Beat Squad: 311 & Beyond
For the 3rd consecutive year, Chad Sexton and 311 hosted the 311 Cruise, performing for enthusiastic fans aboard a cruise ship traveling to the Bahamas and other islands. This year, the crowd was also entertained by Pearl Artist Michael Baroody's drumline, Beat Squad, which followed them joining 311 onstage at 311 Day in 2012.
In an exclusive interview with 311 drummer and Pearl Artist Chad Sexton, he explains how he and Beat Squad meshed the two styles, “Mike and I talked about that we wanted to really incorporate a real drum corp-inspired thing to go along with our rock thing. So that was the goal, to try to put those two styles together in a real way… to have them really playing notes. That’s what I like about it, it’s still coming from a drum corp point of view and what they’re playing is more challenging than just a regular 120bpm march.”
Pearl Artist Michael Baroody commented that he was eager to perform with 311, having always been a fan of the band. He felt comfortable experimenting and creating with them, stating, “This project with 311 was interesting because on some of the tracks we actually played very different parts than what Chad plays. It was more like a percussion ensemble backing up an amazing band!” Michael explains that 311 is a very percussion friendly band and he wasn’t surprised when they suggested that Beat Squad join them. "Chad is more than a marching percussion enthusiast, he is an outright fan. He LOVES this stuff! I am not sure if this is common knowledge but he actually does his best to schedule 311's tours so that he can go to DCI finals every year."
When speaking about the technical ability required to perform in a DCI or WGI group, Chad says, "It's one of the only musical categories on the planet that always advances what they’re doing as (other categories are) based off of sales and money. I know that drum corps have to be based off of some business but it seems to affect the art a little bit less than other musical categories. Unfortunately, when you start selling to the masses it usually does become more dumbed down so more people can understand it. Like I said, that is the unique thing about Beat Squad is that they’re bringing the drum corp style and are concerned with advancing rhythm." Michael certainly speaks highly of his own marching background, "I love marching percussion and it is the cornerstone of what I do. The time I spent at UMass studying with Thom Hannum is the reason that I have the career that I do today." He continues, “I think the sounds of the modern percussion instruments have an absolute place in today's music scene. I hope that artists start listening to all of the different sounds used in marching percussion and they start to use it for its own unique voice.”
The instrumentation of Beat Squad not only fits sonically but is visually captivating. "I have spent nearly ten years drumming with some of the world's top DJ's. My rig that I use for playing live uses two DR503 ICON Rack Systems so that I can play standing up, as playing standing up allows me to give so much more energy to the crowd. Being able to move and jump really opened things up for me and I think that was a big part of why I had the amount of success in that industry that I did." Michael explains, "It made sense to me to use a similar set up for the Beat Squad. We could adjust the cages to exactly what the players needed and use the sounds that I wanted. The bass drums really help me lock into a groove. Backbeats are one thing but having a big thump to lay into always helped me lock it all in. A far as the cowbells go, I love the HH5 Horacio Hernandez Signature Cowbell and never go anywhere without it. Cowbells are great with a marching snare because the tonality is significantly longer than the snare drum. It is nice having something with a bit more ring when you need a sound that has a longer decay.”
As for the unique look of Beat Squad, Baroody was inspired by 311’s ties to New Orleans, “My initial thought was a combination of an urban feel and Mardi Gras. For many years the 311 Day event was held in New Orleans. After hurricane Katrina they ended up having to move the event while construction was done at the Lake Front Arena. Bringing a Mardi Gras feel was important to me and that is where the mask was born. I tried to mix that with the look of the guy on the front of 311's first album titled ‘Music’ where the kid is wearing baggy pants and a hoody…. so we used marching tops, cargo pants, studded belts, and a backwards hat.”
As 311 continues to make new music and tour, Beat Squad is forging ahead as well. Baroody reveals, “Our main efforts right now are in designing a product to use in the nightclub environment. This will involve a lot of new sounds for us. Stay tuned!”
Beat Squad: 311 & Beyond - VideoLive from 311 Day 2012 featuring the Beat Squad at the MGM Grand Garden Arena