Interview: Drummer Patrick Berkery delves into The Bigger Lovers’ vaults

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This week, The Bigger Lovers dropped some news and new music here. Prior to the band celebrating the 10th anniversary of its debut album, How I Learned To Stop Worrying, with a new EP and a show at Johnny Brenda’s (on March 12th), The Key spoke with drummer Patrick Berkery via e-mail.

Since the band originally called it quits, Berkery has been an in-demand session and touring drummer. One of my favorite projects from last year that Berkery cooked up with locals Charlie Hall, Birdie Busch, Dave Hartley (of Nightlands), and others was the The Lindsay Buckingham Appreciation Society. I asked him what the future held for their Buckingham/Fleetwood Mac obsession and he was unwaveringly silent. He preferred to talk about the Lovers, and some of the other projects he’s involved with.

The Key: Congrats on this new project. First burning question from the fans is: How and why did you decide to put out this material?

Patrick Berkery: In retrospect, my only regret with disbanding the band when we did back in November, 2005 was that we never got to release “Little Giant.” From the moment Scott (Jefferson, bassist and vocalist) played me his four-track demo of that, I felt it had the potential to be one of the best things we ever did. It just blew me away. So when we started discussing re-releasing How I Learned to Stop Worrying for its 10th anniversary we figured we had started some good tunes in my basement in the spring of ’05 – “Little Giant” being one of them – let’s finish them so we have something fresh to offer people. So that’s what we did.

TK: Are there any other songs in your basement?

PB: There’s some other stuff floating around. Two unreleased tracks – “Needy” and “Private Party” – that are part of the Worrying re-issue, and some demos and things we started for records but didn’t finish. Nothing I’m really too keen on. If we were to carry on doing anything else, I’d rather we had something brand new.

TK: Since the break up of the Lovers you’ve done a lot of session work and touring. What have you been up to?

PB: I’ve been really fortunate to work with some incredibly talented people, all of whom bring something different to the table. I spent about four years playing with the Pernice Brothers. We did a lot of touring and put out a few records. That was a real treat for me because I try to play for the song above all else and Joe Pernice writes some incredible songs to play for. I got to do the last Mazarin tour in 2006. That was Quentin Stoltzfus’s old band. Like Joe, top-notch songwriter – just a pleasure to be part of that situation if only for a month. I’ve been playing with the Photon Band since 2007, though Art DiFuria – who fronts the band – is living in Savannah now, so it’s dormant at the moment. I’ve also done some work with Devin Greenwood and I gig regularly doing covers with the guitarist Greg Davis and keyboardist Wally Smith.

TK: I know you play on the new Danielson album. How did you connect with them?

PB: I hooked up with Danielson in 2008 through producer and Weathervane Music’s Brian McTear, and have been playing with them ever since. When the Pernice thing ended I needed a sharp left creative turn from what I’d been doing. Danielson has been that and more. I spent the first year with Danielson learning their material for tours and such, immersing myself in Daniel Smith’s (leader of the band) way of writing and arranging, and absorbing the way he applies rhythm to his songs. It was all quite different from anything I’d ever done, but really fascinating and challenging. It really made me step up my game – playing in odd meters and navigating pretty complex arrangements but still serving the song. Although the music can seem kind of absurd, there is a lot going on melodically and dynamically. When it came time to do the album, I was still very much in that ‘out-there’ frame of mind when it came to the drumming, whereas Dan wanted something simpler and traditionally supportive for the most part. It took a little bit to find the common ground. We’re both big Zeppelin fans, so whenever we’re stuck for a drum part we tend to go to the “What would Bonham do?” well.

TK: You write for Modern Drummer magazine and have had the chance to interview some of the great drummers. Who are a few of your favorite drummers and why?

PB: I love guys like Stan Lynch, Ringo, Jim Keltner, Mick Fleetwood, Martin Chambers, and Hal Blaine because they serve the song so well and their styles and sounds are quite distinct. I love a guy like Jay Bellerose because he’s got this junkyard/thrift shop set up working and keeping solid, supportive time in pretty non-traditional ways. He almost never uses a hi-hat, he plays with his hands, uses spring coils and all this clickity-clack percussion stuff. When it comes down to it though, it’s John Bonham & Al Jackson, Jr. – they’re the all-time masters of groove, probably my two favorites.

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