The Encyclopedic lives of The Drums

The Drums are an interesting band for reasons other than their quality releases. They formed after playing in earlier bands like Elkland and Goat Explosion, and have experienced all the trials and tribulations of the music industry, from changing record labels, recording an album unsigned and losing a founding member, leaving the band’s existence up in the air. Now, after releasing their third record Encyclopedia, The Drums’ co-founder Jacob Graham talked to Kyle Butcher about touring Australia, releasing a new album and how they sing Happy Birthday (kind of) on stage every night.

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It’s been three years since The Drums’ last album, and when they entered the studio this time around, third founding member Connor Hanwick was missing. Jacob reflected on how the absence affected the now two-piece.

“Things weren’t vastly different in the studio because Jonny and I always did more of the studio work anyway. One of the big differences was that we wanted to spend as much time as we did on it – a very deliberate decision, because pretty much everything we released before Encyclopedia was really rushed, because the label wanted everything really quickly. But with Encyclopaedia we didn’t even tell anyone we were recording. We did it in secret and spent as much time on it as we could. It’s probably a little bit more electronic because I work really slow, and Jonny works a little faster than I do, and I do the electronic stuff. Just because of the amount of time I was able to do more than I usually do. During that period it was a whole new ballgame because we finished that record and we kinda went looking for a record label that wanted to release it.”

Before recording Encyclopedia, the two remaining members had started their own solo endeavours. When the idea to regroup and record Encyclopedia came about, their solo careers were put on ice and a few tracks were salvaged from their solo work for their third album.

“Two of the tracks on Encyclopedia were from Jonny’s solo work,” Jason said. “And the last track of the album was from my solo record. The reviews for the album are very polarized, they either love it or hate it. It’s strange because all of the reviews I read from our first two albums that had negative points were usually saying that it all sounded a little too similar, and back then we took that as a compliment because we really wanted to have this consistent sound.”

“When we started recording Encyclopedia we decided that we had been consistent up until that point and so we could start being a little bit more adventurous. We wanted each song to be different, for them to have their own style in a way, and so now the negative reviews we’re reading are saying that the album is all over the place. I guess the lesson is that you can’t please everyone.”

The Drums never really stopped touring, and of course in this tour they’ll be adding new tracks off their latest record to their set-lists. Jacob shares some strong feelings towards certain tracks.

“We like playing US National Park off Encyclopedia the most, and it’s probably for all the wrong reasons,” he said. “We’re playing something from every release on this tour, and a lot of it is upbeat stuff, like Money and Kiss Me Again, and US National Park is this really great little lull in the set and it’s like a precious little lullaby and we like playing that.”

“Some of the older songs we’re putting into the set, like the tracks from our Summertime! EP, are okay but they’re so old we feel removed from them. I always say it’s akin to singing happy birthday to someone. It’s nice to sing it and everyone likes to hear it, but there’s not alot of life left in it.”

The Drums have been exposed to events that many bands would die for. The Smiths and Boy George turned up to their first English show, which completely blew them away. Described by Jacob as “strange and very surreal”, the experience was incredible for The Drums, as they are massive fans of The Smiths and the bands that signed to Factory Records. Jacob believes that these bands helped create The Drums’ distinct sound. While no guarantees can be made for A-Grade musician appearances at The Drums’ Australian tour, it is certain that the shows will be stellar.

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The Drums play The Hi-Fi, Brisbane, 29 November

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