Published September 22, 2009
Summertime!, the just-released debut EP from Brooklyn-by-way-of-Florida band the Drums, seems to cram a whole season into just under half an hour. Songs like “Let’s Go Surfing” and “Submarine” incorporate the harmonies and handclaps of 1960s teenybopper pop with the relentless dance hooks and melancholy core of Manchester post-punk, throwing in a generous smattering of surf guitar. The result is refreshing and almost unnervingly catchy pop, at once shimmering and sparse. (PHOTO COURTESY OF THE DRUMS)
Jonathon Pierce and Jacob Graham, founding members of the band and one-time slive ummer camp buddies, wrote a handful of songs in Kissimmee and moved to New York, picking up guitarist Adam Kessler and drummer Connor Hanwick, as well as a couple of backup dancers. Their trajectory has been meteoric. After just one show at the Cake Shop’s Popfest in May, bloggers had already begun buzzing. The group’s reputation has been largely built on their live show, which bludgeons the audience into dancing through sheer expenditure of energy.
The Drums’ first full-length is set to drop in early 2010, and the band has plenty of touring to cram in before then, setting a course towards Europe and then the West Coast. I caught up with them before their show at the Mercury Lounge in Manhattan.
Margaret Eby: How was your show in London?
Jonathon Pierce: It was pretty wild for us. It was our first show outside of Northeast America, so we weren’t expecting it to be as full as it was. It was interesting because the songs we had written were tributes to America, and everything in our country, and seeing the UK go nuts for it was weird and exciting.
ME: Tributes to America in what way?
JP: It may not translate that way for other people, but the EP that just came out we wrote on the beach. When we were writing the songs we were listening to the Shangri-Las and the Beach Boys, a lot of great pop groups from the ‘50s and ‘60s that were based in America. The idea was driving down the highway with the top down, that sort of feeling. We purposely set out to make it as American as we knew how.
ME: How did the Drums come together?
JP: I was living in New York, and my best friend Jacob was living in Florida. We’ve been friends since we were kids; we met at summer camp. We were both in bands our whole lives growing up. We wrote things together, nothing that was that serious. I was just filling my days with bullshit and I called Jacob, who was living in Kissimmee, Florida, and said, you know, “I think I need to get out of New York. I’m not doing anything that’s making me happy at all.”
So the next day I just left, and we started writing songs, we called ourselves the Drums, and it was really meant to be just a selfish studio project. And instead it turned into something that other people were sort of latching on to. People started taking note of it, and we realized that there wasn’t much we could do staying in Florida so we moved to New York after writing about 15 songs. The whole band lives together now; we found a drummer and a guitar player. We had our first show in May. I had no idea six months ago that I would be recording a session of BBC. It’s all moving so fast. We really don’t even have time to celebrate anything.
ME: Does it ever get awkward, living with your band mates?
JP: I wish we could say that we get in outrageous fights and everyone hates each other, but really, it’s pretty wonderful. We all get along real well and have a lot of the same passions or lack thereof. We’re so busy, we really haven’t had time to fight about anything. It’s just been work, work, work and party, party, party, party.
ME: What music do you listen to at home when you’re all hanging out together?
JP: We’ve all become obsessed with this record label, Sarah Records. All the subject matter is teenage love and lost, and it’s all really stripped down pop, just guitars and some synthesizers thrown in every once in a while. As far as modern music, we’re really into Camera Obscura night now, the new Raveonettes record is blowing us away. There’s another band that we saw live a month ago that we can’t stop talking about called Cats on Fire, they were unbelievable. And I actually hate live music, even my favorite artists I’m always waiting for the last song to be on so that I can get out of there, but this band really stopped me in my tracks.
ME: What about live shows don’t you like?
JP: I don’t know what it is. I just lack the attention span. [Laughs] I find myself at a show observing the crowd more than observing the performers. It took a while for me to realize that live shows aren’t really doing it for me. If the songs are really strong and the performance is OK, then I’d rather be alone and enjoy the music… in my bedroom, or on a rooftop, or on the beach.
ME: I was wondering how the “Let’s Go Surfing” video got made.
JP: We found a friend who had a camera and he knew a guy who operated a steady-cam, called in some favors. We did the whole video for $300. We thought, well, we say “let’s go surfing” in this song, so we could go about this two ways: we could do a video that had nothing to do with it, or we could own it. So we went to a beach at night. We did the whole thing in two takes because we couldn’t afford more than that. The guy who was pulling the camera towards us ran into a lifeguard chair and bashed his head open. It was kind of a disaster, but we tried to salvage the takes that we had.
It’s just another thing that you don’t see bands doing, being vulnerable and simple. The more simple things are, the more powerful they become. So that’s what we try to do in every aspect, in how we dress, in how we play, in how we make the photos. We’re control freaks. Everything we do tries to cut away the fat.
The Drums play tonight at the Mercury Lounge in Manhattan at 8:30 PM.