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Matt Ingram - Tour Round Up

As some of you may have noticed my regular witterings were absent on the site last month. It obviously didn’t go unnoticed at Mike Dolbear HQ who, on noticing its non-appearance summoned me to their offices.

“Ingram. Where’s our article?”
“Sorry I’ve been very busy. Lot’s of studio work and I’m in the middle of a tour.”
“Studio Work? Tour? Who the hell do you think you are?”
“Er, a musician?”
“Don’t get smart with me Ingram. Article. Where is it?”

And so it went. I was told in no uncertain terms that although extracurricular activities (like recording/touring) are encouraged they should under no circumstance distract me from my main job, which is to deliver thousand word articles for on monthly basis. Apologies, it won’t happen again. By way of penance and to help heal the lives of those readers who have a gaping thousand-word-shaped-hole in their lives it was suggested that I write an account of my recent exploits. To call it a tour diary is a bit much, so let’s go with tour round-up.

For those of you who don’t know, currently my main job is drummer (and occasional producer) with the singer and songwriter Laura Marling. In support of her recent release Short Movie we embarked on a month long UK and Europe tour, the dates of which you can see below.

I’ve been playing with Laura for about five years and if you are familiar with her music, you will know how much it has changed in this time (if you aren’t familiar you are only an internet connection away from finding out). When I first started in the band the music, and consequently the drumming was both detailed and quiet in its delivery. This is certainly not to say it was easy for as I have covered in previous articles, playing quietly yet with authority is often where the real men hang out.

However in recently records the music has become (literally) more amped up and electric guitar based, I’m even playing most songs with sticks now. Yes, that''s right, sticks.

On this tour as well as performing songs from the new LP, we also play a selection of tunes from Laura’s other four albums. Due to the variety of her previous work, this made for a dynamic and varied set that bought it’s own distinct challenges.

From my drummer point of view I wouldn''t say that Laura’s music is technically difficult to play. There’s only one song in the set that’s a real drum workout (called Master Hunter, a proper Bonham-style drill). However her music is very lyrical in nature, very irregular in form and she often plays with and varies both the song form and delivery. There is obviously no click and I don’t even count any of the songs off therefore I have to be ready to react and adapt to any changes. This shifting expressive landscape is both the greatest joy and the greatest challenge for I have to ensure that my playing is sympathetic to any adjustment.

I am very fortunate to play with Laura as she is one of the most assured and commanding musicians I’ve ever worked with. She is a master of reading a room and giving a performance that somehow feels perfectly bespoke to both its mood and size, something I have learned a lot from.

Kit wise, I tried a different set up for this tour. A few years ago a good friend of mine got me into Noonan custom drums and have been big fan ever since. My main set up is currently 12”x8” rack, 16”x16” floor, 24”x13” kick and a 14”x5.5” steel snare. The toms and bass drum are…drum roll please…made of fibreglass and…drum roll once more…sound amazing. Yes it even surprised me that. They seem to have all the character of maple with the advantage of being very light and virtually indestructible. Also, and this is a big win, because their is no “give” in the material they hold their tuning no matter what the atmospheric conditions.

Cymbal wise I love and have always played Zildjians and have a 20” Crash of Doom, a Kerope 20” and two 16” K crashes I use as hats. I use larger sizes in both my drums and cymbals as I find they are capable of a much wider dynamic range, which is perfect for this music. I also play a fair amount of brushes, rods, mallets and sometimes even my hands so these drums, with a nice open tuning and little in the way of dampening really works.

As well as showcasing new material, this tour was different in that there was a visual concept. We played in front of a very large screen, on which was projected a time-lapse video of a desert landscape captured over the course of a single day. Starting at dusk, the landscape then changed over the course of the our 90 minute set ending with the sun setting and appearance of the night sky on our last songs.

We had to tailor a set list that would match this visual aesthetic and we found that starting very quietly with just Laura solo, adding instruments and ultimately volume as the sun came up really worked. And then reversely as the sun set we bought the dynamic slowly down with the show ending again with Laura solo. We found that this video element really helpful in choosing songs and shaping the ark of the show.

As you may have noticed from the poster the tour started with two London shows, which looking back on it was a pretty bold move. Usually a new show gets tried out first in a smaller venue but no not for us, we began with two of our larger gigs at the Queen Elizabeth Hall in the Southbank. Debut''ing new songs alongside the technicalities of this new production made for particularly palm sweating first night but it fortunately went off without incident, we even got some nice reviews. With the first night behind us the tour then went, as usual in a bit of blur (which was not I might add caused by excessive alcohol). By way of summarising this time here is a list dedicated to the best bits:

Tough one, but I’ll say The Paradiso in Amsterdam as it’s one of my favourite venues.

The AB club in Belgium. I felt like I was listening to a live album.

To the man in Glasgow who shouted, “Are you on Grindr?” to our guitarist Pete. It was phenomenally well timed and expertly delivered. You had to be there really…

Gothenburg. The people at the Pustervik venue can sure put together a backstage spread.

Germany. As Usual.

I’ll be back next month. I promise.

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