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A Different Drummer
by Jaclyn Killins

David Cyrus MacDonald

Before a recent show in Peterborough, Ontario the Paper Lions mulled about their tour van. Drummer David, clad in red plaid, mustachioed with blue eyes peeking from long bangs, produced a cooler full of PEI oysters and started shucking, handing out oysters to locals and friends alike.

No matter their success, the Paper Lions remember where they come from. “My whole way of life is rooted in the PEI way of life,” David said. And that includes handing out oysters to strangers in parking lots.

When David was in grade 6, he drummed for his first band, UFO Tofu. He played in bands throughout high school and University and in the spring of 2004 the Paper Lions were formed.

He studied percussion at UPEI with David Sheppard and then went on to teachers college, but for now he is enjoying life as a full-time musician.

David’s kit was custom built by Island drum-maker Amiel LeBlanc. Encircling each drum are words from a poem David’s father, Hugh MacDonald, wrote called “Chicken Legs” about David stepping off the ice after a hockey game as a child and feeling big.

His kit includes two snare drums: a conventional snare in the normal position between the knees, and a popcorn snare attached to the high hat stand. He tunes the regular snare low for “fat back beats” and the popcorn snare high for a “crisp sound.”

Alone on the drums, David practices what he calls the “clinical” aspect of his play. He works diligently on technical skills, expanding and maintaining his chops. When he practices with the band, he likes to try out different ideas. “I’ll try things that sound stupid and try to reel it in to a concise pattern and try to make it hooky and riffy,” he said.

When David is feeling creative he often finds himself on the piano. He contributes “snippets of lyrics and melodic ideas” to the Paper Lions but admits he is more comfortable as a lyricist than a songwriter. He’s got writing in his blood and has been known to fill long hours on tour typing away on a blackberry.

One of the most notable things about David is he is a vocalist as well as a drummer. The Paper Lions are well known for their strong harmonies and David plays an essential role in this.

Besides being a solid driving force in the band, David steps up during performances, leading the band with spirited bongo playing and an astonishing four-drumstick solo.

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