Music can be like food for the soul. #TeamCLEO spoke to a few headliners to know what music means to them, what their work is all about and what goes into their creations.
The Drums have gone through plenty over the years — from exploding into the scene as one of America’s most hyped bands to turning into a one-man band. Even with all the ups and downs, nothing is stopping Jonny Pierce from creating music and expressing himself in his tracks. We caught up with Jonny about the band’s biggest transformation yet, and why he feels The Drums’ music has become more personal.
Who would you consider your muse and where does inspiration usually come from?
I don’t really have muses. When I started, I really wanted to sound like a mix of European indie rock, like bands coming out of Sweden at the time such as The Tough Alliance and Boat Club and I wanted to fuse that with American ‘60s girl group sounds — like the Supremes. I ended up somewhere accidental and it worked. My greatest hope for music is accidents. Accidents are my inspiration.
What do you think is the most important thing about songwriting and what makes a really good song?
Well, when I started making music, it was really important to me to have huge memorable classic pop melodies in each song. What I’ve realised over the years is that I was hiding behind my sounds and my ‘persona’. I’ve learned that the best songs are the ones that are meaningful. Ones that connect us by way of feelings, emotions, life experiences, the joy and sometimes trauma that come from those experiences.
How do you think your sound has evolved?
I was really into techno, synth pop, and house music, even drum n’ bass. Guitar-playing with The Drums was my greatest experiment. I started recording without really having a band at the time, with no expert help. The first few albums have a poor sonic quality, but ended up being perfectly acceptable and kind of timeless. I’ve slowly started to open up to getting professional help. I dream of a pure, bright, bouncy sound and I feel that with each album, I get closer to that. It’s important to keep yourself curious and not close up.
How did you feel when The Drums became a solo gig?
t started my journey of self-discovery. I spent a lot of time alone. I was so used to trying to keep everyone in the band happy, that I really forgot about myself. I was insecure and wanted their approval. I’m a very different human now. I do what I want and I love myself. When they left, I was handed power — the power that was always inside me started to stir.
How would you describe Brutalism and what makes it different from Abysmal Thoughts?
I think my lyrics on Abysmal Thoughts were honest and often sad, but I was putting word-flowers around all of the lyrics then. With Brutalism, I wanted to lyrics to be brutal. Just very simple — I am sad. I don’t want to be alone. I am scared of all the people in the world. Maybe I can find peace. That idea excited me. It’s a little more ornate in its instrumentation.
What was your general headspace while making this new album?
I had been really tormented by a relationship that I had invested so much into. I was trying to find a balance between letting myself grieve the loss and also walking towards something better. I started to look to myself for healing and growth — not other people.
What do you want people to take from your music?
My wish is that people would not just listen, but they would connect to what I am saying, and ultimately themselves. It’s OK to be sad, scared, lonely or confused. You are not alone.
"Jonny Pierce, the manbehind The Drums"
“I ended up somewhere accidental and it worked. My greatest hope for music is accidents.”
"Feel the energy of love from Colde’s music"
Colde is a South Korean singer with songs that’ll soothe your soul. He started off as a part of the duo Offonoff and then ventured into his own music, solidifying his sound even more. “Ever since young, I’ve always listened to a lot of music and I think I wanted to make my music sound natural.” Colde doesn’t find a need to choose a specific genre to fit into, instead he would challenge various genres and have fun with it. His logic behind his stage name is simple, it was all about the vibe the word ‘cold’ carried. “The word makes me feel a certain visual feel or atmosphere. Besides, I’ve always liked the word 'cold', so I decided to use it as a name,” he mused.
Where do you usually get inspiration for making songs and what else inspires you besides music?
I seem to be inspired by movies or conversations between people.
How do you think your sound has evolved from Wave to Love Part 1?
Going from Wave to Love Part 1, I feel that the arrangement and composition of the instruments have become more rigid and clean. And as we work with more producers and musicians during our recording sessions, we can tell the difference.
Can you tell us the inspiration behind “Control Me”?
It was actually a term with the meaning ‘as one likes’, and it has become a song that expresses more about a person’s position in love.
For Wave, the concept came from wanting a new wave of change. What about Love Part 1? What was the concept and what was your general headspace when making the album?
In the case of Love Part 1, it’s an album that expresses the moments and scenes of love in puzzle-like pieces.
How is the indie music scene like in South Korea? To the people who make their own music, do they encounter any obstacles?
There are very little opportunities for performances in indie scenes, small events, and content creation. We hope that artistes who create their own music will have more performances, content and events to show off their colours.
You’ve got experience as both a producer and performer, do you prefer writing and producing or singing / rapping and performing?
I think I feel happiest and proudest when I’m performing my own songs.
What do you think makes your music stand out?
When you want to capture the emotions of a scene or moment, it is helpful to remember them with my music.
What are some goals you’d like to achieve in the future?
I want to convey the energy of love and strength to people through music for a long time.
"Giving the Colde vibes"
“Ever since [I was] young, I’ve always listened to a lot of music and I think I wanted to make my music sound natural.”
"Sobs have got the cool"
Sure, they brand themselves as “uncool pop music with lots of guitar”, but we have to disagree. Sobs are very cool — with a whole lot of guitar. A Singaporean indie pop trio making their mark, Sobs has that sound with the perfect balance of melancholy and bedroom pop. Their lyrics may have a hint of desperation but paired with the sticky hooks, it will get you up and dancing.
What inspires all of you?
Sobs: A big motivation for us starting out was kind of a mix of desperation/ restlessness/a really strong desire to make something... also from listening to lots of pop music and bands and stuff. I wish we knew exactly what inspired us so we can write more music!
Celine: Finding new music that really resonates with me and meeting new people.
Jared: Playing shows, and touring and stuff!
Raphael: Art, design and architecture. The world around us — sounds and sights.
How was making Telltale Signs different from making Catflap?
C: I felt more in control with my voice making Telltale Signs as playing shows for a year really helped shape the way I sing.
J: We recorded Telltale Signs with a full band and real guitar amps as opposed to recording straight into our laptops.
R: We gave things a lot more thought this time, even while writing the demos — where we always had a vision in mind for what it would sound and feel like. We’ve grown a lot since then, and we wrote music that’s much more genuine and intimate, with more depth and in turn, longevity compared to the songs on the EP.
Telltale Signs follows a narrative of falling in and out of love. How did the idea come along and tie in with the music?
C: It didn’t start off as a narrative but after putting all the songs together in order, I saw phases of my life unfold through the words I was writing and the songs we worked on during those times. Songs like “Eastbound” and “Telltale Signs” were about the same person and the rest of the songs kinda shared similar themes.
You guys give off such nostalgic vibes in your sound, was that accidental?
C: It’s not something we actively think about when we write but I guess it helps that people could relate to it and maybe feel sentimental about their own past experiences.
J: We all appreciate ’90s and early 2000s songwriting so I guess that might have something to do with it.
Listen to Sobs and you'll catch the ’90s and noughties feels
"For a relatively new band formed in 2017, boy, are we excited for what’s ahead"
Boy Azooga didn’t start out like a usual band, there was no gathering of friends who wanted to play music together. They kind of fall into the limbo of a solo project and a band. Their inception came from the band’s lead Davey Newington who started it as a side project which has slowly turned into one of UK’s hottest up-and-coming bands.
What would you consider your biggest inspiration?
I find inspiration comes from all kinds of places and at funny times. I guess the most common thing is when you experience a piece of art that you think is amazing, whether it’s a song or a book or a film, and it makes you want to create something beautiful.
How do you write songs? Does it usually come from one idea or a melody?
I usually try and make sure the song stands up with just a guitar or piano, then everything else added is a bonus. Sometimes songs will come from a drum beat or a sample though. It’s good to mix it up, I think.
Loner Boogie was me trying to write a song using just one string on my guitar.
Creating songs involves putting a lot of your personal sentiments into it. How do you feel about stripping bare and showing the real you to the world?
Without sounding too cheesy I think it really helps me sort stuff out in my head. When you’re sad or worried or excited, it’s amazing to have this thing to just pour all of your feelings into.
What do you think makes a good song?
It’s quite hard to say because I love all different types of songs but the thing I gravitate towards the most is good melody.
Are there any artistes that have influenced your music?
Yeah, so many. My main inspirations would be The Beatles, David Axelrod, Beach Boys, Ty Segall, Ariel Pink, Neil Young, Weyes Blood, The Avalanches and beyond.
How was the transition into a band like? Did you guys find it hard in any way?
The other guys in the band are such good musicians it was easy learning all the stuff. We rehearsed a lot before we gigged. I feel like the hardest thing was getting used to being a frontman cause I’d been playing drums in bands for years and suddenly I had to talk to crowds and work pedals and stuff. I feel a lot more comfortable now though.
Why do you think “Loner Boogie” resonated with people so much?
It’s a pretty straightforward song really and you don’t have to dig to find the meaning. I guess everyone feels lonely or worries about loneliness.
“When you’re sad or worried or excited, it’s amazing to have [song-writing] to just pour all of your feelings into.”