ABOVE: DROWNERS. PHOTO COURTESY OF PETER VOELKER
In the late summer of 2011, Drowners frontman Matt Hitt found himself in New York: a 3,000-mile leap from a village in rural Wales, and one he made without looking back. “I like how late everything happens here,” Hitt declares. The short attention span that accompanied his adopted city-never-sleeps mentality drew out a new interest in angular, compressed rock-‘n’-roll and economy of song structure, and ushered in kindred souls and bandmates Jack Ridley III (guitar, vocals), Erik Lee Snyder (bass), and Lakis E. Pavlou (drums). Underneath layers of casually slung motorcycle jackets and drooping, half-forgotten cigarettes lies an enviable ease of movement among the quartet, one that belies the band’s six months of mad gigging downtown before securing a record deal. Their well-received EP, Between Us Girls, provided a four-track taster of an aggressively catchy blend of shiny garage pop and self-aware lyrics, a combination Hitt identifies as “jovial misery.”
With the release of their self-titled album debut on Frenchkiss Records approaching on January 28, we can’t help but think of the famous title to Stevie Smith’s poem, “Not Waving but Drowning.” Are the Drowners really as buoyant as the Arctic Monkeys-sounding title of the track “Unzip Your Harrington?” Or does something of the Smiths’ enduring tragedy peek through “A Button on Your Blouse,” a song Hitt describes as “the ballad, even though it’s not that slow?”
To tide us over, the Drowners have supplied us with their cover of Adam Green (of now defunct anti-folk group The Moldy Peaches)’s “The Cigarette That Burns Forever.” Beginning with a purposeful clearing of Hitt’s throat, the ballad proceeds with a grave, straightforward simplicity, Hitt’s voice winking up warmly at each pause for breath like microsecond shrugs of “c’est la vie.” The idea for the cover was similarly intuitive, as Hitt explains, “The cover came about when our label asked us to cover a song for a compilation of BMG artists that they’re gonna put out. I’ve been a fan of Adam’s for a long time, and I remember watching him play this song at a house party a few years ago.” As for the recording of the song itself, Hitt’s response is one we could have predicted: “We recorded it the way we demo most of our songs… with me, one mic, in my bedroom.”
DROWNER’S SELF-TITLED DEBUT ALBUM IS OUT JANUARY 28. FOR MORE ON THE BAND, VISIT ITS WEBSITE.