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Interview with Jacob from The Drums

05 JAN 2012 | Posted By: SineadStubbins

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Interview with Jacob from The Drums

The Drums
 
The Drums
 
The Drums
 
The Drums
 
The Drums
 
The Drums
 
The Drums
 
The Drums
 
The Drums
 
The Drums
It's hard not to like The Drums. After the release of their Summertime EP in 2009 the media went into overdrive, declaring them the hottest band of 2010 before they'd even finished recording their debut album. However after the success of singles like "Best Friend" and the addictive beach bop fest "Let's Go Surfing" it was pretty clear that these Brooklyn boys were living up to the hype (and that they were a lot more serious about the biz than their poppy music let on).

With the recent release of their follow up Portamento (and with one less member after the departure of guitarist Adam Kessler) Jonny Pierce, Connor Hanwick and Jacob Graham are showing a more intimate side of The Drums, and judging by their live shows with Myles Matheny on guitar and Chris Stein on drums, are seeking a more meaty and mature sound than before.

We caught up with keyboardist/ guitarist Jacob to talk about hype, summer camp and why he thinks The Drums are going to fall apart.

Sinead Stubbins:How's it going Jacob?
Jacob Graham: Hey!

SS: Where are you guys now?
JG:
[pauses like he needs to think about it] Ahh, we are in Brussels. And we're about to drive to Scotland in an hour.

SS: Jeez! For the last couple of years The Drums have toured constantly... are you ever like, enough! I want my stuff!
JG: Yeah! Well, I actually feel like that all the time. I don't know, I feel like a lot of bands really get a lot of drive from touring and being on the road, and going crazy and stuff. I think that most of the band, well I can definitely say myself, doesn't really enjoy being on the road. I'm a homebody. But in saying all that, I'm very grateful for the opportunity to tour as much as we do. I feel really fortunate to be able to.

SS: By the way, I'm kind of nervous because I heard you guys don't like interviews much. A "necessary evil" you've called them!?
JG: [laughs] Oh no, not at all!

SS: Phew. So to your new album Portamento, I heard that just before it was released you guys nearly broke up?
JG:
I think that if there was anything like that going on it was probably really sensationalized by the press. We tour so much, we're on the road so much and making this record... I feel like all of that doesn't come without a price. It can be stressful and draining to be on tour so much. We're all such specific and particular people, all three of us, so we do get into a lot of debates. I think The Drums are always kind of... we could fall apart at any minute, really.

SS: Wow.
JG: We've always been that way. It's nothing to be concerned about though.

SS: That acceptance that you could fall apart at any time, does that mean that you'll never become complacent? That if your time together is limited you want to make the most of it?
JG: Yeah, I think so. I feel like all of this happened to us when we were already much older than most bands in our situation. We had been making music for so long and when it finally happened, rather than being all excited about it like most people would be, we were like "Oh. Well. Let's really try and make sure we don't do anything that we're ever going to regret". We were very aware of the whole situation. We wanted to be able to really focus on what were doing. It's a rare opportunity.

SS: You and Jonny began The Drums because it was the kind of band you wanted to hear, but didn't exist. What about that nostalgic Americana kind of music interested you?
JG: Well I guess Jonny and I thought, why make music if you don't like it? If you don't like the music you're making, either stop making music or start making some you like. So many people who are like "I don't really like the band that I'm in" it's kind of just like, well you're wasting everyone's time. We take things very seriously.  At the time when we started the band, we were just sort of drawn to those type of vibes, and we didn't have any idea that people would ever hear our music. When we made Summertime we just thought "let's make something really bizarre that someone will find in a record shop like 20 years from now and think it's really weird". It was like, what would it sound like if Echo and the Bunnymen made a surf record? Based on that EP everyone was like "Oh you're like this beachy, niche band", and we were like "No, it was a joke!". It's exciting to release this new album because it brings us closer to what The Drums really are.

SS: By the way there is nothing more American than you two meeting at summer camp. It sounds like a movie.
JG: [laughs] Yeah.

SS: Does it annoy you that you've been pigeonholed as the surf band now?
JG: You can't really fault people for drawing whatever resolution they do, and I think that's the reason why we wanted to keep going and put out a record just to kind of show people what it is actually about. It used to really bother us at first, but I think we're passed it now and we're headed in a direction that's much more northerly of the beach. We'll see.

SS: The new album is a much more personal version of The Drums.
JG: Once we realised it was happening it became an actual thing. The first record was written very cinematically and all the songs were kind of idea driven and not very personal at all. It was sincere but it wasn't as gritty as the new album is. We wanted to be blunt in all sorts of ways, musically and lyrically. The lyrics are much more about our lives right now. Musically there's less reverb and we've honed in on it a lot more.

SS: Some songs are VERY blunt... I feel sorry for the ex-partner who has to hear Jonny sing "you're so hard to love" over and over again.
JG: Oh gosh!

SS: After such quick success, especially in the U.K where the press can turn on you pretty quickly, were you scared of making a follow up?
JG: Not really. When we started a lot of magazines were saying huge things about us, saying that we were the greatest thing to come out of New York since The Strokes...

SS: The great hope for music in 2010!
JG: Exactly! And even back then they were saying "can they live up to the hype?". It's kind of the same thing now as it was then, we don't care about the hype and we don't care about what anyone else's expectations of the band are. Our only goal is to write songs that we're proud of, and we've already done that with the new record. Even if commercially it's a failure, it kind of doesn't matter to us, we're  just going to keep doing what we're doing. Nothing anyone says about this record is going to affect the way we make the next record. Twenty years from now people will look back at what we did and think "they put out five records that sounded exactly the same and everyone thought it was ridiculous" [laughs]. We want to be consistent.

SS: I think you can be consistent without being repetitive. Portomento  isn't repetitive.
JG: Thank you! That's kind of our mentality too, we want to be as consistent as possible but still keep it interesting enough for us to still be interested in it, and hopefully that's enough for fans.

SS: Hype is a hard thing, it's kind of like a double edged sword. It's great to have catchy singles, but it also means people can get sick of them real quick-- is that why you don't really like to play 'Let's Go Surfing' anymore?
JG: I think that was another situation that was so blown out of proportion. People think you're not playing your single, but we're like "we've had quite a few singles...". 'Let's Go Surfing' never had mainstream radio play anywhere in the world, you couldn't characterise it as a hit single. The first few times we didn't play it live it sort of caused a stir, and then when we released Portamento we just looked at our body of work, and it wasn't just 'Lets Go Surfing' it was a few songs, and they just didn't fit with the new songs. We want to put on the best show possible, and that's really the reason why we don't play it live anymore.

SS: The new album was intentionally recorded super quickly, was it that whole pressure makes diamonds thing?
JG: [laughs] Maybe! I think for bands to make an album a year after their first one is not a very modern thing to do, but for us we started recording the first record almost two years before it was released. We spent our whole lives writing and recording music, that's all we ever did. So far us it didn't feel like we were pushing anything it just all sort of fell together very naturally. Before we knew it we had a new record.

SS: And you recorded in Jonny's kitchen?
JG: Yeah! Our first record was recorded in our bedrooms, iit was before we had any attention or a record deal, or money. When we went to make Portamento the thought had crossed my mind to do it in the studio with producers, like other bands do, but we loved the way the first record sounds. We're all kind of nit picky and particular about things, and it just kind of made sense for us to just keep things they way they were. I hope that we continue to do that.

SS: Plus it meant you were close to snacks.
JG:  We do get very hungry.
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