Interview with The Drums
by Lauren Tischler
If you own a computer or a TV, odds are you have heard pop-punk band The Drums. With numerous songs featured on commercials and on TV, the media has rapidly turned the Brooklyn-born band into a sensation. Guitarist Jacob Graham speaks with me about making music in New York City, his influences, and what we can expect next from The Drums.
How did you first meet?
Jonny and I met when we were kids, about twelve years old. We were the only guys that were into the sort of music we liked OMD, Kraftwerk, The Smiths… things like that. We met Connor when we moved to New York City to try and play some shows as The Drums. We were frantically looking for a drummer and we met him through friends of friends and word of mouth. We clicked with him musically almost as quickly as we did with each other.
When you first got together, was there any real plan of what you wanted to do, or what kind of music you wanted to make?
There was a sort of vague idea in the beginning of what we wanted to do, but I don’t think that we had a very clear idea of how it would come out, no. But in a way it felt like we had a plan because we knew what sort of feelings we wanted to invoke and how we wanted to be perceived, we just didn’t quite know how we would get from point A to point B, which is perhaps exactly what has kept the whole thing interesting.
Some might classify your music as surf-Pop. Do you agree?
Not at all. I think those that would classify us as surf-pop are either hearing what they want to hear or are just eager for trends to be more prevalent than they actually are. For example, a band like Surfer Blood, who sounds much more like Pavement than The Ventures, are also lumped into this category of modern surf music. We were clearly more inspired by the things that were happening on Factory Records and the C86 movement than we were with The Beach Boys who, incidentally, I’ve always found rather annoying. I feel as though people these days are going off imagery so much more than the actual sound of the music, which is disheartening.
If you could compare your sound to the likes of any artist whom would it be?
At the risk of people thinking I’m vain or delusional: The Wake, The Legends, Orange Juice and if we are speaking strictly of sound, I would probably say bands like The Icicle Works, Aztec Camera and New Order at times.
Jonathan (Pierce) and Adam (Kessler) were a part of the band Elkland before joining The Drums. Do you feel as if their sound influenced The Drums at all?
The sound of Elkland has not really influenced that of The Drums. I do wonder if the experience with the music industry has informed some of the decisions we’ve made though.
What does the music-making process look like?
It looks like a tiny New York City apartment kitchen filled with musical instruments and some angry neighbors stopping by periodically to complain about the noise, never in a polite way.
Your music videos are very stylistic. Can you speak on the process?
Yes. Typically we just rack our brains until we come up with a concept for a video. We’re very hands on with the videos so the process is actually excruciating, not unlike child birth. And also like a child, we get to watch it grow and make mistakes, and punish it. It is a lot of work, but I’m glad of how all our videos have turned out. I think they’re all pretty unique of one another, like children.
Would you say that most of your lyrics come from personal experiences or elsewhere?
Well, as I’m not the primary song writer, I can’t say for sure. But Jonathan is my best friend, and sometimes we have a few drinks together and he tells me what they’re all about. It is a mix.
Recently your guitarist Adam Kessler quit The Drums. Can you speak on his leave? What caused this, and how has this affected the ethic of the band?
Adam left the band, as far as I can tell, because he was unhappy with our image and probably the way we went about working on some things. I’ve been careful not to talk about this very extensively because I haven’t talked to Adam since he left so I can’t know for certain. As far as ethics go I don’t think we’ve changed much. Perhaps we’re less trusting.
What’s next for The Drums?
Our second full-length record is nearly completed. So if all goes as planned, it should be released this year sometime. I’m really excited about the new batch of songs we have and we’ll be playing a few of them at our upcoming shows. And we’re just about to hit the road again.