Lip Critic’s Danny Eberle on his Strong DIY Roots

Drummer Danny Eberle has always been the epicenter of the madness. Whether it was with his experimental rock band Lip Critic on the SUNY Purchase campus, or his rock band On Pink at venues across upstate New York, his arms were sure to blur with intense motion as he churned out a sweaty set for a basement filled with thrashing college kids baking in the body heat. He stayed wired into his craft as his fast-paced hits and rapid-fire movements clashed against the loud guitars — a perfect background for the kids to mosh to. This was the environment that he called home during the pre-COVID years, roots that he still wears on his sleeve.

Eberle has since graduated out of those sweaty student-run basements. Last year he drummed through the Netherlands, Prague and Italy, as a part of hardcore rapper Lil Darkie’s backing band. He now plays with Lip Critic, as they plan for their first international tour as a band this summer in support of their newest album, “Hex Dealer,” which dropped on May 17. He’s been around the world, but always seems to find a way back to his beloved hometown of Staten Island.

Danny Eberle
Photos by @Makaylamber

While growing up in the borough, Eberle was multiple things at once, moving around quickly and sporadically — like he does onstage. He started his music career taking guitar and bass lessons as a kid, but it wasn’t clicking for him. From there, he messed around in D.I.Y. bands with his lifelong friend and classmate, Joe Ippolito, while attending Manhattan’s music-oriented LaGuardia High School. The two were inspired by the garage rock duet style of Black Keys, White Stripes, but, most characteristically, 90s indie band Ween. One early project that actually got a name — Strangelands — covered Ween frequently, inspired by their carefree, jokey attitude that rubbed off on their own project. 

“We didn’t take ourselves seriously at all, but we took the music seriously,” he said. 

The duo started their Strangelands career with daytime shows at dive bars on Staten Island, playing to family members. Eager to break out at city venues — anywhere that would let their young, high school selves shred a couple songs, the band turned to recording studios and low-key venues in Times Square. One of these holes in the wall was Funkadelic Studios, a small building tucked within the Garment District that allowed high school students to rent rooms to play shows without charge, and immerse themselves in a DIY-esque space early on.

“We’re small dudes, so we definitely stuck out like a sore thumb in these places of just kids, like, doing drugs,” said Ippolito. “We were kind of just there to play and see music.”

“That was my first experience being around other music minded people, skaters, all that stuff,” he said. “That was definitely eye-opening. It was great to perform in front of audiences in that sense, because it’s beyond playing drums at a recital.” 

Danny Eberle
photo by @elyzareinhart

At LaGuardia, where everyone dreamed of being like its alumni stars of the past, the energy in the classroom felt too high-stakes and traditional. Eberle equates their austere jazz program to being on a varsity sports team, finding himself much more drawn to the DIY aspects of after-school projects he formed with his classmates. He started at SUNY Purchase in 2018 — after lifelong friend and future Lip Critic bandmate Ilan Natter pushed him to attend, enticing him with the bustling, colorful music scene that awaited. 

“I remember telling him that Purchase is really what you want, which is to be able to play loads of music without being a music major,” he said. “I couldn’t speak to other schools, but I was like, ‘If you come here, you will play drums in every band.’”

“It was like LaGuardia 2.0,” Eberle said of Purchase. A majority of the people in his classes were fellow alumni, and the musical connections they shared followed them all the way to Westchester. He was constantly seeing old classmates perform during shows at The Stood, Purchase’s very own on campus venue — a space that constantly brewed the freshest sounds and budding artists.

“Because of that, you’re meeting musicians,” he said. “It sets a foundation for how you can start bands and actively play. It’s super accessible and no one’s gonna judge you. You can test the waters by playing a show and seeing if people show up.”

Lip Critic assembled during Eberle’s freshman year at Purchase, originally an improv act. It spawned from the ashes of previous failed projects started with musicians he was meeting during his first few weeks at the college. When a member of one of their many bands couldn’t attend practice, Eberle and Natter — the other drummer of the band — were left to experiment. After bringing in two other artists that they’d met at house parties, singer Bret Kaser and sampler Connor Kleitz, the band took the stage at The Stood for the very first time for a hectic, live jam session that was “received super weird” by the venue’s typical student crowd. “Everyone was like, ‘what the hell’s going on?’” Eberle laughs. “They thought we were strange.”

Lip Critic’s sound refuses to slow down for those who can’t keep up. Their fast-paced, glitchy take on rock music draws similarities to loud noise acts such as Death Grips — Eberle’s speedy and distorted drumming heightening the beautiful, collective chaos.

Danny Eberle
photo by @heydoodypantsitsizzy

The band started picking up speed very quickly, releasing their first EP, “Lip Critic II,” in 2020. They supported the release with a long-awaited slew of upstate New York and NYC shows once COVID restrictions were lifted in 2021. The band shipped their first project around to every record company they could think of, waiting on any sort of reply. They spent the next couple years riding the rise to local scene notoriety, gaining more than 20k monthly Spotify listeners and playing for sold out crowds at established New York City venues such as Elsewhere Hall.

In early 2023, Eberle woke up to a text one day from Alex Wacksman — a.k.a. Wendigo — a producer he met through mutual friends that works with Lil Darkie. The rapper just put out his newest album, and needed a drummer to join him on tour. “Do you have any plans for May?” it read. “Do you want to come to Europe?” 

Not even a month later, Eberle was on a flight to Switzerland to rehearse drums with the rapper. They had never played together — or even met — and it was his first time going to Europe in general. Eberle reflects on the experience breezily, gushing about how easy it was to make friends through the backing band — similar to how quickly he connected with musicians from Purchase. After all, they all spoke the same language. 

“He assimilated pretty quickly into making it seem like he’s never not been a part of this band,” said Ippolito, who watched him tour from the States. “Even though he’s not necessarily a guitar player or a bass player, he’s got ideas on that front that he can pretty easily communicate to people who do play those instruments.”

The chemistry between Eberle and Darkie’s band made being in unfamiliar territory, getting chauffeured around by personal drivers from the Czech Republic and meeting all of the “crazy motherfuckers” that Europe had to offer almost like living in a dream. In a mere matter of weeks, Eberle jumped from playing for the Stood’s few dozen stragglers to selling out buzzing venues filled with hundreds of people — such as the legendary Academy in Dublin, a rite of passage for indie bands of the past.  

“Every show was mayhem,” he said. “The fans were so fucking young, so they were there to go crazy. I could feed off of that so easily because I’m looking at these kids right in the eyes and I’m like, ‘Keep going!’” 

Photos by @Makaylamber

On stage, Eberle thrives off of mutual energy. Lil Darkie’s fans were remiscent of the Times Square teens that filled the crowds during his Strangelands days, eager and jumping at the sounds of his rapid, pulsating beats. Once Lip Critic started to score opening slots for bigger acts such as post-punk giants IDLES and Viagra Boys, he found it harder to connect with standstill crowds that weren’t sure what to expect from him. Still, he develops his own ways to force the audience to engage with him — and they seem to be working. 

“If there’s some dude crossing his arms, just looking pissed off, I’m gonna look him dead in the eyes, on some scary shit. I’m not about to kill you, but I’m gonna look at you like I’m about to kill you.”

Eberle ends up back in Staten Island — the home he loves unapologetically. For a borough that gets so much — in his opinion — unnecessary slack, he reps it shamelessly everywhere he goes. It’s where many of his early bands started up, where he’s met some of his closest musical comrades and where he still plays gigs at hidden-gem dives, like the north shore’s Mother Pugs and beloved Flagship Brewery — opportunities he’ll never take for granted. 

“Growing up in a suburb like this, you learn to appreciate what’s around you. I think there’s always been a good scene here, even when I was starting. When I was a kid playing the drums, I was able to practice in my basement. With Lip Critic, it feels right to rep Staten Island because our first practice was here.”

As the band currently tours through England, they plan to come back to Staten Island for a hometown show at MakerParkRadio’s studio — the borough’s independent radio station — this July.

As an artist, Eberle has many places he can call home — Purchase, the NYC D.I.Y. scene, Staten Island and now, the world. He’s unsure of what awaits Lip Critic, and his personal career. Still, he’s not worried. “I like having these multiple identities,” he said. “I’m meeting all of these dudes that are playing drums and writing songs that aren’t just pop songs. These people listen to the same bands or came from the same scenes that I did. It’s cool to see that all these communities exist.” 

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