Now on Anti Records, fans are anticipating the release of The Drums fourth album, Abysmal Thoughts, out this June. The band just released “Blood Under My Belt”, the first excerpt of Abysmal Thoughts. We recently caught up with Jonny Pierce in Paris. Pierce made Abysmal Thoughts in one year and three months of home recording – with the same guitar, synth, drum machine and reverb processor that he has played since the beginning of The Drums.

You’re based in New York, right?

I’ve been in the city for almost a decade now. I’m from upstate though, two hours away from the Canadian border. When most people in the city talk about having a house upstate, they are usually talking only an hour or two from the city.

Two years ago I moved to Los Angeles while I was working on Abysmal Thoughts. I was loving New York, but needed to escape, my relationship started to fall apart.

Doesn’t living a city dampen creativity? I imagine that you would be overwhelmed by everything that is always happening.

For me, that chaos has a calming effect. I have a hard time sleeping to silence. The buzz of the city lulls me to sleep. It makes me feel like I’m the center of the universe.

Were you a bit too dark for L.A.?

L.A. seemed incredibly dark for me, it was a dark experience. I thought L.A. with all the sunshine would be great, but it made everything worse, it was just covering up our problems. Rather than dealing with our issues, we just ignored them. I ended up being alone in this big apartment in Los Angeles.

the drums photo by anna barr

L.A. can feel really deserted.

That relentless sun actually became a symbol of heaviness for me and despair. Every day was the same thing and reminded me of everything in my life that I needed to figure out. I felt more loss than I ever did in my life. I’ve had a pretty colorful life, but this was a new darkness that I never knew, at last, that’s great for songwriting! I was able to write some very personal, genuine songs which are an example of what I have always wanted to do. If I wasn’t in such a dark place mentally and spiritually, that rawness wouldn’t have made it into these songs. Eventually, enough was enough and I went to my cabin in upper state New York and finished the album there. The songs was L.A. are dark and from New York are healing and about forgiveness.

Sounds very therapeutic working on this album.

It was like a three year therapy session. I came out of it feeling rejuvenated. I dealt with a lot of loss. I lost my partner that I thought I would spend the rest of my life with and a month later Jacob Graham, who I started The Drums with, just randomly wrote me a note and said “I love you, but I don’t love this band, I don’t love being in it. I hate traveling, there’s so many other things I want to do and I only live once. Love, Jacob”.

It’s like the old saying “If you love them, you have to let them go”.

The issue of travel is a big one. You have to record then go promote your album, play gigs. Did you expect so much travel in music?

It’s the weirdest thing. Some time ago, someone decided that if you write a big song, you have to cash in on it. If you are a songwriter and you are putting yourself in a place like me as a front man of a band, you write a song that resonates with people and it doesn’t end there. You have to make music videos, go on tour, make merchandise, do interviews, have photos taken, constantly figuring out ways to stay relevant. There is all this competition. It is not as beautiful and poetic as giving your song to the world. It’s more like a hamster on a wheel, constantly having to prove yourself. And if you don’t do these things, you will fall through the cracks. That’s just the reality.

There is a lot of burn out.

I feel lucky to be releasing a fourth album. There are a lot of bands that burn out before that. I feel super grateful that there are so many people that still give a shit about my band and have stuck with me. It takes a lot to stay on top. I remember The Independent in London did an article on The Drums a few years back and said “The Drums, would be rock stars that failed on purpose.” The whole article was about how we didn’t give a fuck, that we were poised to be this big band and that we said no to everything.

Like the other day I was doing a photoshoot in Austin and the photographer said to me “Now scream! Like you are a grizzly bear. A big roar!”

Zoolander moment.

I was like “I’m actually not going to do that.” But, there are a lot of people who are willing to do whatever it takes. I rather have a career that has a loyal fan base, which I have, and quality music that speaks to me. It has to speak to me.