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TAS in Session: The Drums


The Drums make fun pop music. It's easy to like them because their melodies are infectiously catchy. Apparently, though, the folks from Fader magazine are not fans. I learned this because The Drums have a quote from the magazine on the front page of their website that says: "We kind of hate these guys, to be honest."

But that makes me like them even more. They don't have a vast catalog though. In fact, they only have one EP out called "Summertime!," but their debut album will come out later this spring and the first single from that, "Best Friend," drops on March 28.

As for their summer-influenced EP, it has a very warm beachy vibe to it. Their first single is called "Let's Go Surfing." Ironically, none of the band members - singer Jonathan Pierce, guitarist Jacob Graham, guitarist Adam Kessler and drummer Connor Hanwick - surf. They say it's more about the feeling of surfing rather than the actual sport. And that's fine with me. I enjoy listening to that song and I don't even know how to swim.

The band, who are based in Brooklyn by way of Florida, have strangely broken out in a big way in the UK, landing as one of the top five bands on the BBC's Sound of 2010 and winning the notable Philip Hall Radar Award at the Shockwaves NME Awards in late February, an honor that's gone to British bands like The Big Pink and Glasvegas. They recently were part of the Shockwaves NME tour with British bands The Big Pink, Bombay Bicycle Club and The Maccabees.

The Drums' music sounds like 60s girl groups mixed with what the Cure would sound like if they were more upbeat. The Drums have a really wholesome quality to them; it's carefree, feel-good music. Good to sing along with as you joyously dance. Speaking of which, check out Jonathan pulling some indie jitterbug moves during his performance.

As lighthearted as their Summertime EP might be, in excerpts from my interview below, the guys say that their full-length album might have more of a wintertime pall:

Alisa Ali: When is your album coming out?

Jacob Graham: Well, we don't know exactly, but early spring. It's completely finished, it's just in that stage where there's tweaking and mixing and artwork that has to be done.

Jonathan Pierce: It was completely self-produced. We wrote it, produced it, we're really thrilled with how it turned out. We're in mixing stages right now. Some here [in New York], some in L.A.

Alisa: How do you, Jake and Jon, know each other?

Jacob: We met when we were really young kids, out of summer camp actually. It was some camp in Pennsylvania because [Jon]was from upstate New York and I was from northeast Ohio and it was kind of right in the middle. We mostly tried to run away from everyone else and talk about music because we were the only ones into that sort of thing. Like Kraftwerk and [Isao] Tomita.

Alisa: Were you making Kraftwerk-like music back then?

Jacob: Trying desperately.

Alisa: What were those early songs like?

Jon: We tried to make them like Kraftwerk. I think we failed miserably but we were very interested in early synth [music], like analog synthesizers. [Jacob] was into it and I was into it. When we met we were just kids but I think it was like a one in a billion chance meeting. That was the original bond.

Alisa: But you were in bands before together?

Jacob: Yeah, John and I had a first band together called Goat Explosion. And then Jon and Adam had a band together later, so we've all kind of been in and out of bands. Jon was living in Brooklyn, moved to Florida last fall and we recorded the EP and the first half of our album which is going to come out in the spring. After we had that done, we assumed we needed to come back here to launch the whole thing. There's not really a lot going on in Florida with music. And when we got here we sort of frantically started looking for people to help us and we tricked Adam and Conner into doing it.

Adam Kessler: We practiced maybe an hour before our first show.

Jacob: It was all kind of thrown together.

Connor Hanwick: It was at a small little club, the Cake Shop.

Jacob: We almost cancelled because it was so last minute but we kind of decided, what the heck, no one will be there or pay attention. But there were and they did. It was part of New York City Popfest, so most people were there to see other bands, but we wowed them.

Alisa: You have a knack for making concise, catchy little pop songs.

Jon: I know it's always been our goal. Even in previous bands, when we may have fallen short, what really excites us is a perfectly written pop song. I'm not going to say that we've achieved that yet, but that's what we strive for. We set limits and we go by the rules that were set up in the late 50s and 60s when I think pop music was really invented. Keep it short and potent and vulnerable. And I think people are ready for that sort of thing, that "give it to me" sort of attitude.

[We live] in Williamsburg, [but] we don't really go out that much. It's hard for us to try to relate with some of the other bands and some of the other things that are going on because everything seems so experimental, like four minute introductions and then the song starts. Everything is kind of edgy and hip. We're not interested in being really exciting or strange. We have one rule: it's to just kind of be selfish. Us being selfish is making three minute pop songs and if people want to come along, that's wonderful.

Jacob: I think there's an actual void for this sort of music right now.

Alisa: I would say that the music you made is exciting!

Jacob: Thank you!

Jon: Thank you! It's not what we set out to do.

Alisa: Somebody once described your sound as what Morrissey or Robert Smith would sound like if they were on Prozac.

Jacob: We don't subscribe to drug use.

Jon: Well, the full-length we just finished is a little different. It's a little darker. A little bit more brooding. It's not all handclaps and whistles, but it still sounds like The Drums. I think the whole EP was just like a moment in Florida and we just decided to be really blatant about it, call it Summertime! and let it be what it is. The full-length is a slight departure, a little bit more serious, a little more personal.

The Drums will be playing guest DJ on my show today, Monday, March 8 at 11 am EST. Their favorite songs include everything from Orange Juice to Field Mice to The Raveonettes.