Facebook R&B crooner Mario has been relatively quiet on the music front for…
- Posted on Jun 9th 2010 12:30PM by Stephen Dowling
The Drums are the hype band of the year. In January, they appeared at No. 5 on the BBC's Sound Of 2010 list. They went on to win the Philip Hall Radar prize at the NME Awards in February. It's not hard to see what the fuss is about. On their debut release, 2009's 'Summertime!' EP, they combined jangly guitars and anglophile influences such as the Smiths and Joy Division with irresistible fizz bomb energy. They've since supported Florence and the Machine on tour. Their self-titled debut album was released this week. Spinner caught up with frontman Jonathan Pierce on a rare day off. "I slept all day yesterday," he says in a preppy East Coast accent. "Everything has happened so fast for us. I'm exhausted, but excited, too."
What was it like touring with Florence and the Machine?
It was a cool experience for us. I mean, we're a very new band. It's almost exactly a year since we played our first show, which was at this place called The Cake Shop on the Lower East Side in New York -- it's essentially a hallway and there were 40 people there. Twelve months later we're supporting Florence and the Machine at the Hammersmith Apollo for three sold-out shows.
Are you surprised about how quickly things have happened for you?
Yes. Every day it's a new surprise. Especially because when we started this band it was rooted in selfishness. We decided that we were going to write songs that we wanted to write and not care about anything else. The first thing we wrote was 'Best Friend.' We wrote our whole 'Summertime!' EP' and most of the album in our bedroom. What you hear is exactly what we recorded. No one has touched it at all.
Is there a lesson there, that you've done well by doing what you wanted to do, not what you thought other people might want you to?
Exactly. Right now there are so many interesting, experimental bands coming out of Brooklyn, and it kind of seems like a competition to see who can be the weirdest or the most cutting edge. For us, we wanted to write simple pop songs that were nothing more than they absolutely needed to be. When you're being creative the only thing that's important is doing what you want to do.
There's been a lot of hype around The Drums. Have you ever felt under pressure to deliver on it?
There's no question that we've been severely hyped. We're human so we have fears that the hype is going to be way bigger than we'll ever be. The thing is, we already had our album done before the hype got crazy, so we didn't have the pressure of going in the studio and having to make a perfect album. And you have to remember that fans and critics are fickle. They'll all move on one day, but we're stuck with this album. That's what you leave behind, so you have to make sure that you love every second of it.
You and guitarist Jacob Graham used to be in a synth pop band called Goat Explosion. Why did you switch to making indie rock?
We started writing our first Drums song, 'Best Friend,' on keyboards. About halfway through, we thought, Are we going to start another synth band? It just seemed really tired and done for us. Jacob's little brother, Caleb, had a guitar sitting in the corner. We picked it up and tried to write the song on the guitar even though we didn't know how. It made it feel like it was the first band we'd ever been in. I don't think we'll ever go back to keyboards.
Is it true that you'd never played guitar before?
Yes. That's why there are no chords on the album - it's all just one note at a time because we literally don't know how to play chords. Our guitar player Adam [Kessler] knows how, but when we were recording these songs Adam and Connor [Hanwick, drums] weren't in the band. Musicianship and skill have never really impressed me. I find perfection really dull. I'm more interested in sincerity. I would rather hear a song by someone who doesn't really know how to sing but really means it than someone who is properly trained.
What bands did you love when you were growing up?
I discovered the Smiths when I was 15 and through them I found Orange Juice, and they really flipped me upside down. I like bands that write pop songs that have a sense of vulnerability. Orange Juice songs often sound like they're about to fall apart, but they never quite do, and I love that. Fast forward to a couple of months ago and I was in [Orange Juice singer and songwriter] Edwyn Collins' studio writing a song for his new album.
It can be dangerous meeting your heros. How was it meeting him?
It can, but I've been fortunate, and he was great. Mike Joyce and Andy Rourke from the Smiths, Boy George and Debbie Harry have all become friends of the band, which is really incredible.
You've got a unique dancing style. It looks like a cross between body popping and Morrissey on 'Top Of The Pops' in 1983. Where does it come from?
I just do whatever I feel like doing and really give myself to the song -- that's all. I think it has something to do with finding myself on a platform where I can put on a show. As a band, we think the idea of showmanship has been lost. Everyone these days says it's all about the music. For us it's about the music, of course, but it's also about putting on a show and even being slightly undignified about it. We always say that the more foolish and absurd we act on stage then maybe that will encourage people in the audience to let go too. That's why it's called a show because you're putting on a show.
What are your plans for the summer
We're busy. We're doing festivals all over the world. We're particularly looking forward to Glastonbury and Summersonic in Japan. We've never played any of those big festivals. We can't wait.
'The Drums' is out now on Moshi Moshi.