By Safiya Hopfe
VANCOUVER – The Drums’ beach-bum sound is classic. The success of Portamento in 2011 secured them as masters of blending the modern and the nostalgic, the synthy and the surfy, the freshness of the Beach Boys with the grime of the Kinks. Now they return — or, rather, Jonny Pierce does — as the last man standing of the seven-year-old project with something distinctly edgy. A sometimes cacophonic landscape of angst and self realization, Abysmal Thoughts is Pierce’s emergence as a fully individual artist.
Then again, Pierce states that The Drums have always been a sort of solo project for him, he was just never vocal about it until now. Although the transition after bandmate Jacob Graham’s departure was somewhat of a relief to Pierce, creatively speaking, the album illustrates anything but constancy and serenity. In Pierce’s words, the album is about searching for hope and mostly coming up empty.
“I had just come out of a serious relationship, that I thought was going to last forever. It crushed me that it fell apart and I found myself spinning out of control,” he says. “So yeah, I guess the album is in a sense about longing. Longing to feel a sense of hope again. Longing to know who I am and what I want. It’s very introspective when you compare it to my past works. When Jacob left the band, I started to feel a small but subtle strength start to rise in me. I felt like I needed to make a new album and that his leaving was not a burden, but rather a gift. This was my chance to find my voice and make it known. It was a huge opportunity and I sunk my teeth into it.”
As the title teases at, Abysmal Thoughts is a wild cocktail of existential anxiety and self-navigation. “Head of the Horse,” for one, addresses the tumultuous story of Pierce coming out to an unaccepting father. Pierce openly states overall that the childhood trauma he has dealt with and watched bleed into his adult life helped make the album what it is. But the record isn’t meant to be tragic per say, or depict a fractured and unsalvageable reality. Pierce breaks down the worldview from which Abysmal Thoughts grew.
“I guess I just always come back to the ‘what’s the point of it all?’ question. I mean, we all came from single-celled organisms. There was a time where we had fins and gills and we lived underwater. Through variations or defects in nature over the course of of billions of years, we have evolved into the humans that we are now. To not believe in a divine creator is courageous. It takes strength to admit that we are just these primal animals at the end of the day. We breathe, eat, fuck and die. That can be really scary. However, more and more I find that it makes me feel more at peace. Here is why: while the whole world is spinning out of control and everyone is fighting to get to the ‘top,’ I can sit back and know that, yeah, Father John Misty might end up ruling the world, but at the end of the day he and I are both gonna die and turn to dust.”
In other words, the tragedy of life cancels itself out. More than anything, ironically embracing all that is futile and melancholy is the essence of what Pierce has spent this pivotal time cooking up. Abysmal Thoughts is colourful not despite but because of its grim atmosphere, and its maker is more than ready to share it with the world.
The Drums perform July 18 at Venue (Vancouver)The Drums, Venue Nightclub