Movies, music, TV, arts and entertainment, straight from Southern California.
Hosted by John Horn
Airs Temporarily on hiatus so that our staff can help out our colleagues in the KPCC newsroom and on our other shows.
Arts & Entertainment

The harsh realities of life on the road for The Drums and Lower Dens

Jana Hunter of the band Lower Dens.
Jana Hunter of the band Lower Dens.
Mike Brooks/Getty Images
Jana Hunter of the band Lower Dens.
Jonathan Pierce of The Drums.
Burak Cingi/Getty Images
Jana Hunter of the band Lower Dens.
Jacob Graham of The Drums.
Burak Cingi/Getty Images

Listen to story

Download this story 2MB

The Drums and Lower Dens have a lot in common, at least career-wise. Both indie bands came on the scene around the same time and both are from the East Coast.

The Drums hail from New York.

The Drums - There is Nothing Left

Lower Dens from Baltimore.

Lower Dens - To Die in L.A.

From the start, becoming one of those “it” bands via the Internet got a little bit crazy, according to The Drums frontman Jonathan Pierce:

Without exaggeration, we'd be waking up every day before the sun and flying somewhere, landing, immediately being thrown into a car and it's hours and hours of interviews and photo shoots. Then you go to the venue and you sound check quick, and then you do the show and then afterwards there's three interviews. You don't even go to a hotel. You go back to the airport and you try to get rest on the plane.

Pierce played more than a couple hundred shows with his bandmate Jacob Graham after they released their first album. The same goes for Lower Dens, but lead singer Jana Hunter says the band’s quick rise to fame was anything but glamorous: "When were first touring, we would bring cooking supplies with us. We would cook in a hot pot and when we got sick, we just stayed sick. I mean, it was really difficult and you just have that little kernel of, I know this is what I wanna do with my life to hold onto."

Lower Dens - Take Away Show

The Drums had its share of ups-and-downs. Pierce says that tour life was so intense that they lost two band members. "It was just so wild," Pierce says "And had Jacob and I not known each other pretty much our whole lives, I don't think we would've probably lasted either."

The Drums Live

Both bands realize that relationships with friends, loved ones and even fellow band members can suffer from touring — and then there’s the relationship with yourself. "I don't drink. I don't use drugs," Hunter says. "I try to exercise and I read a lot. I find that reading is really important for me to keep myself feeling human."

But at the same time, Hunter says that touring let's them strike up a unique sort of relationship with their fans. During a recent show in Portland, Hunter told the crowd that “meowing” became somewhat of a joke on tour.  And then later in the show... 

They all started meowing, and I kind of know why they did, but it was pretty unreal that they all did and that it spread through the crowd like a weird wind.

You would think playing shows for adoring fans and selling out venues would be at least be enough to get by, but that’s hardly the case. "A lot of people lose money," Hunter says. "A lot of people use their day jobs to pay for [their music careers] until you get really well known."

The Drums - Money

Jonathan Pierce says finances are always on their mind, even onstage. "We just played in front of 20,000 people in Portugal two weeks ago," Pierce, says. "We're onstage and I'm nervous about paying rent. It's just a crazy thing."

So why do these bands keep doing what they’re doing? Why not call it quits? "What else are we gonna do?" Pierce says. "You take the good and the bad and you just try to maximize on the good."

One thing Jana Hunter realized is that while you have to tour to feed yourself, it does come with some perks: "The main impact that it has had [is] it made me a much, much better musician than I was before I started touring that much." 

Listen to more of The Drums talk about tour life: 

The Drums: 


Listen to more of Lower Dens talk about tour life: 

Lower Dens:

The Drums and Lower Dens are scheduled to play FYF Fest this weekend. 

Get more stories like this

Delivered every Thursday, The Frame weekly email features the latest in Movies, music, TV, arts and entertainment.