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Thursday, December 7th, 2023  

The Drums

Boys of Melody

Sep 15, 2009 Photography by Crackerfarm Issue #28 Fall 2009 - Monsters of Folk
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“We’re driven by melody. If we’re writing a song, and it isn’t driven by a rush of melody, we throw it out. When we put something out, we hope it makes you flutter just a little bit,” says Drums frontman Jonathan Pierce. Mission accomplished on the band’s aptly named Summer-time! EP. Replete with handclaps, whistles, sprightly guitar surges, and punchy bass bobbing, the self-produced record evinces a veritable tidal wave of infectious hooks, from the racing-pulse pop confection of “Saddest Summer” to the yearning, bruised balladry of “Down by the Water.”

The Drums are fresh from playing their eighth-ever gig on the lawn of a high school in the Williamsburg neighborhood of Brooklyn (“It had a state fair vibe, which was cool,” Pierce laughs), and our interview takes place in the school’s rather antiquated auditorium. Pierce is absolutely smitten with the tattered sweater he ripped off from the lost and found, beaming “It was at the bottom of the box. Gap Athletic from the early ‘90s.” He’s also enthralled by the aesthetic of the room, remarking on the ridiculously garish wall mural: “It’s amazing. It’s so West Side Story. It seems like the boys should dress like girls, and the girls should dress like boys. But that probably isn’t reality,” he laughs.

Their EP isn’t founded in reality either. It’s escapist, hearkening to a simpler time, lifted straight from the beach fantasy of a Frankie Avalon film. It’s imbued with a sort of quixotic nostalgia that works in The Drums’ insular milieu, mainly attributable to an inclusive ethos and sheer lack of guile. “We draw a lot of inspiration from ‘50s surf beach culture, the innocence of that time, and the vulnerability and the simplicity,” Pierce explains. “That’s something that we needed, just to break it down and be real.”

At the time of our interview, preparations had commenced for The Drums’ debut full-length, and a list of producers was being bandied about (a closely guarded secret). The band also may self-produce, as they did on the EP, but the importance of an impactful first LP isn’t lost on Pierce. “We have a lot of songs, but we want to make it great, so we’re taking our time,” he says. “When I think about debut records, I think of The Smiths. Everything about that record was perfect for me, just the artwork, everything, so we want it to be just right.”

A discussion ensues of the endless obfuscations and experimentation so rife in modern indie music, on which Pierce muses, “The sincerity can get lost, and things can feel contrived and forced. That’s why if we get too wrapped up in the process of making a song, we need to pull back the reins and say ‘Where’s the melody?,’ and just bring it back to that. There’s nothing more perfect to us than a perfect melody mixed with a simple lyric that makes you fall apart. Like Lou Reed saying ‘I want to play football for the coach.’ What does that even mean? But it means so much to us.” He pauses, and adds with a satisfied grin, “I feel like we might make a few enemies for being so vulnerable, but it’s nice to even be able to do that.”


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