If the name ‘The Drums’ doesn’t mean anything to you, it’s likely that you’ve found yourself humming their impossibly catchy single ‘Let’s go surfing’ at some point in 2010. At once instantly recognisable as their music and yet at the same time a curious amalgamation of influences from the 1950’s up until the 1980’s, The Drums’ sound is a refreshing break from the over-wrought, unnecessarily experimental indie of last year. Their self-titled album bursts with Joy Division’s bare-boned elegance, the melancholy of The Smiths and the infectious enthusiasm of The Beach Boys. The Drums have had a hugely successful 2010 since coveting 5th place in the BBC’s Sound of 2010 shortlist. With a new album due out in late 2011, we’re waiting for exciting things from the Brooklyn based trio.
2010 was an amazing year for you, do you have any idea why The Drums caused such a stir here in the UK?
The only thing I can say is that I think we’re doing things a little differently. As far as our recording process goes we just do it on our own with no producers, and the album just ended up with its own sound. Maybe subconsciously people are craving something that feels more human – what we’re doing is classic and simple. There are a lot of artists who are trying to be ‘cutting edge’ just for the sake of it and you don’t really read any sincerity. We just wanted to write really simple pop songs.
If you had to categorize the band, who are The Drums?
I’ve always called us a pop band. The pop song in its most classic sense is our passion. We try to keep every song under three minutes and as effective and simple as possible. I don’t think a song should ever be more than it absolutely has to be, and I think the next record is likely to be even more simple.
So how do you go about writing songs – what’s the process?
I write, record and produce everything on my own and then the band plays live with me, but Best Friend was a song that Jacob and I worked on together. We write really fast – we start a song in the morning and it will be finished that day. If a song is taking longer than that then I take it as sign that it’s not working. I’m not interested in labouring over song, I like it when something feels so utterly natural that it just has to exist.
In terms of the subject matter in your songs, where would you say you draw your most inspiration from?
The Summertime EP was quite conceptual and idea-driven, whereas the songs on the full length album came from personal experience. I’ve always been drawn to sad things and sad songs – I’m probably just a sad person! I think if I sat down and tried to write a happy song it wouldn’t work. There is nothing better than a beautiful, sad song – who can really relate to a song that’s purely happy? Everyone has felt sadness.
Which artists have inspired or influenced your sound?
One of the groups that inspired us to start The Drums where The Shangri-Las. I’m a girl group fanatic and I think those beats and that sound naturally worked its way into our music. I think the reason a lot of people pick up on the Joy Division comparison is because when Joy Division started they didn’t know how to play guitars, just like we didn’t. It’s not a case of trying to sound like another band, it’s about having the same limitations.
What direction is the future sound of The Drums going to take?
Well I just a bought this big 1970’s synthesizer, and my whole life I’ve been obsessed with Kraftwerk and early electronic music. The Drums so far has been two years of guitar music, but it looks like maybe the electronic sounds will work their way in. The next album isn’t going to be hugely different from the first. A lot of bands make the classic mistake of bringing out a first record that’s brilliant and pure and earnest and then they feel the pressure to mature and change. But I don’t think growing as a band means that you have to change. There is something amazing about a band that’s reliable and doesn’t waver – like The Smiths.
So which new bands are you currently listening to?
There’s a band that played with us called io echo, they’re really incredible, one of the best live shows I’ve seen for a long time. Also, there’s a band called Wu Lyf. They’re four kids out of Manchester and in order to go to their shows you have to wear a bandana over your face. They won’t let you in otherwise. They only play in churches and are really mysterious.
NME have backed you from the start, do they stay in touch and keep up with what you’re doing?
Yeah they’ve been really supportive from the beginning. I doubt any of this would have been possible if they hadn’t been so supportive. The whole thing has been really surreal – I think we were on the cover three months after we played our first show. It’s all a bit bizarre, but we are grateful for it. There’s good and bad that goes with that, though. If NME are calling you THE next band, you’re are just minding your own business in your bedroom writing songs and then suddenly you have these huge titles to live up to. So we decided instead of trying live up to it – to not try – and just do what we do.
So how do you feel about ‘fame’ and all that comes with it?
I don’t really like it. I like being on stage and I like being creative and I love writing songs. I do feel uncomfortable when people come up to me in the street, I kind of have a problem with eye contact and I can get a bit bashful [laughs].
Do you enjoy festivals then, I mean that’s 10,000 eyes staring at you?
I don’t like festivals like Glastonbury. You go there and they have people bungee jumping. There is a festival in Spain called Primavera Sound and it’s just about up and coming bands. It’s curated really well and is about nothing but the music… and there aren’t any trampolines.
Have you had a favourite gig?
I have two. One was at the HMV institute in London. It felt a bit like a homecoming as we sort of consider London our second home now. The other one was ‘another homecoming’ at a venue called Webster Hall in New York. That was really beautiful. I mean any kid who grows up in New York and dreams of being in a band dreams of playing Webster Hall. We got on stage and had a sound check and it felt really surreal.
So what’s next for the Drums?
We’ve just finished our tour so we’re heading back to New York, and we’re working on another album that should hopefully be out next autumn. We aren’t one of those bands who gets carried away. We take everything as it comes. Nothing lasts forever so you have to keep putting out work.
Jasmin Watts and Ben Pound