By Kevin Zimmerman
The Drums March To Their Own Beat
Melding post-punk and ‘50s-style pop together may sound like an unholy mess, but for The Drums it’s proven to be a winning combination. Together for just slightly more than 12 months, the group’s well-received 2009 EP Summertime! won converts on both sides of the Atlantic, and is highly touted to be one of 2010’s next big pop things.
They’re already off to a great start, as the band – singer/songwriter Jonathan Pierce, guitarists Jacob Graham and Adam Kessler, and drummer Connor Hanwick – signed with Island Records UK in late January and at presstime expected to soon complete a U.S. deal.
“It’s really kind of surreal at the moment,” marvels Pierce. “Jacob and I wrote our first song together about a year ago, so this is little short of a miracle.”
And Pierce knows from miracles, having grown up in upstate New York the son of two pastors. “We were a pretty musical family,” he says. “My dad and my brother can play almost anything, and everybody played an instrument or sang. I was the only one who never picked up an instrument. I had dreams of being a rock star, but actually learning an instrument just wasn’t that exciting to me.”
As an adolescent, Pierce discovered a love for rock ‘n’ roll when a friend played him The Smiths. “That was an exciting time, discovering all these bands that could put together a catchy melody but had these darker lyrics at the same time.”
Pierce and Graham first met at a “sort of religious camp” when they were in their early teens, discovering a shared love for The Smiths, Joy Division, and New Order before heading their separate ways. Pierce logged time with new wave synth-pop revivalists Elkland before growing disenchanted with the music business and taking a day job at a shoe store.
“I’d kept in touch with Jacob, and he finally talked me into starting another band,” Pierce says. “Once we started getting into it we realized it made sense to be a four-piece.” Enter former Elkland bandmate Kessler and “friend of a friend” Hanwick.
A trip to Florida’s beaches inspired the surf-rock touches that permeate Summertime! but Pierce cautions that The Drums’ recently completed debut album “is darker and more serious. It’s a bit more brooding and personal, and a more honest record. I feel there’s two kinds of music, sincere and insincere, and I’d rather hear something poorly done by someone who’s really trying than something that’s really slick and well-played by someone who’s phoning it in.”
The sincere, DIY approach made the SESAC connection a natural move, he adds.
“Other companies are just so big that there’s very little chance of a personal relationship,” Pierce says. “SESAC has much more of a family environment, like there’s always someone there to talk to. It’s been a completely painless experience, and an inviting one, which I know can be pretty unusual in the music business.”