By day Kevin Medeiros is a barista at Mocha Mott’s, and by night he plays with a number of Island bands. Even though he’s extremely busy, he always seems to operate at a high energy level and with a positive attitude. The Times caught up with him recently, between gigs and his day job.
Kevin might be known as the Island’s most versatile young drummer, but he also plays guitar and sings. He turns 34 this month, and began playing drums when he was 10. He grew up off-Island, and started playing in bands in the New Bedford area when he was a teenager. He worked at Symphony Music Shop in Dartmouth for about five years, selling musical instruments. It was there that he learned to play the guitar by tuning and selling them. The shop’s guitar tech taught him some chords, and being well versed in rhythm, he enjoyed filling in the spaces with melody and harmony.
His drum teacher, Neil Sylvia, still teaches at the store. While technique is important, Kevin says, drumming has more to do with music and how we hear it than how fast you can do a drumroll or how cool you look during a drum solo. He said tuning the top and bottom drum heads in different ways can change their sounds in more ways than just changing their pitch. A tighter snap on the snare or a bit more bump on the bass drum could really impact the musicality of the song. Like many teachers, Mr. Sylvia taught Kevin to study and play every style of music possible. This is one of his top skills — the ability to lay down a great backbeat regardless of the genre of music. “I’m not a jazz drummer, but I can swing it,” Kevin laughed.
Kevin’s playing experiences range from amazing to horrible, he said. He performed at the Hot Tin Roof during its heyday, and remembers a time rocking one of his favorite songs when everyone began dancing and jumping in a sort of wave throughout the venue. A great vibe from the crowd or a tight jam with a fellow Island musician can make everything worthwhile, he said. Sometimes, however, a Vineyard dance floor can get rowdy. While fights aren’t much of a problem, he said, the overly intoxicated can be. One out-of-control person insisted on sharing the stage space with the band. According to Kevin, this led to the singer getting hit in the teeth with the microphone. Kevin kept everyone on beat and did his best to finish the set. “Sometimes,” he said, “you gotta roll with the punches.”
Kevin says his advice for young drummers is to learn to always “be present, aware, and in the moment.” He is attentive when whipping up a fresh cappuccino, or playing a snappy beat. Sometimes when listening to certain songs, we tend to forget about the drummer. Kevin is always hard to miss, and is just as important as the frontmen and -women he performs with. Whether managing activities onstage, regulating the dance floor, performing vocal harmonies, or even just having a good time at work, he keeps spirits up all day, and throughout many nights as well.
Kevin would like to assemble an Island all-star group of musicians, and loves that “Derek Trucks/Susan Tedeschi sound” they get with two percussionists in the band. He hopes to pull this together later in the summer. Meanwhile, Kevin can be seen and heard performing all over the Island with local headline acts. Stop by Mott’s and say hello, and ask where Kevin is playing next, or just listen for that snappy snare and bumpy kick drum next time you are out and about; chances are it is Kevin.
Some upcoming gigs include playing with Johnny Hoy and the Bluefish at the Ritz Soulkitchen, June 23; at the Ag Fair on August 19; at Port Hunter on Sept. 15, and at Tivoli Day on Sept. 16. Catch him with Jelly Roll Horns at Port Hunter on July 22 and Sept. 9. Kevin plays with the Chandler Blues Band at the Ritz Soulkitchen on July 13, July 29, August 10, and August 26. They play at the Port Hunter July 4, August 1, August 15, August 29, and Sept. 16. Kevin plays with the Edbury All Stars every Thursday at 7:30 pm at the Ritz Soulkitchen.