When I reach Jonny Pierce on the phone, I embrace the full Brit stereotype and ask about the weather. We end up chatting about our shared hatred of overheating. Turns out that’s one of the reasons The Drums frontman left Los Angeles. “There was too much sun, it was making me crazy,” he moans. “I always had a hunch that I was wired a little differently and then when my main gripe with LA was that it was just too goddamn sunny, that’s when I knew that I’m a fucking freak and there’s no fixing this!”
Having moved to the West Coast in a bid to repair the relationship with his long term partner, its eventual deterioration and Pierce’s subsequent heartbreak inspired The Drums’ new LP, Abysmal Thoughts. The first release from The Drums since 2014’s Encyclopedia – it dropped on Friday – the album is an unflinching exploration of Pierce’s mind, packaged into indie-pop anthems. “I had these really dark, heavy thoughts happening all the time,” he tells me, being the brains behind not only the lyrics but playing every instrument on the album. “At the same time, there was this small part of me that was like, ‘Oh fuck, this is gonna be a great record.’”
There are prints of classic Pierce all over Abysmal Thoughts, enough perhaps to argue that when creating solo, he’s back at his best. Falsetto swoops cut through his nostalgically melancholic vocals, all set to an insatiably eager pace. It’s undeniably grander than the “Summertime!” EP that broke Pierce into the mainstream, but just as addictive.
Back in New York, Pierce wrote songs examining the social climate like “Rich Kids”, which takes a jab at Trump’s identikit offspring. “Being in New York City is sort of like living with padding,” muses Pierce when I ask about the city’s atmosphere since he-who-must-not-be-named took over. “If I was living in… Dumbfuck, Nebraska,” he continues, “I would be living in fear everyday just for being gay.” A strong advocate for the LGBTQ+ community, Pierce often posts from the frontline of protests. “I’ve been trying to get out and be as political as I can,” he explains when I praise his efforts. “I try to donate and march and speak out. That’s where my heart is right now.”
Between his activism and his soul baring songwriting, I ask whether he’s had time to plan a celebration for Abysmal Thoughts’ release? “Part of the new me is to appreciate myself and my accomplishments,” Pierce audibly shrugs. “I’m more interested in making more work, but I think this record, if I do say so myself, is really fucking good, so I might just decide to throw myself a giant party.” Deserved.