`Drum roll, please'; Brothers' drums used by the stars.
SOUTHBRIDGE - Not only do Scott J. and Michael L. Ciprari march to the beat of a different drum, they do it to custom-made ones of their own design.
Twelve years ago, the Ciprari brothers started SJC Custom Drums in their grandmother's basement, in their native Dudley. In 2007, they moved to a 4,000-square-foot building in the same town. And, six months ago, SJC Custom Drums set up shop in a 15,000-square-foot warehouse in Southbridge. Currently, SJC employs 11 guys that want to work and bang out drums all day.
"What's cooler than having your favorite bands play the drums that you made in your grandmother's basement?" Michael Ciprari asked. "It's pretty sweet. We've had some of our drums on TV, which just creates more demand for our drums."
While it has had its share of high-profile clients playing its drums live in concert and on television, nothing was bigger for the small upstart custom drum-kit company than when Lady Gaga and Sir Elton John sang a duet at the 2010 Grammy Awards.
"That was just ridiculous," Michael Ciprari said. "Elton John's stage show and Lady Gaga's stage show are very elaborate, and the drums are usually under the stage or in the back and you can't see them. Lady Gaga's drummer (Charles Haynes) called me. `We're playing on the Grammys. Watch us.' Literally, over Elton John's shoulder you can see our SJC Custom Drums logo for the whole performance. It was insane."
Both brothers graduated from Shepherd Hill Regional High School. Scott Ciprari, 28, graduated from the University of Southern Maine with a degree in music education, while Michael Ciprari, 27, attended UMass-Dartmouth for a year and a half for business marketing. Scott now lives in Webster, and Michael in Worcester. Both brothers play the drums.
Michael Ciprari started playing drums when he was 9 when he got his first drum set for Christmas. A few years later, Scott Ciprari took his cousin's drum kit from the attic and "re-covered it, spray-painted it to make it look cool," according to his brother. Shortly after that, Scott started making drum kits from scratch.
From that time on, Michael Ciprari was interested in the customizing end of drums, while his brother was into the fundamental science of how to make a drum.
"We were just nerds about drums. We love drums. We love seeing what different things would do to the sound and different looks," Michael Ciprari said. "I'm more on the look side. I want it to look cool. Obviously, we want it to sound good. But Scott was more into the fundamentals, the bearing edges and all the fine details of the drums and the paint, everything like that."
Michael took the money he saved from working part-time at Dunkin' Donuts and Scott did the same with the money he earned at Tri-State Toyota at Dudley. The two brothers pooled their money to make a company in which they could build cool drums for themselves.
"My parents were wicked supportive of us," Michael said.Michael designed the company's logo and website and was in charge of the marketing and networking, while Scott focused on making drums. All they needed were customers. While on tour with his band, No Trigger (and also, while filling in on drums for the band Polar Bear Club), Michael Ciprari started presenting the brothers' custom-made drums to other musicians. And before they knew it, drum roll please, the two brothers were selling their homemade kits to drummers in up-and-coming bands.
"We're making drum sets for bands that I played random, one-off shows with around the country and now those bands are on MTV, just getting bigger and bigger and playing our drums with our logo on it," Michael said. "So, word of mouth and these bands playing our drums and marketing really helped push SJC from the beginning."
In 2003, the Cipraris sold custom-made drum kits to the Aquabats and Strike Anywhere, their favorite bands at the time.
The brothers' first taste of mainstream success came when Panic! at the Disco drummer Spencer Smith played an SJC Custom Drum kit on MTV's "Video Music Awards" in 2006.
Other notables that play SJC Custom Drums onstage include Boys Like Girls' John Keefe, Cobra Starships' Nate Novarro, Dropkick Murphys' Matt Kelly, Gym Class Heroes' Matt McGinley, Rancid's Branden Steineckert, Zac Hanson of Hanson, Miley Cyrus' drummer Stacy Jones and The Jonas Brothers' touring drummer, Jack Lawless. In addition, Justin Bieber, Bruno Mars, P. Diddy, Kanye West and Snoop Dogg have SJC Custom Drums in their personal collection or studio.
Michael Ciprari estimates that SJC Custom Drums has made 2,000 complete drum kits to date and averages 150 to 200 kits a year. The average cost for an SJC Custom Drum is $2,000 per kit.
Like great rock `n' roll siblings Ray and Dave Davies and Liam and Noel Gallagher, the Ciprari brothers don't always see eye to eye. In fact, some of their soon-to-be legendary feuds have been captured on film and will be showcased on a reality TV show called "Drum Heads," which will air on a "small network in North Carolina" on a date yet to be determined, Michael Ciprari said.
"My brother's very laid back and precise and wants to do things in a very mechanical way. Do everything in steps and take time on each one. You need that," Michael Ciprari said. "I want to make the coolest drums. I want to make a drum set for this guy by tomorrow. I want to essentially take over the world with our drums. I want all of my favorite bands. I want everybody to like us."
PHOTOG: T&G Staff Photos/JIM COLLINS
CUTLINE: (1) Michael Ciprari plays on a practice drum kit in the display room at SJC Custom Drums in Southbridge. (2) Above, Michael Ciprari holds an acrylic-shelled drum with lights and a microphone mounted inside. (3) At left, The "butcher hoop," invented by SJC Custom Drums, attaches around the bottom of a drum, personalizing it and covering the hardware. This set was developed for a customer in Australia who wanted an owl theme.