“He’s just the best drummer I’ve heard in a long time. He’s a real creative, very creative person.”
— Thomas Shabda Noor (Stan Kenton Orchestra, jazz educator)
“He's a frightening, worldly, musical power-genius, and I'm sure he's got some stories for you.”
— Packy Lundholm (I Fight Dragons)
About Darren Garvey
Born in Milwaukee in the late 1970s, Darren Garvey was raised in suburban-Chicago where he played piano and guitar from an early age and led a handful of bands. He gravitated to the drums and sought out lessons from Glenn Kotche (Wilco) in the mid 90s. It was Kotche's musicality and percussive approach to the trap set that inspired Darren's desire to further his education. While attending The University of Illinois Garvey studied alongside and formed an experimental jazz/funk/bluegrass project with Noam Pikelny (Punch Brothers) and ultimately earned a degree in percussion performance and jazz studies.
Relocating to Chicago in the mid 00s for a job at the legendary Touch and Go Records, Darren began focusing on the Andreas Kapsalis Trio (2002-10) which he formed with ten-finger-tap-style guitarist Andreas Kapsalis and drummer Jamie Gallagher (Dead Horses). Having worked on a dozen film scores, the trio brought film music to the stage by conducting live photoplay experiments where both preconceived and improvised music was performed over silent film in front of a live audience. The AK Trio was commissioned by Northwestern University, The University of Notre Dame, and The University of Massachusetts Lowell to compose original scores to classic silent films such as Pandora's Box (1929), The Ring (1927), The Adventures of Prince Acmed (1926), and Meditation on Violence (1948) which the trio premiered at the Morse Theater in Chicago in 2008.
Darren's setup with the trio included hand drums, glockenspiel, melodica, bowed cymbals, toy piano, ocean harp, and auxiliary percussion to which he sought guidance from studies under percussionist Michael Zerang. The trio toured heavily in conjunction with their film scoring and in 2006 appeared at The Sundance Film Festival and The Human Rights Watch Film Festival for the premier of Black Gold, an award winning documentary about the international coffee trade by British directors Nick and Marc Francis that ultimately forced Starbucks to change its fair trade policy. Darren has contributed to a variety of other films, most notably providing percussion to Daniel James McMahon and Miles Nielsen's score for the 2012 Academy Award-winning documentary Undefeated.
In 2007 Darren began playing with prominent singer-songwriter, poet, and dynamic performer Cameron McGill (Margot and the Nuclear So and So's, Rachael Yamagata). Darren helped form Cameron's backing band What Army with Daniel McMahon (Miles Nielsen, Cory Chisel) and Rodrigo Palma (Saves the Day, Into It Over It) for what would turn into a handful of co-produced records and incessant touring. Spending more time on the road than at home, extensive tours with AK Trio, Cameron McGill & What Army, and Cory Chisel and The Wandering Sons coincided with an active studio schedule and collaborations with notable midwestern artists Miles Nielsen & The Rusted Hearts, Chicago Farmer, Ernie Hendrickson, Paper Arrows, Dave Miller (Algernon), L'Altra, and Bobby Gallivan (Bound Stems, LIke Pioneers). As a multi-instrumentalist and songwriter himself, Darren's dynamic approach to percussion and his ability to create parts aimed at enhancing the song have been sought after by producers and artists alike on a multitude of recording projects.
In 2010 Garvey released his debut solo record Under A Common Ceiling showcasing his songwriting and production skills. Written as "advice for the struggle with technology and loneliness" it finds Darren handling vocal duties for the first time on record as well as a long list of instruments, ranging from piano to pump organ, accordion, mbira, banjo, guitars, bass, and a wide array of percussion instruments. The eclectic variety of material on Under a Common Ceiling stems from his diverse career as a performer and studio session musician. In support of the record, Darren began performing with his trio as well as playing solo gigs at clubs like New York's The Living Room and Boulder's B.Side Lounge. As a decade of touring now approached 200+ shows a year between his combined projects, Darren was introduced to both pneumonia and shingles and desired a break. He ultimately went on hiatus from the road when his daughter was born in 2011.
At home in Chicago, Garvey was hired as a staff songwriter for VTL Music and I.V. Lab Studios alongside writers Jimmie Linville (Canyon Spells) and Theo Katzman (Vulfpeck) and began playing drums for actress/comedienne Sandra Bernhard around the Midwest. Earning the title of Music Director at Chicago's I.V. Lab Studios, he brought in groups like Grammy Award-winning chamber ensembles eighth blackbird and Third Coast Percussion and worked alongside producers Manny Sanchez (Umphrey's McGee, Patrick Stump, Zwan) and Brian Deck (Modest Mouse, Iron and Wine, Josh Ritter, Califone, Counting Crows) composing and producing commercial music. Darren has produced full-length records for the bands Daniel and the Lion, Paper Arrows, Great Divide, and Dickie in addition to his solo projects Thunder and Snow and Highscraper.
His production work and playing on Daniel and the Lion's album Death Head helped the band attract the attention of Adam Duritz (Counting Crows), who invited Darren and the band out on the road in 2014. Supporting Counting Crows across the country continued into sporadic touring with Daniel and the Lion and Canyon Spells for the better part of two years before Darren eventually reconnected with Elephant Revival, a band he had met just before their formation a decade earlier. To fully realize the arrangements on their 2016 release Petals, Elephant Revival had Garvey join them for their first headlining show at Red Rocks Amphitheatre that year. This led to a handful of tours, collaboration with the Colorado Symphony Orchestra, and ultimately a permanent position in the band sharing percussion duties with singer and multi-instrumentalist Bonnie Paine.
Darren currently lives in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains with his wife and daughter where he is focusing on his solo material while Elephant Revival goes on hiatus after their May 20, 2018 Red Rocks appearance. To jumpstart the material in his large catalog of unreleased material, Darren is posting an impromptu lo-fi video of a new song every week this year. Check out Daren Garvey's 2018 Song Share.
"Every time we come to Chicago, we go see an awesome show, and [Darren's] always a part of it...We would like to assume that [he] plays in every good band in Chicago."
-Mike Maimone (The Mutts, Company of Thieves)
"Darren is one of the best drummers I've ever worked with. He comes prepared and focused and always delivers. He is a multi-instrumentalist that can add depth and understanding to your music. A major asset to the production of any record."
-Manny Sanchez (Umphrey's McGee, Patrick Stump, Zwan)
"I remember really being blown away by the Nervous Center show...I think [Darren’s] playing was fantastic on that – real imaginative and musical."
-Glenn Kotche (Wilco)
"Fortunately for us, it didn’t take us too long to find Darren, and as you will see when you hear us play, the brother is in the pocket."
-Paul Murin (DeadPhish Orchestra, Phix, Ralph's Kind)
"The parts are extremely precise, [Darren's] moving back and forth from instrument to instrument at the right time in complex time signatures and different feels."
-Steve Edwards (NPR "Eight-Forty-Eight")
"The layered tones and collisions of sounds infuse [Under A Common Ceiling] with a satisfying richness. Quirky, upbeat pop tunes show Garvey’s deft arranging skills and his knack for writing gently energetic numbers."
-Patrick Conlan (Illinois Entertainer)
"Multi-percussionist Darren Garvey is known to pick up rather scary looking yet ear pleasing metallic instruments [you] have never seen before..nothing short of mesmerizing."
-Sharyn Goldyn (The Windish Agency)
"Our very own, the incomparable Darren Garvey, opened the show last night playing a solo set and proceeded to blow everyone away. Luckily he’s on our side! ...Darren's drumming reputation preceded him. It is no wonder, now that I know him. His feel and timing are effortless. Not to mention, he always plays for the betterment of the song."
-Cameron McGill (Cameron McGill & What Army)
"Darren Garvey, has a freaking cello bow or something, and he draws it over the rim of his big cymbal, which he then sets wobbling in cosmic song...and shakers — how can you be brilliant at playing a shaker? But there’s this one round cheese-grater doodad, I swear Darren gets it talking, chattering in Hindi…watching Darren picking up and putting down this and that — I’ve only mentioned about a tenth of what he deploys, he’s laying out great counter-rhythms with a shaker in each hand, banging one of them on the Chinese cymbal, leaning out to ding the triangle and then stroking a bow around the ocean harp."
-Candace McNulty (Read It News Magazine)
"I was captivated by...Darren Garvey's almost schizophrenic ability on a multitude of instruments."
-Theresa Carter (The Local Tourist)
"Darren is the most talented musician I've ever worked with. The fact that he plays almost every instrument and plays them well is so valuable to our company (and humbling to see as a fellow musician)...Those things, coupled with the fact that he is a really solid guy (hard working, reliable, modest, detail oriented, easy to work with, etc etc) made it a no brainer to ask him to be our Music Director. I feel super lucky to have him in our orbit, and can't recommend him highly enough."
-Josh Kahle (I.V. Lab Studios)
"Ooh and ahh to the finest percussionist!"
-Peggy Mathies (Taos Inn Adobe Bar)
"Now when I play [cello] live, there's a solid drummer with us. [Darren] plays a stripped down set and he's really sensitive to our dynamics, which is rare in a drummer...The best thing about playing with him is understanding. I know where he is going...It's very natural to play with him. He has a great groove and an open heart."
-Bonnie Paine (Elephant Revival)
"Darren is a rare bread of musician in today's world. His ability to arrange a song and his attention to every detail within the arrangement makes such an impact on any song he is tasked with writing...Not only is Darren a powerhouse of a songwriter, he is also one of the easiest people with which I've had the pleasure of working. He never let's his ego stand in the way of the ultimate goal/outcome of a particular song and is always focused on turning out the best composition or song...I couldn't be happier to be working with Darren."
-Jeff Leibovich (Vintage King, River North Records)
"[Darren's] percussion style is as unique as that of Kapsalis's approach to guitar. [He] pushes the boundaries of percussion to the limit- and sometimes further- by using unorthodox playing techniques in combination with traditional percussion instruments, such as a cello bow on the cymbals."
-Jazz Novo Review
"Our drummer Darren plays just about any instrument you put in front of him, which is very helpful in the studio."
-Joe Goodkin (Paper Arrows)
"Deftly mixing jazz, folk, chamber pop, indie rock, and world music, Under A Common Ceiling is refreshingly varied in its restless, border-crossing musicality...A drummer by trade, Garvey is adept at incorporating sly grooves and rhythmic counterpoints into his songs, without distracting from melodic and chordal variations. It’s seriously interesting and engaging music that never imitates, but sometimes calls to mind similarly restless artists as Andrew Bird or Kaki King. This is good, good stuff. "
-CD Baby Editor's Pick