I’m early for my meeting with The Drums and it’s just started to lash down with rain. In a bid to avoid getting drenched, I run into the cafe we’ve arranged to meet at in London’s Shoreditch and just miss taking Professor Green’s eye out with my brolly. Clearly, this is the cafe du jour in Hipsterville right now. The Drums are waiting for me by the ping-pong table, all perfect smiles, primary colours and accents so deliciously American I want to box them up and take them home. But that would be unprofessional, so I don’t. The band are in London promoting their new album Portomento and single Money and the day I meet them is their final day in London that’s taken in three shows in three days. So are they pleased to be back in the Big Smoke? Guitarist-turned-keys-man Jacob Graham and singer Jonny Pierce both nod. Jacob tells me: “Of all the places in the world that we’ve been, we love coming to London as it kind of feels like a home away from home. Plus, we got our first record deal here so it will always hold a special place in our heart.” They’re at the end of a full day of photoshoots and interviews but they’re unfailinging polite and maintain unerring eye contact when they speak to me.
A lot’s happened in the world of The Drums since their eponymous debut hit the world in 2010. This time last year they were being hyped as the saviours of indie-rock by numerous music mags and then, well they nearly imploded, but in the end only lost guitarist Adam Kessler, reshuffled and hung on. Jacob shifts in his seat and tells me more: “Music is what we do – we’ve probably written hundreds of songs between us in our bedrooms, me and Jonny. So if someone quits, it’s sad but you carry on because what else is there?” Jonny nods, his blond hair barely moving. “The new album is just another case of music coming along and saving us.”
Jonny and Jacob met at a bible study camp that their parents shipped them off to as kids. “Everyone else was playing sports or praising god – we were holed up in a room with our love of electronic music,” Jacob tells me. “It was either that or run for the hills.” Their friendship cemented, they began writing songs in their bedrooms and even recorded this new album mainly in Jonny’s kitchen. “We didn’t buy much new stuff because we wanted it to sound like the songs had just come out. So we just recorded it, produced it and the record company loved it and put it out.” And this is meant to be the difficult second album. Still, that it happened so soon after the first, did it feel like a rush to get it out?
“Not really,” Jonny tells me, smiling. “Feeling comfortable is the best way to stifle a creative flow and we’ve had a difficult time with the band falling apart. But as difficult as last year was, it’s when we wrote our best songs and I think we knew that. As weird as it sounds, we’re not afraid of bad things happening to us for that reason. My manager tells me I need to see a shrink, but I just shrug and tell him that could be the end of the songwriting. I’d rather risk mental health and have some great records than be sane.”
From where I’m sitting though, these two seem grounded and in control of their own destiny, a point with which they both concur. Jonny continues: “For us, the thing that’s changed is our attitude to making this record. On the last one, we had a handful of personal songs but even those were laced with a poetic, cinematic vibe – it was very much us in a bubble producing songs. Portomento is far more blunt and straight forward lyrically, the songs are far more personal. It builds on what we started with The Drums – we want to be the type of band that puts out the same kind of record, but just evolves the sound slightly with every one.”
Aware that his bandmate might sound a tad self-involved, Jacob leans forward: “Having said all of that, it’s still just a bunch of pop songs and that’s what we love making,” he shrugs. It’s a pretty awesome bunch of songs though, as I point out and the two of them shuffle in their seats and look embarrassed. After them surviving the hype of last year, how does this year feel when they’re no longer the Next Big Things but now just biggish?
Jacob shakes his head slowly from side to side, his eyes fixing me once more: “Last year was crazy, with journalists making outlandish statements – it was almost like people built us up to knock us down and were just waiting for us to be a flash in the pan and break up after one album. We wanted to prove that wasn’t the case. We’re not trying to be trendy – we just want to be a working class band like The Ramones, one that puts out consistent records and one that sees the concept of the band through, despite it being difficult at times.”
Jonny jiggles his right foot back and forth, ready to add his two-penneth: “People have started to talk to us about our records now rather than talking about four boys with cheekbones, cool hair and clothes. It’s so nice that that excess fat has been cut away and now we’re left talking about the music and not stuff that doesn’t matter.”
The Drums’ new single Money and new album Portomento are out now.