Interview: The Drums
On life, their new album, and Joy Division.
The Drums have a keenness of spirit that's difficult to define. Acutely aware of their musical origins and creative intent, they project a brand of pop characterised by a nostalgic, snappy brightness of sound, tinged with an irrevocable undertone of melancholy. The articulate directness with which they present themselves is matched only by the tightness of their riffs and their deliberate ambiguity of sentiment. Oyster spoke with guitarist Jacob Graham about their latest release, Portamento, what it means to be real, and having an absence of aspirations.
Jacinta Mulders: I know you get asked this a lot, but how does Portamento compare with your EP and your debut album? Jonathan [Pierce, The Drums' vocalist] said in an interview that while you wanted your EP to be cinematic, on Portamento every song is a scene from real life. Can you expand on this?
Jacob Graham: I'd say our first record was more like The Drums' fantasy world and this album is The Drums in a real world setting. On our first album every song was just sort of written about a lovely idea, so each song was like a little scene from an old movie. But on the new record the subject matter is set in the present. And I think the sound of the new record is a little more fine tuned and a little less washed out than the first. I think the whole thing is just crisper all around.
How do you feel about Portamento? What, in your eyes, characterises this album?
I think bluntness is the main characteristic – lyrically, and musically. I'd say it's a pretty straight-forward pop album with unconventional instrumentation sprinkled throughout. A little darker in hue than most straight forward pop albums perhaps.
Can you tell me about Visiomento?
Sure. Visiomento is a series of episodes we're making that sort of gives our listeners a sneak peak into the creative process, rehearsal process, and also so interviews of ourselves and people we admire. I think more than anything, it's a way to connect with our fans, in our own sort of context. Visiomento!
On your website you talk a lot about how Portamento is a lot 'realer' than The Drums. There is also a comment that you wouldn't have allowed anything that 'real' to be on the first one. Why is that?
It was simply the concept of our first album to write that way. It didn't have anything to do with not being comfortable to write about personal matters, it was just a stylistic decision.
On your website, you say that although 'Down By the Water' is the 'realest' song on The Drums, "It's more cinematic, like you're watching a scene instead of feeling a particular way". What is it about a song that makes it more cinematic?
I don't know if I feel still feel that way. I feel as though, what I meant was that 'Down By The Water' was the saddest song on our first album. I'd probably say 'Book of Stories' is the most 'real'. A line like, "I thought my life would get easier, instead it's getting harder". That's pretty real.
I agree with your original comment about 'Down By the Water'. I feel like that song transcends time and is gorgeously romantic, but it's cinematic in that I feel like I'm watching a story that belongs to someone else. What do you see when you play that song?
I'd rather not say what I see when I hear the song. I'd rather people have their own visions, unclouded by my own.
What's your favourite Joy Division song? What do you think of New Order? Or is it all about The Wake?
For me it really is all about The Wake. I couldn't care less about Joy Division. I think New Order had some amazing moments, but over all were pretty hit or miss. My favorite New Order song is 'Leave Me Alone'. I think The Wake are the most perfect band that ever was, no comparison.
Can you describe the relationships between the band members?
I can't. Something along the lines of "it's complicated".
What are your aspirations for the future of The Drums? How would you like to develop?
No aspirations. We just want to keep doing what we're doing. And we don't want to develop; we want to remain stagnant forever, untouched by time.