The project of singer/songwriter Jonny Pierce, the Drums began as purveyors of innocent-sounding indie pop, but grew more eclectic -- and personal -- as the years passed. The mix of Factory Records-style indie and '50s surf inspirations on their 2009 debut single, "Let's Go Surfing," and their self-titled debut album made them one of the most buzzed-about indie bands on music blogs at the dawn of the 2010s. By the time of 2014's unpredictable Encyclopedia, however, Pierce and company dabbled in cathartic rock and experimental electronics. When Pierce became the band's lone member on 2017's Abysmal Thoughts, his confessional songwriting -- which continued on 2019's Brutalism -- made it one of the Drums' most heartfelt albums.
While growing up in a religious family in upstate New York during the '90s, Pierce wrote songs in his bedroom on a keyboard given to him by his father. At Bible camp, he found a kindred spirit in Jacob Graham, and the pair bonded over their love for electronic acts like Kraftwerk and Wendy Carlos. When they were teens, they formed the electro-pop duo Goat Explosion. After the band split, Graham formed the indie pop group Horse Shoes. Pierce and another friend, Adam Kessler, founded the synth pop outfit Elkland, a project inspired by one of Pierce's favorite acts, Joy Electric. Eventually, Elkland signed to Columbia Records and issued the album Golden in 2005. However, it failed to make an impression and Pierce took a hiatus from making music.
In 2008, Graham and Pierce reconnected and began writing songs together, trading the electronic direction of their earlier collaboration for a guitar-based approach inspired by classic pop and indie bands ranging from the Shangri-Las and Beach Boys to the Wake, the Smiths, and Orange Juice. In the meantime, Horse Shoes released their sole EP, 2009's The Imperial School, on Shelflife. That year, Pierce and Graham moved from central Florida to New York City, where Kessler became their second guitarist and former Cape of No Hope drummer Connor Hanwick completed the Drums' lineup. The band's debut EP, Summertime!, appeared on Moshi Moshi in late 2009. It featured the single "Let's Go Surfing," which entered the U.K. Singles Chart at 107 and peaked at 63 when it was reissued a year later. The Drums' self-titled debut album was released in the U.K. in the first half of 2010 and arrived in the States later in the year.
During the Drums' first U.S. tour, Kessler left the group and was replaced by Tom Haslow. Recruiting Violens' Chris Stein and Myles Matheny as members of their touring act, the band released the darker, keyboard-heavy Portamento in September 2011. Following the band's tour in support of the album, Hanwick left the Drums. Pierce and Graham took time to regroup, each announcing solo projects. Pierce issued the electro-pop solo single "I Didn't Realise" late in 2012, while Graham formed the dreamy synth outfit Cascading Slopes. They reunited in a lakeside cabin in upstate New York to record 2014's Encyclopedia, which ranged from spiky rock to synth pop.
After the end of his marriage, Pierce took some time away from music and relocated to Los Angeles. Meanwhile, Graham left the Drums in 2016 to focus on his puppetry career and his band Sound of Ceres. With his departure, the Drums essentially became Pierce's solo project. He wrote and played everything on Abysmal Thoughts, a deceptively heartbroken set of songs that Anti- Records released in June 2017. The following year, Pierce delivered the charity single "Meet Me in Mexico," which benefited organizations providing relief from the 2018 Oaxaca earthquake. For the Drums' fifth album, Pierce continued the confessional songwriting of Abysmal Thoughts but worked with several collaborators to craft its sleek synth pop. Mixed by Chris Coady, Brutalism appeared on Anti- in April 2019. ~ Heather Phares & Marcy Donelson~ Rovi