Unsubstantiated Rumor: The Drums @ the ND (9/25)

The Drums album, released earlier this year, had been on my radar for quite some time. It used jangling surf-guitars, smooth rhythms, and a pretty killer vocal to win me over pretty quickly.  I was excited, to say the least, to see the band on their return venture to Austin, but something was amiss last night.  This might just be hearsay, and one man’s opinion, but I almost left early due to the fact that I can’t guarantee, nor do I want to, that the band actually performed live.

First off, why were the lights, fully in function for opening act, Young Friends, turned down so low.  Sure, you can claim that its part of the band’s theatrics, but there’s no reason why a band with a solid performer would have the lights so low.  At times you couldn’t even see the members playing their instruments, so things began to come into question.

Then, if you were actively watching as the various members took the stage, you could notice that the drummer was installing some in-ear device, most commonly used for bands that have so many pre-programmed tracks, that the drummer must use a click-track in order to keep pace with everything.  That brings up two points: 1) How much of the show was programmed? 2) Why was the drummer so seemingly bored?  Well, if you’re leaning the way I’m leaning, you might start to begin something was up.

Finally, what about that performance?  Singer Jonathan Pierce did his best to come off like a common Morrissey, but let’s face it, no one can ever top the Moz, and his theatrical dancing seemed a bit too contrived.  You add that with how polished and clean his voice sounded, and you have to wonder how much if it was being run through that pre-programmed track we discussed earlier.  Seriously, there were times when he sang and the mic was nowhere near his mouth.  Then you have the guitarists, one who played bass with a guitar, possibly through an effects pedal. But, the other guitarist moved so much during his part that there’s not a single way this chap could pull of the precision guitar playing without a little help from elsewhere.  Really, it was theatrical, and it sounded great, but no one sounds that good live, nor should they.

It all brings into question why one of the guitarists recently left the band, though we allow for personal issues.  Several people I discussed the show with, despite loving the band, thought it all seemed a bit too-perfect.  So, the question that remains is how much of the show was recorded prior to the set?  Did they even play live at all? Like I said, I can’t prove this, but my suspicions, as well as those by others, calls this band into question.  As for now, I’m saying they didn’t pull it off live, they merely put on a show; a show carefully programmed and recorded prior to taking the stage.


  • i was there too, and i agree that something was strange. the synth/effects sounds were a little too spot-on considering it was just drums, guitar, bass, and singer on stage.

    but the weird thing is the vocals were too far down in the mix and everything sounded a little too muddy.

  • I don’t know, but I feel like being into this band left me ripped off. Honestly, I knew they were in sort of an emo band beforehand, and now I feel like they’re sort of the new Bravery, created in some hipster meth-lab.

  • Maybe they thought it was an awards show?

    Only thing I have seen that odd was jj’s performance at the Mohawk during SxSW. I wish we had pics of the crowd reaction as Aughra sat on a stool holding, not playing, an acoustic guitar and sang bad karaoke to a Macbook.

  • Wow, I’m a fan of this website and certainly not one to judge based on an opinion different than mine, but I wholeheartedly disagree. I saw them front row at The Fader Fort this past SXSW and the original members have not changed their demeanor at all other than being a bit more seasoned through substantial touring. The earpiece you speak of used by the drummer were in-ear monitors, a successful road show band drummer will not use a drum wedge over in-ear monitors. There is no comparison. His sleepy demeanor while he lays down pop beats is part of his appeal. The guitarist is always animated and looks like he his having a seizure. They have never used a bass guitar for the bottom, first 4 strings on a guitar are the same notes as a bass. The singer, well, just check any of their live videos on youtube. His voice is one of the rare voices that can emulate their recording a la Bono and Moz. I do, however, agree with you on the lights. Way too low for the performance they put on. Anyway, I remain a loyal reader. Agree to disagree!

  • Steven-
    I appreciate your opinion, and I will admit that I may not be entirely right with this, thus the title of the post. But, I can 100% guarantee there were backing vocal tracks used during the set, and while I’m aware of in-ear monitors, I think this is more of the use of a nice click-track being used to keep time for the drummer when various programmed lines are being used, rather than using it for the monitors. I know several bands that use such a tactic, and it might just be out of a dependence on creating a precise live sound. The guitar player I can give you, and the bass, I mean, there are effects pedals that can emulate the exact bass sound, but even still, something was amiss about the group. Maybe this is just a personal opinion, but I know there were several other people outside discussing the same thing, so I can’t have been the other one. You do have the experience of earlier previews to their live show, so lets call it a draw, and just enjoy the fact that they put out a decent first record.

  • Hey Steve.

    Thanks a lot for your loyalty and I’m glad that this negative review isn’t turning you away from our site. I also appreciate your comment here as we always love a nice discussion.

    From what I am reading in your comment and what I am reading from other sites is that The Drums were great during SXSW. I’ve read that from you and several other blogs in town. Didn’t they lose an original guitar player since then? I can’t speak to their SXSW performances since I didn’t see them, but wouldn’t that change things a great deal? Almost everyone I have spoken to and most comments on other sites and on twitter have agreed that something was fishy about this performance.

    I personally think that YES the band was performing, but they were also using a good deal of backing tracks at the same time. Some people may not mind that, but it really bugs me/pisses me off. To me that’s not live music and it’s a growing trend in the indie live scene.

    That’s my two cents.

  • I also agree with Nathan’s comment that they sounded/acted like an emo band. Even with the pre-recorded tracks, the songs sounded off all night.

    I guess sound could have been the venue… who knows!!!!!!!!!!

  • Thanks for the responses fellas. Very cool of you to do that. I looked up a few more opinions/reviews about the show and found a mixed bag. I may just be partial due to the fact I am a fan of the band. Anyway, keep spreading good music to Austin and beyond!

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