20 pop-punk drummers who set the beat for the whole genre
What’s a great pop-punk song without a few (or more) sick drum fills?February 18, 2021
If you’ve been a pop-punk fan for quite some time now, we’re willing to bet it was a fast, upbeat song that first made you fall in love with the genre. You probably still remember the jolt of energy you felt when your now-favorite songs blasted through your speakers for the first time, and you of course remember how fun it was to mosh and jump along to them at shows (yes, even after not having been to one in a year).
Pop punk is known for its simple, straightforward chord progressions, so drums often play a huge role in giving the songs you know and love their mighty punch. To show some much-deserved drummer love, we’ve compiled this list of 20 of the best in pop-punk history.
Tony Thaxton (Motion City Soundtrack)
Not only one of the best but also one of the most underrated drummers in pop punk, Motion City Soundtrack’s Tony Thaxton has this unique way of making otherwise simple songs infinitely more interesting. Most MCS fans can agree that there are hardly any dull moments on their breakout album, Commit This To Memory, and it’s thanks in no small part to Thaxton’s drumming. The band as a whole are known for their fun live performances, but watching Thaxton tear it up onstage is truly something special.
Travis Barker (blink-182)
This list would be absolutely incomplete without Travis Barker, arguably one of the most influential drummers of pop-punk. Now coming up on 30 years as a band, blink-182 have earned a special place in the hearts of pop-punk kids everywhere. There are plenty of reasons why Barker is so widely considered to be the GOAT, including his creativity, consistency and stage presence, just to name a few. You’d be hard-pressed to find a younger pop-punk band that weren’t at least somewhat inspired by blink’s massive success. In fact, Jess Bowen and Rian Dawson, both featured on this list, have cited Barker as a major influence.
Jess Bowen (The Summer Set)
A band with ridiculously catchy songs and a badass player behind the drum kit? Yes, please! Jess Bowen’s unique combination of styles made the Summer Set stand out among the more pop-leaning pop-punk bands that emerged in the mid-to-late 2000s. It’s no surprise that other aspiring drummers look up to her, as she’s vocal about being unafraid to shake up a scene populated by men.
Zac Farro (Paramore)
If you’re anything like us and have listened to Paramore’s Riot! front to back a few hundred times, you know just how much drummer Zac Farro added to the band’s sound. We especially appreciated his creativity on high-energy tracks such as “That’s What You Get” and “Born For This.” Upon rejoining Paramore in 2016, he lent his drumming chops to the hugely successful album After Laughter.
Rian Dawson (All Time Low)
Thinking about where they are today, it’s hard to believe All Time Low came from such humble musical beginnings. Since their formation in 2003, when they were still in high school, their sound has continuously grown and evolved, with some particularly impressive instrumental moments coming on their more recent albums (if you haven’t already, check out Don’t Panic: It’s Longer Now!). Many of these moments are thanks to Rian Dawson’s incredible growth as a drummer.
Andy Hurley (Fall Out Boy)
When you heard the beat drop in “Sugar, We’re Goin Down,” you just knew something amazing was about to happen. Drummer Andy Hurley held almost every song on From Under The Cork Tree together with tight, driving rhythms. He has really shown off his versatility and creativity as Fall Out Boy’s style has changed throughout the years.
Tré Cool (Green Day)
It may sound cliche, but it’s true: Ever since ’94, when Green Day skyrocketed to fame with the release of their pop-punk masterpiece, Dookie, drummer Tré Cool has been hailed as one of the best in the genre. Even as die-hard punk fans criticized the album for being too melodic, Cool’s fills and speed added an undeniable layer of texture to tracks such as “Burnout” and “Longview.” That’s why they’re still among the first songs many new pop-punk drummers set out to master.
Longineu W. Parsons III (Yellowcard)
No pop-punk fan could ever resist the anthemic chorus of “Ocean Avenue.” Pay close attention throughout the song and you’ll notice how the chugging beats in the choruses flow effortlessly into tight fills. Longineu W. Parsons III’s drumming really gave Yellowcard’s early work a distinct style, and it paired beautifully with Sean Mackin’s violin playing. Now a touring member of New Years Day, Parsons is a huge part of the reason why we’re still jamming to Yellowcard after all these years.
Derek Grant (Alkaline Trio)
Over the years, the members of Alkaline Trio have made some seriously incredible and influential music together, but they’ve also proven their individual strengths in other separate musical endeavors. Drummer Derek Grant, in particular, has built up an impressive resume outside of Alkaline Trio. Fans have praised his work with the Suicide Machines, the Vandals, Face To Face and several other notable acts. Just listen to any of Alkaline Trio’s isolated drum tracks on YouTube and you’ll get an immediate sense of the nuance he brings to every song.
Cyrus Bolooki (New Found Glory)
We’ve already talked about some of the most influential drummers in the scene but have yet to discuss one of the most dedicated drummers in the scene—New Found Glory’s Cyrus Bolooki. Not too far into his career with the band, he seriously injured himself at a show and was unsure whether he’d ever be able to play live again. Of course, he found his way back behind the kit and has now put out 10 amazing albums with New Found Glory. Bolooki’s raw passion for music shines through in every performance. He plays hard, fast and clean, adding tons of power to classics such as “Hit Or Miss” and “My Friends Over You.”
Mike Kennedy (The Wonder Years)
Mike Kennedy plays with an incredible nuance that other modern pop-punk drummers can’t match. His musicianship stands out in just about every style the Wonder Years have explored across their six-album discography: the punchier tracks on Suburbia I’ve Given You All and Now I’m Nothing, such as “Came Out Swinging” and “Don’t Let Me Cave In,” the quieter sections on The Greatest Generation and everything in between.
Dani Washington (Neck Deep)
The technical elements in Neck Deep’s music have set them apart and earned them both critical and commercial success. Drummer Dani Washington really knows when to amp it up. His style was a perfect fit for the band’s more aggressive sound. On top of being a creative and technically skilled drummer, Washington also makes an effort to connect with fans by consistently recording amazing drum cam videos and has spoken out in support of the BLM movement on his social media platforms.
Mike Jimenez (Rufio)
In the early 2000s, Rufio completely shook up the pop-punk scene with elements of heavy metal and progressive rock. It may have been the band’s insanely tight guitar work that made albums such as MCMLXXXV so memorable, but drummer Mike Jimenez added a whole new layer of technical excellence.
Bill Stevenson (Descendents, Black Flag)
Hailed as a legend by many OG punk fans, Bill Stevenson laid the groundwork for so many future pop-punk artists. Not only did he help define the Descendents’ innovative sound but he’s also produced albums for tons of well-known bands, including Alkaline Trio, A Day To Remember, As I Lay Dying and more. He’s also known for his incredibly creative work with Black Flag.
Steve Sherlock (Nerf Herder)
Nerf Herder might consider themselves a “nerdcore” band, but there’s no denying their instrumentation makes them sound more like the cool kids. They combine elements of ska and surf rock with pop punk, and drummer Steve Sherlock’s speed and energy make for a perfect blend of all these styles.
Frank Zummo (Sum 41, Street Drum Corps)
As known and loved as Frank Zummo is for his work on Sum 41’s loud, fast anthems, what’s perhaps most impressive about this drummer is his versatility. He was a founding member of the incredibly innovative and talented group Street Drum Corps and has since played with the likes of Mötley Crüe and Dead By Sunrise. He’s no stranger to our hearts, having taken home the award for Best Drummer at the 2017 AP Music Awards where he performed a medley with twenty one pilots’ Josh Dun and No Doubt’s Adrian Young. You can check out his first solo EP here.
Steve Jocz (Sum 41)
Before there was Zummo, there was Steve Jocz, who lent his talents to classic Sum 41 albums such as All Killer No Filler and Does This Look Infected? Jocz’s drumming, of course, is distinctly pop punk, but he also incorporates plenty of elements from other rock subgenres, which helped Sum 41 craft their identity as a multi-talented band and made their style stronger and tighter over the years.
Ashton Irwin (5 Seconds Of Summer)
5 Seconds Of Summer brought a refreshing mix of rock and sugary pop to the table with the release of their debut album back in 2014. Drummer Ashton Irwin, who’s an absolute pleasure to watch live, proved that there was still a place for high-energy playing in the world of radio-ready pop punk. Watching any 5SOS performance or music video, you can easily tell just how much Irwin loves what he does.
Dean Butterworth (Good Charlotte)
Where would pop punk be without Good Charlotte? After parting ways with former drummer Chris Wilson, the band initially asked Dean Butterworth to fill in temporarily, and the rest is history. Like other pop-punk drummers before and after him, Butterworth’s style can be described as fast and straightforward, but he also knows how to add all the right fills in all the right places.
Mark O’Connell (Taking Back Sunday)
While Taking Back Sunday are primarily known for their epitome of emo lyrics, we can’t forget about the creative instrumentals that accompanied them. In particular, drummer Mark O’Connell’s strength lies in knowing when to keep it simple and when to add extra flavor. TBS’ music just wouldn’t be as emotionally significant without him.