When New York’s alterna-scene sensations The Drums hit town tonight at the Independent, backing their new sophomore set “Portamento,” be prepared — you won’t be seeing the same band, circa their eponymous debut of last year, both literally and figuratively.
Their original guitarist Adam Kessler has left the group, for starters. Now drummer Connor Hanwick has reassigned himself to six string, and axeman Jacob Graham has switched to synthesizers for new keyboard-heavy tracks like “Money,” “In The Cold” and “I Need A Doctor.”
Lastly, frontman Jonathan Pierce has done a bit of morphing himself — the ex-Elkland anchor now goes by the moniker Jonny, and his lyrics are more brutally honest than ever this time around.
He spoke with us about Drums, Mach 2.
So you’re Jonny now?
That’s what they’re calling me these days. Not too much else has changed about me, though. Well, a lot has. OK, everything has changed, I guess.
Raised in a devout religious household, you recently had a crisis of faith that you sing about in “Book Of Revelations.” And the book is Sam Harris’ “Letter To A Christian Nation,” right?
Yeah. But it’s like this taboo thing, it really is.
You hear about “the atheists” your whole life growing up, and then when you finally become one — and you’re maybe a more outspoken person — such as myself — well, I take every opportunity to talk about it. Maybe because it’s a fresh decision in my life. But when I’m in a roomful of people and I say something like “Oh, well, there actually is no God,” nobody laughs or giggles, and you can almost hear a pin drop. And if anything, I think it would be the opposite — that people would want to talk about it. But people are nervous about that sort of thing.
How did you come to this decision?
Well, I had a lifetime of going back and forth, feeling the flames of hell on my ass. And that book wasn’t solely responsible, but I think it was the last nail in the coffin. It was really nice to feel like “Yeah, see? I’m not the only one who feels this way! I’m not the only one who thinks this is all a bunch of bulls---.”
It was like when I first fell in love with music — I fell in love with bands where I was like “Wow! I’m not the only person that’s this miserable!” But now I’ve been noticing this new frustration, and it might be worse than before I made this decision to become an atheist. Because I’m kinda missing the internal conflict a little bit. So maybe it’s even more depressing to have the answers. Maybe the best part of life is not knowing anything.
Faith helps many folks, though. But the church and state should be mutually exclusive.
Well, I think faith should go away altogether. And organized religion is the driving force behind every war. And I remember as a very young child thinking “Well, what if I were born into Islam? I would just be fighting tooth and nail for that.” But my siblings grew up, and they just eat what they’re force-fed, no questions asked. And I was never down with that. That’s why on the cover of “Portamento” I painted my eyes red — it’s sort of my mother’s view of me. I picture her viewing me as evil, because I never really subscribed to any of her beliefs. And she knew that and couldn’t handle it.
Coupled with the fact that you’re gay, the scriptural guilt must have loomed pretty large in your life.
I’ve been gay since I was very young. I dated girls throughout high school, but not really, you know? But that’s part of why the first album for me was much more cinematic and escapist — there were a few songs that were personal to me, and I can carry on and keep singing them in the set list each night. But there are a bunch that have sort of turned into empty words for me now. So I really want anything we put out from “Portamento” on to be relevant for us, first and foremost. So that I can continue to sing these words each night and actually feel what I’m singing. I’m just not interested in anything less than that.