The Drums: “Good art typically emerges out of struggle”

We’ve all been there: had a bad break up, a friend who’s taken a different path, a period when life feels a bit sucky. As the last remaining member of The Drums, Jonny Pierce found the perfect outlet.

Jonny Pierce is one of indie rock’s great survivors. In 2008, The Drums were four fresh-faced dreamers from New York City with the world at their feet. Now, nine years on, Jonny is the sole survivor – but that’s okay. With new album ‘Abysmal Thoughts’, the spirit of The Drums runs stronger than ever.

“The last few years have been a real rollercoaster ride, really colourful,” begins Jonny from the sanctuary of his treasured New York apartment. “There have been some wonderful times, but mostly difficult times.” Some of these came from the abrupt departure of the band’s other founding member and Jonny’s childhood friend, Jacob Graham, as well as the emotional break up of a relationship.

Through adversity, though, came The Drums’ best record yet. Rather than wallow, Jonny was instead up for the challenge. “Good art typically emerges out of struggle. This was my shot to show the world what I’m made of left to my own devices. It’s a pretty scary thing, being the sole member of the band. It’s exciting to go for it and not have restrictions and not have to represent other people.”

It would’ve been easy for Jonny to consign The Drums’ name to history, but instead, this album sees him reclaiming the band as his vision and his passion. “I had always been the one writing and recording most of everything you’ve ever heard from The Drums. I felt like I’d be doing myself a disservice if I shelved the name and put out a solo record.”

"This was my shot to show the world what I'm made of."

‘Abysmal Thoughts’ is a sad album, but it’s also revelatory. For Jonny, it opened a whole new mindset. “I started to look inward, and the songs became more introspective,” he says. “This album turned out to be very therapeutic for me. On all the other albums, I felt like I was almost blaming other people for the problems in my life. This is me taking responsibility.”

“I don’t think I would’ve explored myself if Jacob was still around,” he continues. “You’re immersing yourself and searching your heart. It’s a blessing in disguise.”

‘Abysmal Thoughts’ came with a conscious desire to for Jonny to look at things a little bit differently. “I made the decision to be honest and open and make myself vulnerable,” he confesses. “I’ve had all these existential thoughts, and I’ve realised that the only thing that’s important is the human connection. That’s the thing that brings me joy.”

Despite all the upheaval and uncertainty in the world right now, ‘Abysmal Thoughts’ isn’t a record driven by the sort of social activism in which Johnny is a prominent voice. “It was very much a ‘me me me’ album,” he laughs. “I was focusing on myself and trying to figure out who I was.”

Perhaps the band disintegrating allowed Jonny to feel re-energised and The Drums’ perfect indie pop to fully blossom. Describing their last album ‘Encyclopaedia’, Jonny paints a picture of apathy. “I was pretty comfortable, and life felt mundane, so I was just going through the motions.” Things now couldn’t be more different. “Suddenly my entire world is turned upside down.”

The effect of ‘Abysmal Thoughts’ and coming through all the dark times and all the doubt and despair has had a profound impact on Jonny. “For me it’s huge, it’s life changing,” he beams. “So many doubts have just fallen away. I’m craving making more music. I’m still in the spirit of being creative.”

A big part of his creative reawakening came from moving back to New York following a hard break up in LA. “I felt very alone so I returned to New York City and I sought some professional help and started a new phase of self-exploration,” he explains. Life was still full of doubts and uncertainty though. “When I was a little kid I would look at adults and think it’s going to be so nice to understand everything when I’m older. Now I’m like, why? Everything is a total mindfuck if you think about it for long enough.”

Through exploring himself and everything about The Drums, the songs on the album easily took shape. It’s one Jonny felt compelled to make. Through finding himself, he has set a new promising future. “This album showed itself to me. The art is pushing itself along, and you’re just going along for the ride.”

Taken from the July issue of Dork, out now. The Drums’ album ‘Abysmal Thoughts’ is out 16th June.