I'm Here to Take the Sky: An Interview with D.R.U.G.S.

Kiel Hauck

An alt-metal supergroup with multimedia dominance has been rocking the Warped Tour all summer, and in sitting down with PopMatters, they get the record straight, try to take ego out of the occasion, and reveal the one band who they bow down to during Warped . . .

The name D.R.U.G.S. is certain to evoke some kind of emotional response from everyone who reads it.

Make no mistake, this is what the post-hardcore supergroup desires. Formed early last year after vocalist Craig Owens was relieved of his duties behind the microphone from his former band Chiodos, D.R.U.G.S. (an abbreviation for Destroy Rebuild Until God Shows) took shape quickly when Owens and his partner in crime Nick Martin began piecing the band together. A tenured guitarist, Martin comes courtesy of metalcore act Underminded while the rest of the band is composed of guitarist Matt Good (From First to Last), drummer Aaron Stern (Matchbook Romance), and bassist Adam Russell (Story of the Year).

With so many seasoned rock veterans in the line-up, perhaps in comes as no surprise that this year's self-titled debut is a perfect storm of sounds from each respective member's past work. That's not to say that the album D.R.U.G.S. sounds like old or re-hashed material--far from it. Instead, the LP captures all of the emotion and power of their past endeavors while pushing further en route to creating one of the most relentless rock records released this year.

While this is their first Warped Tour trek as D.R.U.G.S., it's far from their first Warped experience. Each member has played the tour in past years, giving D.R.U.G.S. a leg up over other new bands that are getting their first taste to the grueling summer punk rock camp. During Warped Tour's stop in Cincinnati, OH, on August 2nd, Nick Martin took time to chat with PopMatters about the state of rock and roll, whether his expectations for his new band have been met, and about what it is that makes Warped Tour so special.


All of you guys have taken part in Warped Tour in past years. How has this year's tour been different for all of you?

I think the big difference is that we come in a bit more educated--bit more seasoned. We're kind more of a veteran band at this point even though we're a brand new band. For me, this is my fifth Warped Tour so it's nothing new to me. I know what I've got to pack, I know how the days are going to be, I know what's expected of me everyday, so I think we just come in very mature to this. But that kind of leaves it for us to have a lot more fun. We kind of know a lot of people on the tour already and it's like a summer camp, for real. It's like the summer camp we've come to for five years already and we come to this and it's a lot of fun this time around, being older too.

Your rise to Warped Tour headliners has been a fast one, considering how new the band is. What were your expectations upon the group's inception, and has the response exceeded your expectations?

I think it's moving pretty fast; it's pretty full throttle. It's kind of intense and sometimes it takes a little bit to wrap my head around it, but it's been amazing. I think the expectations we had coming into it were just to have fun. We wanted to keep it very simple. I think we probably had a lot of high expectations amongst ourselves for what I wanted to achieve out of this and what everyone else wanted to achieve, but I think all expectations have been far exceeded. From our standpoint, from everyone that works with us, I think everyone is trying to keep ahead of the curve because it's going so fast, but all expectations have been met and I think we couldn't be more stoked on how everything is progressing.

What is it about Warped Tour that keeps fans coming back year after year and has made this event such a cultural phenomenon?

Kevin Lyman is just a genius. I think he knows good music and he's very in the know with everything. He's not this uneducated music dude who wants to make a bunch of money. He's this guy who really listens to everything and he knows what kids are into, he knows what's getting popular, or what might get popular. That's how he forms great tours that aren't outdated; they're always very in the now and I think that's what drives kids and even people of later generations that come out to watch these bands as well. He's good at trying to delve into all the different genres and try and fill the gaps amongst all those fans and bands.

Everyone in this band comes from a group in which they played an integral role. What is it like having all of those heads under one roof, and how do you go about managing all of those personalities?

That was probably one of the biggest concerns about starting the band. At first, it was just me and Craig, and then it was like "Who do we want to bring in? Do we want to bring in guys that have been doing this forever or do we want to bring in some new blood, or some people that might have a different driving force than we do?" We realized that we wanted to have veterans. We wanted to have people that had done this all before. A big fear was ego, not to say we don't have egos, but in some way shape or form we do have some sort of ego to us that makes us motivated and inspired to keep on doing what we're doing. We just got insanely lucky. I think it was like one in a million forming this band and having every dude being really level-headed. Everyone came in and let down their guard. What we learned in our previous bands were like the "dos" and "don'ts"; it was kind of like our college years. It was like, "This is what didn't work. I didn't like how I was when I did this, I want to try it like this now." I think everyone came in on the same page like, "Let's start this right. Let's get everyone humble and make sure we don't make any of the mistakes we made in the past." So it's one in a million, having all the guys in the band being on the same page, especially after being around nine or ten years apiece. We're blessed.

You took an interesting route in promotion of your new album by releasing short films of all of your songs to the Internet before the record's release. Where did this idea come from, and do you feel it helped the album gain steam leading up to the release?

I think it helped immensely. We wanted to convey that our art, how we want to be perceived, and how we want to present what we're doing isn't just music. There's a bigger picture to it. That goes along with our album artwork, it goes along with our videos, it went with all the marketing as far as releasing all the different videos for the songs. We just wanted to make it interesting. We didn't want to go the typical route of releasing a single like a month before the record comes out, then you buy the record. We just wanted to build more, we wanted to come screaming out of the gates as hard as we could. We want push the boundaries on all of that. It's like our band being named D.R.U.G.S.; it's intense. We want every facet of what we do in this band to be intense. Sometimes people may not like it, sometimes people may be scared of it, but I think that's what rock 'n roll is. I think rock 'n roll has been completely safe for about ten years now and we want to come in and just kick ass, and if you don't like it, then fuck you. I say that in the nicest way, but it's like, we're not going to play it safe like many other bands might do, we're going to take chances. If it works, it works and if it doesn't, it's on our backs.

If fans walk away with one thing from D.R.U.G.S., what do you want that to be?

Fun. We're all about fun. I think that's another thing that's missing from music now is the aspect of just having fun. If you come to one of our shows, I guarantee you're going to have fun. There's no way that you're going to leave our show going, "Wow, that band was really boring." We're so full-throttle in our live set, we never let it down and we never take our time on stage. We're very in-your-face and we're going to get everyone in the crowd to have fun with us. That's what we want to portray for our band is that we're a bunch of dudes that just want to have a good time. If you don't want to have a good time, then stay home on your computers and bullshit around. If you want to have fun, then come out to a show.

Having played Warped Tour and having been billed on this spring's Alternative Press Tour, what comes next?

We've got a month off after Warped Tour to kind of recharge our batteries a little bit, then we're going to Australia to do Soundwave. We'll be there for a bit, then we've got a pretty big fall tour in November and December in the US. I can't announce who with yet, but it's big and it'll be awesome.

What's the one band on Warped Tour that you've made it a point to get out and see their set this summer?

There is one band that has completely blown my mind this summer and it's Bad Rabbits. They're like this funk/hip-hop/old R&B/soul type band and they don't fit on this tour, and that's why I love them. All of the musicians in that band are just phenomenal, so I recommend everyone to go check them out because they blow about 90% of the bands on this tour out of the water, including us.

The year in song reflected the state of the world around us. Here are the 70 songs that spoke to us this year.

70. The Horrors - "Machine"

On their fifth album V, the Horrors expand on the bright, psychedelic territory they explored with Luminous, anchoring the ten new tracks with retro synths and guitar fuzz freakouts. "Machine" is the delicious outlier and the most vitriolic cut on the record, with Faris Badwan belting out accusations to the song's subject, who may even be us. The concept of alienation is nothing new, but here the Brits incorporate a beautiful metaphor of an insect trapped in amber as an illustration of the human caught within modernity. Whether our trappings are technological, psychological, or something else entirely makes the statement all the more chilling. - Tristan Kneschke

Keep reading... Show less

Electronic music is one of the broadest-reaching genres by design, and 2017 highlights that as well as any other year on record. These are the 20 best albums.

20. Vitalic - Voyager (Citizen)

Pascal Arbez-Nicolas (a.k.a. Vitalic) made waves in the French Touch electro-house scene with his 2005 debut, OK Cowboy, which had a hard-hitting maximalist sound, but several albums later, Voyager finds him launching into realms beyond at his own speed. The quirky, wallflower vocals and guitar snippets employed throughout Voyager drop a funk that brings to mind WhoMadeWho or Matthew Dear if they had disco-pop injected between their toes. "Levitation" is as pure a slice of dance floor motivation as theoretically possible, a sci-fi gunfight with a cracking house beat sure to please his oldest fans, yet the album-as-form is equally effective in its more contemplative moments, like when Miss Kitten's vocals bring an ethereal dispassion to "Hans Is Driving" to balance out its somber vocoder or the heartfelt cover of "Don't Leave Me Now" by Supertramp. Voyager may infect you with a futuristic form of Saturday Night Fever, but afterwards, it gives you a hearty dose of aural acetaminophen to break it. - Alan Ranta

19. Antwood: Sponsored Content (Planet Mu)

Sponsored Content is a noisy, chaotic, occasionally beautiful work with a dark sense of humor that's frequently deployed to get Antwood's point across. For instance, throughout the aforementioned "Disable Ad Blocker", which sounds mostly like the creepy side of Tangerine Dream's early '80s experimental output, distorted slogans and recognizable themes worm their way into the mix. "I'm Loving It", we hear at one point, the Sony PlayStation startup music at another. And then there's a ten-second clip of what sounds like someone getting killed in a horror movie. What is there to make of the coexistence of those sorts of samples? Probably nothing explicit, just the uneasiness of benign and instantly-recognizable brand content in the midst of harsh, difficult art. Perhaps quality must to some extent be tied to sponsorship. That Antwood can make this point amidst blasts and washes of experimental electronic mayhem is quite the achievement. - Mike Schiller

18. Bonobo - Migration (Ninja Tune)

Although Bonobo, a.k.a. Simon Green, has been vocal in the past about not making personality driven music, Migration is, in many respects, a classic sounding Bonobo record. Green continues to build sonic collages out of chirping synths, jazz-influenced drums, sweeping strings and light touches of piano but on Migration sounds more confident than ever. He has an ability to tap into the emotions like few others such as on the gorgeous "Break Apart" and the more percussive "Surface". However, Bonobo also works to broaden his sound. The electro-classical instrumental "Second Sun" floats along wistfully, sounding like it could have fit snugly onto a Erased Tapes compilation, while the precise and intricate "Grains" shows the more intimate and reflective side of his work. On the flipside, the higher tempo, beat driven tracks such as "Outlier" and "Kerala" perfectly exhibit his understanding of what works on the dance floor while on "Bambro Koyo Ganda" he even weaves North African rhythms into the fabric. Migration is a multifaceted album full of personality and all the better for it. - Paul Carr

17. Kiasmos - Blurred EP (Erased Tapes)

The Icelandic duo of Olafur Arnalds and Janus Rasmussen, aka Kiasmos, is a perfect example of a pair of artists coming from two very different musical backgrounds, finding an unmistakable common ground to create something genuinely distinctive. Arnalds, more known for his minimal piano and string work, and Rasmussen, approaching from a more electropop direction, have successfully explored the middle ground between their different musical approaches and in doing so crafted affecting minimalist electronic music. Blurred is one of the most emotionally engaging electronic releases of the year. The duo is working from a refined and bright sonic palette as they consummately layer fine, measured sounds together. It is an intricate yet unforced and natural sounding set of songs with every song allowed room to bloom gradually. - Paul Carr

16. Ellen Allien - Nost (BPitch Control)

BPitch boss and longtime lynchpin of the DJ scene in Berlin, Ellen Allien's seven full-length releases show an artist constantly reinventing herself. Case in point, her 2013 offering, LISm, was a largely beat-less ambient work designed to accompany an artsy dance piece, while its follow-up, 2017's Nost, is a hardcore techno journey, spiritually born in the nightclubs and warehouses of the early '90s. It boasts nine straight techno bangers, beautifully minimalist arrangements with haunting vocals snippets and ever propulsive beats, all of which harken back to a hallowed, golden, mostly-imagined age when electronic music was still very much underground, and seemingly anything was possible. - Alan Ranta

It's just past noon on a Tuesday, somewhere in Massachusetts and Eric Earley sounds tired.

Since 2003, Earley's band, Blitzen Trapper, have combined folk, rock and whatever else is lying around to create music that manages to be both enigmatic and accessible. Since their breakthrough album Furr released in 2008 on Sub Pop, the band has achieved critical acclaim and moderate success, but they're still some distance away from enjoying the champagne lifestyle.

Keep reading... Show less

Aaron Sorkin's real-life twister about Molly Bloom, an Olympic skier turned high-stakes poker wrangler, is scorchingly fun but never takes its heroine as seriously as the men.

Chances are, we will never see a heartwarming Aaron Sorkin movie about somebody with a learning disability or severe handicap they had to overcome. This is for the best. The most caffeinated major American screenwriter, Sorkin only seems to find his voice when inhabiting a frantically energetic persona whose thoughts outrun their ability to verbalize and emote them. The start of his latest movie, Molly's Game, is so resolutely Sorkin-esque that it's almost a self-parody. Only this time, like most of his better work, it's based on a true story.

Keep reading... Show less

There's something characteristically English about the Royal Society, whereby strangers gather under the aegis of some shared interest to read, study, and form friendships and in which they are implicitly agreed to exist insulated and apart from political differences.

There is an amusing detail in The Curious World of Samuel Pepys and John Evelyn that is emblematic of the kind of intellectual passions that animated the educated elite of late 17th-century England. We learn that Henry Oldenburg, the first secretary of the Royal Society, had for many years carried on a bitter dispute with Robert Hooke, one of the great polymaths of the era whose name still appears to students of physics and biology. Was the root of their quarrel a personality clash, was it over money or property, over love, ego, values? Something simple and recognizable? The precise source of their conflict was none of the above exactly but is nevertheless revealing of a specific early modern English context: They were in dispute, Margaret Willes writes, "over the development of the balance-spring regulator watch mechanism."

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.