FEMALE Talks To: The Drums on ‘Brutalism’ And How Freedom And Vulnerability Played A Part In The Album (Exclusive!)

We’re sure you’ve seen the anticipated line-up so far for the upcoming Urbanscapes festival that’s happening next weekend. Not only will it be filled with great music and art installations locally, regionally and internationally, but we guarantee you’ll be having a good time with these big music names to grace the big stage at Sentul Depot: Glass Animals, The Drums, Colde and Sales to name a few. 

Photography: Urbanscapes

As the weekend approaches, I had the chance of a lifetime to interview Jonny Pierce, frontman of New York-based indie pop band The Drums as they prep for the closing party on the 24th of November!

If you’re not familiar with The Drums, here’s a li’l backstory: They’ve been in the music scene since 2008 and ignited our love for pop-indie tunes way back when (I’m not going to lie, I’ve been a fan of the band since high school). Fast forward to today, and Jonny Pierce has taken creative control by exploring his sound spiritually and physically by turning it into something ersonal and vulnerable.

With the newly released album, ‘Brutalism’, you’re bound to have a great time with their new sound and heartfelt songs. Excited to find out more? Read on to see what Jonny had to say about his newly released album, how it’s different compared to his previous work, and his favourite song in the world!

FEMALE: How does it feel coming back with your album ‘Brutalism’ after the 2017 release ‘Abysmal Thoughts’?

The Drums: “Honestly, it feels great to put this album out. I think with each subsequent release, I am learning more and more about who I am and the result is an album that expresses that, both musically, but more importantly for me – lyrically. I spend a lot of time hiding in my first couple releases, but starting with ‘Portamento’, I started cracking open the door to my heart and doing a lot of self-exploration. In some ways, each album feels like a new beginning. ‘Brutalism’ certainly feels fresh and exciting to me – even if it has very sad themes. 

F: What was the process like making ‘Brutalism’? And where did you record it?

TD: “Well, I started writing demos at a cabin in the woods in upstate New York. I knew I wanted to have help with this one because I wanted a bigger, more poppy sound. So we took the demos I had written and brought them to a studio in California where I used an engineer and some friends of mine to make the album I had in my mind. I have always recorded in a very unprofessional way. I never knew what I was doing with the first few albums. I never learned how to play my instruments properly or how to record with software properly. I mean what is “properly” anyway. What is proper is kind of up to the artist. I guess when I say properly I mean professionally. ‘Brutalism’ is definitely my most professional effort. It was nice having all that help finally because it gave me some room and some time to work on my lyrics and what it is I was feeling.” 

F: How long did it take you to create this album?

TD: “Maybe a year and a half, but I work very efficiently. I don’t sit in a studio every day and hope something happens. I wait till I’m ready to lay down a bunch of ideas. Rarely does a song ever get thrown out. When I start recording, I already hear most of the song in my head. to be honest, most of my albums have about 12 songs on them. I usually write 13 or 14 for each album, so as you can see there isn’t a lot of excesses.” 

F: How is your recent album different compared to the past albums?

TD: “For me, the most exciting change is how incredibly personal it is to me. I’ve decided to become vulnerable in my lyrics and I don’t see the point of me making music otherwise.” 

F: Do you think you’ve achieved the sound you wanted and how did you convince yourself that this was what you wanted before the official release?

TD: “We definitely did achieve the poppy, glossier sound that I wanted, while keeping the novice charm of the earlier years. I think this band has such a specific vibe that you really know it’s The Drums when you hear it at a cafe or in a club. You know immediately it’s us and that feels good. I think I wanted to explore a bit more of a ’90s feel, and I’ve done a lot of thinking about that and what I think might be the reason is that most of the music that formed my taste came from the ’90s. But there’s a catch. Most of the music I loved, I wasn’t allowed to listen to as my parents were very, very religious and forbade me to listen to anything that wasn’t religious-based. So I was not able to freely enjoy it. I was always listening with some fear of getting in trouble. So for ‘Brutalism’, I use breakbeats (a style of electronic rhythm, often sampled from earlier recordings in funk, jazz or hip hop) that were big in the ’90s and now I’m reclaiming those moments of hiding, and now I’m free.”

F: What’s the creative process for you like before writing a song?

TD: “There isn’t one. I just know when it’s time. It’s kind of like getting hungry for food. You just feel it in your gut and you make the time and you create. I never try to create if I’m not feeling “the hunger” cos then you just make vomit.” 

F: If you could describe yourself in a song, what song would it be? It can be from your album or any track in general.

TD: “I have no idea. I don’t revere music like that. But my favourite song in the world is I Will Always Love You by Dolly Parton. Maybe I see myself in the sadness, awareness, and hopefulness of that song.”

F: What can we expect from The Drums in Urbanscapes next month?

TD: “We are going to play only the hits – a full set of dancing and singing the big songs from each release. You won’t be disappointed. We’re really going to give it our all.”


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