What's the last thing a drummer says in a band? Let's try one of my songs.
If there's a kernel of truth to that joke, it's surprising Akron's Drummer even exists. Yet it's a supergroup of sorts, featuring current or one-time Akron area skins-pounders Patrick Carney (Black Keys) on bass, Jamie Stillman (Harriet the Spy/Party of Helicopters) and Jon Finley (Party of Helicopters/Beaten Awake) on guitar, Stephen Clements (Houseguest) on keyboards and California transplant Greg Boyd from Cincy surf-rockers Ghostman & Sandman on drums.
The band started in February during a break in the Black Keys schedule while guitarist Dan Auerbach toured in support of his solo debut. Longtime friends Clements and Carney started jamming and then added Boyd. Finley and Stillman joined shortly after, though Carney insists they came together "when we all had the same dream and showed up at the same Orange Julius in Eastern Pennsylvania."
Bivouacked in Carney's North Akron studio, which he shares with producer Ben Vehorn, the band is working on a Bee Gees cover for a local compilation disc. They also have East River Pipe and Cocteau Twins covers in their repertoire. Things have come together quickly for the band — in part by necessity. Because of competing projects, they book shows months in advance.
"We knew basically from the beginning that we all wanted to not fuck around," says Carney, taking a break from rehearsal. "We got a booking agent and had a tour booked before the record was even done." The band spent June finishing their debut, Feel Good Together, with Vehorn. "We got done right at the last possible minute. If it was any later, we would've missed the distribution catalog and had to wait until October and would've been touring before the album came out."
Clements' keyboards swirl and circle in eerie clouds that provide atmosphere for Stillman's jetting guitar rev. The rhythms recall the pulsing menace of pre-grunge alt-rock, while the melodies shimmy and shake through undulating waves of wake from swooshing guitars lit dramatically by the keys. It's exultant music, with a grandeur reminiscent of dream-poppers like Luna, but with more insistent, punchy tidal forces. Finley's vocals have the proper drift to surf the currents, carving the curls with enough rock insistence to bridge the bottom and upper ends of the mix.
The swollen eddies of "Mature Fantasy" whorl in creamy charging textures, while "Buddyscapes" mines a glammy, keyboard-driven, new-wave vibe full of bluster and strut. The title track wiggles with a sashaying strut, billowing and receding behind Stillman's muscular riff and Finley's repeated croon that "only time will tell/I tried and fell." The 10-track album comes out September 29 on Carney's Audio Eagle label. (The band has played Cleveland and Akron regularly and performs at the Square Records anniversary Friday.)
The conversation decays into cracks about Sammy Hagar's new band, Chickenfoot, fast-food-restaurant gang signs, the lack of any chain restaurants in Cleveland's Hopkins Airport and, of course, drummers.
Stillman says that he and Carney are the only ones who've never taken their shirt off while playing, while Carney gives Boyd shit about his lack of a "drum face"
"You know you're actually doing it when you get a drum face," says Carney. "You don't even know what it looks like."
"You actually don't want to know," retorts Finley.
"Drum face looks gross, but you have to get past that," says Carney. "I'm working on my bass face."
It may all be a joke to these guys, and maybe that's why it sounds so good. Too much indie-rock takes itself too seriously, so Drummer may have arrived right on time.