Set Your Goals is an ambitious punk band hailing from the San Francisco Bay Area. The group formed in 2004 and went on to release EPs and the album Mutiny [Eulogy Records] in 2006. After supporting New Found Glory on recent tours, the band has been signed to Epitaph and has released This Will Be The Death Of Us. And, they are on the 2009 Alternative Press Fall Ball Tour. We spoke with drummer Mike Ambrose.
Name: Mike Ambrose
Hometown: Walnut Creek, CA
Previous Bands: None
Drums: SJC Custom Drums. 22" x 22" Kick, 12" x 8" Rack, 16" x 14" Floor, 14"x 7" Solid Stave Snare
Cymbals: Paiste 14" Alpha Rock Hats, 19" 2002 Wild Crash, 20" 2002 Wild Crash, 21" Alpha Groove Ride, 18" Alpha Rock China
Hardware/Pedals: DW 9000 Series
Sticks: Promark Hickory 747-BN
Drumheads: Remo Emperor X on snare, Clear Emperor on toms, and a Clear Powerstroke 3 on the kick drum.
What’s the greatest thing going on for the band right now?
We’ve just signed to and released a record with Epitaph Records, we have a song in the 2010 Madden Football video game, and we’re about to head out on the Alternative Press “Fall Ball” tour for the next 2 months!
Let’s talk about This Will Be The Death Of Us?
How would you describe the feel of the new album? I think it’s definitely a progressive step in the band’s music making. I think the album works as a single cohesive listening experience but each track is personalized as well. I’m completely satisfied with my performance. I’m really happy with the cymbal clarity: I can tell you which cymbal is which in every song!
Is there a method for creating drum parts like the intro to the title cut? [currently available on the band home page.]
We always try to keep in mind how a part will translate live. We’re a band that survives only with the participation of the crowd so we tend to pick more energetic drum parts for our music. I looked to a band called Madball for inspiration for that particular drum part. Madball has a lot of parts with open ringing guitars complimented by heavy tom/kick/snare style drumming. We built up to the start of the song, with little happening besides the beat and the guitar. As an homage it works well.
How long did it take to track your drum parts?
I tracked everything except for one song in a day.
Did you record to a click track?
Yes. Like many drummers, the click started off as my enemy - I couldn’t use it smoothly. Now I love it! I’d begun playing with one live in 2007. I only use it for about half of the songs in the set so that I have a good balance of natural tempo fluctuation as well as computer regulated BPM’s. It’s been great and really made the recording process fly by!
What do you like most about touring?
Aside from the obvious answer of playing drums every single night, I really enjoy all of the different foods you discover while touring the world. Set Your Goals loves to eat.
Do you play your drum parts onstage exactly the same way that you recorded them?
All of the songs off of This Will Be The Death Of Us I’ve tried to mirror live exactly as they were recorded. I wasn’t particularly impressed with my playing on our previous full length “Mutiny” and so I’ve modified most of those songs to fit better with what the other instruments are playing. I wish I could re-record those parts! Haha!
How often do you change heads?
I love a worn-in snare head. I love when they get real dead and dry. So sometimes I’ll have a snare head on for a month or more before changing depending on the crater damage. On the contrary, I like nothing more on my toms than a brand new clear Emperor so those will usually get changed every 2 weeks or so.
Do you use the same setup on stage and in the studio?
Drums, yes. Cymbals, depends on what’s cracked and what’s not! The Alphas are the most durable cymbal I’ve ever played. I was almost trying to break them at the end of our last tour to see if it was possible! I love the quick explosiveness of the Paiste 2002 Wild Crashes and Wild Crush Rides so those make fantastic replacements when the Alpha’s are out of commission.
What’s the best musical advice you ever received?
Being advised to learn to play with a click was advice I should have listened to earlier on! It makes things so much easier!
Any closing thoughts
Thanks. DRUM! Magazine rules!