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Band on the Rise: Get to Know 'The Drums'

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I'm going to just steal a line from their bio, their track "Let's Go Surfing" features the best whistling in a song since the infectious Peter, Bjorn & John recent classic "Young Folks." But, there's more to this indie-pop-rock New York band than blowing air choruses. Thank goodness. Imagine if whistling was their only gimmick.

The Drums are a buzzworthy band who share a similar 80s new wave vibe with fellow indie-buzz band Surfer Blood, whom they're fittingly on the road with. The band, whose brand of electro-pop has brought them many fans in New York City alone, just released their debut album and are committed to tour way through 2011. (On a related note, they just covered Arcade Fire's "We Used To Wait," and it's kick ass.)

I spoke with the band's frontman Jonny Pierce the other day, and asked him about touring, and forming the band, which it so happens he did with his best friend Jacob Graham, a guitarist he met in summer camp (guitarist Adam Kessler and drummer Connor Hanwick joined the band in 2008). Oh, I also asked him about Wilson Phillips. Deal with it.

Where are you guys from originally?
Well, Adam and I grew up in a small farm town in upstate New York called Horseheads. Jacob grew up in Ohio and then moved to Florida when he was young, and Connor was born in NYC. As far as the band goes... I was living in NYC and decided to move to move to Florida to start the band with Jacob who was living in a small apartment off the highway, just outside of Kissimmee. It was there that we wrote our Summertime EP and most of our debut full length.

As soon as we thought we had something special, we moved to NYC to turn The Drums from just a "project" to a four-piece band. We like to consider ourselves a New York-band.

How would you describe your sound? Who are your influences?
Well, any song that you ever hear from us is completely self produced, and honestly, I have no idea how to produce really. I just do my best. We really just consider ourselves a pop band. Our greatest passion is writing simple pop songs. Our sound is very stripped down. We aren't really interested in being excessive in any way. So if you are looking for experimental, cutting edge, trendy stuff, I guess we aren't the band for you.

While your tone is pop happy sometimes the content contradicts the sound, is that a conscious decision?
No, it just happens that way. Maybe in a sub-conscious way I am balancing the two emotions. I don't think it is possible for me to write a happy song and be sincere about it. I am too miserable of a person I think. Happy music is for children, anyhow. Once you are a teenager, and have any brains at all, the world becomes darker and there is no use in fighting against it. I actually find the music we make to sound sad, but maybe that's because I am writing it. Maybe it's true that from the outside, the music translates as happy. I don't know.

It does. You're touring with like-sounding group Surfer Blood, how's it going on the road with those guys?
I don't know how like-sounding they are to us, I mean they kinda sound like Weezer, and I don't think we sound like that at all. We use really sad chord changes, where I find their approach to be much less melancholy and just more fun maybe? Anyhow we have a history with those boys. Jacob has known them for years, seeing that they were all friends in Florida. We are looking forward to the tour, I mean, it's our first proper American tour, and while we have run into them frequently on the summer festival circuit all over the world, it will be a cool thing to spend two months with them on our home turf.

Totes McGotes. What's the songwriting process like for you?
Well, I won't record anything unless it feels very natural, so sometimes I have to wait a month or two until a song is literally forcing itself on me, then I find some time and quickly record the song -- usually in one days time. I think good pop should not sound labored over. It should feel very organic. If I hit a snag, I usually just throw the whole song out. As far as recording, we record every song with the same instruments: an off brand guitar we found lying around while we were in Florida, an old Roland synthesizer that Jacob has had since he was just a kid, a reverb machine a friend gave me, and a thirty-five dollar microphone from Radio Shack. We do it all in my apartment in Brooklyn.

Band name is so vital. Why The Drums?
Well, the name is really the cornerstone of the band, I suppose. I would like to think that everything we create from the artwork to the music videos to the songs are all a reflection of the name. Simple with a lot of nostalgia. And honestly, we just thought it sounded cool.

Can you appreciate a good Wilson Phillips tune like I can?
I really like anything that feels pure. Sincerity is greater and much more interesting than perfection is. In the case of Wilson Phillips, I must say there is a side of me that loves it. It's actually very strange that you brought them up because about a week ago, Connor started playing them on the road and I've gotta say, there's something unexplainable about them. I mean, they kind of sound like the bullshit Christian music I was exposed to as a kid, but it also sounds like pre-fab Sprout but a little more commercial. I don't know -- strange question. I guess it's more nostalgic than anything else, and that is comforting, I guess.

Have you started forming groupies? If so, how do you know?
There are kids that travel for hours to come to our shows, and kids that bring us gifts and all that. But we aren't really that kind of band I don't think. I guess we have some super-fans, but we try to really just focus on being creative and keeping things pure.

Are you perfectionists or can you take in pure joy from your successes and/or album ?
Well, I don't think anything we ever do is "perfect", but we strive to do the best we can at whatever we are doing, and yes, we all love our debut album. It really is a wonder anyone even knows it exists. When we started writing songs, we had never played guitars before and thought that we would be the only ones who ever gave a fuck, but apparently we were wrong and I guess it gave us a degree of hope that we had been needing for quite some time. So thank you for that, world.