Balsa Gliders turn out hits, but keep their day jobs

There’s a running joke in the 1984 cult classic mockumentary, “This is Spinal Tap,” about how the band keeps losing drummers. One spontaneously combusted on stage. Another choked on vomit – but not his own vomit.

North Carolina’s The Balsa Gliders kid about their difficulty holding on to a drummer, too. For instance, one moved to Mongolia. Really.

But the band’s third drummer, Chuck Price of Charlotte, seems destined to stick around. After all, he’s got his dream job.

But it’s not his only job. By day, he’s a senior vice president at Bank of America. His bandmates include two attorneys, a Ph.D., a surgeon and a priest. The Gliders refer to themselves as the most over-educated band in America. They’re all husbands and dads in their mid-40s who say they tour in a mini-van.

Price had wanted to play drums in a band since he got his first drum kit in ninth grade. And as an adult, he actually wanted to play drums in this band. He got to fill in one night in 2006 when the Gliders’ second drummer was in transition between Raleigh, where the band is based, and Alabama. While Price’s wife drove the pair to the gig in Greensboro, he practiced his one song on the dashboard the whole way. He wound up joining the band.

‘I’m onto something’

Charles Marshall, a Charlotte native and Charlotte Country Day alum, writes the band’s songs, sings and plays guitar. “If I can’t stop humming it, I know I’m onto something,” he says. He returns to the lyrics later and then shares his songs with his bandmates. He’s the sole lyricist, but the entire band works out the song structure and arrangements.

Marshall’s catchy lyrics don’t usually speak to his life as a lawyer. Except in the case of “Maybe Ted and Ashley” from their last CD, “Photographic Friends.” Marshall says Ted was a friend in Washington, D.C., who could never commit to social engagements because of his high-powered job as a Skadden Arps attorney. There’s even a shout-out to the famed international firm in the song. Surely, it’s the only tribute to a law firm in pop music history.

The Gliders are not a novelty; they’re more than highly educated dads who dabble in music. (Not that there’s anything wrong with that.) David Menconi, The Raleigh News & Observer’s music critic, calls The Gliders “a right fine little pop band whose sound harkens back to 1980s-vintage Southern alterna-pop from the jingle-jangle division.” (REM and Wilco are among their influences.)

“They're really good, and given everyone’s day-job professional responsibilities, I have no idea how on earth they find the time,” he says.

Natural rhythm

Price says the Gliders are self-aware enough to know that music is their side business. “We don’t have aspirations of dropping it all and making music full-time.”

Marshall thinks their busy lives and careers outside the band contribute to their success. (And they are successful. According to popvortex.com, their new album, “Courteous Americans,” reached the Top 10 on the indie charts on iTunes.)

“One of the reasons we’ve stayed together and gotten better is because we have jobs and families and other demands on our time,” he says. “That helps our friendship.”

So, why does Marshall think the band’s drummers, like those in Spinal Tap, have come and gone? “They’re a temperamental bunch,” he says. And then he can’t help but tell a joke that involves a drummer and a lawyer.

“What do you say to a drummer in a three-piece suit?” he asks.

“Will the defendant please rise?”


Does drummer Chuck Price sleep with one eye open? “Probably,” Marshall quips. “There are a lot of good drummers in our neighborhood.”