Teenager-hood is a struggle. Like so many others in those formative ages, I yearned for music to be an easy outlet for self-expression, whilst simultaneously being held back in fear of others’ judgements of what I considered to represent me as a person. I tried to get into what others liked; grime was blossoming, drum and bass ruled. Dance music - ridiculed by the ‘cool’ kid at school for not having any lyrics - I repressed, and adhered to believing it was a “brainless genre” to like. I did manage to find something popular though, my textbook answer for the archaic question of “what music do you like” … “dubstep”. It was cool and it was underground, and I was happily forming the image of myself which I believed I should create. And though this should not do an injustice to my actual love for dubstep, as years pass to eventually reach adulthood and we share the stories of songs with which consoled our teenage heartbreak, I do not talk about getting my anger out moshing to Ginger Pubes by Cookie Monster. I talk about doing a Morrissey Shuffle around my room to The Drums.
An American post-punk/indie-pop band founded in 2008, The Drums obviously spoke to a six foot, mixed-race, dubstep loving, WWE reenacting, South London Gooner… obviously? They innocuously pattered into my existence one morning when flicking onto MTV and I Felt Stupid appeared. Instantly I was infatuated. There I was stood, adorning a slight drooped open mouthed, squinted eyes, and a pain stricken shake of my crucible as lead singer Johnny Pierce admits that he “felt so stupid” when staring at the girl of his fancy. Singing “I felt so silly because you couldn’t see me,” it mimicked my life with the beau of my young heart, a sort of crazed love confusion that he can’t tell if it’s “right or wrong,” or even cares if it is right or wrong to feel that way. His admissions of stupidity, confusion and sly derangement mirrored the hormonal teenage feelings conjured up behind my shield of a manly persona. The Drums didn’t fit the picture that I thought I needed to create of myself but they helped me abandon those thoughts, carrying me through the depressive times of my earlier years.
I Felt Stupid is on Summertime EP, and it’s the narrative of a summertime fling threaded through all seven songs which made the record so relevant to the actions of my teenage life. Girl meets boy, and boy gets girl to join him on an escapade in Let’s Go Surfing. It’s successful venture, as Pierce depicts himself as a joyous pack leader in order to win her over with both energy and nonchalance - “c’mon, I wanna go surfing, oh c’mon, I don’t care about nothing.” Their relationship develops in Make You Mine, before encountering the clash of hurtful and caring actions from teenage hormones, where lust and desire race through your body rather than love, so easily said yet so difficult to mean. As boy knows he’s harming the relationship purposefully, Submarine reminisces on the believed love that they had - “but that was yesterday, that was not today” - and so they split. Boy recounts so sincerely all that he’d still do for girl in Down by the Water he has to admit after that it is the Saddest Summer. Thus starts the cycle again, now returned to school, college, or whatever institution you’re enrolled in, you see another that girl doesn’t see you and I Felt So Stupid completes the perplexing summertime cycle.
As much as the simplicity of their lyrics spoke to my own emotion, there was a certain charm to the quirky and elating guitar riffs, accompanied by their trademark jumpy drum pattern. The Drums were stereotypical and textbook teenage angst, and conveyed this in unsubtle and often uncool ways, but it was teenage angst that I had, and it was this which spoke to me the most. Pierce painted this picture of losers and that was me. Through Summertime EP I could accept and admit that I could be sad, angry, happy, hurtful, stupid, and loving without there having to be meaning, opinion, or motive. It was just pure adolescence: the normality of being human. As I reflect, I spend over £50 on Discogs purchasing the Summertime CD, plus the wax versions of I Felt Stupid/Down By The Water and their self titled first album, and it feels like a necessity. When I look back on my teen years I see all the misty self-induced trouble floated away by The Drums. They had the beat of my heart and the workings of my mind, they allowed logic and reason to fester where it would otherwise be lost. I understood a lot more because of The Drums, and now, as I sit here having a debut listen to their new album Abysmal Thoughts, I don’t find a need to find empathy in their lyrics. I just appreciate the times which they helped me, and appreciate the quality and distinctiveness of their sound to turn the most sombre and acrid topic into a luminescent euphony.
Words: Tai Kolade