The Drums have gone through plenty over the years — from exploding into the scene as one of America’s most hyped bands to frontman Jonny Pierce becoming the only remaining original member of the band. Even with the ups and downs, nothing is stopping Jonny from creating music and expressing himself. We caught up with him about the band’s biggest transformation yet, and why he feels The Drums’ music has become more personal.
Who would you consider your muse and where does inspiration usually come from?
I don’t really have muses. When I started, I really wanted to sound like a mix of European indie rock, like bands coming out of Sweden at the time such as The Tough Alliance and Boat Club and I wanted to fuse that with American ‘60s girl group sounds — like the Supremes. I ended up somewhere accidental and it worked. My greatest hope for music is accidents. Accidents are my inspiration.
What do you think is the most important thing about songwriting and what makes a really good song?
Well, when I started making music, it was really important to me to have huge memorable classic pop melodies in each song. What I ’ve realised over the years is that I was hiding behind my sounds and my ‘persona’. I ’ve learned that the best songs are the ones that are meaningful. Ones that connect us by way of feelings, emotions, life experiences, the joy and sometimes trauma that come from those experiences.
How do you think your sound has evolved?
I was really into techno, synth-pop, and house music, even drum n’ bass. Guitar-playing with The Drums was my greatest experiment. I started recording without really having a band at the time, with no expert help. The first few albums have a poor sonic quality, but ended up being perfectly acceptable and kind of timeless. I ’ve slowly started to open up to getting professional help. I dream of a pure, bright, bouncy sound and I feel that with each album, I get closer to that. It ’s important to keep yourself curious and not close up.
How did you feel when The Drums became a solo gig?
I started my journey of self-discovery. I spent a lot of time alone. I was so used to trying to keep everyone in the band happy, that I really forgot about myself. I was insecure and wanted their approval. I ’m a very different human now. I do what I want and I love myself. When they left, I was handed power — the power that was always inside me started to stir.
How would you describe Brutalism and what makes it different from Abysmal Thoughts?
I think my lyrics on Abysmal Thoughts were honest and often sad, but I was putting word-flowers around all of the lyrics then. With Brutalism, I wanted to lyrics to be brutal. Just very simple — I am sad. I don’t want to be alone. I am scared of all the people in the world. Maybe I can find peace. That idea excited me. It ’s a little more ornate in its instrumentation.
What was your general headspace while making this new album?
I had been really tormented by a relationship that I had invested so much into. I was trying to find a balance between letting myself grieve the loss and also walking towards something better. I started to look to myself for healing and growth — not other people.
What do you want people to take from your music?
My wish is that people would not just listen, but they would connect to what I am saying, and ultimately themselves. It ’s OK to be sad, scared, lonely or confused. You are not alone.
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January - February 2020