Drowners at Borderline
The atmosphere is beyond lively as we arrive at the packed out basement room of Soho’s Borderline, which is buzzing with excitement. When Drowners appear briefly for a soundcheck, grinning wildly and riling up the crowd by whooping into the microphones and fist-bumping the front row, their stage presence and vitality is immediately apparent and forecasts a formidable live show.
Formed in New York in 2011 and named after a Suede song, the four-piece have been gaining recognition fast and their London fan base already seems astoundingly strong. The band are sometimes referred to as pop-punk and other times cited as part of a recent Britpop revival (frontman Matthew Hitt is from Wales) however indie-rock or garage-rock feels more apt: their sound has a distinct early 00s New York City bent to it and recalls the Strokes more than any other influences.
Performed live, their songs are a lot faster and heavier than their recordings; the band play with a wild, thrashing energy that feels out of control but the musicians are by no means sloppy, the sound quality is perfect and Hitt’s vocals are clear and controlled. That being said, the band are treading in well-chartered territory and don’t seem to be bringing anything distinctly new to the table. We can hear echoes of Pulp, the Smiths, the Vaccines and as mentioned, the Strokes, but the problem is that Drowners seem to just be lifting parts of each influence and piecing them all together without building on any of them.
In an interview with Vogue, Hitt talks about how he wanted to do “Johnny Marr-esque guitar riffs with post-punk drums” and how he’s studying Jarvis Cocker’s stage moves in order to emulate them – all of which is reasonable, it’s just that this seems to have been the creative approach with every aspect of the band. In particular Hitt emulates Julian Casablancas’ vocal style, delivery, subject matter and so on, to the point where it feels derivative.
If you enjoy their music then you won’t be disappointed if you go to see them play; Drowners are really fun to watch live and the crowd loved every second of it, but looking at the bigger picture it’s hard to get too excited about a band who are playing like it’s 2001 and singing about tired, Jack-the-lad indie-rock clichés while so many other contemporary bands are experimenting and breaking through to new genres and subject matter.
Photos: Melissa Harper
For further information about Drowners and future events visit here.
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