If only Ian Curtis had been a surfer. Or Morrissey spent more time working on his tan. Or Brian Wilson locked himself in his bedroom for a couple of years, subsisting only on Colombian nose candy, triple cheeseburgers and self-loathing. Wait, that happened?
Regardless, the result in all three scenarios might have led to something approximating The Drums. Not bad for a group that's been playing live for less than six months. Along the way, they've racked up hyperbolic accolades like the declaration by New Musical Express that The Drums is “New York's official Coolest New Band.”
“I can't tell you we're the coolest of the cool new bands just because NME said so,” says guitarist Jacob Graham. “But they did say it… so maybe a fruit basket is in order.”
Then again, The Drums would probably have to buy an Edible Arrangements franchise in order to dole out Dole to all the critics salivating over their sound. Turns out, fusing the yellow polka-dotted pop of The Shangri-Las and The Beach Boys with the post-punk mope of New Order and The Smiths only seems like a terrible idea.
“We didn't ever sit around and plan what styles to combine,” Graham says. “We were really just listening to a lot of classic pop music and wanted to do something like that. All the post-punk / Factory Records influence is just stuck from a lifetime of obsession.”
Graham and vocalist Jonathan Pierce first formed electro-pop outfit Goat Explosion before Pierce moved on to short-lived success with Elkland and Graham dabbled with Horse Shoes. But none of it took.
“By that point, we were both so discouraged by everything we'd been through musically,” Graham says. “We needed something new, a way to really start over fresh, and that's where The Drums come in.”
After incubating a batch of songs in Florida, the duo relocated to Brooklyn and added guitarist Adam Kessler and drummer Connor Hanwick before making their proper Drums debut in May at NYC Popfest. The reaction was immediate.
“Our hopes were the same as any brand-new band playing their first concert—that people would like it and tell their friends,” Graham says. “What we had hoped to happen did happen, but it was still very surprising.”
The key to The Drums' sudden ascent is the sunny single “Let's Go Surfing,” a jubilant, no-frills (unless you consider whistling a frill) surf-pop song that could easily be dismissed as simple and goofy if it weren't so damn catchy and sincere. Besides, it has less to do with catching a wave than it does capturing a mood.
“The inspiration for that song was our new president,” Graham says. “We just felt like a weight had been lifted off the whole world and everyone suddenly had a positive attitude.”
Well, not entirely. There is still plenty to be jaded and cynical about long after the big O ascended to the White House. And there are certainly melancholic brushstrokes on The Drums' Summertime! EP, but it's the cheerful buoyancy of tracks like “Let's Go Surfing” and “Submarine” that reminds us there's still fun to be had in a fucked-up world.
“We are the most miserable people we know, but we're tired of hearing people complain all the time,” Graham says. “There is a place for sadness, but if you don't show the other side at all, it ends up not meaning anything because there's no context. If all I ever see is the color red, eventually I'll think it's blue.”
Of course, overnight success will inevitably turn people green with envy, and The Drums are fully aware that being dubbed New York's official coolest anything is sure to set hipster backlash in motion. They just don't care.
“If you can't laugh at that stuff and get some sort of sick enjoyment out of it, you're probably in the wrong business,” Graham says. “People can backlash us all they want; we'll lash them right back.”
The Drums play with Dash Jacket and DJ Skull Crusher on Sunday, Nov. 15, at The Loft @ UCSD. www.myspace.com/thedrumsforever.
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