To celebrate the release of the new The Drums album, Abysmal Thoughts, we’re serving up a platter of posts from Jonny Pierce himself. You’ll find Pierce all over the BEAT this week – you can read our indepth chat with Pierce here and listen to the Abysmal Thoughts album influences playlist he put together for us here. Right here right now we’ve got another interview with Pierce, this time it’s Pierce’s boyfriend Keon that’s asking the questions.
Keon: How do you view yourself, self image wise?
Jonny Pierce: This is kinda weird talking to you about this because you see me every day and every night. I’m assuming you mean how I look? like physically? I’ve never been asked this question in an interview but I guess if I am being totally honest, I feel like I’m finally for the first time in my life, accepting how I look. I have never liked my face really. I have to work pretty damn hard to please myself aesthetically. My DNA wants me to be much heavier than I am, so I’ve been running miles and miles every day since I was like 13. I do like how I look now more than ever before. I think it’s because I’m focusing on loving myself more. I’m hating less about myself and it starts to boil over into my self image. I remember the first time ever really looking at myself in the mirror as a kid and being like, “Well, I guess this is what I’m working with – thanks for nothing, god”. I knew at a young age that I didn’t like how I looked, not even close and a couple decades later, I am finally becoming ok with that.
K: How has your career altered this view from when you were a teen?
JP: When I was a teen, I think I just always wanted to look like the boys that I was jerking off to – which I think is a common problem. People get hung up on that. Porn is not real and sometimes that truth really gets lost on ya. I think what really makes a difference is a shift in priorities. I focus on my insides more than my outsides now, and I also spend a lot of time focusing on others. I find that when my focus is on what is important, I tend to randomly get more compliments on how I look. When you are living for what is important, you often become more desirable from an aesthetic point of view. You’re glowing with love!
K: Being in pop culture is very aesthetically driven, also in the gay community. What advice would you give to someone struggling with their self image?
JP: There’s a lot of magazines aimed at young people that really push the faux importance of being good looking. I wont name names but you know, these magazines will always feature beautiful boys and girls on the cover and all over inside, and then like once a year they do an issue dedicated to “the 10 most powerful girls and boys under 30” or whatever, but you know they never feature a powerful girl or boy who isn’t also gorgeous and at least visually interesting. That always bummed me out. You’ve got someone like Miley Cyrus, who I kind of enjoyed before she switched to country music again. She was born rich and she is good looking, and while yes there was a little backlash for her switch back to country music, with the whole appropriating black culture thing, if she wasn’t already rich and famous and gorgeous – like if she was just average looking with modest means, the world would have her crucified. Then you have exceptions like Gore Vidal who was stunningly gorgeous and changing the world. Some people have it all! I guess my advice would be to just do cool shit and spread love. Beauty will fade, but a good heart doesn’t have to! If you don’t think you’re beautiful, how will others see your beauty?
K: Ethics are pretty big to you, what brought about such a conviction?
JP: Thats a pretty broad question. Theres a lot of factors that led me to where I am now and the world view that I hold – which is constantly evolving. I will say this. I am trying to be the best person that I can be. Everything from recycling to protesting to voting to trying to love myself to living with compassion. I’m trying to do it all. I think it’s important to do our best. I will say that I feel an extra push to be a good guy and live ethically because for the first 18 years of my life, I was around so much toxicity. Growing up in a “Christian” household that regularly exercised hate towards people that were not Christian. As a teen, I was told I was sinful for being gay. I felt immoral for these very natural feelings that were taking place inside me. So after getting out of there and learning a lot, I finally get the chance to practice TRUE ethics. Religion has nothing to do with morality. It can, but in general, it does not. Religion starts wars, pulls families apart, fills people with fear, controls your life. I’ll never understand these people with “I Love Jesus” hats and T-shirts and stickers on their cars. They have an obsession with some weird idea of Jesus, but they totally ignore his message. Jesus taught to welcome the poor and sick and needy, and all these fuckers vote for Trump who could care less if most people lived or died.
K: Will we hear more politically charged songs in future releases?
JP: Oh, who knows. I tend to write about matters of the heart. I don’t like to plan my writing. I like to make time for it, but I don’t like thinking about it beforehand because it often feels stale when I finally sit down to write. I plan on staying active politically, but I want my music to mostly be a place of nurturing and comfort – an escape.
K: You express a lot of love/hate feelings in your songs towards relationships of yours, have you ever considered writing about the world around you i.e. nature, intentional living, etc.?
JP: I adore nature. Nature has helped me see myself clearly, and love myself more. but, I don’t know if I’ll ever write a song about water or rock or fire – Bjork already did that. [Laughs]
K: If you could give aspiring artists one piece of advice, what would it be?
JP: Shut the world out. I get asked all the time about what influences I brought into the album, and really all my influences are from my childhood. When I am making an album, I don’t want to know whats going on around me, musically. I want to just make my own music. I think when you start snooping around to see what other artists are up to, you start putting pressure on yourself to “keep up” and so this drive to stay relevant often kills your initial artistic vision. Protect your artistry – it’s more fragile than you think!
K: Did you receive/apply this advice or is this something that you’ve come to realise over the years?
JP: Not really, I found the influences that I was cool with when I was a kid. Joy Electric, Bjork, Roni Size, The Smiths, Add N to (X) and that was enough for me. I just stopped absorbing on a conscious level. I really only listen to my own music when gearing up to write another album. I worked hard to build this world of “The Drums” and while Im always refining here and there, I want to be reliable for the listeners.
K: Outside of music how do you express yourself creatively?
JP: To be honest, I don’t do a lot of creative stuff outside of music. I don’t really have time to! I talk about wanting to paint and wanting to work in film and also about writing a book. I need my life to settle down a little first. Every day is non-stop hustle for me. If you aren’t born rich and/or you aren’t Top 40, you have to work very very hard to keep your band working.
K: Are there certain mediums you’re wanting to work with? Why?
JP: I want to write a screenplay on my life, but like, who doesn’t right?
K: Whats an ideal day for you in New York city?
JP: Wake up with you. Kiss you. Have gorgeous sex with you. Make some oatmeal, and then just walk around in Manhattan. We love going to the movies, so we would definitely do that. Popcorn with extra butter. Sour Patch Kids, walk around some more. Dinner in Chinatown. Grab a vegan cookie on the way home. Get in bed with you. Watch VEEP. Pass out holding you.
K: What is something you’re looking forward to?
JP: Hitting the road with the new album. We just played a show in Brooklyn and everyone already knew all the new material that we played. I feel incredibly lucky to put out a fourth album and have it be so well received. Im just so thankful.