Interview: Jacob Graham (The Drums)

The Drums D.I.Y blogosphere roots—whose crafty idea was it?
Johnny (Pierce, The Drum’s vocalist) and I are culpable for that. It was born out of sheer necessity because we felt that it was the best way to promote our songs, and it all fits our hands-on approach to music making.
How’s the songwriting process like for the band?
The songs come together in different ways. Johnny locks himself in a room and does his thing while Connor (Hanwick, drummer) and I are cooped in our respective rooms, coming up with the sounds that would work with the lyrics. None of us are technically good, to be honest we are bad musicians, but we make it up with love and just try really hard. We don’t think too much about the process, and usually spend about two days writing a song. It’s a short and sweet process that best captures our original excitement and intent.
Melancholia whisked together with effervescent melodies and a generous sprinkling of catchy handclaps why this irony?
It was never conscious, it just happened naturally because it sounds like the sort of music that we grew up it with. We are big fans of The Smiths, Joy Division and Orange Juice, and I guess their influence rubs onto us. Our lyrics are sad and dark, and reflect what we naturally are. But the upbeat sound is our f*ck it coping mechanism, might as well deal with it and put some fun in the gloominess.
What’s with the religious undertones in songs like “Down by the Water” and “I’ll Never Drop My Sword”?
I think they could be due to the way Johnny and I were as kids, we grew up in very Christian households, and if you are raised in a certain way, you will be affected by it one way or another.
How does the hectic touring schedule affect The Drums?
Of course, our bodies take some time recovering from the busy schedule, but we are grateful that we can do something we always wanted to do. Before the band started, I didn’t travel a lot, now I am out of US for 11 months of the year, and love experiencing the warmth of our fans in far-flung places of the world like Japan. It’s not the main reason why The Drums are currently a trio, but the touring did take its toil on our former guitarist Adam (Kessler).
The three of you look too fey to be surfers, so why “Let’s Go Surfing”?
To us, the song is not about surfing at all, but more about the fun of being a teenager. Having said that, it just so happened that we rode on a wave that included good bands like Surfer Blood, who work on similar themes like us. It’s a shame that we aren’t as closely knit as we should be.
Are you tired of playing it at gigs?
There is certainly a love-hate relationship with it for me. When we recorded the songs for our debut album in 2010, “Let’s Go Surfing” stood out from the record because it sounded the least like us. We don’t mind playing it in large festivals, but the reaction from the crowd is similar to any other song that we are playing.
If Morrissey could cover one of your songs, which one should it be?
“The Saddest Summer” from our Summertime! EP is an obvious choice
Did you anticipate the success of your debut album and the post-hype surrounding it?
We didn’t expect anything from the release of the album, all we wanted to do was to make a record, something that we have been hooked to since we were teenagers, playing in bands. It becomes part of your lifestyle and we couldn’t get away from the scene, even when we were working in horrible jobs, stealing food and straining to get by. Living in near poverty with four people and a dog cramped in a tiny one bedroom apartment prepares you to not to take the hype seriously at all. All of us are in our mid to late twenties and have an idea of how life works, if everything is going to fall apart this moment, it’s really out of our control and all we can do is to seize the moments while it lasts.
What can we expect from your sophomore album?
Actually, we completed the recording yesterday. Well, we can’t tell you what it’s called yet but you can expect the same mentality and infecticious energy from our debut.
Can we expect a new song or two in your gig in Singapore?
Of course, we can’t wait to play songs like my new personal favorite “We Tried” from the upcoming album. More importantly, we would promise to make it a really fun night for everyone in the crowd.
Make an indie date with the Brooklyn trio, The Drums on May 16, 8pm at Powerhouse, 1/F St. James Power Station, 3 Sentosa Gateway, 6270-7676. $65 from Sistic includes club entry and one drink.