The Things You Can’t Live Without
THERE’S A JOKE AMONG musicians that goes What’s the difference between a drummer and a large pizza? The pizza can feed a family of four. Well, don’t repeat that one to Tommy Robertson, the Austinite who’s built an empire with the instrument, first selling drum kits and sticks to professionals at his eponymous percussion store and then reinvigorating a classic American music maker, the Fibes Drum Company. The brand was founded in 1965 by two drummers (who harmonized “vibes,” short for “vibrations,” with “fiberglass,” the material used in the original shells, to form “Fibes”), and Robertson, a veteran pro of drum repairing, retailing, and playing, bought the trademark and machinery kit and caboodle in 1994. He began making his own maple shells—the mark of a bespoke snare, tom, and bass—in 2003, and Fibes drums now resonate with craftsmanship and credibility once again, each one custom-made in Austin and exported around the world. Robertson’s nine-thousand-square-foot factory off South Lamar—the same vaunted strip occupied by retailer Heart of Texas Music and venues the Saxon Pub and the Broken Spoke—employs a combination of skilled artisans and dedicated drummers. It’s earned him a place in the heart of many a musician (Spoon, Asleep at the Wheel, the Longhorn Basketball Band, and Robertson’s own junior-high daughter) and put his handiwork on the riser of many a stage, including the set of Austin City Limits. This month, you may also hear a Fibes floor tom or two at the Austin City Limits Music Festival, where the brand is the unofficial backline of the three-day concert. Rock on.
Approximately $2,200 for a five-piece set and $375 for a snare. Fibes Drum Company, 1107 S. Eighth, Austin, 512-416-9955, fibes.com. Available at Tommy’s Drum Shop, 1100 S. Eighth, Austin, 512-444-3786, and Rockin’ Robin Guitars and Music, 3619 S. Shepherd, Houston, 713-529-5442.