The Download Festival is a big opportunity for any band; no matter how big or small they might be. For London hardcore punk band, Drones, it’s a chance to re-introduce themselves. Although they first played at Donington three years ago, 2016 saw them go through a transition with vocalist Lois McDougall and guitarist Tim Kramer coming in and adding structure to their sound.
New single, ‘Territories’, is a fine example of their new sound yet the band’s socio-political lyrical tone in still intact with McDougall asking “why are we voting for when all the problems stay the same?” It’s just a taste of what’s to come, with a new album in the works.
As they prepare to return to Download with a new incarnation of Drones, we spoke to drummer Mitchell Thomas to discuss the band’s new direction, if the upcoming General Election will have an effect on the festival, and more.
AH: When it comes to the Download line-up, you’re considered as one of the smaller bands playing across the weekend. Can you bring us up to speed on the story of Drones so far?
We’d been performing for a few years with an old lineup. Our old singer/guitarist decided he’d had enough and we took this as an opportunity to flesh things out a bit and take a few risks. We were like, ‘fuck it, we could give this up and let this hard work all go to waste – or we could jump and take the risk.’ I’m so glad we did, because we found Lois and Tim, expanded to a five-piece, and have had the best time since. In the last year since the lineup change, we’ve toured Europe, supported Young Guns and Mallory Knox, and played a show at London’s prestigious Roundhouse venue – something we’d only ever dreamed of achieving. We also performed our first acoustic sets, which would have raised a few eyebrows with our old sound and lineup!
AH: Despite that, this will be your second time playing Download. What do you remember about your first appearance?
Mitchell: I think the most vivid memory is thinking “this is the biggest show of our lives, let’s get this right and prove ourselves” as we walked on stage. Then Rob (King)’s guitar cutting out on the very first note! I won’t be forgetting that in a while. But seriously, the main memory I’ve taken away from that set is being elated at how many people we didn’t know turned up to watch our little band at the UK’s best festival. That was a pretty special experience. Then getting fucked up to Linkin Park, of course.
AH: Last year saw Lois McDougall and Tim Kramer come into the band. What have both of them added to Drones’ sound?
We’ve definitely refined our sound. It’s still punk, it’s still aggressive, but it’s no longer a wall of noise. Not that we regret that for a second. Some of our favourite albums are noise start to finish! But bands develop, and I think the new style of songwriting Tim has brought to the table, along with Lois’ approach to lyric writing, has really brought a more of a different direction. We have more of our own style now, and that’s really going to show in our upcoming record.
AH: The General Election is set to take place on the eve of the festival starting. Do you think its outcome have an effect on the festival, if any?
Mitchell: It will and it won’t. Without wanting speaking out of turn, I tend to think the rock community leans more left than to the right, and there will undoubtedly be a sense of elation of disappointment due to the election that weekend.
Regardless though, Download’s audience is a massively positive community, and regardless of the outcome everyone will pull together and party, whether it be to celebrate or commiserate.
AH: We hear you’ve been working on your new album. How is it coming along? Can we expect to hear a preview of it at Download?
We’ll be playing a couple of new ones to whet everyone’s appetite. We only have 25 minutes, so it’s a shame we can’t play more! But that will come. There will be a mixture of brand new unheard tracks and some golden oldies. I’m stoked to see the reaction. The album is without a shadow of a doubt the best stuff we’ve written – it’s our baby, and we’ve been working on it for the best part of a year. It’s completely self-produced, so everything you’re going to hear on that album is our own blood, sweat and tears. Mainly sweat!
‘Territories’ by Drones is out now on Lockjaw Records.
Drones will be playing on the The Dogtooth Stage at Download Festival on Saturday, June 10th.
Download Festival 2017 takes place at Donington Park from June 9th to 11th.
Tickets can be purchased here.
View more of Already Heard’s coverage from Download Festival 2017 here.