Drones excel in the kind of punk that both readily talks about pertinent issues such as depression, abuses of power, struggles with alcohol and the like, but also, somehow, makes you feel a lot better? It's a special kind of magic, really. Now on their second album, 'Our Hell Is Right Here' sees vocalist Lois McDougall get into the nitty-gritty of a bloody difficult period that saw her go through a divorce, lose a family member, and grapple with mental health. Plus, y'know, the world is falling apart. "It's been a pretty rough ride for the past couple of years," she says.
What was the timeline like for putting together your new album, was much of it done around lockdown and social-distancing?
Most of the record had been written by the start of 2020, and we were well into the recording process by the time the first lockdown kicked in. There was still a lot to get recorded though, and there were even some vocal parts still unwritten, so trying to get all of that finished over lockdown and record parts here and there when we were allowed to was pretty stressful. It was made easier though by the fact that we recorded the album with our own guitarist Tim at Signal House Studios.
Has having to work through the challenges of 2020 given you any new skills you're going to take forward, such as new ways of working or the like?
Along with the rest of the planet, we ended up having Zoom calls rather than meet-ups in pubs for band chats. That's definitely something I reckon we'll keep doing. It's funny, we seem to get a lot more done when there isn't a bar involved…
Did you have a firm idea of what you wanted to do with the album before you got started?
Not really! This record is definitely more of a collection of songs that we wrote freely rather than a constructed album like our last record 'Exiled', which is a concept album. It was nice to just be able to write whatever we wanted and instrumentally I think the moods we were in at the time of writing are more identifiable on this record.
How do you start working on a project like this, did you already have some tracks you wanted to include?
We began writing for this album at the start of 2019, so the tracks have been created between then and mid-2020. That's over a year in which they came together, and I think that's why the topics on this album are so varied. It was a rough few years for me, and there are songs about depression, divorce, binge-drinking, death, abuse, as well as body positivity and climate change on this album. There's a lot on there… I had a lot to say!
'Our Hell Is Right Here' is pretty heavy stuff, how do you feel listening to it back now?
We love listening back to it. We're very proud of what we have achieved, and there are so many different levels to this album. I wrote a lot of these lyrics as a release for what I wasn't able to really say out loud, and although a lot of it was painful at the time, it makes me happy to know that we have managed to create something positive and fun from some pretty horrible times. I get a sense of closure listening back to it.
Do you turn to sad music yourself when you're feeling in need of reassurance? Any particular faves?
I definitely listen to sad music when I'm sad, which considering I have a depressive disorder is a lot. Haha. Recently I've had 'Keeping Up' by Microwave on repeat. Also love a bit of Soccer Mommy, Julien Baker, Phoebe Bridgers, Explosions In The Sky, Death Cab For Cutie. I'm definitely an emo at heart… My favourite band when I was 12, was Dashboard Confessional.
What's your lyric-writing process like? Do you have any tips or tricks for conveying difficult feelings?
For me, it's usually very one way or the other. Either I'm in a sort of out of body state where the words all just fall out, and the whole song is suddenly staring back at me, or I write one-liners here and there and then piece them together. I much prefer the former way as the latter actually gives me pretty bad anxiety sometimes because I tend to overthink everything. I think the best trick is to just be honest. As soon as you start forcing or faking things, it crushes the momentum and will be obvious in the outcome.
What led to the collaboration with Ren Aldridge on the title-track? How much did she contribute to the track?
We're so happy that this happened. When writing the single 'Our Hell Is Right Here' we very quickly knew that we wanted a different voice for those parts of the song. We've played shows with Petrol Girls before and admire them. Ren is not only a great singer, but the band are also activists and avid fighters against sexual harassment, and so that was even more reason to have them involved.
Have you done much collaborating with other artists otherwise? How do you find it, generally?
We had a friend record live cello on this record which was fun and adds a nice layer to a few of the songs. I think all good collabs, like ours with Ren, come about organically. There are loads of artists that we'd love to create with given the chance like Dinosaur Pile-Up, Anti-Flag, Rise Against, The Bronx and Marmozets.
What's the best compliment someone could give 'Our Hell Is Right Here'?
Honestly, to just have people listening to it is compliment enough. Seeing how many people are already getting involved is so cool. At the end of the day we're just a bunch of people who enjoy making music and so if anyone else is loving it too, then that means more than we could ask for.
Do you already know where you want to go next, musically?
We've recently been joined by guitarist Tom Thain, so we're excited to see what he adds to the songwriting process. He's sent a few riffs over already, and they sound HUGE. We've already started throwing ideas around, so we'll see what happens…
What does 2021 look like for you?
Fingers crossed it will be full of shows! We're so ready to get gigging again as soon as it's safe. We're so excited to play these new songs live and of course, bring back the older ones. 'Our Hell Is Right Here' is available for pre-order now. Get involved, hit us up at @drones_uk and let us know what your favourite song is.
Taken from the February issue of Upset. Drones' album 'Our Hell Is Right Here' is out 12th February.
Featuring Architects, You Me At Six, The Pretty Reckless, Frank Iero and loads more.