The Drums ignore critics to return with new release

The Drums
The Drums
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THE most Marmite-y of bands, Brooklyn-via-Florida outfit The Drums, with their brand of surf-pop meets The Smiths, split opinion when they burst on to the scene with their self-titled debut album a couple of years ago.

To some, they seemed like the most contagiously energetic New York City band of the past ten years. To others, they were little more than image-orientated lightweights.

A second album in 14 months hasn’t silenced the naysayers any, but frontman Jonathan Pierce insists that the band couldn’t care less.

“As soon as you start caring what one person has to say, all of a sudden you start caring what the person next to that person has to say,” he says. “No-one can please everyone. If you cater to one person, there’s always going to be another person who hates how you did that.

“You have to just focus on what is going to be important to you and what you can do to make sure that you don’t have a big list of regrets in 20 years.”

Like The Strokes and The Killers before them, The Drums made the breakthrough in the UK long before the United States caught on – and for this reason the band will feel as if they are “returning to a second home” as they prepare to visit the HMV Picture House on Sunday.

“This is where things really happened for us and people really responded to us in a great way,” says Pierce. “It’s funny, though, when it happened everyone back home said ‘They love you now, but just wait until the second album’. The British press have a reputation for loving a band then turning on them.”

As it turned out, the majority of press critics gave The Drums’ recent second album Portamento the thumbs-up, but that didn’t stop others from wading in with their tuppence worth. Manic Street Preachers bassist Nicky Wire, for one, went as far as to call their music “soulless”.

Again, Pierce insists that his band couldn’t give a hoot.

“I wasn’t aware of him at the time, but I looked him and his band up and, to be honest, I wasn’t into their music at all, not a single thing they’ve put out, and they’ve released a lot of stuff,” he says. “That makes it harder to care when they criticise you.

“As for the content of our songs, we always said we wanted to make music that was quite visual and stylised. We try and make our songs like scenes from a film. We’ve always been outspoken about that, it’s what we’ve always done.”

Among the litany of rock cliches, the “difficult” second album stands out as one of the most enduring, but The Drums feel they sidestepped the pitfalls by recording Portamento quickly – and again self-producing.

“I produced, engineered and mixed this album,” says Pierce. “We didn’t have any outside help at all, aside from sending it out for mastering when it was all done. I feel it’s the purest form of delivery possible.

“Literally, it’s going from my kitchen into somebody’s iPod. That’s a rare thing for a band, especially one that’s signed to a major label. We didn’t even tell our label that we were starting our record, we just did it in secret.”

The record’s title is a 17th-century Italian term that denotes a vocal slide between two pitches. But for Pierce, it takes on an additional, personal meaning.

“Portamento dictates the travel time from one note to another, and we have always thought it was a beautiful word,” he says. “It seems to come in to play with how we have transitioned in the last year – losing a guitarist [Adam Kessler quit last year], reforming the band, our personal lives, and the actual sound of the album travelling from one thing to the next.”

The Drums, HMV Picture House, Lothian Road, Sunday, 7pm, £13.50, 0844-847 1740