Playing with The Spin Doctors has afforded drummer Aaron Comess the opportunity to explore the band environment and dynamic that attracted him to music in the first place.
But he’s also had a chance to spread his wings as a studio session player and onstage sideman, backing the likes of Joan Osborne, James Maddock and Edie Brickell.
“It’s the best of both worlds — and they’re totally different worlds,” Comess says. “It’s been really cool the last 10 years to be able to get to do all this other stuff, and at the same time still keeping the band together.”
With a laugh, Comess follows up by saying that “the stuff people get away with in bands, they could never get away with as a sideman.” Working for another artist, though, “your job is to try and help them realize their vision and make their songs sound great, but at the same time not be a boring sideman.
“It’s a fine line,” he says, “so I think having that band experience has really helped me. I try to bring a little bit of that in when I work with somebody else while also respecting what it is they need and want.”
In recent years, Comess has drawn from all of his past experience to record and release instrumental albums under his name. The first was Catskills Cry in 2006, and the latest is the textured, diverse Beautiful Mistake (Hey Boy Music).
“The last thing I want to do is make a ‘drummer’s record,’ ” he says with a laugh. “I’ve studied; I’m very much into becoming as technically proficient on my instrument and as versatile as I can. But it’s all coming from a musical place.”
And it all typically starts from a place other than his main instrument. Comess says he wrote the melodies and chords for Beautiful Mistake on acoustic guitar and came up with most of the arrangements “before I even thought about the drums.” Then he made demos at his Manhattan studio, which is where he recorded the album with guitarist Teddy Kumpel and bassist Richard Hammond.
“A lot of instrumental music has fancy melodies, and it’s a medium to play a lot of fancy stuff, and that’s the last thing I wanted to do,” Comess says. “Now there certainly is some playing on the record that you could call complicated, but I feel that it’s organic and musical.
“I don’t care how simple or complicated something is, as long as it feels real and fits the music.”
— By Chris M. Junior
Aaron Comess on tour (schedule subject to change):
* June 30: Rockwood Music Hall — New York (Beautiful Mistake record release show)
* July 3: Riverfest/Riverside Park — La Crosse, Wis. +
* July 12: Rockwood Music Hall — New York ++
* July 16: The Great South Bay Festival — Patchogue, N.Y. +++
* July 25: Bowery Ballroom — New York +++
* July 29: California Mid-State Fair — Paso Robles, Calif. +
* Aug. 5: Sheboygan Brat Days — Sheboygan, Wis. +
+ with The Spin Doctors
++ with Luke Dick
+++ with James Maddock