Joseph Arrington is the drummer for Royal Coda, Sianvar, and A Lot Like Birds, amongst others, and is preparing for an adventurous summer ahead, filled with tours and recording sessions. We took a moment to ask him some questions about his life to get to know him a little better.
Bands past and present: Royal Coda, A Lot Like Birds, Sianvar, Amity Affliction, We Came As Romans, Chiodos, Love Mischief, Alone, So Much Light, etc.
Hi Joseph, please share your story with us and how you got started as a drummer. How did you get to where you are today?
I started with a practice pad and two sticks at 11 years old. I was subjugated into orchestral playing in Junior High, even though I already had eyes and ears for the drum kit after 3 years of piano. After many John Williams medleys and some basic rudimental lessons, I acquired my first drum set at 14 years old.
In High School, I played for a jazz band, took orchestra classes, played tenor and snare for a drumline, and was also playing for a pop punk band on the weekends. I didn't see a need to separate any of the styles out.
I saw all of these experiences like they were cut off of the same block. I began studying with jazz greats and master instructors as often as I could, mowing lawns and working retail to support it all. At 21 years old I was hired for Warped Tour in 2005. In 2010 I moved to California and immersed myself in the Northern California music communities. From there, I never said "no" to a gig.
The journey was INCREDIBLY difficult. But worth every minute of it, of course. Some people get lucky. Some people practice. Some people experience both. I'm not a believer in actual "luck" because I believe in our current culture the opportunities will absolutely manifest themselves.
But you have to be READY when they show up. Struggles include low level touring in the early days. Lots of Subway sandwich nightmares and traveling through horrific weather conditions. Money is always a pain early on.
My father always said, "You're not a true artist unless you've slept next to a few water heaters." Current challenges include finding time to practice and cultivate new ideas, being away from my patient wife and children who I always miss immensely, and balancing life while away from home so often.
What should a musician know before joining a band and pursuing a career in percussion?
Always practice. Always take lessons. Three hours of youtube wont do much for your playing. Even though technological advances have erupted in the last decade, the procedure for getting better has NOT changed. There are no shortcuts. Which is why I can be found sitting on my drum pad in all manner of strange places on the road.
Why not? You've either truly embraced this craft or not! In addition, you have to kind of decide whether or not you wanna be a "band" person or a "hired gun/freelance" kind of person. I've been both and I prefer to not be married to one band forever.
Herbie Hancock and Chick Corea inspired me by how many drummers they chose to work with in their careers. Imagine the growth! It's not a club! It's a collective! And don't be afraid of roughing it for a long time.
Talented vagabonds that persevere become legends. And in the words of my mentor of 10+ years, "never say 'no' to a gig."
What are you most excited about this upcoming year?
I have two records to cut that I am extremely pumped on. Sianvar and Royal Coda are both experimental rock outfits that are killing it, and I am very pleased to be writing and recording for both bands this year.
In addition, I will be tracking with Berklee College of music at Q Division Studios in August with a fusion group called Love Mischief, and I will be touring with Royal Coda across the US in September hitting all of the major markets. Even more to come!