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“Nerd icing”: The-Drum open up about the concept behind debut album Contact

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  • published
    11 Jun 2013
  • interviewed by
    Chris Kelly
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    The-Drum
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"Nerd icing": Chicago futurists The-Drum open up about the concept behind debut album <em>Contact</em>

Chicago duo The-Drum (comprised of Jeremiah Chrome and Brandon Boom) broke through last year with a pair of EPs and a self-released effort with contemporaries Sich Mang, quickly establishing the template — if you can call it that — for their sound: shifty grooves, syrupy, synthetic ambience, and the seductive quality of R&B slow jams.

Apart from their futuristic take on R&B, dance, and ambient music, a major component of The-Drum’s music are references to transgressive sci-fi literature by the likes of J.G. Ballard and William Gibson. Heavy Liquid’s hypnotic, percolating ‘Euthanasia’ closes with a sample of the 1971 short film adaptation of Ballard’s seminal work Crash, while last summer’s Sense Net EP takes its title from William Gibson’s cyberpunk bible Neuromancer.

The latter EP begins a sci-fi, dystopian thread that continues on their forthcoming album, Contact. Both efforts tie into each other, so much so that the former will be packaged with the latter. “It gave us a concept world to work with,” Boom explains. While “some things are created without conception,” Chrome says that they talked for a long time about doing a concept album.

While Contact is the duo’s first full length album, The-Drum existed for some time before it was public. The pair had written and recorded about 50 songs before they sent one out, developing their sound and honing their craft before subjecting themselves to blog-cycle scrutiny.

Chrome moved to Chicago about eight years ago, bringing his band Clique Talk with him. His musical background bounded from metal and noise, to underground dance music, and eventually to rap and R&B. “I came to R&B pretty late,” Chrome admits. “Things like SWV were new to me, and I was definitely interested.”

 

“I always say, I like Three 6 Mafia the same way I like Throbbing Gristle.”

 

For his part, Boom grew up in a household with a lot of new music, especially rap and R&B. He remembers buying 2Pac’s All Eyez On Me in 5th grade. “I would play Makavelli in the car and I knew all the words,” he remembers. “My grandma was very worried about me.” He would eventually play in a New Orleans noise act before moving on to R&B beats thanks to Ableton and a little bit of gear: “Being destitute-broke prevents you from having all the gear you want, but with the computer, everything’s free.”

The seeds of The-Drum began when an R&B singer reached out to Chrome for beats, who then enlisted Boom for the project. Unfortunately, while Chrome was looking to move away from the Italo disco of Clique Talk, that’s exactly what the singer had in mind, and the project was scrapped — but not before the pair decided to continue producing together.

Running down their influences for the project — avant-gardists like Art of Noise and David Van Tieghem, R&B and rap touchstones like Timbaland and The Neptunes, and contemporary Atlanta beatsmiths Lex Luger, Shawty Redd, and Zaytoven — results in a calculable but not contrived list. “The older i’ve gotten, the more I feel that when people compartmentalize music, it’s stupid and kind of harmful,” Boom says. “I always say, I like Three 6 Mafia the same way I like Throbbing Gristle.”

Contact was recorded over the last two years, with the duo crafting songs with the album in mind even as they recorded Heavy Liquid and Sense Net. Yet even if the songs are from different time periods, they share a similar sound palette. “Every idea we’ve wanted to put on there is there,” says Chrome, with bits and pieces of certain tracks appearing across the album, and sonic motifs and samples weaved throughout. The house where they live and work is practically a compound for creatives, as a “revolving cast” of friends and collaborators moved in and out of the process.

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