“Who is the musician on stage for? That’s quite a debate, right?” asks DRUG CHURCH frontman Patrick Kindlon.
With the rise of album-anniversary tours and expectations for bands to always play a ‘greatest hits’ show it is a question that needs answering, and Patrick explains “I would argue I’m up there for myself,” but he admits “if someone in a different band asked me ‘what songs do you think I should play?’ I would say play the ones people like. What are you? Stupid?”
Drug Church, like many other bands, are currently in the position of still touring an album that is less than a year old. Cheer (released 2 November, 2018 via Pure Noise) is at the forefront of their focus, but the band see this as a blessing when curating a setlist. “This record seems to have brought a lot of people in, so it feels intuitive to play it. In this case it isn’t just that we like new material better, it is also that when we play older material I can look and see that there are a number of people that don’t know the old material. There’s a number of people here that really want to hear the new one.”
He is aware that it is important of somewhat bowing down and giving the fans what they want, revealing “I’m guilty of this myself. There’s a couple of bands where I love one album and I’ve never investigated the rest of their discography. If you go to a show and want to hear the hits it can be annoying when some motherfucker thinks he’s an artist, but as an artist I can say ‘ah, sometimes I don’t want to do what everyone wants me to.’”
The band’s method of setlist building has seemingly been a success so far, as Patrick beams “for the past six months I haven’t had too many complaints.” Since last speaking at their show alongside Boston Manor in September, there has been the release of Cheer as well as “a whirlwind of shows.” Pair these two accomplishments with “we made a lot of ‘year end’ lists, which was very nice and very flattering” and “people liked the record more than anticipated” and it is clear to see why Drug Church sold out much of their recent UK tour. At the Boston Manor show Patrick expressed his passion of ‘making it’ in the UK and his desire to “come here every four months, play fifteen shows and that could be my career” – when questioned what is different about being this side of the Atlantic this time around apart from headlining a string of sell-out shows, he humbly says “it is a nice feeling and definitely reassuring.” Whilst reassuring, this tour has also opened Patrick‘s eyes to it being “crazy how cold your buildings are. Culturally you guys don’t have the commitment to ruining the planet that the United States does.” Jokingly he offers the comparison between the UK and the US: “what happens if you get cold in your house? You put a sweater on, right? In the United States we crank up the heating. No one wears a sweater in their house in the United States, so when I come over here I cannot get warm.”
Other than the cold weather, he humbly adds to the self-perception of the ticket sales being reassuring saying “not to sound ecclesiastical here, but we’re not a very successful band. At the moment, though, we’re expecting a little bit of visibility. It is hard to really gauge how relevant a band is until they’re playing in front of people.” He is aware that this visibility and relevance perhaps won’t last forever, but has noticed that all bands don’t believe this to be the case. “Musicians that try to hang their hat on any moment and feel like that defines them are fools.” There is a brutal honesty when he confesses “nothing lasts forever in terms of people’s opinions. People just kind of tire of things.” It is unusual for a band selling out shows in countries they aren’t from to be wary of people losing interest, but Drug Church’s ‘bigger picture’ theory is refreshing. Expanding on his point of people tiring of things, Patrick offers his perspective of how staying relevant is much harder and more complex than simply releasing music and selling out tours.
“Most smart people realise it [success] is just reaching the foothills of another fucking mountain. There’s no top to the mountain. Every time you think you’ve accomplished something, you’re at the base of the next mountain.” Of course there is nothing wrong with celebrating briefly about reaching the ‘summit’ of each small milestone, but you must readily accept that after of these celebrations, “you then fall into decline, which is inevitable.” Instead of this killing a band off and letting the brief dip into obscurity turn into free-fall from relevance, “healthy minded people understand that this is part of the business.”
Offering an example, he hypothesises “imagine for example you become successful at 18 years old. You were playing music people like and it caught a moment. You are treated special and like what you’re doing is different and deserves to be celebrated.” This is the case for many bands that break through and do seemingly very little for a very long time because they are prolonging living the moment. “Fast forward ten years and maybe people are still connecting with you and that would be a blessing. You could still do the best work of your career, but you can’t expect everyone who loved you back then to still be loving you.” This is the challenge of being part of an industry where favour comes and goes on a weekly basis – especially with the ability to discover your new ‘favourite’ via Spotify every few days.
Aside from the obvious positives, for example exposing users with a plethora of music that they might have otherwise never found, “the streaming thing is basically a scam,” laughs Patrick. Clarifying “that doesn’t mean the labels are scammy or the bands are scammy” there is a strong suggestion from him that “the shit is only 30% real. You can definitely have a lot of views on YouTube or streams on Spotify, but those numbers can be gained.” Although this sounds like the obvious method of a band genuinely getting traction, Patrick reveals “I know a guy that for a career buys listens for bands.” The self-defined “scam” is exposed when he explains the method; “so there’s brokers whose career is to be the intermediary between the artist or the manager and essentially a listening farm. What some artists will do is buy listens to give them that first push, so they can then get on playlists and maybe get real listens, but the first bit is pretty fucking fake. Someone will pay them whatever it is, five grand, and that gets the plays. When you get over a certain amount of activity in a certain amount of time you get added to those playlists.”
Trying not to bother themselves too much with this, Patrick‘s adamance of “I don’t concern myself with it at all because when I found out it was fake I was like who gives a God damn” echoes his statement of last year: “the details are the worst part of life.” Admitting “when a game seems rigged it feels like it is not worth doing,” he does however feel that there is still gratifying characteristics when creating and subsequently releasing music. “There’s a 75% chance nobody will ever fucking notice, but the process of making the thing is still very edifying and still fulfilling. I think unless you are a pop star who has ambitions to make a lot of money playing music, a lot of acts are best served just putting their heads down and being good at what they do.”
Acknowledging that the fore-mentioned listening farms could in essence kill off any chance of Drug Church regaining the visibility they are enjoying right now, Patrick is not letting them kill off their ambitions. Leaving us with an insight into the not-too-distant-future, he explains “we’ve been asked to do some faraway places and I’d like to do those. South east Asia and Mexico would be really fun. They are places I haven’t been as a touring musician and it would be pretty fulfilling.” Not letting the idea of reaching the summit, or foothills, of the success mountain stop them any time soon, Patrick‘s wanderlust ends the interview as he says “I’ve been to so many fucking places now so when there’s an opportunity to see a new one I’m pretty jazzed on that, so I’ll probably pursue that.”