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Interview With the Drummer of the Eli Young Band

Observer Scene | Thursday, November 6, 2008

Earlier this week, Scene got to talk with Chris Thompson, the drummer of the Eli Young Band. Though in transit, Chris shared with Scene his thoughts on the band, their sound, and Halloween costumes. Where are you? What are you working on?Actually the band’s about to jump out of the van. We’re in Chatsworth, Georgia. In about thirty minutes we’re playing a pep rally for about fifteen hundred kids at a high school. The local radio station did contest and the prize is us coming and playing their pep rally. Yesterday we were at Fort Worth at the Texas Motor Speedway doing a NASCAR event. Before that we were in Kansas City Missouri and before that we did a big show on Halloween. We all dressed up.

What were you for Halloween?We’re a band that takes baby steps when it comes to making decisions. It was our first show ever to play on Halloween so we knew we all wanted to be something similar, like four of something. We narrowed it down to rock stars. I was Ozzy Osborn. Mike, our singer, was Buddy Holly. John was John Lennon, and James, the guitar player, was Slash. It was a lot of fun. I got to bite the head off a fake bat and I ended up spraying the whole front row.

Reading your biography, I was surprised to find that all four of you met in college and have managed to stick together for eight years. What keeps you together?Well, when we met, music was just something we all kind of had in common. It was not like we met to start a band. We were friends, we hung out, and every now and then we’d jam together. You know, just talk about music and stuff like that. Actually, while that was all happening Mike and James got together and started doing acoustic shows at this bar in Denton where we went to college called the RBar. They did that for six months. They did this little acoustic set, a bunch of cover songs, and that’s when they started writing together. They’d do two or three original songs. John and I, since we were all friends, started jamming on some of the songs that were their own. The first show we played was August of 2000, and John and I got up and played four songs with the other two, the four original songs that they’d written and they played the rest acoustic. It was fun in the beginning, we were just a couple guys hanging out, having fun. But something happened. We really clicked. There were never any musical boundaries for any of us and the four of us come from really different musical backgrounds with our education, our preferences for music, and what we’re listening to. It was a great outlet, so all of us just worked. I think that friendship we had before we actually started the band. I think that’s really kept us together over the years. So how would you define your sound?It’s country. Without ever setting out to pick a certain kind of music we found ourselves making country music, or what was considered by our fans and people that would come to the shows country music. We sort of embraced that, and at the same time country music embraced us. It’s stories about the everyday person and struggling through life and making it through. We do have a lot of rock influences. Both James and myself listened to a lot of rock in high school, and then John our bass player studied funk and jazz and he brought some of that to the table. We’re not afraid to play around with different sounds and experiment with different ideas. But always at our core we’re a country band. What music would you say has influenced you the most personally, as Christ Thompson the Drummer? My personal favorite drummer of all time is just Keith Moon, the drummer for The Who. He’s awesome. I didn’t know who he was until probably ten years ago, or really know much of The Who, but we were watching videos of them play, and he was just so manic and crazy on the drums. When the band first started out I was probably a sub-par drummer, which really didn’t matter at the time cause we were just kind of goofing off, but I noticed that if I was making mistakes, if I acted a little crazy around the drums, people were just like, ‘Aw, he’s a crazy drummer!’ I saw a lot of that in Keith Moon, except that he could actually play the drums really well. He’s kind of a mentor in that regard. But we find all our inspiration through tons of different bands, from our favorite kinds of music to our favorite songs. That really changes because the four us of are huge fans of music in general. One of the things I think is special about our sound is that we are always open to what’s new and whatever we can find, whether it be country or whether it be techno. Okay so it’s right after a concert, you’re winding down from a show, what music do you put on?I’ll tell you how it works on the tour bus. I think it’s quite a good system we have down. We’ll walk off the stage get back on the bus and usually we’ll have on a music channel and it’ll be playing maybe classic rock or good sort of up-beat mood music and then we’ll slide into, depending on who’s manning the iPod or changing the channel, anything from Paul Simon to 80’s rock. By the end of the night we’ll wind down to some Amos Lee or some old Van Morrison. That’s a typical after-show routine. What did you and your bandmates major in at college?I majored in philosophy and religious studies because my parents wanted me to be a lawyer, and the school we went to, University of North Texas, didn’t have a law program so that was as close as I could get. And I really just fell in love with philosophy. Mike was a business major and James was a general studies major. John was a psychology major. We’ve got all our bases covered. And we all graduated.  “Jet Black and Jealous” is a great song but how did it get to be the name of the album?We thought about that for a while. For probably a week we were really drawn back and forth on what we wanted to call the album. Jet Black and Jealous was always one that stayed, and the cool thing for us about Jet Black and Jealous is that no one knows what it is. We don’t know what it is. It’s not one thing, but yet everyone has an idea in their head. Everyone can picture what it is, but they can’t say what it is. It’s a feeling in a lot of people. That’s what we wanted to name this album because that’s what it symbolizes. There’s a lot of emotion on the album, ups and downs, lot of struggles with the subject matter of the songs and Jet Black and Jealous symbolizes that without being right in your face saying, “This is what it is.” If you were stranded on a desert island and could bring the complete work of one musical artist, who’s would you bring?The Doors. What is your favorite song to play in front of a crowd?”Famous,” a new song off our album. What is the song you are most proud of creating as a musician?That would be “Always the Love Songs.” There’s a part in that song where I do something I’ve never done before on the drums. If you could give one word of advice to the collegiate student population, what would it be?Work. Really, work hard. Anything can be accomplished through hard work. And it sounds corny and cliché, but that’s the truth of the world, that’s why it is cliché, because it actually does happen.