“If musicians can utilize the technology to create livestream performances that can benefit themselves along with benefitting the audience … I’m all for it.”
In a local music scene, drummers are always in high demand. It’s common to see a drummer performing with a handful of bands, and the best ones are usually the rhythmic engine behind the music.
This can be said for Tim Carman, who has become one of the top beat makers in Boston for his skills behind the kit as part of the blues trio GA-20 and his jazz-funk act The Street 45s. Back in May, Carman released a live album with the latter titled Live At State Park, which was recorded at the restaurant and venue State Park in Kendall Square. The session took place in front of a live audience on March 8, right before the COVID-19 shutdown started.
Carman and I recently had a talk about the album, leading a band in a unique way, making adjustments, and the current livestreaming trend.
Rob Duguay: With Live At State Park, what did you initially plan on doing with the recorded set? Are you the kind of musician who tries to record every live performance for the sake of self-analysis? Or were you planning on having this be a legit release?
Tim Carman: First off, I always try to record my live sets. A lot of the time I’ll take my phone out, place it down, and press record just to listen to it afterwards. I’m kind of OCD about stuff mostly for my own purposes. For this particular show, I did go into it hoping that I could get a recording to release. I’ve done recordings before at State Park with GA-20 and also Julie Rhodes too.
Graham Tobias, who is the production manager there, always gets a great sound, so I went into it hoping that if the band played well enough that I could bet something out of it to properly put out.
RD: I love the way it sounds, I think it’s awesome. Between GA-20 and The Street 45s, do you have to make any major adjustments from behind the kit?
TC: Oh yeah, totally. I think my mindset changes, for sure. With GA-20, I’m definitely going for more of an older late ’50s, early ’60s blues sound. Matthew Stubbs is such a master of that stuff and he’s kind of coached me along the way. There’s certain things that I used to do that he would hear me do and he would tell me how it wasn’t a legitimate thing that someone like Fred Below or another drummer from back then would have played.
So I definitely make adjustments, but when I play with The Street 45s I kind of don’t have to think about that stuff. I just play how I play because that jazz-funk style is more in my ballpark. It’s more of a natural thing for me, not that I don’t want to play the way I do in GA-20, but this is more of what I’m accustomed to.
RD: I totally get that. The Street 45s is more of a jazz-funk thing, like you said, while GA-20 really echoes the Chicago electric blues from that time period of the ’50s and ’60s.
RD: A band led by a drummer is a rare thing these days, one that comes to my mind is Levon Helm from when he was in The Band during the ’60s and ’70s, and then when he had his own backing band. Usually you see a guitarist or a pianist take that role, so what inspired you to have this approach when you started The Street 45s?
TC: I’ve always loved Levon Helm, he’s a huge influence on me. Don Henley when he was in The Eagles, ever since I was a little kid I’ve been a big fan of him. Brian Blade is another drummer I love.
RD: He’s awesome.
TC: Ever since I was a kid I’ve been playing. I remember starting out in my brother’s band and I’ve always been in somebody else’s band while taking direction from other people. I do love that also, don’t get me wrong. I like playing other people’s music, it’s probably my favorite thing to do. I honestly prefer that than leading my own band, but leading my own band is something that I’ve always wanted to try and a couple years ago I was like, Screw it, I’m gonna do this.
RD: As a music fan, I love it when something different is being brought to the table so I think it’s great. A big thing with musicians these days is livestreaming due to the absence of live music. What are your opinions on this new creative medium?
TC: I think things will turn completely normal again, so in my eyes I think it’s great that musicians are using technology as an outlet to perform for people. It’ll be awhile until people feel 100% comfortable going to live shows in person again, even after COVID-19 calms down. If musicians can utilize the technology to create livestream performances that can benefit themselves along with benefitting the audience who might enjoy sitting at home watching a show and donating money that way then I’m all for it.
RD: Summer has officially started, so what are your plans for the next few months?
TC: GA-20 actually has some shows coming up in July. I believe we’ll be performing at a show in Ohio and at another one in Rochester, New York, so I’ll be busy with that. We’ve already recorded our second LP, but it’s not out yet. We’re already working on the third, so most of my time is going to be spent with GA-20 and that’s my main focus. I’ve used The Street 45s as my fun side project where I can accomplish the things I’ve personally always wanted to do.
This article was produced in collaboration with the Boston Institute for Nonprofit Journalism as part of its Pandemic Democracy Project.
Rob Duguay is an arts & entertainment journalist based in Providence, RI who is originally from Shelton, CT. Outside of DigBoston, he also writes for The Brooklyn Rail, The Providence Journal, The Newport Daily News, The Worcester Telegram & Gazette, New Noise Magazine, Flood Magazine and numerous other publications. While covering mostly music, he has also written about film, TV, comedy, theatre, visual art, food, drink, sports and cannabis.