Summer is a post-pop, downtown dark room music video, starring lethargic leather-jacket wearers, cat-eyed karaoke girls and leopard print. Its first night takes me cheekily by the hand and whisks me on the M train to Brooklyn’s Baby’s Alright. The venue is as if an underground-Versailles, lined with neon writings, bottles and palm trees. There, awaited by the underaged groupie-wannabes and cool kids of the New York City scene, the Drowners are due to debut their sophomore album On Desire. I let the songs come as a surprise to be presently absorbed, hyped ten notches by the atmosphere. Only their first album, self-titled Drowners, and the new, already catching tune Cruel Ways, hum tantalizingly through the compromise of having one earbud in. Elvis’ smile is an advertisement to the humid season’s nightly inebriation, and the record player tunes cater whiskey and coke setting. The occasion prompts dancing shoes and high-waisted denim like a uniform ideal, with a top so saucily audacious, that the train ride there is a joke on conservative people (and winking at them.)
The Drowners are exactly as I tell Matt Hitt post-gig, with a stupidly self-assured smile, “like whiskey in a teacup.” The unmistakable British indie droll, alluding to youthful bashfulness, relinquishes its jovial element to the heart fuse of rad guitar riffs and smutty lyrics. Frontman Matt Hitt, lead guitarist Jack Ridley, bass guitarist Erik Lee Snyder, and drummer Daniel Jacobs make a humble embodiment of indie rock, seemingly a perfect puzzle-fit into the grit of small venues and dimly lit easy heartbreak. With invariable and unmissable inspiration from the Strokes, the infatuating band sing about rejection, hip parties, and easy trysts, in light tones to great tunes.
The opening act is a Detroit-based band Flint Eastwood, where the lead singer, whom I ridiculously recall to be a Sagittarius, enforces vicious excitement. They deal in yelling, coordinated kneeling-jumping, and cultish group chanting (in a therapeutic, bonding manner.) Most interestingly, they aren’t anything like the Drowners, and instead are a car crash in a curious intersection of Alt-J and Black Sabbath, perpendicular but surprisingly endearing. The front-woman singles not-clapping slackers out, compliments head-banging raucous enthusiasts, and tells me I have great eyebrows (which is the nicest compliment ever.) They deviate from absurdly jovial screaming sets to aching songs with sad lyrics. The up-beat aperitif serves us to the awaited Drowners.
The mundane way in which members of the Drowners appear on stage, fixing their own instruments and mic stands in a most un-entitled rock star manner, only serves to endear more. Their humble nature entices an element of surprise in their contrastingly, delicately suggestive music. They open up with five songs off of the new album, including catchy Conversations With Myself and the darker Cruel Ways, which suggests of liking love that hurts. They slash out some old tunes too, including a personally beloved Unzip Your Harrington and surely well known Luv, Hold Me Down. Someone Else Is Getting In instantly gets in the humming list of favourites. All the while, it feels like watching your mates play a gig. Ones which leave you smiling and nicely disheveled, but close pals nonetheless. The Drowners are surreal (as musicians are) but nice, eager to converse post-gig in the neon-lit night. Their music is equally effortless and thoughtful, a smiling audio-intoxication to be aligned with a similarly indie-cast, unruly-haired summer.
– Alice Pylypenko