New York based four piece, Drowners have been in the UK touring around the country this week with SKATERS, before heading back to the US later this week for a slew of headline and support slots and to play SXSW. Drowners dropped their début LP in January and to say it’s a work of art is an understatement, with their glistening, jangly indie pop, laden in post-punk lushness, they are definitely the coolest band out around at the moment.
I caught up with the band in Manchester before their show at The Deaf Institute on Tuesday 4th March to discuss everything from living in New York, song lyrics, Fred Macpherson and much, much more.
Firstly, I’d like to say thanks for this interview. What’s one thing that we should all know about Drowners that we might not know about you already?
Matt (lead vocals, guitar): Everyone knows too much.
Jack (lead guitar): Everyone needs to know less.
Matt: I’m a Gemini
Jack: I’m a Scorpio
Erik (bass): Scorpio
Joe (drums): I’m a Sagittarius
You were featured on the list of Bitter Sweet Symphonies ones to watch in 2014, you’ve also graced many other blog and music sites ‘biggest breakouts of 2014’ lists. How does that make you feel being tipped as one of the big breakouts of 2014?
Matt: Don’t like them referring to my complexion in that way too much [laughs]. No, it’s cool, it’s awesome. I think the first was like last year and it was like TIME magazine and then we were like what the fuck? It’s cool, it’s good.
Jack: It’s good.
The majority of your songs are all under or around the 3 minute mark in length. Is this a conscious decision of yours when producing the tracks or is it just a random coincidence?
Matt: I think it’s just a consequence of wanting to play really fast, so it just came out short because it’s fast.
Do you feel like living in New York has had any influence on your sound as a band?
Jack: No. [laughs] Just kidding. Loads.
Matt: Yeah, it’s probably the number one influence on the sound of the band. As Erik said earlier on today, the urgency of living there, I think is reflected in speed and all that shit.
Jack: Yeah, it definitely felt like in other bands I’ve played in back on the West Coast, I thought way too much about everything and then some reason you get to New York and there’s not a lot of time to do it, so you kinda bang it out.
I’m always fascinated by song lyrics and phrases, your band are particularly good at writing the perfect lyric. So I wanted to ask, what’s your favourite lyric that you’ve written?
Matt: My favourite is “does he teach you things that you’d never do for me?” that’s my favourite one. Paranoid about some girl you fancy getting off with someone else.
Fred Macpherson (Spector) makes a little cameo in the Long Hair music video.
Matt: Yes, he does.
How did that come about?
Matt: He just happened to be on holiday in New York at the time and we saw him on street. Actually weirdly, Spector made a music video for Friday Night…
Erik: And I met them that night before
Matt: And Fred was like ‘Oh, you should come along to the video thing’ and I was like ‘hang on, what did you say the address was?’ and it turned out to be filmed in Erik’s apartment totally coincidently.
Erik: It was one of my roommates set it up and I met them at one of our first gigs…
Matt: Yeah, Fred was there I think. Actually I think it was filmed around the same time [as Long Hair, Spector’s Friday Night music video].
Erik: Yeah it was like within a week, I think.
Matt: We went round Erik’s and he just happened to be there.
You’ve just been supporting Cage the Elephant in Europe and completed a slew of headline dates, in support of your début album, heading to places like London, Paris, Berlin and the US. How did those shows go? Any highlights in particularly that you could share with us?
Matt: The record release one at Bowery Ballroom was a highlight because it ended up selling out which we didn’t think would happen and then all the Cage the Elephant gigs were awesome because I’m not ashamed to say I fell in love on that tour with Cage the Elephant.
Jack: As did I.
It’s a great new album.
Matt: It is yeah, it’s good. I actually just noticed that they started following me and Jack on instagram.
Jack: Yeah that would be the highlight of the tour so far is my first man on man kiss with Cage the Elephant.
Matt: Yeah that was a highlight.
Jack: All the shows have been fun though.
You’re nearing the end of the tour with SKATERS already. How’s it been going so far, any places that have stood out? Do you spend a lot of time with SKATERS seen as your good friends with them?
Matt: Well, we see them at the venues, at the gigs and afterwards. So yeah. We probably spend more time with them in New York than we have on this tour because of the driving. Highlights, we did like two gigs in one night, Leeds and then we drove down to Hull to play. Joe’s hometown and yeah it was good. They’ve all been fucking really good. I feel like from what people have said they’ve been like waiting, some people, not everybody, not like Heathrow airport shut down or anything. Like a lot of people have been waiting to see us play live cause I guess we should have come over earlier but it never happened. So I think they’ve all been good cause we’ve finally finished that swim across the Atlantic.
Jack: Just happy to be here. Happy to not be in New York right now.
Matt: It’s cold there.
Yeah, I went in April a few years back.
Matt: Yeah that’s quite a good month to go.
It was just getting warmer, they just had the warmest day of the year, so that was good.
Matt: Oh really? My favourite weather is when you can just wear a t-shirt and a jacket.
Jack: Leather weather.
Matt: Leather weather. Yeah [laughs]
Do have any pre-show rituals?
Joe: Hugs are nice
Matt: Yeah, we hug each other.
Jack: Sometimes there’s a shot.
Matt: Tequila and hugging.
You’ve been added to the SXSW and Coachella line up this year, congrats on that by the way.
Matt: Thank you very much.
Do you approach playing a festival differently to playing a gig, knowing that some of the audience may be seeing you for the first time and just being introduced to you?
Matt: Well, we’ve only done one festival so far and we just tried not to be sick during that one because we were pretty nervous. I don’t think so, maybe just play. Did I just say soo? [accent joke – you had to be there]. Nah, I think we kinda approach all of them the same because you know like half the people in New York didn’t know who we were when we were playing.
Jack: I still assume that nobody knows who we are, so every time someone comes out it’s still exciting for me. Like ‘Holy shit, they know the words!’.
We’re big supporters of new music here at Bitter Sweet Symphonies. Having said that, are there any new artists that have caught your attention recently that you’d like to share with us?
Matt: Wet from Brooklyn.
Ahh yeah, I’ve heard them. They are playing The Great Escape.
Matt: Are they? That is fucking brilliant news. So are we. Who else? Dirty Fences from New York.
Matt: Oh yeah, Honey from London. They opened for us at The Old Blue [Last]. They’re really good.
Do you have any tips for new bands starting out, any advice that you could give them?
Jack: For new bands? I’ll let you know when we’re not one.
Matt: Yeah, I don’t feel qualified to give advice. Having said that I’m glad you asked. Just keep writing songs and playing gigs.
Jack: Have fun, if you’re not having fun, then don’t do it.
What do you hope to achieve this year with the band and how’s 2014 been treating you so far?
Matt: So far, so good.
Erik: We can hope to not file bankruptcy.
Jack: It’s going great so far, but I’d like to not have a real job anymore.
Matt: Yeah that would be ideal.
Jack: Fingers crossed.
A special thanks to Drowners for this interview and for more info on the band, check out the following links below.