Interview: Jacob Graham Of The Drums

By Will Oliver, September 20th 2014 Interview Listen Stream

The Drums Jacbo Graham

The Drums are back. Next week they release their new album Encyclopedia, and tonight they play a sold out show at Bowery Ballroom (they also played a sold out Music Hall of Williamsburg on Tuesday). I’ll be covering the show tonight and am terribly excited to see these guys, as always.

I recently spoke to the band’s Jacob Graham online in an interview where we discussed the new album, the current state of the band, and much, much more.

Find our conversation posted below:

Will: The release of Encyclopedia marks a new era for The Drums. Now it’s back to the original partnership between you two. Can you talk about the significance of the band being just you guys, and how it impacted the making of the record?

Jacbo: Sure. I’d say we felt a lot of freedom in the recording process this time around. Because it was just the two of us, but also because we didn’t have a record label looking over our shoulder. Not that any of the labels we’ve ever worked with in the past tried to tame us, but, you know, there’s just some sort of pressure in the air when they know you’re making a record. We made Encyclopedia in secret, and I think it shows!

W: Why the title Encyclopedia? Where did the title come into play for you, and is there a specific meaning behind it?

J: We didn’t come up with the title until the record was almost finished. When we were nearing the end we were just trying to think of a fitting title and Encyclopedia ticked every box. We thought it was just a lovely word, but we short of view this album as an encyclopedia of all the different sounds, styles and moods that make up The Drums… or perhaps the future of The Drums?

W: The album marks a shift in sound for the band, almost like a rebirth. I found it to be a bit of a grower, working its magic on me over repeated listens. This differed from your previous records (especially the debut), where it was a bit more instantly gratifying in a pop sense. Is this a conscious thing as your recording, or do you just let it all happen naturally?

J: I think a little of both. We love pop songs that are very immediate, but also love an album you can really sink your teeth into. I think we sort of felt like we’d done the former so much that we wanted more of the latter.

W: While listening to the record, I found that some songs I can sense as being more of yours, and other’s more of Jonnys. What was the songwriting process like between the two of you. Was it easier or harder now that it’s just you two instead of a larger team?

It’s certainly easier, because we always know what the other is thinking. But it still isn’t easy! Making a record is like pulling teeth for us. When we started recording we got together quite a bit because we wanted to start with a somewhat cohesive sound, get on the same page and all that. But towards the end we sort of went of on our own a bit more. We wanted the record to have a lot of verity, lots of interesting twists and turns.

W: What helped influence the record? Any specific artists, records, films or art? What were you guys listening to when making the album?

J: There’s not a lot I can specifically say that influenced this record. When we make a record, and this one especially, we try to just close our eyes and imagine what that record would sound like, had it already been finished in some alternate universe. But I was also listening to a bit of Tomita, who’s certainly my biggest synthesizer influence, and also a lot of old Disney soundtracks, which maybe had something to do with all the little trills and sparkles I like to throw around. But really we’re more influenced by the idea of things. There were times when we were making this record that I thought “Maybe this sort of sounds like Primal Scream?”, but I’ve never heard a Primal Scream record in my life, it’s the mystery that excites me.

W: Currently your live lineup includes Danny Lee Allen, Johnny Eries, and Rene Perez. Would you ever considering adding them or any others to the band full time (creatively) or are you guys most comfortable as a duo at this point?

J: Yeah, I think we’re just too specific about everything to try to add anyone again. We really enjoyed our freedom making this record and I think it will usher in a new exciting era of Drums records. We love those guys that play with us live, we’d never want to put them through the torture that is making a Drums record.

W: “Wild Geese” has turned into one of my favorite tracks of yours. It was originally including on your album as Cascading Slopes. What made you guys want to use it for the new album and change it up a bit?

J: Well, Jonny just called me one day out of the blue, he’d just heard the song. He said all sorts of very flattering things and asked if we could redo it for Encyclopedia. I initially said no. I think I was sort of afraid to put that song out into the world on such a grand scale. The lyrics are probably the most personal I’ve ever written, and I only ever expected for the very small fan base of Cascading Slopes to hear them. But the more I thought about it the more it seems like it could be a great end for this record so we did it.

W: What does the future hold for Cascading Slopes?

J:I’m not sure exactly, but I definitely want to do another record. It’s really just my outlet to make purely synthesizer music, and I know I’ll always need that. But these things take time!

W: Jonny released a single last year but ultimately put his solo album on hold. Did any songs from that end up on Encyclopedia?

J: Two of the songs from Jonny’s solo album ended up on Encylopedia: Kiss Me Again and Deep in My Heart. I don’t know if he’ll ever release it. But If he ever does, since we swiped those two songs, it might be a solo EP!

W: A lot has changed for you guys over the years, from the members of the band, to your record label and a sound that seems to continuously evolve. You guys have fought through quite a bit of adversity over the years. Did you ever considering calling it quits, and if so, what stopped you?

J: Oh sure. I think we still wonder why we’re still doing this! But at the end of the day, Jonny and I like working together, and we like making music. I think if it weren’t a challenge — if there were no adversity — that’s when we’d actually get bored and quit.

W: What can fans expect out of the upcoming fall tour?

J: We’ll be playing songs from the new record, of course, but also some of our old hits. Plus, we have a wonderful new lighting person and a new guitarist, Rene Perez, who actually played synthesizers for a few live shows with Cascading Slopes over the last year. I think, despite (or perhaps because of) the turmoil with the band over the past few years, we’re more in-synch with one another than ever. Hopefully our fans will agree!

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