SXSW 2017: The Drums x Vinyl Mag

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The Drums origins can be traced back to Bible camp, which is not exactly what you’d expect from a Brooklyn-based experimental pop group. The two founding members of the band—Jacob Graham and frontman Jonny Pierce—met one summer in their early teens and became instant friends.

After the concept for The Drums was developed, the duo tacked on two more members—guitarist Adam Kessler and drummer Connor Hanwick—and in 2009 cranked out their first EP Summertime!, which received a massive amount of praise by the alt-pop press. Soon after, they released their self-titled debut, which was followed by Kessler’s departure from The Drums. After another two albums and a lineup change with Hanwick’s departure, the band released Encyclopedia, their final record as a two-piece, in 2014.

The Drums reemerged on the scene this month with their dreamy single “Blood Under My Belt.” Though Pierce is currently the only official member of the band, Graham is vital to The Drums’ established sound. While it’s Jonny’s faux English singing voice that stands out, it’s the reverb-drenched guitar and synths that link their albums. The Drums are an entity that closely resemble ’80s British rock bands, brooding in an air of melancholia while still oozing an effortless cool. We interviewed Jonny to discuss his new record and how he creates his music.

Vinyl Mag: How many times have you played SXSW?

Jonny Pierce: I’m bad with numbers, dates, timelines, etc., but it feels like I’ve played this festival a thousand times.

VM: Do you have any pre-festival rituals?

JP: I’m not one for rituals or anything ceremonial, really. All that stuff triggers me and brings me back to dark days when we would say grace before each meal. Although lately, I do find myself plugging one side of my nose before walking on stage. It forces me to breathe at a slower pace, which in turn slows my heart rate and calms me. I then take two very generous shots of tequila and bring myself back into a manic state. I still have some growing up to do.

VM: Do you feel like playing a festival has a different vibe than playing at a venue?

JP: Yeah, I mean for the sake of just being transparent, I have to say that it’s rare for me to enjoy a festival show. Music just sounds better indoors. You’ll also find that when your inside, rarely does it rain! No big wind gusts to fuck with my hair either! Cool haircuts are underrated and must be protected!

VM: “Blood Under My Belt” is very uptempo and bright. Is that the vibe on the rest of Abysmal Thoughts?

JP: The new album is in some way a return to form. I’m sticking with the surf tones that often find their way into my records, and this time, I’m blending that sound with all of my influences. Everything from ’90s drum ‘n’ bass to Talking Heads.

VM: Will you be playing anything else from Abysmal Thoughts at the festival?

JP: We’ll see! I gotta feel it out!

VM: Music videos are an integral part of The Drums. Will you be releasing one for “Blood Under My Belt?”

JP: We are in the finishing touches chapter of the “Blood” video. Think motocross and beauty. I think I get the final edit today, actually.

VM: If you had to leave the production of a Drums album to another producer, who would it be?

JP: I’m too hands on to even think about letting anyone else touch my records. I’d rather not make music than have someone else take over. What’s the point, right?

VM: Are there any recent pop records you thought were next level?

JP: I have been really loving Snail Mail‘s new EP. There is something so special about her voice. I hope she never changes. So super pure.

VM: What albums have you been listening to recently?

JP: Oh! Just the Snail Mail EP. I tend to dive into one album at a time and play it to absolute death.

VM: Who are you most looking forward to seeing at SX?

JP: Snail Mail and only Snail Mail! If there’s some good house or techno going on, I might check that out.

VM: What shows are you playing?

JP: My list of shows is on my Instagram!

VM: What’s your favorite part of the festival experience?

JP: Leaving and getting paid so I don’t starve.

VM: What would be your dream festival lineup?

JP: 808 State, A Guy Called Gerald, Roni Size, Massive Attack, debut era Bjork and Add N to (X)–but zero Burning Man vibes.

VM: Do you prefer barbecue or tacos?

JP: I’ve worked too hard to answer this question. Love you!

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