Rhythm and Surf, or Marching to Their Own Beat

Falling into step with The Drums and finds that there’s more to this Brooklyn-based quartet than sun, sand, and surfing

Parents will be comforted to know that they can feel cool and talk music with their kids again. The past decade has seen numerous genre revivals from Surf to Folk to Post-Punk, sending the more hardcore music fans to the vinyl dumps and bargain bins in search of the back catalogues that inspired today’s constantly evolving sound. It has become difficult to tell which of the past genres will be making a comeback tomorrow.

Enter The Drums: a band that has avoided being lumped into these ephemeral categories by having been alternately branded as Surf one moment, then Post-punk the next. Yet, frontman and main songwriter Jonathan Pierce more strongly identifies their sound with 60’s bubblegum pop than with Gang of Four. “There’s something so sweet and so powerful about being genuine, even if you come across as undignified or foolish,” asserts Pierce in an earlier interview with Huck magazine. This sincere belief in getting your message across by keeping your tongue in your cheek is evident in their sound, which mixes Dance-Punk drumlines with Ventures style riffs.

The Drums is composed of Pierce, Jacob Graham (guitars), Adam Kessler (bass), and Connor Hanwick (beats). Graham and Pierce met as kids at summer camp and bonded over their love for German techno and synth pop—uncommon interests that would not earn a lot of cool cred, but formed the foundation for their first band, an electro-pop outfit called Goat Explosion. Despite the band’s demise, the two remained friends through various other musical incarnations.

Somewhere down the road, the boys traded synths and keys for guitars and went off to nail that perfect pop song. Some semblance of these efforts is seen in their single, “Let’s Go Surfing”.  Blonde and blue-eyed, Pierce hardly deviates from the boy-next-door Surf-pop template created by Brian Wilson; yet, The Drums readily shrug off any comparisons with the Beach Boys and prefer to let their songs speak for themselves.

However, riding the wave of the current Surf revival, led by bands such as Surfer Blood (who The Drums are currently on tour with), ends with “Let’s Go Surfing”. The rest of the band’s set is composed of tunes that seamlessly meld the words of Post-punk melodrama (“You were my best friend and then you died” sings Pierce on the single, “Best Friend”) with upbeat tempos and chirpy tunes similar to other guitar-driven acts such as Vampire Weekend and The Mystery Jets.

While singing bleak verses over major scales and happy melodies is nothing new—New Order made a name for themselves doing it—The Drums have somehow managed to create something fresh enough to catch the attention of Morrissey, who has been spotted at the band’s gigs, and earn them the title “New York’s official Coolest New Band” from NME. But this band is about more than just marching on with the hype machine. “Our main goal is to remain consistent…As an artist I think you owe it to your listeners to only produce the best material you can, based on your own tastes and no one else’s.”

“We’re so obsessed with songs that style has to fall to the way side,” and it is this obsession that has fuelled the release of their self-titled full-length debut on Moshi Moshi Records. By quickly being able to provide a follow-up to their 2009 EP, Summertime! The Drums have succeeded in making a definitive statement and an avenue through which audiences could better understand what they are all about—be it Post-punk, Surf, or just good clean pop.



This originally appeared in the December 2010 issue of Status. (Actually, I don’t know when it came out, I just know I’ve already been paid for it.)