24 Feb Robzie Trulove, Rock Drummer, on Music, Motherhood and Moving Forward
by Marisa Torrieri Bloom
Watching Robzie Trulove playing drums, I’m in awe of how focused she is, delivering every single fill neatly within its time signature as the sound of wild, electrified stringed instruments fills the airspace that surrounds her. I know this is what drummers do, but something about the way Robzie pounds out the beat with a steady, steadfast focus is mesmerizing — and absolutely badass.
But mastering one’s craft is never as easy as it looks, especially for someone who’s experienced the level of music industry toxicity that Robzie endured as a black woman pursuing a career as a rock drummer. Nevertheless, as the Rockville, Maryland, native recently told Voyage LA, “the road has not been smooth, but I am glad I never gave up.”
We recently caught up with Robzie, who’s currently 9 months pregnant with her first child, to talk about life, love, finding good bandmates, activism, and more.
Rockmommy: Hi Robzie! Can you tell us about yourself? How did you grow up?
Robzie Trulove: I grew up in the outskirts of Washington, D.C., in Rockville, Maryland. I’m your typical first-generation American — my mom is from Jamaica; my dad was born in Panama. I consider myself super fortunate growing up in this area. I think Rockville is probably one of the most diverse cities in the world … so it was kind of an ideal environment, I think, for a minority child growing up.
Rockmommy: What was your first experience making music at a young age?
Robzie Trulove: I’d be lying if I said that drums was my first instrument but it was the first instrument that I wanted to play, if that makes sense. I cannot blame my parents for being like, ‘let’s try the piano first.’ Just give you the full context, my mom noticed that I had a huge interest in music from super, super young — I was totally drawn to it when I was as little as three or four. She and my dad would throw these like big parties and I was always hanging out with the DJ to see what they’re doing.
She kind of accidentally gave me access to an awesome mentor at a really young age. And it was one of her best friend’s husbands. His name is Rudy Bird, one of Lauryn Hill’s drummers and percussionists for her Miseducation of Lauryn Hill record. He was kind of a major influence because when I would see him, he would show me different drum techniques and skills and tips. He let me borrow some equipment sometimes and mess with it. And most importantly, he showed me the fact that being a musician, and a drummer, particularly, was a viable career, and he also validated me as a girl growing up that ‘you can do this too,’ which I think was very important.
I actually went on to start a little band at the age of maybe like nine or 10. It was me and my brother and some friends and we would get together on the weekends and write songs and practice and just jam.
Rockmommy: Do you remember your first big performance?
Robzie Trulove: When I was a little younger, I went to private school and was basically taught guitar by this really awesome African American Catholic nun named Sister Jenkins, and she ran this after-school guitar club. I was probably the littlest member because I was eight or nine.
I was playing this guitar that was way too big for me and I forgot a couple lines in the song and froze onstage. And then Sister Jenkins just smiled and started clapping and dancing and getting the parents [into it]. It gave me this boost, and I finished the song. What she showed me in that moment was that the crowd isn’t something to be afraid of — it’s a part of the experience. And you’re the thermostat, not the thermometer. You’re not looking to them for what to do. I think it’s super important for drummers to have that kind of mindset. I think a lot of people are afraid to get behind the kit because … it’s a lot of pressure to be the one holding the beat down for everyone else.
Rockmommy: What was the moment when you’re like, ‘I want to take this to the next level’?
Robzie Trulove: I think that in my journey, I’ve just been kind of authentically doing what I love, so little opportunities just emerged on their own organically. I’d be lying if I said there was this like epiphany where it’s like, ‘I’m going to just drop everything and move to New York or L.A.’ It was more like one thing would lead to another, which eventually led to a couple of auditions that got me involved with a couple of projects that were doing things.
Rockmommy: You’ve spoken about how hard it was to be a woman and a minority in the rock industry, as well as a drummer. Can you shed some light on that?
Robzie Trulove: I’m a total optimist. I like to give situations and people the benefit of the doubt for the most part. Unfortunately, I think when you get into another tier of the music world, your exposure to [toxic] people is exponentially heightened. It’s not your typical DIY people who are just playing music the love of it. It’s those who are doing it for the glamour or doing it for narcissistic reasons.
When I auditioned for the band that I mentioned in [the recent] Voyage LA interview, initial conversations were super lighthearted and fun. And then it changed once the hooks were in and you know, so to speak. I felt manipulated, I felt used. I was also made to feel super expendable. It was painful.
So while having to basically seek allies where I can find them, and navigating these weird toxic people, personalities, and experiences, I’m also having to make sure I’m dressing how I need to be dressing, presenting myself the way that they want me to present myself while knocking out each studio session in basically one take because I’m also being introduced to the guys sitting over there who will be recording the drums If I can’t. You know — all with a smile on my face, by the way, for the executives, and to look pretty or whatever they want.
I don’t think that the male counterparts had any concern other than making sure they brush their teeth and combed their hair and play their instrument properly. I think looking back it kind of felt like it was sucking my authenticity out of me and draining my energy. And I think that’s what motivated me the most to just redirect my path.
Rockmommy: Did you ever feel like you connected with any allies along the way?
Robzie Trulove: When I was on tour in Europe [about a decade ago], I got really close with one of the band members that I was playing with on that tour, and his name is Charles Maven. We would later go on to start a whole new project called Radar Rock Band when we got home a few months later, but before that, we shared a pint somewhere in England, and I basically told him everything that I was going through. I basically shared my experiences with him and having to literally push a promoter off of me at a show one time. Some of the more difficult-to-talk-about stuff that happened between me and our manager.
And we instantly became best friends on that tour. He was gay. So we felt like we were comrades because we had each other’s back. So it was kind of nice having another marginalized person there so that we could look out for each other, if that makes sense.
Rockmommy: How did that experience move you into your next phase, moving back to D.C. and becoming part of This Could Go Boom!?
Robzie Trulove: I’d say that time [prior to 2018] was kind of like music industry bootcamp. I was able to identify red flags much quicker and I felt more confident with being able to show other people how to do the same. And it also kind of fueled my motivation to make a change. So basically, when I [returned] to D.C. I started Radar Rock Band [with Charles Maven and Jay Ford] … eventually I met [musician] Ara Casey because we played a show together in DC, and, of course, Ara and I hit it off.
And then a few months later, we ran into each other again at another event. And [soon after], I get a text from Ara kind of like, ‘Hey, you should get together with me and these other women?’ And when I did, it was a supernaturally good time. I knew that whatever was about to happen, it was about to be like amazing, right? So me and Erin [Frisby] have this ongoing joke where we remember how I looked at her and said, ‘Make me a hot toddy because I’m not planning on going anywhere.’ Like, ‘we’re gonna play some music!’
From that point on, I was the drummer for that project, The OSYX. Since rehearsals were kind of a mixture of making music and having a soiree, so to speak, where we would like, you know, eat, talk share ideas … we decided, ‘we can kind of funnel [our] momentum into this bigger thing.’ And so that was kind of how This Could Go Boom! was born.
You’re the thermostat, not the thermometer. You’re not looking to them for what to do. I think it’s super important for drummers to have that kind of mindset.Robzie Trulove
Rockmommy: You’re expecting a baby! How has that been, with drumming? Is it hard to sit for a while? Does the baby kick when you play certain songs?
Robzie Trulove: I am so excited about [the] baby and fortunate to be able to do what brings me so much joy! The best advice I have for any woman who is pregnant and looking to continue drumming at the same time is to work with understanding, trustworthy, considerate people. Doing this while pregnant was kind of unthinkable during my first trimester, which was essentially a three-month hangover. But I’m grateful to the associates, colleagues, and friends in my life that have kept me at it in different ways. I won’t say it was easy but it was damn well worth it and made me feel so empowered. I was about four months pregnant when I played a big festival in Baltimore with Guitar Gabby & the Txlips. I just remember preparing for that event and realizing as I kept going that, ‘hey, I can do this!’
Sitting behind the kit, that prenatal yoga I’ve been doing throughout came in handy as well as TA breathing. I have played up to 90 minutes on stage pregnant and it felt great. Staying hydrated was vital. 2nd trimester no problem. Later, 3rd trimester, I don’t think I could go as long sitting, but could pull off a shorter gig for sure still.
I swear this baby girl was kicking a lot during the more rock ‘n’ roll stuff! Something tells me she may have a little knack for music! With daddy an MMA fighter and mommy a drummer, she’s probably gonna be hitting something when she is out and free to roam the world!
Marisa Torrieri Bloom is the editor of Rockmommy.