In the last decade, the discussion around and acceptance of the LGBT community in America has shifted momentously. You can see it in the words of former President Barack Obama, who had a change of heart on same-sex marriage while in office. You can see it in the thudding punchlines of Dave Chappelle’s recent Netflix specials, where jokes about trans people that would have gone unremarked upon in the era of Chappelle’s Show are rightfully called out. Oh, and there’s the fact that marriage between people of the same-sex is the legal across the country.
But if you need another example of how far the Overton Window (the Obergefell Window?) has shifted in a relatively short period of time, you couldn’t do much better than the discography of The Drums. Since the group became MP3 blog stars via their buoyant Summertime! EP in 2009, mastermind Jonny Pierce has morphed the band’s sun-dappled Smiths tunes from pining odes to unspecified lovers and surfing to very pointed and unambiguous stories of queer love and heartache.
And to hear Pierce tell it, the vagueness of those early years was no mistake. When he spoke with Uproxx ahead of his latest album under The Drums’ moniker, Abysmal Thoughts, he revealed how he avoided questions on his sexuality during their initial success.
“We had this interview with The Times Of London and they flew their reporter to Brooklyn to talk to us,” he said. “And eventually the reporter asked ‘So…is anyone in the band gay?'”
Pierce knew unequivocally that he was. But the climate — or at least the way he perceived it — was different at the time. He balked at answering the question.
“We all just choked,” he recalled. “My face went red and I got dewy on my forehead over what was really a simple question. But I was truly afraid that if I said I was gay, it would cut into my chances of having a successful career in a rock band.”