A lot has changed for Jonny Pierce since the musician released his debut 2009 project under The Drums. For one, his music has gone viral on TikTok, introducing his unique blend of haunting surf rock to a new generation of listeners that resulted in the band’s first sold-out tour that kicked off this summer. But he’s also experienced a great deal of personal growth.
After years of healing religious and childhood trauma, Pierce is just days away from releasing some of his most personal work to date with the self-titled (in a way) album Jonny. The album first began to take shape after Pierce confronted his childhood growing up in a cult-like religious community in upstate New York. The singer returned to his home, the source of much turmoil for him as a youth. His parents were away, and Pierce began snapping intimate self-portraits in rooms that held strong memories. In his words, it was a way of “reclaiming the space for myself.”
When speaking about the album, Pierce oftentimes refers to his songs as his “children,” showing the amount of attention, love, and care he holds for each one. Songs like the album opener “I Want It All” confront the forgiveness necessary to journey down a path of healing, while others like “Little Jonny” act as an ode to his younger self. In true The Drums fashion, there’s a healthy dose of dancey lovelorn songs like “Better,” where Pierce sings of finally letting go of a past partner.
Ahead of the release of Jonny, Pierce sat down with Uproxx to talk about being tattoo-less, crying over a steak, and exploring the North Pole with Björk in our latest Q&A.
What are four words you would use to describe your music?
Honest, rebellious, spirited, melancholic.
It’s 2050 and the world hasn’t ended and people are still listening to your music. How would you like it to be remembered?
I don’t spend much time thinking about how I want to be remembered. Maybe I should, but I don’t. Maybe it’s because I understand that if I honor my artist heart, I won’t have any regrets at all. I just try to listen to my body as I sit down to record. It feels like the most failsafe approach. But yeah, I’m not so big on legacy. I guess if I had to choose something, it would be that my music brought comfort to those who spend a lot of time feeling lonely. I make music when I am alone, and for much of my life I have felt lonely and misunderstood. I think people who have the same struggle are drawn to my music and I think it’s because they find connection there.
Who’s the person who has most inspired your work, and why?
I don’t love talking about other artists and their influence on me, because honestly, I feel I am my biggest influence. I spend so much time in my head and my heart and listening to my body, and I think this album is really the culmination of all of that. If I must speak of an outside influence here, I might cite Glennon Doyle, whose book Untamed, taught me to drop into my body and explore my inner workings – which played a huge part in the writing process for this new album.
Where did you eat the best meal of your life and what was it?
The steak at Dunsmoor in Los Angeles. I cried.
Tell us about the best concert you’ve ever attended.
I absolutely loathe going to shows. But one that I cherished was Ariel East a couple years ago in Brooklyn. A very tender and sweet moment. I was standing behind this boy and admiring how his hair curled and rested on the back of his neck, ya know, sorta starting to crush immediately, and the soundtrack to it was Ariel’s voice, serenading us.
What song never fails to make you emotional?
“Moon River.” All the things I ever wanted are wrapped up in that melody.
What’s the last thing you Googled?
How to spell “serenading.”
Where’s the weirdest place you’ve ever crashed while on tour?
When I was 15 or so, I had started a band called Arkport. We once played a festival on the grounds of an old, retired home for the mentally ill – for lodging they gave us a padded room, where we slept on the floor.
What’s your favorite city in the world to perform and what’s the city you hope to perform in for the first time?
Los Angeles. I belong to those kids. There isn’t a city I hope to perform in. I will play wherever I am asked.
What’s one piece of advice you’d go back in time to give to your 18-year-old self?
I’d tell him he’s fine just the way he is. I’d tell him to try and rest every once in a while, and to not work so hard.
What’s one of your hidden talents?
I’m a good listener. I can juggle. I can train dogs.
If you had a million dollars to donate to charity, what cause would you support and why?
I’d probably want my money to go to help homeless children or children who suffer abuse at home. Hits close to my heart.
What are your thoughts about AI and the future of music?
I already have a hard time with humans who aren’t authentic. I am even less excited about the effects that AI will have on music. Music is inherently human. Developed over millennia by humans. It is sacredly human, and sadly I think the leading reason AI has been interjected into music making today is to make more profits. There is nothing beautiful or soul giving about that.
You are throwing a music festival. Give us the dream lineup of 5 artists that will perform with you and the location it would be held.
Daft Punk (playing Homework front to back)
Blueboy (playing Unisex front to back)
Johan Johansson (Playing IBM 1401 A Users Manual front to back)
Who’s your favorite person to follow on social media?
NTS! Helps keep me in the groove!
What’s the story behind your first or favorite tattoo?
I am tattoo-less! I was always too busy to get tattoos! I do not care at all about tattoos!
What is your pre-show ritual?
Two shots of tequila and two minutes of gratitude.
Who was your first celebrity crush?
Mike Herrera of punk band MXPX.
You have a month off and the resources to take a dream vacation. Where are you going and who is coming with you?
I want to explore Greenland. Everyone forgets about Greenland. Maybe the North Pole. I’d bring my dad, my boyfriend, Bjork, and Ocean Vuong.
What is your biggest fear?
Jonny is out 10/13 via Anti. Find more information here.