2014 Artist Survey: The Drums

Jonny Pierce and Jacob Graham on U2's Music Pollution, Racism and Police Brutality in America, and Heartwarming Fan Interactions

Feb 11, 2015 Issue #52 - January/February 2015 - St. Vincent
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For Under the Radar's 12th annual Artist Survey we emailed some of our favorite artists a few questions relating to 2014. We asked them about their favorite albums of the year and their thoughts on various notable 2014 news stories involving either the music industry or world events, as well as some quirkier personal questions.

Check out our Best of 2014 print and digital issues for answers from alt-J, Camera Obscura, Chromeo, The Dears, Death From Above 1979, Deerhoof, The Flaming Lips, Glass Animals, Hookworms, Sondre Lerche, of Montreal, Owen Pallett, The Rosebuds, Still Corners, Strand of Oaks, Teleman, Sharon Van Etten, The War on Drugs, Warpaint, Woman's Hour, Wye Oak, Zola Jesus, and others.

 Here are some answers from Jonny Pierce and Jacob Graham of The Drums.

 [A shorter version of this interview ran in Issue 52, the Best of 2014 and January/February 2015 Issue, which is still on newsstands. This is the full version of the interview.]

Top 10 Albums of 2014

Jonny Pierce:

1. Beverly: CareersJust a bunch of great pop songs with gorgeous melodies and I had the pleasure of being on the road with these kids. Drew [Citron] singlehandedly made touring America a breeze. The Cranberries meets The Amps. 

2-10. I don't know of any others as I write this. I've very much been in my own world all year and have not really discovered anything new. I'm not a music geek. Things fall into my life and if they are good I keep them, but I am not ever out hunting for gold. I like to make my own gold. I hate when we get to a city and there is a brilliant press person who has a brilliant idea of bringing us to a brilliant record store and filming us picking out brilliant records. It's my worst nightmare. I used to fake the interest, but I'm all about getting real with myself and so now I just say no. I mean, I'm all about record stores, I like that artists have a physical outlet, but I just don't spend all day in them myself, unless I know exactly what I want. In and out. I also think that anyone who can just list off the best 10 records of any year probably doesn't have the best taste because how can you genuinely, truly, wholeheartedly love 10 albums in one year? It takes me about two years to full appreciate one album. You can't say you're in love if you're jerking off nine other guys at the same time. All that said, I do want to check out Aphex Twin's new one. 

Jacob Graham:

1. Half-handed Cloud: Flying Scroll Flight ControlThis guy is from the Danielson Family/Sufjan camp, but he's my favorite of all that lot. I've heard people say his albums sound like he has ADD, but I think they're just really interesting throughout and fun to listen to.

2. Xeno and Oaklander: Par AvionX&O are such a reliable band. They never fail to deliver the purest voltage-controlled music in all the world.

3. The Soundcarriers: EntropicaliaI love pretty much everything Ghostbox Records puts out. This one is a slight departure for them, more of a band than a studio project, but still very much in step with the wonderful world they're creating.

4. Relic Pop: Thick as ThievesThis is a fun little electronic album, super playful sequences reminiscent of the old Japanese synthesizer pioneers.

That's all I liked this year. 

What was the highlight of 2014 for either you personally or for the band? 

Jonny: Our U.S. tour sold out, which really surprised us as we had been gone for three years, which is a pretty long time to be gone for band like us. That was wonderful. They told us at our Amoeba in-store performance that the last time they had a crowd as big as ours was when Paul McCartney came through. It's all so encouraging because we have been wildly misunderstood in most circles (classic!) and so America has given us new life and a new chance. Walking hand in hand through the darkness. Lots of people wanted us to make a record they could party to, and we gave them a funeral-march compilation and half of our "fans" ditched and the other half said "Okay, I knew you had it in you! NOW we're talkin!" In a world that celebrates the good times for a living, it's incredibly refreshing to find people who appreciate the beauty behind such themes as hopelessness and loss. 

Jacob: A long day I spent at Disneyland by myself.

What was the low point of 2014 for you? 

Jonny: Realizing that I may have truly fallen out of love with New York City. And then immediately feeling like I have no home. Where does one go?

Jacob: Probably that same day at Disneyland. Hehe.

What are your hopes and plans for 2015?

Jonny: I gave a couple songs from my unreleased solo album to The Drums' new album and I think I'd like to fill in those gaps. Write some more, maybe move to L.A., I'm sick of old and ready for new. I just want to shake it up a bit. Feeling restless and ready!

Jacob: To get married! Never thought it could happen to me. I'm over the moon.

U2's new album was downloaded for free into millions of users' iTunes accounts without their permission. Was it a wonderful gift to music fans or an invasive action that devalues music? Also, which artist, other than you, deserves to have their album automatically downloaded to half a billion people more than U2?

Jonny: U2 has become music pollution. They are the smog of music. Ever-present and unhealthy. I want to ask them, "Why do you still make music? I understand why you used to, but why do you still?" You can only eat one lunch at a time and you can only wear one pair of leather pants at a time. You can only sleep in one bed at a time. Why the need for so much more money? What is driving all of this? No band should be automatically thrown into anyone's life. Nothing should be forced on anyone.  

Jacob: Yeah, I mean, I don't think any artist should assume that everyone likes them. And I don't know if there's any music that has enough mass appeal that everyone should have it. How about an album of all the national anthems of the world? That could be nice.

Did you take part in the ice bucket challenge? If not, why not? Grimes declined due to animal testing issues, was the grief she got for that deserved?

Jonny: I am so out of that world that I really couldn't comment. 

Jacob: I didn't because I thought it was ridiculous. I'm able to help my fellow man without making a spectacle of myself. I suppose it was a clever way to raise money if one enjoys the novelty aspect.

The shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri opened up a new national dialogue on police shootings and racism in America. Do you think anything will actually change because of it?

Jonny: As long as there is money, there is greed, and as long as there is greed, there is corruption, and as long as there is corruption, there will be cops. I heard a town somewhere in America has made it mandatory for police officers to wear cameras everywhere they go. A good start. Everyone else is monitored; why shouldn't they be? We pay them! When has unmonitored power ended in a good scenario?

Jacob: Gosh, I have no idea. Racism is still such a huge problem in this country. That horrible incident and others like it certainly bring awareness. I guess all we can do is try to educate one another.

What's your craziest theory for what happened to the missing Malaysian Air flight?

Jonny: After the pilot learned that all four members of U2 were on the plane, he made a decision to be a new hero for all of mankind. 

Jacob: Maybe they just decided to get away from everything and start over fresh?

Mark Kozelek was criticized in 2014 for insulting his audience (calling them "hillbillies" for talking during his set) and for making fun of The War on Drugs when their sound bled over to the stage he was playing. What responsibility do performers have to be respectful of their audiences and fellow bands?

Jonny: Looks like both the audience and the artist need a good old-fashioned spanking. If you are gonna play a festival, you can't be precious about which way the wind blows. There is so much that is not up to you in that scenario and so you've got to remember to pull back wide-lens and see that none of this really matters in the end... and THEN you can find some peace AND not be a douche. If you want a perfectly behaved audience, then never play festivals, because you might as well be at a rodeo. It's chaotic and the kids want it to be chaotic. 

Jacob: I hadn't heard about that, but yes, I think bands have a responsibility to respect audiences and other bands in the same way that all people should respect other people. Being in a band doesn't give you a free pass to be awful.

"Weird Al" Yankovic was back in a big way this year. If he were to lampoon any one of your songs, which one would you want it to be? What would the "Weird Al" version's lyrics be about? 

Jonny: HATE!

Jacob: I absolutely hate the whole concept of "Weird Al."

Which common criticism of your music do you most agree with?

Jonny: That our music all sounds the same. Why, thank you very much. There is so much pressure to evolve for the sake of evolving. We only evolve when we've actually evolved! 

Jacob: Probably most of them. That we're too concerned with our visual presentation, that we're out of touch, that sort of thing.

What's the most uplifting or heartwarming fan interaction you've ever had?

Jonny: We had a girl last week tell us her boyfriend had just died a few months ago and that we were his favorite band and that he was with her at our show. She was crying. I don't believe in ghosts or spirits, but I let myself for just a few moments so that I could go there with her and feel him with her. I've been thinking about her ever since (and him). 

Jacob: I don't know, I feel like they're all just so uplifting and heartwarming. We have very sweet fans.

What's the topic no one asks you about in interviews that you wish they would? Conversely, if you could get journalists to stop asking you one question, which would it be?

Jonny: I'd love to be asked who the first two Drums albums were written for. What his name was and what happened to make me so crazy. I've got a lot to dish. I never want to be asked if I actually surf ever again. 

Jacob: I wish people would ask me about my antique rubber stamp collection. And then I never know what to say when journalists ask me what I expect from or know about a city I'm about to visit, I think "I don't know, am I supposed to be an expert on every place before I go there?"

Who from your youth (such as a former bully, an unrequited love) do you most hope pays attention to the fact that you're now a successful musician?

Jonny: My racist, born-again, homophobe grandfather. Love ya! Big kiss!

Jacob: Probably the piano teacher I had when I was a kid. I was only interested in doing my own thing with synthesizers. He thought I should know what I was doing. Those lessons didn't last very long.

Which musician or celebrity did you most have a crush on as a child or teenager?

Jacob: Tommy Kirk.

Which subject do you wish you paid more attention to in school?

Jacob: Science!

What was your first concert experience like (who did you see and who did you go with)?

Jacob: Joy Electric, Akron Ohio, my parents. It was magical.

Which Golden Girls character are you most like?

Jacob: Probably that old mother woman in the bathrobe.

When you can't sleep, what worry is most likely to be keeping you up at night?

Jacob: Like, should I get a real job?! or I don't want to die!

Which unique location on Earth would you most like to perform in (for examples, the top of the Eiffel Tower or at the North Pole)?

Jacob: Epcot.

www.thedrums.com

 

 



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