Mt. St. Helens Vietnam Band’s drummer Marshall Verdoes is an upstart capo-pulverizor. He’s fifteen years-old, but plays like he’s been playing for fifty years. He’s a phenom, meant to be, keeping time and swinging limbs from his cortex hammer-ball of meter. Marshall is a youthful conduit to power and intuit, a cheetah, easily bounding to sixty-five mph. Beats-per-minute flow freely from his pores, for within him is contained an unabridged dictionary of cadence. Marshall Verdoes is a wonder of the world. The MSHVB songs can slide math-rock like and prog-ishly into sections of odd signatures and structure. Marshall holds it up, throws it down, and is a big reason the sections slide so sleekly. He spoke, opening a page of his cortex:
How do you approach playing the drums? Marshall: I try to hit the drums as hard as possible, and hope that people like how hard I hit. Maybe I can be like the next John Bonham of our time, but probably not. I try not to get nervous and just hope it sounds like something that Picasso would draw, things that weave in and out of each other.
What's it like being fifteen and being in a touring band? It has its ups and downs. Being fifteen and touring is rare. It’s fun because I get see a lot of places in the world. I hate sitting in the van at 21+ venues. I love the free food and free money we get.
What are the rules when y'all play at the 21+ venues? Do they keep you in a clean underage section until it's time to play and then unleash you upon the drums to kick huge, sick, fat beats? It depends where we are in the US. Like, in the South, I am usually allowed to hang out amongst all the drunks. But around here I have to sit in the van or sit in the green room until it’s time to play the show.
What’s your favorite MSHVB song to play? “En Fuego”. It’s upbeat, and I get to hit the drums as hard as I can. It changes tempo and meter often, and the drum part is unique. I like how the drums lock in with the bass part. It took me a while to get it right on the recording.
How did you end up playing in MSHVB? Well, let’s see, my brother Ben, (singer / guitar player) said, “When you get good enough, we can play a few shows.” I got good enough, so we played some shows.
How has your drumming changed since you joined the band? My drumming has improved. My wrists have adjusted and they are more used to playing complicated things. I am better at multi-tasking and splitting up the parts - bass drums, hi-hats, and snare all going at a different pace.
What is your favorite subject in school? I like history. It gives me a taste of my roots. I like the stories and the battles. The Crusades are interesting.
What do you think of math? What are you studying in math right now? How do you think learning math applies to real life? Math is the worst subject ever made in the history of mankind. I have no patience with that kind of stuff, but we all have to get it done someday. You have to know math to buy stuff, basically. Right now I’m working on geometry and fractions. I’m a little behind in math.
MSHVB play June 5th at Oregon St. University, and June 6th in Spokane at Pacific Ave.
What’s a story that sticks out from being on tour? On our most recent tour we went to Denny’s for breakfast. I was doing homework in the van and came in later and everyone was sitting at the table already, so the hostess walked me down to the other end of the restaurant to where a black family was sitting. She insisted on putting the placemat down. I said “This isn’t the table I’m at.”
She said, “Are you sure?”
“Positive,” I said.
Then the black family said, “Obviously, he’s not with us.”
Then the hostess said, “Well, you can walk around and find the people you’re sitting with.”
Once in NYC we had just loaded in and were waiting to see what the deal was. After we got the okay to go eat, the rest of the band was waiting outside for me to come out. That day I was being annoying and when I walked outside the HUGE security guards told me to put my hands up against the wall. I had a soda in my hand and I was nervous. I felt like I was going to pee in my pants. I didn’t say anything. They said, “You took some scissors.” I looked over and everyone was bent over laughing. They said, “We’re just messing with you”. I walked over to Benjamin and he said, “That’s what you get for being annoying.”
What kind of bass drum do you play? I have an old Slingerland bass drum from the 60’s. It’s from a jazz kit. It has an oyster shell swirly finish and it’s pretty beat up. It has a certain warmth to it.
Who are your favorite bands? Who are your favorite drummers? Are you a Neil Peart fan? My favorite bands are: YES, King Crimson, Hella, Cursive, Rooftops, Ludacris, MGMT, Band of Horses, Mars Volta, and 2Pac. My favorite drummers are: John Bonham, Keith Moon, Zach Hill, Wendelin Wohlgemuth, Casey Deitz, and Questlove. Neil Peart is good, but I wouldn’t pick him to play on my hit record.
If you could build the drum kit of your dreams, what would it be like? Break it down for me. First, I would make a bass drum with a spinning chrome wheel on the front. On my snare drum, there would be swirly lines. My toms would have rainbow swirlies, like hippie style. My cymbals would just be normal Zildjan.
Do you like video games? Oh YES!!!! I like sports games a lot. I like Halo the most. It’s the best game because of the maps and levels. I like shooting.