Interview: Black Rebel Motorcycle Club’s Leah Shapiro on getting healthy and keeping the beat

The music that Black Rebel Motorcycle Club have been churning out since 2001 debut B.R.M.C. is as multifaceted as it is timeless. Songs often teeter on the brink of provocative ambiguity as the California natives masterfully layer on both melodic and rhythmic bait. Drummer Leah Shapiro is a steadfast component of the band’s creative process; the Denmark-raised musician joined Black Rebel Motorcycle Club in 2008, after former drummer Nick Jago left to pursue solo endeavors.

Shapiro had the scare of her life in 2014, though, when she revealed to fans that she was battling a brain condition called Chiari malformations. Bandmates Robert Levon Been and Peter Hayes, along with the help of the BRMC community, managed to raise over $30,000 for Shapiro’s surgery. Even though she is now fully recovered, Shapiro’s remarkable journey came full circle with their current tour, which comes to the House of Blues in Boston this Saturday, November 12.

“This is the first tour since the surgery that I’m 100 percent healed up,” she tells Vanyaland by phone. “The first few times I played, I knew it felt the way it was supposed to feel. Everything is working right and I’m not fighting my body — so I’m really fucking happy right now.”

Deeper into our conversation, Shapiro recalls when she auditioned to be the drummer for Black Rebel Motorcycle Club. “I spent a lot of time just studying the catalogue, but not just the records. I studied their live versions of recorded songs as well. It was important to mimic their sound closely and make it as easy and seamless as possible for the guys.” When gender is brought up regarding how it affected her audition and ultimately her role in the band, Shapiro becomes noticeably annoyed. “My gender and being a woman has nothing to do with it — and it’s the same with other established bands who recruit new members. Fans are going to be skeptical no matter who it is so you have to make sure it’s working for them. But the whole female drummer thing? It’s not really relevant. I’m just a drummer.”

When pressed for details about the chemistry between her and the boys onstage, Shapiro takes the inquiry with a grain of salt. “I’m not really chatty — but then again I don’t really have a microphone,” she chuckles. “I mean, there is a little bit of interaction with the audience but we prefer keeping it about the music and not about theatrics and shit like that. We’re extremely focused on keeping our energy right.” She admits, though, that it’s tough to push the band aside to focus on her when she needs to. “To be honest, most of the time my world revolves around music — writing, recording, going to the studio, going on tour. When we have a record that comes out we tour for a year, year and a half so it’s hard to leave that world when you need to.”

As far as self-care goes, Shapiro makes it a point to avoid concerts when she’s not on the road. “I don’t really go to shows,” she reveals. “It takes a little time to adjust back to my actual life so for 7 to 10 days I like to be by myself in silence, go off the grid. It helps to quiet the voices in my head.”

BLACK REBEL MOTORCYCLE CLUB + DEATH FROM ABOVE 1979 + DEAP VALLY :: Saturday, November 12 at the House of Blues, 15 Lansdowne St. in Boston, MA :: 6 p.m., all ages, $27.50 to $35 :: Advance tickets :: Live Nation event page