Banging on about The Drums

Having found hype with the BBC, NME and a spot on Wossy, these New Yorkers have been making quite a splash of late. The Skinny talks to <b>The Drums</b>' frontman <b>Jonathan Pierce</b> about hype, Orange Juice and his rightfully selfish approach to creativity

Feature by Paul Mitchell | 01 Jun 2010
  • The Drums

"There are a handful of bands that we really admire, and have our whole lives, from Scotland. I was very influenced by Orange Juice." The Drums frontman Jonathan Pierce is certainly enthused by the prospect of future trips to Scotland's largest city.

"It's really great to go there and pick up on the vibe," he says. "Not only do a show there but to be embraced by the whole culture of the place. It's just a feeling I got when I stepped off the bus in Glasgow. We might even move there to make our next record. There seems to be something special in the air there. I don't know where else would suit the sound of the Drums. It might have a bit of a darker effect on our sound."

The sound in question has been compared to a wide variety of historical sounds ranging from Beach Boysesque surf-pop to the maudlin efforts of 1980s Manchester. Pierce is happy with the comparison.

"Well, it's extremely flattering to be compared to your heroes. It's not anything done on purpose – our sound coming off that way, I think it's a case of being influenced by what we were listening to as teenagers growing up. Stuff you listen to in your formative years – in my case Joy Division, The Smiths and New Order – becomes like a musical accent, a way of identifying with a certain sound. I feel that even if we went the opposite direction on purpose and tried to sound nothing like that stuff I still reckon some of it could shine through anyway."

The singer lets us in by revealing a somewhat contrarian yet consistent modus operandi. "Whenever we create we try to be as selfish as possible. This means shutting the world out basically. When we started the project we had no idea if it would work out, and it was quite self-centred, primarily started out of boredom and a lack of inspiration. I think a lot of bands start off by being inspired by the music... we were kind of bummed out about life." Pierce says that being 'bummed out' was ultimately a symptom of his own depression, which prompted him to turn to music as an outlet "because I didn't know what else to do."

Wryly acknowledging that his burgeoning career hasn't quite slain that beast, he notes with optimism that it at least affords him the 'luxury' of not worrying about the opinions of others. "Jake [Graham, the band's co-founder] and I had been making music separately our whole lives and when we did finally decide to form a band we just shut everything out and only did we wanted to do and not care what anyone thought of it."

The New York four-piece have been riding the crest of a wave of publicity since the release of their debut EP Summertime last summer, featuring heavily in the BBC Sound of 2010 poll and being tipped for mainstream success by the NME. So, what is it about them that's attracting such positive attention?

"I'm really not sure," offers Pierce. "At the end of the day, we write pop songs. That's all we want to do and production is not nearly as important as melody to us. When the Drums started we really wanted to get back to basics; a band in the classic sense of the word, and just have four guys playing simple pop songs with little or no experimentation. We want to not be edgy, not be hip and that's why we moved to Florida. We left Brooklyn so we wouldn't be influenced by the scene there. There are so many bands coming out of there trying to be new and exciting and we just want to do what's tried and true, old and classic. People come up and say 'You guys are doing this new thing,' which is weird, because it's very much an old thing. Maybe that's why it sticks out."

Pierce speculates that perhaps their rapid rise to prominence is indicative of a global yearning for simplicity in troubled times. "I think people are just ready for songs again. It just seems that for the last long while the emphasis has been on production having the right sound, the right engineer. What we're trying to do, and there are other bands too like Camera Obscura that I think really believe in songs and the power of a simple thing with a bit of sincerity because there does seem to be a lot of insincere sounding big-time stuff going on. Even the political climate, around the world, seems to be suggesting that people are looking for something a little more tangible." Continuing his homage to all things Scottish, he goes on: "Like Orange Juice, when they wrote a pop song, there was something beautifully fragile and delicate about it. That's what we're trying to achieve."

The Drums' self-titled debut LP is released via Island Records on 10 Jun

They play T in the Park, Balado on 11 Jul