From John Bonham to Clyde Stubblefield to ?uestlove, the drum has always been the backbone of any successful group. Hell, go further back in time, when drums were at the center of any tribal ritual. It’s carnal. Primeval. A good song hits you in the head. A good beat nails you in the stomach. So in an era of squeaky-clean, polished production, Los Angeles’ Street Drum Corps (SDC) are more important than ever.
What started as, to quote co-founder Adam Alt, “just a couple of guys playing buckets at parties,” has quickly morphed into a mini-empire, complete with affiliates around the world and grandiose, theatrical shows in the works. The trio, consisting of Alt, brother Bobby and Frank Zummo, is currently preparing their Interscope Records debut (and third overall), while their energetic rock-band-meets-performance-art sets continue to astound and mesmerize anyone with the good fortune to catch them.
Bobby and Adam Alt had each been drumming since they were 10 and had played in various bands since high school. After founding Bobby and Adam Alt’s Drum Experiment, utilizing, as Bobby puts it, “pots, pans, found instruments or whatever we could get our hands on for a new sound,” the pair met up with Zummo, a recent L.A. transplant playing in “trashcan bands” up and down the East Coast in a show called Re:Percussion. Their goals in the beginning were modest: “After we met Frank, it was like, ‘Let’s just go bang on some stuff in a junkyard and film it and see what happens,’” recalls Adam.
What “happened” was an increasing demand for performances at everywhere from Universal Studios and Magic Mountain (their debut gig) to the Taste of Chaos Kickoff Party at the House of Blues. It was at the latter where Vans Warped Tour founder Kevin Lyman, who has since dubbed the group a “punk rock Stomp,” was so impressed, he gave the group the resources to record their debut album. The 2004 self-titled debut, released through Lyman and Warcon Records, featured the scorching track “Achilles” with Stomp’s John Sawicki, and was followed by sophomore album entitled We Are Machines. On Machines, the sound was more influenced by industrial music than before, but the tribal, percussive core remained.
Since their formation four years ago, the group has constantly refined their sound on the road, blowing away audiences at nearly every major U.S. festival with their combination of thunderous percussion and visual stimuli. SDC’s shows are a primordial, stomping blast of energy, theatricality and passion. There’s a reason why members of No Doubt, Bad Religion, and Revolution tourmates Atreyu all want to play with them. Why Conan O’Brien invited them to perform on his show. And why The Used’s Bert McCracken has practically adopted them as his pet band. SDC are more concerned with rhythm than genre. In their performances, one hears tribal, rock, punk, dance and industrial, all somehow blending together in a chaotic, beautiful mess.
After conquering Warped Tour, Coachella, A Taste of Chaos, and any other tour that’s gotten in their way, the trio is currently performing on the Main Stage at Projekt Revolution alongside Chris Cornell, Busta Rhymes, The Bravery and Linkin Park. In addition to introducing Linkin Park (in their own inimitable way), the group has been personally invited to perform select songs with the headliners.
“If you’re blind, you’re gonna feel an amazing rhythm coming from us ‘cause we are all drummers first,” says Bobby. “If you’re deaf, you’re going to see a lot of flashiness and a lot of energy from what we’re doing stomping around on stage. We take a lot of the theatrics from groups like Motley Crue, Jane’s Addiction, Blue Man Group and Stomp.”
As the group’s members have extensively toured and evolved, so has their sound. For their Interscope debut, the drums obviously remain, but now horns, keyboards and more make their way into the mix. Drawing from such diverse influences as Adam and the Ants, Led Zeppelin, Jane’s Addiction, African Burundi drummers, Latin percussion and Siouxsie & the Banshees, the album’s varied sounds ensure that this will not be just “that record with all the drumming.”
"The new stuff is definitely more verse-chorus-verse than what we've done in the past," says Bobby. "Where another song would have a bridge or guitar solo, that's where the drums will always pop out. I think a lot of the non-traditional will be in interludes between songs. We really want the whole album to flow together the way The Wall does."
Similarities undoubtedly exist between SDC and other percussion-centric groups like Stomp and Blue Man Group, but this group is far edgier, relying more on the punk rock credo than their peers. “Stomp and Blue Man are amazing at what they do. We don’t want to compete with them,” says Zummo. “But we want to start something completely new and target a completely different audience.”
While the trio may have begun as "a side project gone wild," the range of their upcoming shows makes theirs a 24-hour job. In addition to their main duties of recording and touring, the trio are actively recruiting more affiliates around the world for their popular SDC Presents Bang!, while simultaneously planning both a Broadway and Las Vegas show. If the next few years are anything like the past few, you'll probably get the chance to see Street Drum Corps wherever you are.
Bobby Alt (S.T.U.N., Faculty X), Adam Alt (Circus Minor), and Frank Zummo (The Start) started Street Drum Corps in April of 2004. This "brotherhood of unsung and talented performers" (Las Vegas Callback Newspaper) creates a show that is "well-choreographed" (OC Weekly) and exciting to watch. SDC uses instruments such as hand drums, acoustic drum kits, buckets, kitchenware, recycled aluminum garbage cans, marching band equipment and a Moog Theremin. People from all over the world, from all walks of life, have witnessed the SDC holds a summer and fall residency at Six Flags Magic Mountain Theme Park in Los Angeles. SDC has also performed at Universal Studios Hollywood.
SDC performed at Chain Reaction for the NAMM kickoff party in Anaheim, CA. The show was a feature story on rollingstone.com. In past performances, Street Drum Corps has enjoyed the company of members of STOMP, No Doubt, Bad Religion, Good Charlotte, Atreyu, 30 Seconds To Mars, Strung Out, Alexis On Fire, and many others. Bert McCracken of The Used has performed with Street Drum Corps several times, and shares the stage with them for the song "Flaco 81" as well as part of his own band's set on their current tour. The members of SDC are currently featured in an advertisement for Ahead's Laser Drumsticks, Peta, Hurley, Monster Energy, Draven Shoes, Protection Racket, and Thunder Echo Drums. SDC is featured in the new Las Vegas reality show "INKED" which debuted on the A&E Channel. SDC has launched their own merchandise line which includes men's and women's apparel, custom drumsticks, a custum drum shoe, and a metronome watch is in production, as well as a feature length DVD. SDC performed at all California and Arizona Warped Tour 2005 Shows. SDC also performed at House Of Blues for the Warped Tour Kick Off Party in Los Angeles, CA. SDC has been performing at many private events in California and Las Vegas.