Being asked to open the NME Shockwaves Tour is a pretty big deal. Infamously referred to as ‘the Coldplay slot’, the opening role of the bill has also been filled by the likes of Franz Ferdinand, Kaiser Chiefs and The Ting Tings. Needless to say, those are some really big shoes to fill. This year’s chosen ones were U.S. band and NME darlings The Drums. As they warmed up for their first proper tour, ANDREW TRENDELL caught up with singer Jonathan Pierce to talk about what it’s like to be tipped as the sound of 2010.
For those unfortunate folk who live underground in caves and haven’t heard you yet, how would you describe your sound?
The most important thing for us is just to write pure pop songs. It really isn’t pure pop if you just consider yourself a rock n’ roll band. We feel that true pop music should be vulnerable and honest because you only have 3 minutes to say what you want to say.
You’ve got quite a West Coast beach-y kind of sound. I find it quite surprising that you come from New York. How did you come upon this summer sound?
It’s a very weird thing because we had no real intention of sounding how we sounded on the Summertime EP. I was living in New York and it was so cold and wintery. I was feeling really depressed then I called my best friend Jacob, who was also really bored at the time. Hey just said ‘hey man, why don’t come live out here and form a band.’ So I packed my bags and went to Florida the next day. Leaving cold New York and then instantly being in Florida just instantly blew me away – everything just felt like an endless summer. I just think that the idea of summer and the beach just worked its way into our sound without us really knowing it.
So would you say there’s a strong element of escapism in your music?
We’re 100% escapist. I think that everyone is miserable – anyone who said they were really happy would be lying. I think only children can be purely happy. That’s why people love the idea of escaping or being taken back to a familiar place – that’s what we were really trying for on the record.
Should we expect more of the same from your full length album?
The difference between that EP and the full length is that we’ve been writing in New York more since we’ve been back. I think that we’re a product of our surroundings so I think it’s darker, more brooding and more personal and a little bit more serious side to The Drums that you’ll see.
That’s interesting because if you listen to other New York bands like Yeah Yeah Yeahs or Interpol, there’s this deep and dark foundation that underlies their sound. Why do you think New York has such an effect?
Some people feel constricted by these big buildings and being locked into this grid. I think there is something very gritty and dark about New York. We’re happy to write songs here but this is not where we found ourselves. Had we not moved to Florida we wouldn’t have wrote the Summertime EP. We didn’t feel part of any scene or anything – we were able to just wipe the slate clean and do something for ourselves. We wanted to do this by forgetting about everything else. We turned off our TVs and stopped listening to current music. We didn’t have a car so we were really just stuck there writing songs for about 6 months without any influence at all. I’m really glad we made that move – I think we found what we needed to find.
You’re opening the upcoming NME tour. That’s a pretty prestigious slot previously filled by bands that have all gone on to achieve huge things. Do you feel much pressure in that respect?
We don’t really feel pressure because it’s a very strange idea. We started this band as a selfish little project just for ourselves. We didn’t start the band thinking we’d ever get big so all of this stuff has really taken us by surprise. Being asked to be on this tour was really shocking. Whilst we’re grateful for it we aren’t interested or planning on changing anything that we do. The things that were important to us before all of this hype are still important to us. Of course, we have to work a little harder to keep up with what’s happening but our main priority is still just to write sincere pop songs.
Interview by Andrew Trendell