Cultural yearnings 


The Drums
;with Surfer Blood, the Young Friends
;8 p.m. Friday, Sept. 17
;The Social, 407-246-1419
;www.thesocial.org
;$15-$17

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Jonathan Pierce, the charismatic yet  understated 26-year-old frontman for the Drums, doesn’t measure the success of a pop song by its commitment to classic chord changes. Instead, he goes by how quickly it can make you feel like a teenager in the ’90s wishing you were in the ’80s. By that standard, the Drums’ self-titled debut album, released last spring, is an ;unparalleled triumph.

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“I realized that after writing most of the album, I was writing the songs and imagining myself 10 years younger in all these situations,” says Pierce from a hotel in Helsinki, Finland, waiting to play in front of 50,000 people at the annual Flow Festival. “Like that song, ‘Best Friend.’ I was imagining myself 10 years younger than I actually was and didn’t take note that I was sort of writing this album as a teenager, even though I wasn’t a teenager.”

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Even the band’s name is intended to evoke, as Pierce put it in an interview with Huck Magazine, “a faux history. It feels like ‘the Drums’ is a band that’s been around for 20 years.” 

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“I’ve never really been drawn to a specific era so much as I’ve been drawn to specific songs, and a lot of the greatest songs I’ve ever heard and that have influenced me just so happen to have been written in the ’80s,” says Pierce. “I’m not really sure why that is, but there were some incredible bands then and some incredible songs. There was a lot of awful music as well, but also some really great moments in pop music. I mean, obviously, bands like the Smiths,” whose influence can be heard throughout the Drums’ entire oeuvre.

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As bloggers race to roll their eyes at genres like chillwave for trading in second-hand nostalgia for warped New Order cassettes, his sincere sense of duty to the good ol’ days – real or imagined – kind of makes Pierce (who some have noted bears a resemblance to Ralph Macchio’s Karate Kid nemesis William Zabka), come across as a sentimental badass.

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“There’s a tried-and-true recipe for a pop song, but what makes a great pop song is a nostalgic feeling and classic pop sincerity,” says Pierce. “I think people want to feel comforted with nostalgia, whether they want to admit it or not – whatever gives them that feeling. I think that’s why I’m drawn to writing pop songs that have that nostalgic feeling and this whole thing of your youth. That’s what I do.”

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Although based in Brooklyn, the Drums are riotously big in Europe, where they’ve charmed the pants off a notoriously antagonistic British press that recognizes recycled new wave when it sees it. Part of that reception is due to the album’s irresistible first track, “Best Friend,” and the incredibly poppy “Let’s Go Surfing” – which includes in its bridge the root of ’80s playground anthem “Down Down, Baby.”

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Watching hipsters flash gang signs with eBay-purchased Power Gloves may no longer get them back to what Pierce calls “those moments you wish would never end.” But people want to get back there, and the Drums can take them. There’s nothing wrong with that, says Pierce.

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“We have a friend who flew to Helsinki to hang out with us and we were talking and he said, ‘Escapism is awful,’ and I thought he was just crazy,” says Pierce. “Why should we spend our lives worried [about] reality? I’d rather live a delusional, overly romantic life instead of what was dealt me. That’s why the songs are a bit dramatic and ;romanticized.”

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“Speaking of Helsinki,” I tell him, “I used to have a Helsinki sweater. I wore it all the time in 5th grade.” At this point, another lead singer might have asked his publicist to step in and redirect the conversation back to the album, or how the tour is going – back to plans for the future. Pierce, on the other hand, seems genuinely interested in the sweater.

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“Oh man,” he says with complete enthusiasm, “there you go. Old sweaters are nostalgic to begin with.” 

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music@orlandoweekly.com

;; music@orlandoweekly.com

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