CITY Supporter Series – Fleur de Noise 


Written by Michael Haffner

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“It’s the best church I’ve ever been to.”

It may seem odd to compare a sporting event to a place of worship, but then again, the experience at CITYPARK is not your standard sporting event.

Take it from someone who got into playing the drums because of church. Zach Ziaja taught himself how to play drums in a church band as a kid and considers himself as “the worst drummer.” He now plays weekly for over 22,000 people several times a month. Performing for that many people on a regular basis would be a dream come true for most musicians. And yet, a ragtag group of mostly non-professional musicians live that dream in St. Louis.

Fleur de Noise (FdN) is an interesting collective given how they include members from all the different groups – all of which we will be spotlighting in this series. They are led by Zach and Sam Wise, who both came from playing drums for the USL team Saint Louis FC. Sam explains that it was his desire to be a part of the soccer community that led him to the drum sticks. “I picked up a drum because it was the easiest way for me to meet everyone. I didn't have to put forth straight social efforts by playing a drum… people would come and meet me.”

Each member brings their own unique sound, story, and level of experience to the group. Rick Breyer previously participated in competitive drumline, while Clayton Kolkmeier helped with the gameday experience for Austin FC before moving back to St. Louis. And that’s just a few of the 50 members that actively provide the heartbeat to the stadium. They all have other roles or jobs in their lives, but once a week, they all come together to extend praise to the players on the field and keep crowds on their feet with their hands in the air.

“Getting a chant going that gets the team to take that extra step or try and be first to a ball. That's where I feel like we can really affect the game in a meaningful way.”


Pictured: Matthew Casey (left) and Sam Wise (right)

Getting the Band Together

When asked what goes into gameday preparation, they all laugh and admit, “That’s a loaded question.”

So much goes into the 90+ minutes fans see and hear that it might be best to start with the lead up to the next match. In the days that follow a match, the leaders have a postgame debrief with group members and the club talking about what worked and what didn't work; whether they encroached or crossed the line; and where they can improve.

By Wednesday, there’s a rollcall for who is available for the next weekend. They then schedule who is loading in equipment and loading out. Next, they decide who is playing what of the 20+ instruments they have, and who is going to call the chants from each of the three stands that are just above field level in the supporter section. On Thursday, they are finalizing times and any last-minute ideas they have for chants based on news from the team or the opposing team.

When matchday arrives, members of the group get down to the stadium by 2:30PM for a 7:30PM match. About 15 members handle the load-in and set up the drums and equipment at the hottest time of the day before many fans even start their pregame rituals. This is then followed in a couple hours by the supporter section march into the stadium and pre-match rhythms to get the crowd going as they get to their spots. Then, it’s time for the main event.

“For the 90 minutes we’re playing, there's 22,000 people picking up what you're putting down. It's impossible to describe,” explains Sam as best as he can. “It's addictive, and you want to keep doing it.”

Most members then wait 30 mins until the stadium has vacated to start to break down and load out equipment. The large drum that’s at field level – The War Drum – is so massive that it requires members to make another trip to load out. It ends up being a 10+ hour day for many once they can breathe a sigh of relief and take out their earplugs around 11PM.

And that doesn’t even take into account the practices when they try out new material or for new members to get acclimated to the group. As they say, “we have probably 40 more chants to dry-run and workshop,” that they haven’t even gotten to this year with everything else going on. Thankfully, this group shows no signs of slowing down as they continue to grow their numbers and increase their sound.


Pictured: Chris Dollenmeyer

The Capos Call the Shots

“It is a larger rollout than people think. There's a sentiment that other teams or other leagues are more organic, and they [chants] just happen out of thin air with 30,000 people just magically joining in and knowing the beat and the words. And that's just not fundamentally how that works anywhere,” explains Austin Adams. “So, there's just a lot more of a roll out and behind the scenes to make that stuff happen.”

Austin serves as one of the main capos and leaders of FdN. He joined in during the CITY2 season last year because he also wanted to play a more active role in the soccer community.

Austin has a different view of the action. Capos are the individuals that stand on the platforms usually with their backs to the game. Instead of facing the field and players, he’s facing the 3k+ supporters looking for cues from the musicians, the crowd, and the action on the LED screen above. “Are we doing the right chant? What's happening on the field? I need to be able to watch what's going on. Do we need to switch chants if the team is on a chance?”

Sam describes Austin and the other capos’ job as “a combination of band director, stage manager, and preschool teacher where no one is listening to you.” Jokes aside, that description speaks to the chaos, confusion and unwieldy nature of trying to get that many people to all work in unison. But as Sam states, “That’s the game.”

The club admits CITYPARK was built to keep the sound in. The metal canopy overhead is meant to reflect back the chants onto the field and intimidate rival teams. While it motivates our team, the high decibel levels present challenges. Musicians have to look to Austin and other capos mouthing feedback – whether to pick up the pace or slow down while also looking for the cue cards to know what chant to play next. Even drummers who are two people away from one another can’t communicate.

But those are issues that this passionate collective is happy to work through, together. It comes down to practice, trust and allowing the magic of the matchday experience to take over.

“How eight people standing on capo stands and 10-20 drummers and horn players can figure out how to get 3,000 supporters roughly all on the same page… that's a minor miracle to me.”

Maybe CITYPARK is, in fact, a lot like a church. It provides the communal spirit you feel when everyone is together believing in the same cause. It’s where minor miracles happen on the field and in the stands.

It’s “those moments in chants when the drums come to a halt and you just have all the voices coming together throughout the section,” that brings a smile to Zach’s face as he recounts what it means to him. “Those are the moments that 10 years in, I still get goosebumps.”

You can learn more at fleurdenoise.com