Sounding Board: So I guess we should start off with how you got into music
Michael Sneeringer: For me, I got discovered it pretty early. My dad played trumpet and he was more of a big band type of guy or like marching. He had a big vinyl collection and always liked to play. I was always pretty aware of music and started making my own mixtapes, starting at the age of seven years old like off the radio. I figured out how to start off with a blank cassette or even taping over an existing cassette if you taped over the top two corners you could tape onto it.
I was also just one of those fidgety kids that were always banging on the table, so drumming just kind of came naturally. I expressed an interest in drumming and my parents made me join the school band when I was ten, I just did concert band and like snare drum. Then I got my first drum kit at twelve and I actually still own that same kit. I pretty much record with that kit almost every time and I just used the bass drum to record last weekend.
Sounding Board: Nice! That’s also a pretty crafty thing to figure out how to do at such a young age and you pretty much just grew up with drums. And how’d you end up drumming for Strand of Oaks?
Michael: That was kinda happenstance, I was in this period of opportunity you could say because..it’s a very long story but really involves me quitting one band to join another band, then that didn’t work out. Then I found myself without a touring band for the first time in many years and it was very long before Tim from Strand of Oaks sent me a facebook message, an email and a text message all in the same day. I was thinking this guy definitely wants me to play drums.
So I talked with him and went out to his house in Mount Airy to meet with him. Then we started practicing and really been with them ever since. That was in 2014, so I’m on my fourth year and yeah, I just happened to be available when he hit me up. He asked me to tour manage as well, so I was doing that and playing drums for the whole HEAL record cycle. It was a lot of work, but it was cool.
Sounding Board: That’s cool how that all evolved. Have you been in other projects prior to this band? How do they compare?
Michael: Different..Strand of Oaks was much more organized. Like Purling Hiss who I’ve played with, who I loved playing with and we did a lot of touring when I was in that band. We didn’t really have as traditional a structure as far as a manager, they were more of an advisor. It was as ramped up business wise, but I loved playing in that band. It was more of a jamy band than Strand of Oaks is. In Strand of Oaks, we definitely like to jam, but not like Purling Hiss. There were Purling Hiss songs that could go on for a really long time, it was really up to Mike-the lead singer and guitarist as to how long we’d jam on certain parts. I always thought that was cool and there always clues when he was going to change parts.
Sounding Board: Yeah, just really feeling out the songs and see where they take you. Who would you say are some of your favorite drummers?
Michael: Well John Bonham is a cliche one to quote, but he’s just so, so good. Kevin Parker of Tame Impala is one of my absolute favorite drummers and a lot of my favorite drummers are songwriters, which that’s happened over time. Another one is David Bazan, Pedro The Lion is his moniker and he has a record called Control that has some of the best song oriented drumming that is still really hooky.
There are just so many drummers that I love. Eric Slick from Dr. Dog is another one and a good friend of mine. Every time…It’s like we are such good friends now and I love hanging out with Eric, I almost forget sometimes until I see him play that I’m just like “oh my god, this dude is so incredibly good.”
Sounding Board: Yeah, I’m with ya there, he’s such a great musician. How do you think you really honed your own style of drumming?
Michael: I’d say I split it between my body and my mind. By that I mean, In my mind I’d watch or listen to certain drummers and love what they do. You can try to emulate somebody’s style, but in reality your own body mechanics, what you’re comfortable with and how your body moves- who knows why..
The way we learn every movement from baby, you’re going to have certain limitations. If you accept them, then you’ll have your own individual style. I think it’s good to have goals of who you want to emulate and what sort of style you think is cool, but really it’s just settling into your own style. For me playing as long as I’ve been playing, which has been twenty-nine years playing drums..you will eventually will fall into your own style, if your accepting of it. Then technique..good technique took me a long time to learn. Growing up in the mostly the punk and hardcore scene..you know is an interesting mix now when I get to play with very stylistically different bands.
I just played with woman Rosali who is amazing and you should check out her stuff. I just played with her in December and I have another show with her coming up in April. She’s like a Joni Mitchell or early Linda Ronstadt, like country-era kind of artist. The punk drumming doesn’t really help me in that..but becoming well rounded and developing real technique, along with accepting my style was sort of my key to progression I guess.
Sounding Board: I’m sure too as much as you love playing with one band, it’s nice to switch things up at times and play in a different space than you’re used to. What bands have you been listening to lately?
Michael: Well let me think on that for a second..first I’d say the districts cause I tour with them a lot and their songs are so good, they’ll get stuck in my head. I love the last Tame Impala Record Currents…there is a band we brought out on tour called Twin Limb from Louisville, they have a track called “Sutro Baths” that is one of the greatest songs. I listen to Sun Kil Moon, like the first and second record I will listen to a lot. There is a whole bunch of stuff, I was recently listening to The Cars’ greatest hits yesterday. My taste go all over the place and on a whim will listen to certain things.
Fairport Convention I really like..I like a lot of folky stuff. Linda and Richard Thompson and just some older folk.
Sounding Board: I think that my stuff I listen is falls in a wide range, half the stuff I tend to listen to is older. While recording drums for Harder Love, was there a specific track that was your favorite to record?
Michael: That’s a good question, It wasn’t that difficult, but I think deciding how the groove was going to go on “Dream Brother” was the one..I was just playing off Tim’s demo. He just did it on a computer and it’s just this loop, but there’s this hi-hat thing that was in the loop. I was just really trying to make sure I fit that in. It all went pretty naturally.
I think when we were doing the song “Harder Love”, I remember wanting to overdub the cymbals hits to never stop doing the hi-hat and that’s not difficult.
Sounding Board: Did you have a favorite track off the record?
Michael: “Passing Out” was a favorite. It grabbed me from the beginning and I have a pension for pop melody. It’s a pretty hooky, poppy song and I liked how simple the drums could be.
Sounding Board: Are there any shows or festivals coming up that your particularly excited about?
Michael: The only two festivals on the books right now for Strand of Oaks is Cactus Festival in Belgium and the other is Welcome To The Village Festival in the Netherlands, so I’d be really stoked to do those. They’re great and I really love that area, the band does really well there.
Then I’m excited to go with The Districts down to Okeechobee Festival, I’m going as a tour manager and it’ll be nice to go in the middle of winter.
Sounding Board: Florida does sound nice and I’ve heard that’s a fun festival to go to. Are there any other projects you have happening this year?
Michael: Yeah, so I’m in a band called Dark Blue and we just recorded a record recently with Jeff Zeigler, we always work with him and who I love working with. He’s a super talented producer and engineer. I’m really excited about that record came out and I think that’s going to be really good. Then we did a record prior to that was called Start The World and that was on 12XU Records.
I also play with a guy named Roger Harvey, whenever I can and when he’s doing full band. I recorded his record down in Nashville with him and played drums on it. I’m playing with that woman Rosali, she’s awesome. Then my old band The Loved Ones.. we aren’t really active, but also not broken up. We might be playing some stuff here or there, just depends on what it is or for a good cause.