Sat somewhere between a DIY indie star and, by some accounts, The Beach Boys and Bruce Springsteen, Drew Makes Noise manages to produce a deeply personal, idiosyncratic take on quirky, personal pop, and a welcoming and at times memorably upbeat exploration of the realms of his own pysche.
In recent release ‘The Whole Tape Run’ he’s gone ‘semi-DIY’ bringing in producers to polish off his lockdown bedroom records that explore his own spirituality and look at life through the lense of him and his connections. Rarely producing two tracks that sit close to each other in terms of message or feel, his repetoire is a beautiful exploration, a journey without a destination. I spoke to Drew about that latest offering, below…
First of all, tell me about ‘Let The Whole Tape Run’
The title is a lyric from the song Hey. The sentiment is kind of “in the fullness of time” vibe and I felt it was appropriate for a few reasons. It was mostly written and recorded during the pandemic and mixed remotely by Math Bishop in LA. It’s a hybrid of bedroom production, with guitars and drums recorded at Start Together Belfast and Attica Donegal respectively. There’s no real “concept” per se other than it’s a spin round my own psyche and a document of my place and time in the world, both musically, personally, spiritually for want of a better word- told in stories that are partly about myself and partly about others and my connection to them.
How does the album compare to your previous work?
It’s similar in that everything I do seems to be quite the kitchen sink affair. I just enjoy mixing up sounds and styles that are disparate. It’s different in that, while the scatterbrained vibe is still from previous singles – perhaps lyrically it enters a much more contemplative arena. They are philosophical meanderings incorporating themes of anger, confusion, lost youth, paranoia. Ya know all that light stuff, and ya know it was a weird time. Musically too it his an angry point with ‘Something To Kill’ and even quite a sad song called ‘Flame’. But my hope is that even in some of those depths that I can still be playful enough for it to be eh – fun?
Is ‘Lemonade’ a fairly good example of what to expect?
Hmmm. There are definitely a few tracks that have a mix of shimmery synths and guitars but I think to quite different effect. I’m fairly sure that no 2 songs are quite like the other but I think it all gels weirdly. I was a big Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness fan in my teens and so I’ve always believed that an audience doesn’t need everything to be in the same lane for a record, as long as there’s some kinda through line.
Your videos are obviously something you put a lot of effort into. Where do the ideas come from?
I find it very odd that I went down the video making rabbit hole. It really came from not wanting to fork out for someone, and we’d done vids with other people in my old band and I never really enjoyed the finished product. I thought at least if I do it and I don’t like it – that’s on me. I always settle on a rough idea with my cameraman friend Deci, we throw a ball to each other and brainstorm in his back yard, and then I take the idea away and lose myself in it. We started the vid for ‘Satellite’ – which was a load of action men figures going to space – and I got totally lost in it and spent 4 months on it, making mini sets and stuff. My house was coming down with spaceship cockpits and the like. Then the pandemic came and I filled my time doing more of that – it was seriously cool escapism. Another place ideas come from is me literally just learning editing and vfx software and in that process of messing with stuff – ideas form.
How do you find the quite DIY approach you have to your music comes out in the sound?
I hope it makes the songs sound idiosyncratic and recognisable as me. In a way for this album I wanted the DIY thing to only mean that I wrote and produced the stuff, but heading to Attica and Start Together and finding a mix engineer worth his salt was for the reason of wanting to be DIY but not threadbare or particularly low-fi. So I hope it treads a fine line with a foot in DIY and a foot in well produced if you get me.
How will you move from the album recording process into a live environment – will there be significant changes in the approach?
I have a band that we like to call “The Big Waow.” They are my friends and playing partners from all the pub gigs we do. It’s an interesting process ’cause there are so many elements in the music and I’m fairly against using track. Where possible I like our keys player to recreate but not copy or sample my synth sounds so that the live thing has a life of its own. I’m wheeling in some brass players for our Belfast show and as well as doing the brass bits on the album I want them to take some of the other synth solos for a walk.
You got called an ‘indie Springsteen’ recently. What did you make of that?
Ha – you know what – I really loved that quote. I’m not the biggest Springsteen fan but we had to learn both “Badlands” and “I’m on Fire” this year for a wedding and I found a new appreciation. The quote was kinda directed at the song I was playing and the performance of it. The song was called ‘Let’s Break The Night In Love’ and yea – I suppose it has some of that kinda heartfelt yearning of a Springsteen track, and if my performance had any of that intensity I accept the quote gladly.
How is the Belfast music scene in general at the moment?
That’s an oddly difficult question for me to answer. When my last band was together in the 00s and 10s, Belfast was going through a real climactic moment. A million great bands, all friends, partying wildly together and tonnes of gigs and venues. After that I moved outta town just a little and started a family and also the process of spending about 8 years just writing and losing myself in this project meant I lost a little touch. My impression was that a lot of the grassroots scene had died and a lot of venues closing but it’s really hard to say if that was just my warped perception and ya know – the kids are alright haha. I gotta say though, that although it feels different now, because it’s such an internet culture, there is as a lot of music happening and there seems to be quite a community building, which is beautiful.
There’s quite a summery feel to a lot of your music. Is that something you’re conscious of when you write it?
Oh thats cool. I’m not massively aware of anything when writing. My brain doesn’t catalogue things the way many peoples’ does. My 1st album review said ‘This Matter’ was very Beach Boys-esque. I was surprised, then thrilled, then like “oh yeah I suppose so.” I think there are points on the album that will stretch that to breaking point, but I’m definitely not afraid of a major key, harmonies and shimmery synths so yeah. I’m a big Super Furries fan too and I always think they’re songs are summery even when full of dark humour so maybe that’s rubbed off.
What are your hopes for the record?
Jeez – I want some people to really enjoy it and get something from it. Maybe recognise some of the little places I’ve gone in my mind as something familiar in theirs and for that to be a good experience. Ya know, that and a world stadium tour.