Music News

Colorado-Born Low Boy Drum Beaters Booms Into the Future

Jeremy Brieske of Low Boy in his Denver workshop.
Jeremy Brieske of Low Boy in his Denver workshop. Adam Perry
The secret to the success of Low Boy bass drum beaters is largely the hard work, vision and loving dedication of co-founder Jeremy Brieske — but getting the company off the ground also had a lot to do with an accident.

“For the prototype,” made in 2014, “we sent drawings of what we wanted, and I didn’t specify, but assumed, that one end was gonna be rounded off,” Brieske explained recently in a workshop in his Denver home. The idea was that each side of the beater would be a different material (felt, leather, wood or lambswool) and thus give drummers a different sound depending on which side they used to strike the bass drum.

When the prototype arrived, one side was flat. Brieske and his former partner, Chris Gregori, who has since left the company, were disappointed, thinking they’d have to start over and send the maker new instructions.

Instead, “it was mind-blowing," Brieske recalls. "I remember playing the round side first and thinking, ‘This sounds good. This sounds like what I expected.’ And then I flipped it around, and it was unbelievable."

Brieske led me to the drum kit set up in his basement and let me see and hear for myself. The round side of Low Boy beaters, when attached to a bass drum pedal, provides the nice, dependable, booming sound that drummers around the world have come to expect for the past hundred years or so when sitting down to play. The flat side, however, produces a unique, fat thwack that has come to be adored by acclaimed drummers across a wide spectrum of musical genres.

“Part of it was kind of a mistake,” Brieske said, “because the thing that makes our beaters sound totally different from others is the fact that the striking surface is flat. So it’s a big surface area, and it’s flat, so it's two flat surfaces hitting each other instead of a round surface hitting a flat surface. It’s just a really defined tone.”

Low Boy’s stable of sponsored drummers now includes highly respected artists like Charlie Hall of the War on Drugs and Joe Russo of JRAD, along with American Idol drummer Adam Marcello, Hamilton drummer Andres Forero, and many more.

The first well-known drummer to fall in love with Low Boy beaters was Wilco’s Glenn Kotche, who signed on with Low Boy in 2016. Kotche is notorious for playing countless types of music, but for his bass drum beater, he wanted something reliable, no matter the genre.

“He’s very particular about his gear, and he just wants the one thing that always feels the same and is consistent and versatile,” Brieske said.

Local drummers in internationally famous touring bands such as DeVotchKa and Nathaniel Rateliff & the Night Sweats eventually signed on as well, and now Low Boy beaters — which come in variations of two shapes, four striking surfaces and a diverse range of custom color options — are somewhat of a household name among drummers.

Brieske, who has lived in Denver for fifteen years, worked in the musical-instruments industry for many years, mostly in guitars, before taking a long break to focus on his passion for podcast production, as well as web design. That break found him “itching to get back” into something music-related, especially something hands-on, and led to the founding of Low Boy in 2014.

“I just had an idea that this would work," he explained. "Drummers are so into high-quality, handmade products these days. Drums and cymbals and bags — all these other categories had really high-end stuff; there just didn’t seem to be beaters. On one hand, it’s kind of a boring product category, but on the other hand, probably more than a quarter of every hit that you make is with the beater, so it made sense, and I just kind of had a hunch.”

The lambswool for the subtle, beautiful-sounding wool-sided edition of Low Boy beaters comes from a local company called Auskin, the wooden parts of each beater come from Maine, and the standard-sized rods that are attached to each beater are made in Taiwan. Brieske laser-engraves the Low Boy logo onto each beater. Customers who buy a beater from the company’s website can choose from thirty different custom-coloring options.
click to enlarge A rare look at unfinished Low Boy bass drum beaters. - ADAM PERRY
A rare look at unfinished Low Boy bass drum beaters.
Adam Perry
Low Boy also sells its own patent-pending Power Switch adapter for installing and adjusting bass drum beaters. The Power Switch remedies the clunky adjuster system that has long annoyed drummers, by replacing the set screw usually used in conjunction with a drum key with a simple thumbscrew.

Interestingly, Brieske doesn’t remember the bass drum beater he used on his first drum set as a kid or even when, exactly, he became interested in beaters.

“It wasn’t something I really thought about a lot,” he said. “Normally the story is, ‘Oh, I couldn’t find what I wanted, so I had to make it myself.’ That’s not really the thing. I just had the idea, and then I had to learn a lot about bass drum beaters. I think maybe that’s part of the reason why our beaters are so unique — because obviously, being a drummer, I totally understand what a beater does and what different materials do — but I kind of came into it with a fresh perspective, not thinking about them until actually designing them.”

The unique, visceral sound of Low Boy’s flat-side beaters and the tasteful effect of its lambswool beaters have put the Colorado company on the map, but this summer, Brieske and his wife will move to Santa Barbara, California, to be closer to his mother-in-law. His wife, Ali, grew up in Santa Barbara and was able to transfer her position working for the Alzheimer’s Association to an identical position in California.

“It will be weird,” Brieske said while looking around his workshop, which he’ll be packing up very soon. “It’s a Colorado company from the start. I know a lot of local drummers really well, and I love Denver. I never looked for a reason to leave Denver, but this is a reason. It’s not a professional decision, but a personal decision.”

Brieske will continue producing podcasts, including an occasional drumming-centered podcast for Low Boy, and, of course, producing high-quality bass drum beaters.

“It was a whole process of figuring out how to make a beater, and it was a lot of trial and error” getting the company off the ground, he said. Now that Low Boy is soaring, Brieske can continue the Colorado-bred company’s success from almost anywhere. He’ll miss Denver, but there are certainly worse places to end up than California’s central coast.
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Pittsburgh native Adam Perry is a cyclist, drummer and University of Pittsburgh and Naropa University alum. He lives in Boulder and has written for Westword since 2008.
Contact: Adam Perry