Before even releasing their debut LP in 2010, The Drums were already being referred to as one of the hottest bands around (NME, CMJ). Following the release of that self-titled debut, The Drums are back soon after with follow-up, Portamento including visits to Australia.
Sitting in his apartment over the holiday season, lead singer Jonathon Pierce took some time out of drinking hot cocoa whilst watching the snow fall over New York City (that’s what I desperately imagined the scene to be at least) to have a deep chat with Tone Deaf ahead of their appearances at Laneway Festival and solo dates in February.
“It’s nice to be home at any time, let alone the holidays,” Jonny says, laughing. You can’t blame him either, especially after realising the length he has been out on the road for. “We’ve been out and about for about three years now. This is sort of the longest time we’ve had off. A little more than a month. It’s been a huge tour.” When prompted about why The Drums appear to strive to be so busy he continues, “It’s this weird thing in my life where I don’t want to be busy, but then the moments I’m not I really start panicking and I don’t really know how turn that off.” Initially this sounded as if it was his New Years Resolution to fix, but that thought was soon drowned with the remark, “when I’m busy that’s when I actually enjoy my life.” Perhaps we can expect a new Drums LP for the third-straight year.
Could this inherent mania be to blame for their quick ascension to indie Princes? “I don’t know how [our popularity] happened. I haven’t taken any time to reflect. I put the responsibility for the attention we got so quickly on how we were doing things really differently than other bands when we started. Everything was dark and had skulls and upside down crosses on it, but then we put out this summertime music that was refreshing.” I don’t remember the world to be so Goth and dark before The Drums, but nevertheless according to Jonny they unconsciously “fucked whatever the scene was” and were “selfish” by making music they wanted to bring back. 2009 and 2010 was undoubtedly the rise of, as Jonny describes, “simple pop songs”. Perhaps they truly were at the forefront of that movement.
Whilst there was only a year between the release of their two LP’s, The Drums still possess the same sound and direction. “We didn’t really know we were making Portamento till a few songs in, and by then we had pretty much figured out what exactly it was going to be. It started off in a really organic and natural way. We went into the studio only a week or two after our first album came out,” he says laughing, presumably at the fact he used the word “studio” when in fact it was recorded entirely in his kitchen. “When ever I say ‘studio’ people automatically assume some large, nice production place, but for us that’s just how we keep it organic. Walking into a big studio, with a big producer that to me would be intimidating,” he confesses.
With the occasional cough Jonny continued, “I think we’re kind of selfish about it. More than caring about record sales and commercial success, it’s really about thinking long-term. In twenty years when it’s all gone and we look back, we want to be proud. That’s really our mind-set. The only sort of pressure is really self-induced, just to write great songs that we love. That’s how this band started, and that’s how this band will stay until to the end.” Most bands would indeed say this is their criterion as a band, but it is still respectable and admirable to hear them say it.
Though from Jonny’s view on the modern music charts it appears he feels that if other bands were to say they abide by that same motto, they might just be pulling your leg. “Every song that is popular now is about being on a dance floor, or being at a club and wearing sexy jeans,” he says while laughing before continuing more somberly. “No one has anything to say anymore. It’s the weirdest thing. Even artists, who used to put out scores where they were saying something through beautiful heartbreak songs, are now succumbing to this dance floor thing.” But who do we hold responsible? Who are the masterminds behind these senseless hits? “I think it’s something we can blame the Black Eyed Peas for. They’ve had like 20 number one singles and haven’t said a single thing in any of them yet were a wild success. Everybody has just been ripping that off and singing about being hot and dancing. It’s just really depressing,” Jonny sighs in what perhaps was a Freudian slip. “Not a word of substance. You should do a whole article on Black Eyed Peas number one hits. List all of them and try to find one bit of substance.”
For the second time in under a year The Drums will soon revisit our shores. “It’s one of those things where it’s just a place that has welcomed us and it really feels great to be honest,” he says sounding genuinely happy. “The Groovin’ The Moo was really great and I have no doubt Laneway will be the same. We saw a lot of Australia and it was a really special experience for all of us. It was a great feeling when we realised, ‘Wow! Australia really does care about this band’. It just feels good.”
“I feel like I’ve seen more of Australia than most Australians. I’ve seen almost everywhere I think. I really loved Perth last time. I thought was really cool.” He was genuinely shocked to hear that I have never been there. Living in Sydney, I reminded him that it was the same distance as New York to Los Angeles. “Yeah but I’ve been to L.A. a bunch of times.” We’re not all rock stars Jonny. We’re not all rock stars…