Relix 44: The Rotating Drummers of ‘Late Night with Seth Meyers’

Dean Budnick on October 3, 2018
Relix 44: The Rotating Drummers of ‘Late Night with Seth Meyers’

Eric Leiderman and Abe Laboriel Jr. (photo by Lloyd Bishop @ NBC)


Welcome to the Relix 44. To commemorate the past 44 years of our existence, we’ve created a list of people, places and things that inspire us today, appearing in our September 2018 issue and rolling out on throughout this fall. See all the articles posted so far here.


Poetry in Motion: The Rotating Drummers on Late Night with Seth Meyers

Ever since it launched in early 2014, NBC’s Late Night with Seth Meyers has distinguished itself thanks to the bite of its political humor and the range of its guest bookings (novelists!). Yet beyond these triumphs, the program excels in another realm altogether: its commitment to an array of world class drummers. Each week, the 8G Band welcomes yet another gifted player to set up their kit and drive the sound. The list includes: Vinnie Colaiuta, Chad Smith, Abe Laboriel Jr., Hannah Welton, Matt Cameron, Patrick Carney, Kenny Aronoff, Matt Sorum, Jimmy Chamberlin, Brad Wilk, Stanton Moore and Joe Russo.

Eric Leiderman—one of the show’s producers—is a former professional drummer himself who, while touring with Pearl, opened the Velvet Revolver’s final dates in the U.K. He’s the one who came up with the idea of the rotating drummers and he’s also the person who extends the weekly invitation for newcomers to join Late Night bandleader Fred Armisen and his group. The idea came together because Armisen, who originally was going to play guitar on Late Night before he switched to drums, experienced recurring scheduling conflicts due to his work on shows such as Portlandia and Documentary Now! Leiderman explains, “One day it just occurred to me that we had this amazing opportunity. I knew some of the best drummers in the world and those that I didn’t know personally, we could contact. So I pitched it to Fred and from the very start he’s been on board and supportive.”

It’s not just a matter of a drummer coming in and contributing fills. The musician must also understand the subtleties and logistics of working on television. Beyond this though, Leiderman notes, “From the beginning Fred and I agreed that we wanted a vibe that’s like a hang, and we wanted to focus on original tunes, not covers.”

This means that every Monday morning the week’s drummer arrives on set, works with the show’s tech to adjust the kit and then goes off to write music with the band. This precedes a studio rehearsal and then a taping, all of which occurs four days a week and begins anew each Monday. It certainly adds some complexity for the 8G Band members, who must remain nimble and open-minded, however the results warrant the effort. There is a certain segment of Late Night with Seth Meyers viewers, who eagerly anticipate the announcement of the next week’s drummer.

“It’s just another layer we add to the parfait that makes the show more interesting,” Leiderman contends. “To have the band deal with a different heartbeat every week was a lot to ask at first because there is that pressure. But at the end of the day, now they look forward to the challenge. It’s an adventure every week but it’s also something that I’m grateful for. I’m just a big, nerdy rock fan who loves television, music and drums.”


This article originally appears in the September 2018 issue of Relix. For more features, interviews, album reviews and more, subscribe here.