The Drums is an indie-pop band, by way of Brooklyn, New York. Influenced by bands like The Smiths and Orange Juice, Jonathan Pierce and Jacob Graham met at summer camp and formed a mutual interest in music. The pair formed Goat Explosion, before separating and succeeding in different bands. Reforming in 2006, they added drummer Connor Hanwick and guitarist Adam Kessler to the mix. They were on many music outlet’s “bands to watch” lists in 2010 and went on to open for acts like Kings of Leon and Florence And The Machine. In September 2010, it was announced that Kessler had left.
Still, being deemed “one of the most exciting bands of 2010,” by Florence Welch is no laughing matter, and The Drums work as hard as any band still trying to get their break. I spoke with drummer Connor Hanwick about the responsibility of artists, making music with people you know and the music industry.
Kristina Villarini: When you have a group that has so many influences, members’ individuality is a factor in creating music. How did you deal with the departure of Adam Kessler, and how do you find another member who shares the band’s vision?
Connor Hanwick: This is true. I think a big part of The Drums is myself, Jonny and Jacob’s individual tastes and sensibilities. When Adam left the band, we had a feeling of rejuvenation. It felt as though our ideas were more concentrated, sort of like a “fewer cooks in the kitchen” scenario. We won’t find another member to replace him. Our friend, Tom Haslow, will be playing in our live shows from now on. He’s a friend from New York and we used to play shows with his old band Action Painters in New York 2 years ago. But The Drums is, from now on, a 3-piece band.
KV: What is the hardest part of working in the music industry?
CH: There are hard parts to any job. Touring can be difficult, at times. Being away from home for such long periods of time [is tough], but the shows make it worth it. Personally, I think being put on a public platform is sort of strange… The nature of it, anyway.
KV: If you could have written or collaborated on any song in the last two years, what would it be?
CH: Oh lord, I don’t know. There’s been a lot of good stuff, but anything I’ve liked, I’ve liked how it is. I wouldn’t want to be responsible for altering something that’s already good. If it’s not broke, don’t fix it. I wouldn’t want to try and make anything bad any better either, because if something’s garbage, it’s garbage, and that artist should just start from scratch.
KV: When you’re not making music, what are you doing?
CH: Uh, performing music. We’ve been touring pretty relentlessly for a year and a half. Before that, we were playing shows nightly in NYC. When we have a few days off, I suppose I’m just hanging out at home. When I’m in NY, I try not to leave the block that I live on.
KV: Why Brooklyn? How does your environment influence you?
CH: Well, Jonny and I have lived here a long time. Jacob had been living in Florida, but I guess he was outvoted and had to come up here. I’m not sure Brooklyn necessarily influences our sound directly, but we love New York dearly and have the opportunity to be around exciting acts and people. Also, as a band starting out we were able to perform a lot, in a number of different venues, which proved to do a lot for us. I can’t really picture ever leaving New York.
KV: What are the significant differences between Summertime! and The Drums?
CH: The main differences may just be in the theme or tone or timbre of the record. Summertime! had an obvious upbeat quality to it, musically or sonically, with lyrics that were pretty morbid or hopeless. The LP has a sort of melancholy. The music and the tone or the record, with lyrics that are pretty morbid or hopeless. I guess, lyrically they do share a sort of simplicity or directness.
KV: What is the strangest fan interaction you’ve ever had?
CH: I’m not sure. Our fan interactions are pretty polite and traditional. I think it’s strange and rad when we’ll get like 45-year old guys that come to our shows, talk to us after and drop band references that are big influences on us. When a middle-aged, blue-collar dude in Spain is talking with you about The Durutti Column, that’s pretty cool.
KV: What are you listening to right now, and when you’re writing or recording, do you avoid music all together?
CH: Right now, I’m listening to a band called Wu Lyf and some older stuff like: Neon Boys, The Mixers, Barry Knoedl. Also, I still really like Beach Fossils‘ record. We sort of, cut down what we’re listening to when recording. It’s somewhat intensive. Listening to music, after listening to one or two songs over and over again for one or two days straight isn’t very appealing.
KV: There is a certain power in possessing the ability to create art. How important is making music to you?
CH: I guess there is. People need to be careful about what they consider ‘art’. There’s a certain level of seriousness that shouldn’t be crossed when interpreting art. Making music is very important to me. It’s something I did, all 3 of us have done since we were 14 and 15. Only recently has it gotten me to a place where anybody actually cares enough to come to a show outside of New York or outside of a circle of my friends. That’s very exciting and flattering, but it doesn’t increase nor decrease the value of making music to me.
KV: What would you be doing if you weren’t musicians?
CH: Well, I was a cook before this. I think Jacob was working as a security guard at Disneyworld. and Jonny worked at a shoe shop. We were all doing that and making music separately from one another when we weren’t working, so I assume we’d still be doing that. Although, I always thought I’d make a great stand-up comedian.
KV: Can you tell me about the band’s love for reverb?
CH: Reverb is such a big part of our sound. it’s like salt is the reverb of food and Jacob says it’s the mist of weather. I think that sounds about right. It romanticizes sound. It adds something to a sound. It has a dreaminess. You can write a good song without it, but as long as it’s available, why would you?