"It means a lot to know that people can relate to something I just so nervous about writing.”
Drones have just released their brilliant new album 'Our Hell Is Right Here'.
A rip-roaring display of frantic punk-rock energy, the record is also filled to the brim with very personal and poignant lyricism courtesy of vocalist Lois McDougall. Pouring her heart and soul into her words and then allowing them to coat furious riffs, throbbing bass and jackhammer drums, the result is a chaotically catchy listen that not only serves as a catharsis for the band but also for those who allow it into their lives.
We jumped on the phone with Lois to talk about the process of writing so personally and what it has taught her and the band in then turning it into art...
Where did the first glimmers of the record start to come to life? What was it that was inspiring you to write in such a way?
“So, we started writing for this record almost immediately after the ‘Exiled’ was finished. We released that back in March 2018, so straight off the bat from there we were like, ‘Might as well keep on writing’. At that time, I was in a better place than I was a year one from then. I was married, the band was doing well, my mental health was stable-ish. To be honest I wasn’t really sure at the moment what exactly we were going to write about for this one. For a moment we were looking at going down the same route as the last record and keeping it open and focused on world issues. But it was then that things started to fall apart for me personally. I was kind of forced into writing these songs because of that, and at the time I was a bit nervous to bring these songs to the guys in the band. I had this weird sense of guilt that my personal experiences paled in comparison to what we were singing about on the last record. Though after I showed them, they loved them and we went with it. So I’m glad I did.”
To come to your band and open up in a way you probably haven’t before is a big thing, but it can have such an amazing effect on where you’re heading…
“Yeah, it went from everything being shut to every door being open. I think everyone was definitely nervous as well at first. For me, I’ve been playing music since I was a kid and have written personal songs before pre-Drones or anything in that sense. But for this band, it very much was. This band had been painted as a socio-political band and that was the vibe and exploring anything outside that is nervy. But everybody is so glad that we did but now you can hear just how honest the songs are. It gives the songs as a whole that bit of a boost.”
And from there, you then discover that you aren’t actually the only person going through these struggles…
“It’s crazy how many people have messaged us now saying just how much they can relate to the singles we’ve released. ‘Epitaph’, for example, is very specific about mental health and people have messaged privately simply saying, ‘Thank you for writing that song’. It means a lot to know that people can relate to something I just so nervous about writing.”
What was it like being in a studio space trying to make these huge feelings and thoughts into something cohesive and something that fits into what Drones is?
“Our writing process has always been demo-style. There’s a lot of music then lyrics working. I tend to vibe off whatever the demo is. So Tim [Kramer], our guitarist, and Rob, our ex-guitarist, put the songs on the record together and then I would almost top-line from there. It’s nice, because I can then take what I hear on that musical level and then use it as a canvas and then paint over it. It really helps to cement a vibe and it always seems to click. There’s this subconscious vibe that we always manage to connect on. It would be an awful lot more daunting if I was just sending these really personal lyrics over to the guys on their own. That would be a hell of lot scarier.”
So what would you say are the biggest things you have learned from this process, not just within the band but also within your own psyche?
“Just to be me really. Not worrying about what other people are going to think, even within the songs that we release. To just do things for yourself, because every time that I’ve brought lyrics and melodies and we’ve released them, we don’t seem to get much negative feedback back at all. I spend so much time worrying about what people are going to think and I really shouldn’t care. We’re only going to release songs that we love and that’s all that really matters. Then when there are the people who are going to listen to them and love them as much, they’re also the only people that matter in the end too.”
In terms of Drones, to then compare this record and the previous one and see just how despite being very different subject matters they still are able to meld into one massive big picture of the world and society and everything within it…
“I think there was a lot more anxiety releasing these songs because of how personal they are, but also there are still songs on this record that deal with those wider issues. There’s a song about body shaming and there’s a song about climate change. It’s by no means a totally black and white switch between the two. It’s nice to create the combination and also makes it feel that bit closer to home. That’s not to say that we won’t revisit the issues that we have delved into previously. It’s just a case of writing about what feels natural at the time. When we wrote ‘Exiled’ that was what was at the forefront of our minds.”
What do you feel as ‘Our Hell Is Right Here’ as a title and a statement means in terms of representing this collection of songs?
“The idea was that Hell is something that’s often referred to as the afterlife. We noticed that across a lot of the songs there were lots of references to different types of abuse. ‘Josephine’ is a reference to alcohol abuse. ‘Epitaph’ is a reference to self-abuse. ‘Our Hell Is Right Here’, the track, is about sexual abuse. We were just trying to come up with something that represented the fact that Hell exists on Earth sadly. The lyric in ‘Our Hell Is Right Here’ that goes, ‘The more I learn about the world the sadder I become’ just encapsulates it. The older I get, the more cynical I become and the more I learn about this world. It’s hard to not become cynical in these times though, isn’t it?”
Though to convert that cynicism to art is one of the best forms of relief really...
“It’s just about getting that angst out there. It’s a relief. It’s the same feeling that people have when they go to shows and get the chance to mosh it out. It’s all about releasing that negative energy that isn’t really acceptable in any other social situations. I think that’s something people are really missing at the moment too. Not having that outlet is harsh on a lot of people. It’s the reason I’m missing the chance to perform as well. That’s such a huge space for me to release that energy and I’m not that good at doing that in my everyday life.”
And how does it feel having this part of your life out there in the world now?
“It feels like a little reward from everything that is covered on the record. Through all the hurt and all the pain and everything, it’s nice to have these songs as a little token at the end to say, ‘You did it, here’s a medal’. Personally, it’s really nice to have that. I don’t regret it at all. It’s also forced me into having conversations with people who are close to me about some of the things that I’ve written. It feels like a funny way of going about things, from not talking about these issues to telling the world about them. But it’s definitely been a form of therapy.”
How do you feel as though your relationship with Drones has changed over the course of this period of time?
"It’s weird because we haven’t seen each other for over nine months now and we've been going through the process of putting this record together completely separately, but the work we have put in, even down to the visuals, has been done together. We’re just closer than we have ever been as people [because of it]."