For Jacob Summers, the solo artist behind the entity Avid Dancer, it always comes back to drums. Picking up the drums as a high school elective after a neighbor left his drum sticks at Summers’ house, he went on to win two national championships playing the snare drum in the Cavaliers Drum & Bugle Corps, then joined the Marine Drum & Bugle Corps for four years as a platoon guide. It’s only natural that drums are the starting point for the songs on his debut album, 1st Bath.
Summers’ drum parts are inspired by drums he hears in other songs. For example, album closer “Up Against A Wall” has MGMT’s drums on “Electric Field” as its inspiration point. But then, Summers gets as far away from the inspiration drums as possible. Finding his own beat, he puts that on a loop to aid in the songwriting process.
“When I first started playing guitar to write songs, I seriously thought I was creating new chords,” he says. “I use the drums to make sections in the songs, to structure the songs so a first-time listener can hear the song and feel comfortable. Now when I get to the drums, I try and make them as simple as possible so they just mimic the other parts.”
Everything heard on 1st Bath was written either in the very early morning or very late at night, when the rest of humankind was sleeping. Armed with an audio engineering degree from the Art Institute of California in Santa Monica, the Los Angeles-based Summers was able to create fleshed out demos at home. Using Pro Tools and MBox 2 with only two inputs, Summers’ creativity flourished within his limitations.
“You try a lot of weird stuff to get drums to sound good with two inputs,” says Summers. “I tried one overhead and one bottom snare drum. I tried one room mic and one in the kick. I tried two overheads. If you have a really lo-fi drum sound, you do a real clean shaker over the top, put it where the hi-hat would have been, and you can fool people into thinking the drums sound full.”