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Tuesday 17 July 2018

Just beat it

The Drums' Jonathan Pierce tells Chris wasser about making their new 'homespun' album

It's 11am in New York City and The Drums' Jonathan Pierce is having "one of those mornings". Clearing his throat and removing himself from his bed, the sleepy frontman pledges his allegiance to the cause. "I'm barely up," he announces, "but I'm ready to do this, man."

As it turns out, Jonny boy had a late one last night. But we'll let him off. Besides, he and his friends haven't had much time to hang out, what with The Drums having taken off quicker than anyone could have imagined.

Think British indie-pop in the 1980s, complete with floppy fringes, moody brows, quirky fashion, and a flamboyant lead singer who likes to sing about death (sound familiar?). Only, it's American. And, like, so now. Here we have a band whose self-titled debut album did exactly what the BBC predicted; the Sound of 2010 poll tipping Jonathan and his buddies to soundtrack the year. Fast forward 18 months or so and already The Drums have a second album in the bag.

According to Jonathan, Portamento (named after a 17th-century Italian musical term) is "a reality-driven album, versus the first album which was more of a cinematic idea". Make of that what you will, but there's no denying the band's determination to wade through the hype and get the job done. The way they like it. "I'm really glad that we didn't have any pressure when we were making that first album," he says, "because it helped us sort of define, not just our sound, but also our work ethic. And a big part of that is not caring what people are saying, or what people want, and just to do things how we think we should do them.



personal

"I think if we actually cared," he continues, "if we really wanted to please people and make a lot more fans, we would have gotten a big-name producer and gone into a big studio, and really made sure that we crank out the hits for the radio." Instead, The Drums recorded Portamento, a darker, more personal collection of songs, in Jonathan's apartment. And nobody has touched it since.

"It's a unique situation being with a major label that trusts and believes in the band," he explains. "There's no one coming in producing it or mixing it or engineering it -- it's really a very homespun sort of thing." Of course, as Jonathan (29) points out, there are pros and cons to success. It was only last September that guitarist Adam Kessler jumped ship. At the time, Jonathan and Co were devastated, but have since described it as a "blessing in disguise". Then again, it wasn't long ago that the entire group were on the verge of a split. Recording a new album during what was supposed to be their time off, inevitably took its toll. "It's like anything, you see someone for too long and you just wanna kill them. I have always said, being in a band . . . it's worse than a marriage. You're together non-stop -- literally 24/7.

"And so you learn all these things that you never knew about the other person, and they learn all these things they never knew about you. Some of the things can be nice and some can really annoy the sh*t out of you. The good thing is we're really excited about this new album."

Certainly, The Drums should remain the hipsters' choice for the foreseeable future. Which makes me wonder what comes next. I reckon The Drums would love to be huge . . . without being huge.

"It's a really romantic idea to love an indie band that no one's heard of -- I get that", he nods. "But whenever I fall in love with a band that no one's heard of and then suddenly the whole world's hearing that band, I never get upset. I get excited. So, I'll never turn down an opportunity just because it's a big opportunity," he says. "As long as we don't have to compromise . . . we are who we are and we kind of let the world spin around us."

Portamento is released next Friday. The Drums play at Electric Picnic next Sunday

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