The Drums were born in drama, and they continue to live within it. Frontman Jonathan Pierce bailed on the buzzy Elkland and then reemerged as the frontman of the most pensive surf-rock band in history, refusing to say much about his previous group. The next iceberg on the horizon seemed to be the Wicker Man-esque sacrifice of the well-reviewed band on the altar of ennui, but the departure of guitarist Adam Kessler provided an unforeseen detour from the inevitable. Band drummer Connor Hanwick seems unfazed by the tempest around him. Though he allows that being an indie sensation isn’t exactly a piece of cake, it does beat the heck out of being a short-order cook.
So when did you come in to The Drums?
I came in last year for the first live show. The band started down in Florida with Jacob [Graham] and Jon. They put together a couple of songs and then came back up to New York and had some shows booked, but there wasn’t a band yet. I met Jon through some mutual friends, and we talked about music and stuff for a while. It sort of went down like that.
What were you doing at the time?
I was cooking in a restaurant and playing in a band at night. I was doing that for a while. It was just sort of the routine.
And then this opportunity drops out of the sky. How did you respond?
It sort of happened out of the blue. We all carried on with our daily lives, but we continued to book shows consistently. We played about 40 shows in New York City over the course of two months. It got to the point where we were playing a show almost every night, but like clockwork somebody was missing sound check or couldn’t get their equipment together because they were at work. Then the album started getting some airplay over in London, and we had the opportunity to go for a tour. We decided that we needed to do it.
Were you prepared at all for the success of the album?
When the EP came out, I don’t think that it necessarily lent itself to what was going on in the music world. The more we started playing it and the more people started coming to the shows, we started to get a little more comfortable with it. We’re really surprised by any amount of notoriety that we get. Just the fact we’re able to tour around and people are willing to come to the show is pretty impressive. For guys that have been playing in bands since they were 13 years old and have been in a hundred different bands, it’s a dream come true.
Was there a specific moment where you realized that you might not have to cook in a restaurant anymore?
The first real realization for me was when we did this residency at a place called the Annex on the Lower East Side. It was our first show there, probably our third show total, and I had this moment of realization. I always liked what we were doing, and I believed in the songs, but I never envisioned that I would be in the kind of band that could play shows in Japan or something. During that show I had a moment where I realized that what we were doing could be really special.
Have you read any of the reviews or the press?
I’ve read parts of some of them, or selections of some of them have been told to me. I haven’t actively sought them out. I read one yesterday, and that might have been the first one that I read.
Are you consciously avoiding the press?
No, I don’t think so. I obviously can’t speak for the other guys, but I don’t think they are, either. Honestly, whether it’s good or bad, it just doesn’t have that big of an impact on my day. It’s honestly kind of boring to read the album review, especially when you feel strongly about the album and not much could persuade you otherwise. Even if it’s a really great review, it’s not like I’m going to read it and suddenly feel better about the record. It’s kind of self-gratifying, and there are better ways to do that.
So you’re also probably not going to care a lot about the inevitable backlash against your band, right?
I’ve thought a lot about this, because it certainly does happen. The problem with that homogenized mentality is that it really fucks up the people who do a lot for them. It’s really just a bunch of people who are trying to apply rules that may have been valid 25 years ago to the modern world. I understand the idea of context, but if you like a band, you like a band. I don’t think we’ve committed any sacrilege except for maybe being proud of what we’re doing. There seems to a tendency in the indie world to put yourself down, but I wouldn’t be involved with the band if I wasn’t proud of the music that I’m making.
You do seem to be enjoying what you’re doing.
That’s the thing: The lyrical content is very mopey and filled with hopelessness, but if you look down, and act down, and sound down, that’s just not very interesting. It’s the contrast that’s interesting. It’s almost subversive. When everything’s one shade of blue, you end up getting everything pretty quick. You can’t dig deeper because there’s nothing else there.
So are you serious about the doom-and-gloom bit, or should the Drums be taken with a grain of salt?
All pop music should be taken with a grain of salt; it’s an artistic creation. I think that good pop music has an edge that allows listeners to go deeper into it. I don’t want anybody to think that my band is sitting around creating these intricate layers of meaning for our songs, but I do think we’re a good band. There’s definitely something to unearth in our music.
You’ve hit bigger in the U.K. than you have in the United States. Would you agree that the tour you’re on now is more of a “getting to know you” affair?
I’d say that’s pretty much dead-on. We’re in an interesting position, because we’ve played the rest of the world so much. That’s the good thing about being in America. We’re literally driving around in a van with our friends and playing for people who haven’t seen us. The album hasn’t been out here and we’ve never toured extensively here. We’re getting out there and introducing ourselves to fans over here.
What’s next for the Drums?
We’re thinking a lot about the next album, and where we want to go with it artistically. We’re at a good spot where we could a bunch of different directions, but I’m not sure that it lends itself to the longevity of the band. I feel like we’re in a good place, and excited to start the new album. I think the debut is getting to know the band, but by the end it points to another place we want to go artistically.