A Q&A with Drowners
by Anika Krause (English), published December 1st 2014
Known for punching out rapid tunes – and for supporting famous friends like Arctic Monkeys and The Vaccines – New York post-punk revivalists Drowners rolled into Allston’s own Great Scott on October 29. After a whirlwind year that included a debut album release, first festival appearances and a European tour, Drowners finished out the year with the Doc Martens-sponsored Stand for Something Tour. Tastemakers had a chance to chat with singer Matt Hitt and guitarist Jack Ridley about literature, the evils of Abercrombie and Fitch and the future after this final night of their tour.
Tastemakers Magazine (TMM): Can you give me a quick background on how you guys got started as a band, and any goals you had when you first got started?
Jack Ridley (JR): You can Google that [laughs].
Matt Hitt (MH): Yeah, you can Google that [laughs]. No, not really. We met two years ago, and we started playing music almost immediately afterwards. We all met in the same one pub. We all liked punk music and just sort of went from there.
TMM: So what were your main inspirations when you first began making music?
MH: We all like punk music and everyone likes…
JR: Good music!
MH: Good music.
JR: Whatever that may be [laughs].
MH: Everyone likes a whole bunch of different shit, but our common ground was punk and post-punk. So we wanted to do an album that was like a modern post-punk album.
TMM: But you’re often grouped stylistically with bands you have opened for, like The Arctic Moneys and Cage the Elephant, who aren’t exactly post-punk bands.
MH: Yeah, we do usually get grouped in with them, which is kind of weird.
JR: I mean, I guess it makes sense. We have similar claims to fame… sort of.
MH: I feel like we’re always somewhat like every band that we’ve opened for even if we vary in sound.
TMM: Do you have a favorite band you’ve opened for?
MH: Cage the Elephant.
JR: And Temples.
MH: And Temples. Cage the Elephant are the nicest band I’ve ever met in my life. We fell in love.
JR: They were my only man kiss in my entire life [laughs].
MH: We’re not afraid to say we fell in love.
TMM: So I know you guys just got back from your first European tour. What are the major differences you noticed touring overseas compared to the Stand for Something tour?
MH: The U.K. is a lot smaller, so your gigs are a lot more consistent. I wouldn’t say it’s better over there, because there are some parts of America that are better over here. But America is… I don’t know, factually, how much bigger it is, but I was saying to someone earlier that in the U.K. you can play a tour with the same size shows every night. Here it varies massively whether you’re in L.A. or like Salt Lake City or something. It’s way more diverse in America. But I do feel like British crowds sing along more.
JR: They also move more.
MH: They sing louder at least.
JR: I think they’re more drunk.
MH: They do get more drunk.
TMM: I know a major difference this tour is that you are sponsored by Doc Martens on this tour. How did that partnership come about?
MH: We wear Doc Martens anyway. It’s a good winter boot to get you through a New York winter.
JR: Honestly, I think they just picked us out of a list of bands.
MH: The thing with doing these sponsored tours is, like, say we we’re sponsored by Abercrombie and Fitch. That would be like artificial and rubbish and disgusting. But doing it with Doc Martens, the aesthetic of Doc Martens is like British punk, which is kind of us already.
TMM: It definitely makes sense
JR: It’s not an unusual partnership.
TMM: Matt, I found out that you were an English Literature major in college. Do you think that’s helped or inspired your writing process?
MH: Mmm… yeah [laughs]. Because I was forced to read a lot of books, so I learned a lot of words. No, I’m being facetious. Yes, it definitely helped, with lyric writing anyway. It didn’t help one bit with guitar playing.
TMM: Was there a specific genre or source that you relied on?
MH: Good, modern poetry. My creative writing teacher told me once, never write down anything you wouldn’t actually say. That stuck in my head. He was like, “Imagine that you had to say this to someone you really loved, and if you think you’re being ridiculous then don’t write it down.” So I think good, modern poetry is like beautifully formed conversation. And that’s what I wanted to do.
TMM: I know you didn’t study art, Jack, but you design a lot of the band’s shirts and recently designed some custom Doc Martens to give away on the tour. What was the thought process for the design?
JR: Little to none [laughs]. I just sort of went with things that appealed to me visually and were… aesthetically pleasing, I guess. That’s about it. I just do what I like.
MH: Our practice space already looks like a real-life sketchbook. It’s all spray painted by Jack.
TMM: That’s awesome. I know tonight is the last night of your tour. So what’s up next?
MH: New songs. I’d rather crack on with new stuff. For right now, though, we’re just deciding about how to get back to New York.
TMM: Last question: How did I do compared to Lyla of 7 Questions with a 7 Year Old?
JR: Oh Lyla? That was great.
MH: I have to say, I did that like a year ago, so I can’t really remember it too well. The whole interview is just me laughing like a moron. But I loved that, she was great.
You did great though! Cheers.