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From the Streets to the Greek: Bobby Alt Talks Street Drum Corps, 30 Seconds to Mars Tour, and Why 15-Minute Sets Suck

(L-R) Frank Zummo, Bobby Alt, Adam Alt
Rob Polgar

UPDATE: Check out our backstage and concert photos from the Greek Theatre gig here in our "Street Drum Corps, 30 Seconds to Mars @ The Greek, Pt. 1" and "Pt. 2" slideshows.

Street Drum Corps
Street Drum Corps
Erin Broadley

The last time we saw Bobby Alt, Adam Alt and Frank Zummo of Street Drum Corps, the trio of misfit drummers was holed up in a Hollywood recording studio in the fall of 2009 putting the finishing touches on its two-disc Interscope debut, produced by Howard Benson and Jamie Rise, due sometime in 2010.

Within six years, what started as a passion project banging overturned buckets on the sidewalks of L.A. had evolved into a full-on major label production. Forget DIY recording with a junkyard budget, the band was now discussing tracks hovered over EASTWEST's Studio 1 console, the largest in the world and originally commissioned for Michael Jackson's Thriller.

That's not to say, however, that Street Drum Corps has abandoned its roots. You can still find the guys drumming crowds into a frenzy with found instruments like tire rims and garbage cans, it's just that instead of weekends on the Venice Beach boardwalk they're performing sold-out theaters across the world. And with that comes a helluva lot more pressure.

L.A. Weekly caught up with SDC frontman Bobby Alt last week after the band returned from its European tour for a final string of U.S. dates opening for 30 Seconds to Mars. This Saturday, you can catch Street Drum Corps and Jordan Catalano Jared Leto's band perform at the Greek Theatre.

L.A. Weekly: So how's the return to the states been treating you?

Bobby Alt: We're like the red headed step children on this U.S. tour. I think this time we're playing before doors open.... [laughs] no. The U.S. tour's been a whole different story than Europe, which was like the greatest tour that I've ever been a part of. Now we're back to the U.S., back to being the opening band, no sound check...

No sound check? That's weird considering how close you are with the guys in 30 Seconds to Mars.

It's all political. There are things going on where we just got pushed back. In Europe the direct support was huge. It makes sense though... American bands traveling across the world to play shows for fans who really only get to see you once a year, or maybe once every two years. Street Drum Corps spent a lot of our own money [for the European tour]. We didn't need tour support, we didn't need shit. We did that on our own and the album's not even out yet. We built a fan base in Europe for the rest of our lives, playing for an average of 10,000 kids a night over there.

Still, they've been good shows in the U.S. There's just so much pressure on this L.A. show and so many people involved. We've got agents now that I didn't even know we had, all telling me different things. That's the real story. Trying to make these [tours] happen takes a lot of work and there's a lot of people involved. We're just happy to play and to be a part of it. We're just happy to help our friends 30 Seconds to Mars have a great show and it helps us get in front of people we maybe haven't played for yet. We'll kinda take what we can get but this might be the last time people see Street Drum Corps only playing for 15 minutes. The next step is we're going to be playing for an hour because that's what we deserve and that's what our fans deserve. We need to give them more.

(L-R) Frank Zummo, Bobby Alt, Adam Alt
(L-R) Frank Zummo, Bobby Alt, Adam Alt
Rob Polgar

Especially with a show like SDC's that builds and has movements to it. It's not like you guys have just two hit singles and can get up there and deliver a satisfying 15-minute set.

Mm-hmm. It's true. We've got four albums of material now. We're ready to play it all. I've got 12 outfit changes for chrissakes... I only get to wear one outfit at the Greek [laughs].

[Laughs] Heaven forbid.

It'll be great though. It's spring and it's beautiful and it's the end of the 30 Seconds to Mars touring cycle we've been on, starting with playing with them on Conan O'Brien -- one of Conan's last weeks on the air -- to ending it at the Greek here at home. It's probably one of the most beautiful venues in L.A. It's outdoors, it's in the hills, I know a lot of my friends are gonna be jumping the fence... just like we did for Radiohead [laughs].

So when is the new album actually coming out?

I wish I knew. Since we've been on tour I've written probably five new songs that we thought needed to be on the record and the label agreed and Howard Benson agreed. The last three or four months have taken away from us being able to record those songs so it was a little detour from putting the record out. But we're patient and not in any rush to put it out and now I finally think that we have the complete two records. I think they'll come out either end of summer or in September. I like the whole concept of Street Drum Corps "back to school."

You've toured with 30 Seconds before right? Besides the politics involved, what has been a highlight this time around?

For me to see my friend Jared [Leto] that I've known for ten years go from playing the Troubadour to playing for 19,000 people, sold-out in an arena in Russia... that in and of itself, this whole tour, as a friend of Jared and as a musician myself seeing what Street Drum Corps has accomplished, that's been the most exciting thing. Seeing where we both have taken our groups in a short amount of time, really. It seems like we all just started yesterday. They've really had our back.

Have things changed with Interscope?

We don't have a record out yet but we've made it happen. Three people in Street Drum Corps got to tour 18 countries over the last three months on our own. We just put it together. When the record comes out obviously we hope for bigger things but we don't rely on the record label. We've existed without a label. We don't wait on them to tell us things. We don't depend on them for money. We're in a different day and age, you know, we get to call the shots. Street Drum Corps exists without the record label. We've got our groups Bang! and we've got a new show we're working on... we're going to lease a theater for a year and build the coolest show in L.A., probably downtown. So we're going to focus on that and have the record come out, and if there's another band worthwhile to tour with then we'll do it [laughs]. If radio picks up on one of our songs and we can go tour on our own, then we'll do that. We have a lot of options and that's why I like this group.

Click here for tickets and more info on SDC's show at the Greek, Saturday May 15


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