Bio: Where did all the rock'n'roll stars go? It's a question that's been on the lips of many a music critic and fan alike for some time ... (more)
Bio: Where did all the rock'n'roll stars go? It's a question that's been on the lips of many a music critic and fan alike for some time now. In this post-everything musical landscape where no stones seem left unturned, is it still possible to create true icons? Looking at this year's -or by that token, any of the past few years- crop of rock'n'roll hopefuls, there's one band that stands out head, shoulders, and to be honest, waist above the rest of the vanguard. They are, of course, The Drums. The NYC indie-pop four-piece that materialized seemingly out-of-nowhere mid 2009, looking, sounding, feeling just too good to be true. The Drums have hit upon exactly what so many indie bands of Now have been selling their souls to find out: what makes a really important band? As it turns out, it doesn't take the reinvention of any wheel. It just takes four friends, a clear-cut vision, and an all-consuming self-belief in every single note that leaves them. Oh, and a collection of some of the most timeless and instant indie-pop odes to have emerged in forever. The Drums appeared in a slipstream of ice-water reverb and gleaming, desperate melody with their Summertime EP, featuring the anti-anthem 'Let's Go Surfing' and the soaring hooklines of 'I Felt Stupid'. They miraculously joined the dots between Sixties diner jukeboxes, dog-eared early Eighties new wave cassette comps, and late Eighties synth-punk coming-of-age movie soundtracks. They whipped the world's press into a frenzy the like of which hasn't been seen in many-a year. But now on the brink of their debut album release, you realise just how much you have to learn about your favourite new band, and amazingly, the best is still very much to come.
Their story is one that goes right back to summer camp, where ringleader Jonny Pierce first met childhood best friend and eternal collaborator Jacob Graham. The pair bonded while sneaking off from whatever dreary pursuits concerned their camp mates to snatch a listen to the Smiths and Kraftwerk records they'd been collecting. It's an image -the forbidden musical love, the against-all-odds friendship, and the heart-wrenching Eighties indie- that has resonated with our core duo in an incredibly powerful way. "I think whenever somebody has some kind of restriction; it makes you flex your own creative muscles," argues Jonny. "I grew up entirely surrounded by cornfields and barns but that made me figure things out for myself," Jacob seconds.
One day Jonny wrote to Jacob, who was now living in Florida. The letter included no words, just one black and white photograph he'd found of a boy holding a torch before a stadium in ovation at an old-time Olympic ceremony. "There was just something about the image that seemed important. It demanded your attention," recalls Jonny. From there the pair started a call-and-response style thread of images and videos; all things they felt held this unfathomable sense of importance and immediacy. From photos of soldiers in combat to videos of enigmatic Swedish synth- pop duo The Embassy. Soon, Jonny extended this trail of inspiration by piecing together an indentikit fantasy band, collating all the coolest guys he could find from from Timelife's stock of images; gangsters, sportsmen, whoever. Jacob then named them the coolest name he could think of; The Drums. All it would take was for Jonny to accept an invitation down to Florida to soak up the sweltering heat and see what came out. What came out was the UV-infused Americana of the 'Summertime EP'. With the rehiring of Adam from his carpentry college course, and eventually the recruitment of the most perfectly suited sticksman known to man, Connor, the pillars of 'classic four-piece' they had dreamed of were in place. Together they crafted a live show they insist undergoes as much forethought as their album cover; from Jacob's trademark fitful tambourine elation to Jonny's possessed, at times near-preacher-like delivery. It's not hard to see why many found it hard to believe that the band hadn't been through some carefully honed manufacturing process.
The creation of The Drums - The Drums, the group's debut long-player shirked the trappings that usually accompany bands in the mechanics of hype; namely a rushed released overshadowed by its early buzz singles. Hyped-as-hell they were too, within their first few shows they found A&Rs jetting in from the corners of the earth. As 'Let's Go Surfing's rallying gust of sea breeze and unease swept the globe, the media attention mounted to boot, with everyone from Rolling Stone to NME rubbing their sweaty palms together at what they couldn't deny was indie-pop's most remarkable arrival in as long as they could remember. It wasn't long before they graced the cover of the latter's new music issue, as well seizing the coveted opening slot on their awards tour and finally their prestigious Phillip Hall Radar Award, previously handed out to the likes of Franz Ferdinand and the Kaiser Chiefs. But the truth was that the lion's share of the album was recorded on that maiden voyage to Florida. Whilst a summertime theme was what led them to collect those first seven tracks together, the songs they left for later are closer to what Jonny described as 'his winter of discontent'. With that then, all but two of the EP tracks were banished from the album. As always Jonny oversaw everything, ensuring they retained the lo-fi warmth that made them who they are, as well as introducing enough glisten to bring forth their inner radio smash.
It starts with their now synonymous set opener and lead-single, 'Best Friend', a vaulting cavalcade as empowering as it is tragic. A true Drums anthem. It’s at this early stage that The Drums debut’s statement of intent becomes clear: one serotonin rush refrain will surpass the next. 'Me And The Moon' is an urgent surge of baying synths, heart-in-mouth Eighties celluloid moods and an irresistible signature chanting hookline. 'Let's Go Surfing' needs the least introduction. But without the sun of the EP, 'Surfing' now dwells on colder waters. 'Skippin Town' is all fluttering pace and agit drums, until Jonny's gorgeous, woozy chorus takes hold and you suddenly are overtaken by the urge to abandon all your worldly possessions and hit the road. 'Book Of Stories' is a tribute to the uneasy joy of basking in sorrow, a full-on blast of bittersweet struggle. "I thought that my life would get easier, instead it's getting harder," it runs. 'Forever And Ever, Amen' is about as perfect a sunset-headed highway-blazing accompaniment as you're going to discover this millennium, a gut- tingly explosion of curtain-call keys and six-strings. 'Down By The Water', the only other survivor from the EP, is the album's intermission; a hazy, lazy timeout of lost afternoons in debt to a Fifties prom slow dance. In the album context it sounds muggier and hornier than ever before. 'It Will All End In Tears' whisks you away on a bluster of soured bubblegum pop. Until 'We Tried' spirals its guitar lines against pent-up percussion; half Factory Records and half pin-up crooning. ‘I Need Fun in My Life’ is the album’s last minute addition, recorded on tour in between shows. Whilst it stands out as an after-thought, there’s something about it’s whispy, waif-like melody that’ won’t relent in rattling around your brain. 'I Never Drop My Sword' is the album's last gasp, languishing in the impassioned rhetoric from which the band was born, all to the backdrop of a squelching keyboard parp and an acoustic guitar. Then to close, 'The Future' commands us with a swoonsome deluge of subtle distortion, echo chambered melodies and plaintive prettiness, bursting with punk romance. As ominous, driving and beautiful as anything on the record.
It's easy enough to locate The Drums key influences. Jacob hardly keeps his Eighties indie-pop anoraking a secret, and Jonny's Phil Spector obsession is hard to miss. Whilst the Fifties bubblegum and Eighties synth-punk are virtually worn like badges of honour. What's trickier to decipher is exactly why they sound so Now. Is it the use of loops and samples? Is it the post-modern patchwork of reference points? Or is it just the fact that The Drums have tapped into a spirit that never gets old. That place where happy meets sad and dark meets light, and every life-changing memory that's stored in your head comes flooding back all at once and all you can do is just turn the music up louder. (less)