Can you hear the sound of The Drums?

By Kev Geoghegan
Entertainment reporter, BBC News

Image caption,
The Drums latest single is Forever and Ever, Amen

In the BBC's Sound of 2010 poll, Jonathan Pierce, lead singer of New York-based band The Drums was described as "gesticulating wildly like Ian Curtis swatting a fly" during live performances.

The frontman's frenetic robot-style moves have helped land The Drums support slots with Florence And The Machine and Kings of Leon, all before the release of their self-titled debut album.

"When I was young, I wanted to be a movie star and then it evolved into wanting to be a rock star," explains Pierce, "It confuses some people and I'm sure some people hate it."

Yet, the singer, whose sartorial style falls somewhere in between 50s surfer geek and 80s football hooligan, insists it's all part of putting on a great show.

"The idea of showmanship has been lost in bands. Most of them just get on stage and play. That might have been cool when Nirvana did it but 5,000 bands later, it gets a little boring."

The band came fifth in the BBC's annual Sound of ... poll, Pierce admits they did not know much about the poll but were humbled, particularly being from the US, to be included.

"When that list came out we had only been a band for about five months. We've actually just celebrated our first year anniversary," he says.

Live shows

It is The Drums' live performances that are gathering momentum for the four-piece - first playing small gigs in New York and, last month, supporting Florence And The Machine.

Image caption,
The Drums are playing Glastonbury this month

The band are also due to support Kings of Leon at their gigs in London's Hyde Park at the end of June, where they will perform to more than 50,000 ticketholders.

But Pierce insists he still prefers the intimacy of a smaller venue.

"I always prefer to play small sweaty smelly clubs but I think Florence fans are genuinely just fans of new music, so they were very welcoming," he says.

"It was just cool to see them singing along to some of our songs."

The band's 12 track self-titled album boasts almost as many influences, from Brit bands The Smiths and The Cure to The Beach Boys and Phil Spector.

One track, Down By the Water, echoes the best doo-wop bands of the 60s, Best Friend channels Morrissey while another, Me and the Moon, wouldn't sound out of place over the closing credits of an 80s John Hughes film.

Pierce says the band also "got into the 60s girl groups and started obsessing about the Shangri-Las and The Ronettes".

Morrissey made it to one of The Drums first UK shows and insiders say the band's nonchalant cool image was shattered as they transformed into giggling teenagers at news their Smiths hero had arrived out front.

"Pure lies"

The album's stand-out track Let's Go Surfing, is a paean to the joys of youth - a theme common to much of the album.

But in fact, some of the breezier tracks on the album mask some fairly dark lyrics and sentiments. In Skippin' Town, Pierce sings: "I know you're trying to kill me/When you're chasing me around town".

"Who really wants to listen to happy music? It's so unrelatable if you're over 12 years-old. I've always been drawn to songs that are sad," he says.

"Even our song Forever and Ever Amen is full of lies because it says we're going to live forever and we're going to stay young forever and none of that is true.

"So, even my optimistic songs are pure lies," he adds.

Image caption,
Florence Welch is a high-profile fan of the band

The Drums' PR machine may employ such journalistic hyperbole as: "Truly divine" (Time Out) and "A band to fall in love with" (NME), but Pierce is keen to avoid the common pitfall of getting too big, too quickly.

"Of course we want to people to hear it (the album) but at the end of the day the most important thing to us is that we love it," he says.

"It sounds odd but our whole band is rooted in selfishness. By the time the hype got to a crazy level we had already finished our album so we didn't feel the pressure like we have to go into the studio and really deliver something amazing."

Pierce adds, a little defiantly: "We don't care how we're considered, all we're interested in is getting our music onto a bigger platform and maybe changing something."

The Drums album is out now.

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