you come to hook up with Alicia as Bully’s live drummer?
“Nashville is small. You don’t have to attend too many shows before you meet a lot of the working musicians in town. Alicia ran sound for some of my bands at a local venue in Nashville called Stone Fox and I’ve been good friends with our other guitaristClayton Parker for a few years. He introduced me to the band members when he joined Bully. I was lucky enough to get the call when they needed a drummer.”
Which Bully song perfectly captures your sound and style?
“That would be a toss up between ‘Hate And Control’ and ‘Feel The Same’.”
What has been your proudest moment with the band so far?
“I’ve always wanted to instil the same desire to play drums and pursue music on to others as I did from drummers like John Bonham orMark Guiliana.A few years back I recorded some drum lesson videos and threw them up on YouTube as a hobby and a couple of those videos were received a lot better than I could have imagined. That aside, I’ve been approached a couple of times on the road by individuals who have expressed how much I may have helped them with a technique, or influenced their playing style through my YouTube channel. The fact that I’ve even inspired one or more drummers to work hard and follow their dreams is quite an accomplishment for me.”
What’s the best drumming advice you have been given?
“My first drum instructor would point at the drummer in a band and say, ‘If the audience isn’t dancing, you’re not doing your job right.’ Mechanically, you may be playing the part ‘correctly’ but is the feel right?”
How do you approach playing live?
“Staying focused yet relaxed at the same time. It’s an odd combo and hard to describe. The more I play a song live the more comfortable I become with that particular song. In return, this frees up my ability to listen more actively to my role within the group as a whole and focus less on playing the correct patterns as my body is already naturally doing that. This is when I take note of how things feel mentally and adjust things that I feel aren’t being represented correctly. Bully is one of the first bands I’ve played in that isn’t meant to be super-loud like 90 percent of the time. That doesn’t mean it’s not heavy! The dynamics are expressed within the different parts of the songs and much more subtle things like a variation on the kick/snare pattern or a change of feel from one part to the next. Creating tension and release is always my goal.”
What’s the key to a great live performance?
“Staying relaxed and being able to breathe. Lots of musicians hold their breath and tense up during important parts of a song such as drum fills or guitar solos, which drastically affects how your body is operating. If you’re holding your breath, your body begins to panic and inversely boosts all those nerves you tried to steer clear of before getting on stage.”
What gear are you using?
“An early 2000’s Tama Starclassic Birch Kit. I love the idea of less is more, so it’s one up one down 12" and 16" with a 22" kick and 14" steel snare. The cymbals vary from time to time butI stick with Meinl mostly. My typical cymbal configuration is a 22" crash ride on the right with an 18" crash on the left and 14" hats.”
Patty Schemel is a big fan of the band, is she a drumming influence for you personally?
“I’ve always loved her drumming I can’t wait to pick up a copy of the new memoir and give it a read on our upcoming tour.”
Wesley Mitchell: a fan of the ‘less is more’ approach when it comes to his kit choices