Thursday June 20, 2013
Entertaining performance by The Drums at Green Room party
By JASON CHEAH
The Drums gave the indie genre a massive boost at the Green Room party last weekend.
It was close to midnight at the Heineken Green Room party last Saturday in the heart of Kuala Lumpur and New York-based indie outfit The Drums’ headlining set was coming to a close. There was a glow coming from the crowd – not so much the house lights – but rather from the feelgood vibe on the dancefloor after the masses watched one of the most endearing sets played at KL Live in recent times.
The Drums, which flew in from the Big Apple only the day before, showed no signs of jetlag as it carried the audience through a memorable gig. The tunes, filled with themes of pain, longing, awkward first kisses and sad goodbyes, were not exactly the loudest bangers compared to KL Live’s reputation as a dance and heavy rock venue.
But The Drums’ brand of indie rock held its own last weekend – and the crowd simply loved each and every minute of it. The crowd-pleasing setlist included favourites like Days, Let’s Go Surfing, Money, I Need A Doctor and Down By The Water, which brought the smiles and singalongs.
With heart-tugging lyrics and inspiration from vintage 1980s British indie bands, there was no denying The Drums made for a daring headlining act for the Green Room series. This was a gig to rival the explosive The Gossip show in 2011.
Emerging from Brooklyn via Florida in 2009, after various spells in different incarnations, the two founding members of The Drums – Jonathan Pierce and Jacob Graham – initially caught the ear of the indie world with the Summertime! EP, an escapist collection of beach pop fantasies.
From the “innocence” of its debut EP to the upbeat pop and darker introspective side of the band on its self-titled debut (2010), to the even darker sophomore album Portamento (2011), the band sidestepped the pitfalls of a slump by recording its music quickly. The duo self produced and often laid down tracks spontaneously in singer-songwriter Pierce’s kitchen.
Released just 14 months after its debut, Portamento revealed a band tugging lightly at the boundaries of its sound while still retaining its recognisable sonic signatures.
Certainly Malaysian fans sort of already knew this, judging by the easy rapport they had with the band.
“I think a big part of what made Portamento a darker record was, I think, mine and Jacob’s friendship, which has always been sort of at the cornerstone of our band,” said Pierce during a press meet in Kuala Lumpur the evening before the concert.
“We met when we were just young kids and we’ve always been creative together. As close as we thought we were, we didn’t imagine how truly close you become and how much time you spend with someone when you’re on the road for two years solid at the time. And I think we both kinda saw things that we didn’t like in each other and also things that we love in each other,” he added.
It’s almost akin to a marriage, according to Pierce, comparing it to being with someone all the time and sharing every experience with them.
“A lot of good can sometimes come out of that, but a lot of not so good too. I think our friendship and our working relationship will probably be forever changed because of that.
“We welcome the sadness and I think we’re really thankful for having shared this because without those experiences it’s hard to write meaningful songs. We always have our arms wide open to hardships and struggles because we kind of embrace that anyway.”
Friendship may be one thing that influences the band’s music, but since its formative years, there had always been something about British subcultures that attracted both Pierce and Graham, something in the British indie scene that tapped into music that they couldn’t really find anywhere else.
“Definitely there is a sensitivity in British indie music of the 1980s and the 90s you didn’t find in the US,” said keyboardist Graham.
Pierce added: “The US was, when we were growing up, very concerned with being masculine and tough and even indie music was very hard, so you discover the British bands aren’t concerned about that at all. We’ve always loved the sound and we can connect to it.”
“It’s refreshing to hear music that’s done by grown men who aren’t afraid to show their sensitivity or some weakness or some frailty, we always found that refreshing and we’re drawn to that.”
Perhaps this sums up the identity of The Drums, as Graham continued: “With so many songs from when we were teenagers that were so important to us, and so special to us, that’s always sort of been our goal to write those songs. Don’t write a song just because it sounds interesting. There’re a lot of songs that have like a little hook that happens and that’s all there is to a song. We like our songs to be about something.”
“We care about every little detail, we’re really concerned about our lives and what goes on in them,” added Pierce. “We’re firm believers in being really honest while writing a song. It’s a great time stamp just for ourselves to say how we’re feeling and put it down in a song and it’s forever there.
“Just selfishly, we can look back and remember that time and I think it only improves your live shows as well when you’re really feeling the words rather than thinking that ‘I know this is a cool phrase to say so let’s put this in’,” he maintained.
Judging by the screaming fans and crowd-surfing antics stageside, The Drums definitely charmed its way into the hearts of the masses.