Interview: The Drums

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On the 16th of May, we went down to catch The Drums play a gig in Singapore, and got the chance to speak to their soft spoken guitarist Jacob Graham about life on tour, doing their bit in aid of Japan, their anticipated new record and how they deal with the pressure that comes with the territory.

The Wknd: This is your first time in this part of the world, how do you feel about that.

Jacob Graham: It’s really exciting, I’m kind off sad that we’re not here longer. We had been to Japan a couple of times, and that was really exciting for us. I think this is our favorite part of the world to tour coz its interesting for us.

TW: How so.

JG: Just being here, the architecture, the food, it’s all so interesting. Last night I looked out of my hotel room window and all of a sudden there’s some sort of light show going on. There was lasers and fire. That’s amazing, coz it’s in the middle of the city.

TW: As far as your performances go outside of the US, how has it been treating The Drums? Especially far off from where you come from.

JG: Traditionally it’s been pretty good in these areas. I don’t know why, it’s hard to say why a certain type of music resonates in a certain area. But we’re glad it does, I don’t know how the fans here specifically are, but this area has always been cool for us.

TW: You know any music from the South East Asia.

JG: I don’t know really, what countries would be considered South East Asia.

[Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, the Phillipines]
JG: I don’t know really. There were a couple of indie bands from Indonesia that I was listening to a couple of years ago, but i forget their names.. they must be hard to pronounce or something.

TW: How has the Australian tour turned out for you.

JG: It was really good. It’s funny because at this point we’ve pretty much been on tour for about 3 years, pretty solid and it’s interesting because we’re kind of getting to the point where a lot of the original excitement about travelling the world is kind of gone and you kind of settle in to this idea that this is my life and this is how it goes. But at the same time, I think maybe it’s the season or something, the weathers been so nice this whole trip that it seems really pleasant. The last really long stretch we did was November – December in Europe, it was so cold, we didn’t see the sun for weeks at a time. It can be really depressing when you’re really cut off from all your friends. This has actually been really nice for us so far.

TW: Any good bands that you got to check out in Australia.

JG: Let me think.. [pauses] There was one band that was on tour with us there, we were doing festivals and between that we were doing shows at small clubs and there was this band that went with us at all of those smaller shows called Tiger Choir. Pretty cool, I think they’re about to put out a record with this label from Australia called Pop Frenzy, which is, in my opinion, the coolest label in Australia. We did our first e.p. with them. They have such an amazing array of acts, an assortment. They’ll have the most random things like a great Swedish band like Acid house kings and then like an amazing, obscure American bands like Danielson Famile, its pretty amazing. I feel like that’s the only label that gets access to those bands, because everywhere else in the world, they’re kinda with their own kind on their own little label but in Australia they just grab all the best things.

TW: For you yourself, what tunes have you been repeating on this tour.

JG: On this tour, actually I feel like it’s been really hard for me because I feel like I’m desperately looking for something new to listen to. You know when you get to that point where you feel like you found your favourite kind of music and you just spend a few years completely exhausting it and you can barely even listen to it anymore. It’s been kind of that, and I’m kinda looking for things now. You don’t really know what to do so you kind of go back to what you’ve been listening to years and years and years ago, so I’ve been listening to a lot of stuff that i was listening to growing up, like all the pioneers of Electronic music like Wendy Carlos, Tomita and Jean Michel Jarre, stuff like that. I think maybe because a lot of that stuff are more orchestral, on this tour, it got me listening to more orchestral music like soundtracks by John Williams. I’m obviously kind of obsessed with pop music, but I feel like you can find elements of pop music in other kinds of music and when you incorporate them back into pop music it kinda makes it all more well rounded. John williams especially, I’m pretty obsessed with the soundtrack he did for ET, i think some of the melodies in there are so moving, it’s pretty mind blowing when you listen to it.

TW: What do you do on your day off while on tour.

JG: Usually we just like to do nothing, just walk around by yourself, listen to your Ipod, take it all in. The last day off I had was in Perth, and found this park that had hiking trails through it, I just spent all day walking through nature. That’s kind off a rare treat when you’re on tour. Checking out little shops and things.

TW: Do you guys do any songwriting while on tour.

JG: Occasionally, we do that when we get hit with something that we wanna get down. But for the most part we like to just be home when we’re doing that, which works out okay coz we love songwriting so much that when we’re home it doesn’t really feel like work to do that. We write and record songs at the same time when we’re home.

TW: Brooklyn seems to be a place where a lot of bands are based in, apart from yourselves, (Yeasayer, MGMT, Dirty Projectors etc etc), what’s good about Brooklyn for a band like The Drums.

JG: Well we’ve actually all moved to Manhattan in the past few months. I think the main thing that attracts bands to Brooklyn, or how it did in the past, was that it was just cheaper to live there.

TW: I’ve always thought that that part of town is kind of expensive..

JG: That’s the thing, it’s starting to get that way! That’s why we’ve all moved to Manhattan actually, I think the apartment that I live in Manhattan now is cheaper than the place where I was in Brooklyn. Brooklyn’s starting to become really trendy, it was because it was a safe and cheap area where you live. It still is in certain parts, it was all in Williamsburg and now Williamsburg’s becoming really hip so it’s becoming more pricey and its kind of moving up.
But i think its just the idea that you can live so close to the biggest city in the world but maybe not be in the middle of it all, not in the heat of it.

TW: We read your tweet before coming on this Australian tour, you said you guys have wrapped up the new record. What can we expect from this next one?

JG: It’s hard to say when you’re so inside of something, when we went into it we sort of had the idea of.. experimenting probably isn’t the right word, but maybe playing with sounds a little more. I think on our first record, we had a set of sounds and it almost blankets the whole record. For this record, we wanted to fine tune sounds, a little bit more broader palate to work with. I think we did do that but when you really boil it down, its still just this simple short pop songs, how different can that really be? To me its different enough to keep it exciting for our fans but not so different that people will feel alienated from it.

TW: We also heard your latest single, The New World!

JG: It’s a song that John and I recorded together with the e.p. a long time ago, it was actually the only song that we cut from the first album, and it’s actually one of my favorite songs. Kind of sad to cut from the album but it just didn’t quite fit, it felt too epic and too grand to just throw in with all those other songs. So we just had it in a box, and then everything happened in Japan, and we have been to Japan a few times, we have friends there, we just felt so bad. We’d really do something to help, so we released that song and all the proceeds go to the Red Cross for Japan. When we decided that we should do something, we thought should we record a new song? And then we thought of that and we thought that actually works perfect for this situation. Maybe not perfect but that spirit of holding on and making it through something. It just felt like it all happened for a reason.

TW: Is there any pressure to deliver or to outdo your first record now?

JG: [laughs] People ask us that a lot. I think when we made our first record it was really before we had any intention at all, so when we made it we were just trying to make a record that really pleased ourselves and something that we’d be really proud of even if no one had ever heard it. So for that album we didn’t have any pressure and then we got all this attention just before that album came out. We didn’t touch the album, we didn’t change it because everyone was paying attention to it, we kept it just as it was and released it. But when we went to make the second record, we kinda had the same mentality. Just because people are paying attention to us, we weren’t gonna bend or … and you get a lot of advice from people (labels, important people) but this record we just recorded the same way we recorded the first one, in our kitchen and with a little cheap microphone. Maybe because this time we did know that everyone would hear this record which we didn’t know when we made the first record, that we wanted to be more of ourselves and please ourselves even more in a way. Anything that maybe we were lazy about on the first record, it was more to prove something to ourselves than anyone else I think. We just wanted to be consistent and do something, we’re not interested in reinventing ourselves really.

TW: So when can we expect the next record then?

JG: I can’t say for sure, there are scientists that decide those things. But we hope this year sometime, probably early fall, but we’re releasing a single in the summer or something.

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Have a listen to their new single, Money below

The Drums – Money by WorkItMedia