Stateside Presents

THE DRUMS

THE DRUMS

JAY SOM

Fri, March 10, 2017

Doors: 7:00 pm / Show: 8:00 pm

191 Toole

Tucson, AZ

$15-$18

This event is all ages

THE DRUMS
THE DRUMS
With The Drums' new 'Abysmal Thoughts,' band founder Jonny Pierce is making the exact album he's always held in his heart. Of course, this is The Drums, so that heart is broken -- but there's beauty and even bliss in this kind of heartbreak, as well as that special kind of glorious delirium that comes from taking everything life can throw at you and still walking away triumphant. If 'Abysmal Thoughts' doesn't sound at all abysmal -- really, Pierce has rarely been this irresistibly pop -- that's because this is a story about how to figure out what happiness means once the worst has already happened. "Happiness can be confusing to me," says Pierce. "It shows up out of nowhere, and before you can even get used to it, it's vanished. But 'Abysmal Thoughts?' I can rely on them -- and with the political chaos that is raining down, who knows when these dark feelings will subside?"

As the last album cycle for the Drums finished and his long-term relationship with his former partner dissolved, Pierce took some time away from music altogether in hopes to reconnect with himself and find future inspiration. Determined to make a change, he ended up leaving his longtime home in New York and found himself isolated in a large empty apartment in Los Angeles, all his plans for life and love suddenly in shambles: "I said I wanted to let life happen?" he says. "Well, the universe listened and life began to fuck me real good! But honestly, I make the worst art when I'm comfortable. The stuff that resonates with me the longest -- and that resonates with others -- is always the stuff that comes out of my hardships and confusion."

That hardship and confusion -- and the clarity of personality and purpose it inspired -- became 'Abysmal Thoughts,' an unflinching autobiography with Pierce back in full control of the band. He's back to not just writing all the songs by himself but playing every instrument, too, this time realizing exactly his own personal vision for the band. Not coincidentally, it's some of the most revelatory work he's ever done. The key was opener "Mirror," and from there, 'Thoughts' simply flowed: "It very much felt like I was releasing," Pierce says. "I had this visual of turning a handle and watching steam just pour out of the valve, relieving a lot of my artistic and personal anxiety. I was dealing with so much loss and feeling unsure and scared -- and if there's one thing I can rely on it's the healing power of being an artist. I'm falling back in love with music. Creating this album on my own was a full-on long-running therapy session."

Across a year and three months of home recording -- with the same guitar, synthesizer, drum machine and reverb unit he's played since the beginning of The Drums -- Pierce put together 'Thoughts,' first in that apartment in Los Angeles and then later in his cabin in upstate New York. With help from engineer Jonathan Schenke (Parquet Courts, Mannequin Pussy and more) he gave 'Thoughts' a pop sensibility that added color and contrast to an already vivid self-portrait alive with the hyperdramatic emotional potency of the Smiths, the arch literary pop moves of New Zealanders like the Verlaines and the Clean, and the riotous clatter-punk power of the UK DIY bands of 1979. And this time around he's introduced an slight influence from early drum and bass as well, drawn from his adoration of Roni Size and other electronic artists from the UK in the 1990s.

Now the highs are higher than ever, and the lows absolutely bottomless, and it's the last song -- the title track -- that makes everything clear. The Drums are back, and while there's a heavy sadness here, Pierce is stronger for fighting through it. On possibly the loveliest and catchiest song he's got, Pierce takes his listeners to the edge of the cliff, and then drops everything but his voice, singing "Abysmal, abysmal, abysmal ..." Some albums might offer a happy ending -- even some albums by The Drums -- but here Pierce just offers an ending. Because that's more honest, isn't it?

"There's something in me that mostly prefers a sad ending," he says. "The other potential title I had was 'A Blip Of Joy,' the opposite of 'Abysmal Thoughts' -- if those two things don't sum up the emotional chaos that I feel every day, then nothing will! But 'Abysmal Thoughts' wins because ... doesn't it always?"
JAY SOM
JAY SOM
On her first proper album as Jay Som, Melina Duterte, 22, solidifies her rep as a self-made force of sonic splendor and emotional might. If last year's aptly named Turn Into compilation showcased a fuzz-loving artist in flux—chronicling her mission to master bedroom recording—then the rising Oakland star's latest, Everybody Works, is the LP equivalent of mission accomplished.

Duterte is as DIY as ever—writing, recording, playing, and producing every sound beyond a few backing vocals—but she takes us places we never could have imagined, wedding lo-fi rock to hi-fi home orchestration, and weaving evocative autobiographical poetry into energetic punk, electrified folk, and dreamy alt-funk.

And while Duterte's early stuff found her bucking against life's lows, Everybody Works is about turning that angst into fuel for forging ahead. "Last time I was angry at the world," she says. "This is a note to myself: everybody's trying their best on their own set of problems and goals. We're all working for something."

Everybody Works was made in three furious, caffeinated weeks in October. She came home from the road, moved into a new apartment, set up her bedroom studio (with room for a bed this time) and dove in. Duterte even ditched most of her demos, writing half the LP on the spot and making lushly composed pieces like "Lipstick Stains" all the more impressive. While the guitar-grinding Jay Som we first fell in love with still reigns on shoegazey shredders like "1 Billion Dogs" and in the melodic distortions of "Take It," we also get the sublimely spacious synth-pop beauty of "Remain," and the luxe, proggy funk of "One More Time, Please."

Duterte's production approach was inspired by the complexity of Tame Impala, the simplicity of Yo La Tengo, and the messiness of Pixies. "Also, I was listening to a lot of Carly Rae Jepsen to be quite honest," she says. "Her E•MO•TION album actually inspired a lot of the sounds on Everybody Works."

There's story in the sounds—even in the fact that Duterte's voice is more present than before. As for the lyrics, our host leaves the meaning to us. So if we can interpret, there's a bit about the aspirational and fleeting nature of love in the opener, and the oddity of turning your art into job on the titular track. There's even one tune, "The Bus Song," that seems to be written as a dialog between two kids, although it plays like vintage Broken Social Scene and likely has more to do with yearning for things out of reach.

While there's no obvious politics here, Duterte says witnessing the challenges facing women, people of color, and the queer community lit a fire. And when you reach the end of Everybody Works, "For Light," you'll find a mantra suitable for anyone trying, as Duterte says, "to find your peace even it it's not perfect." As her trusty trumpet blows, she sings: "I'll be right on time, open blinds for light, won't forget to climb."
Venue Information:
191 Toole
191 E. Toole Ave
Tucson, AZ, 85701