Interview: Matt Hitt from Drowners at Governors Ball 2014

Over the course of the three days of this year’s Governors Ball festival on Randall’s Island, was there to share the festival experience with our readers – the sights, the sounds, and the highlights. We also had the opportunity to chat with a few of the acts after their sets at the festival.

One of those acts was NYC’s own, Drowners – who played early in the afternoon on the final day of Governors Ball. Blending a mix of British pop sounds with rock and punk, the band has their own take on the pop/punk genre. Steve Malinski caught up with Drowners frontman Matt Hitt to chat about the band’s music, Governors Ball experience, and what’s coming up for the band.

Drowners is kicking off the Dr. Martens #STANDFORSOMETHING tour September 25 in Ohio with a number of shows outside of the northeast. They come back to Rough Trade in Brooklyn on October 28 to wrap up the tour.

Steve Malinski: We’re joined backstage at Governors Ball with Matt Hitt from Drowners.

Matt Hitt: Hello.

SM: Congrats, you guys had a really awesome set earlier today.

MH: Thank you very much. Cheers!

SM: I’ll be honest and say that I haven’t heard of Drowners before this year’s Governors Ball. Especially with your new album out this year, what has your experience been like grabbing up new fans and building a following on the wave of the album?

MH: Well, we were a band for around a year and a half before the album came out and we had a couple of singles but we were playing loads of gigs and touring a lot since the album came out. Since it’s been out, it’s oddle like, quite surprising to see how many people have bothered to learn the words or that type of thing, you know. We used to play and people would only know one song but now they seem to know most of them.

Governors Ball 2014 10 Drowners
Drowners at Governors Ball 2014. Matt Hitt at center.

SM: You have a British influence that you bring into the music. Do you find that having a different sound in that regard has helped attract new fans?

MH: I like, well we all love punk music and rock and roll – Buddy Holly and others. We aim to write good pop songs but because of our crude punk upbringings we can’t help but to make it more aggressive. But, in a live capacity that works because I see a lot of bands who don’t move around or don’t even look up when they play and we play like we’re excited to see people.

SM: Yeah, it was great to see folks, especially the younger people there, being engaged since you so often see people on their phones at shows these days.

MH: You gotta give them something to look at so they’re not refreshing their Instagram feed the whole time.

SM: What was the experience like being one of the hometown acts at Governors Ball kicking off the afternoon?

MH: It was really quite amazing. We’ve just been on tour for like three months and everyone in the band was quite excited to come back to NY. Playing here was – well, festivals always feel alien because you only normally ever play gigs that you know people have come to see you play. But at festivals it’s like a potluck. It’s like everybody bought a ticket to come see someone like Bastille or whatever. So when you see people coming up to see you and sing along with you it’s kind of invigorating . Especially being back in NY (which we were excited about anyway) was awesome.

SM: You guys did a tour earlier this year with SKATERS, another NYC band, over in Europe. How did that go?

MH: It was good. I think it was like the sixth time they have been there in it was our first time there. I feel like we kind of have a similar sound and we’re in the same ballpark, you know, so we had a crossover of fans. It was rewarding for both of us, like, it was our first time there getting a chance to play in front of British fans.

SM: So are you guys hanging out for their set on Sunday?

MH: Yeah, we’ll be seeing them Sunday. This is kind of a sick lineup and I think I’ll be coming back. Got nothin’ else to do man, it’s the weekend!

SM: For my first festival experience I wouldn’t have asked for a better lineup.

MH: It’s pretty good, yeah. It’s funny to compare festival etiquette or festival crowds or dressing rooms or stages or whatever it is. Here… Coachella is like Fort Knox, you can’t walk through a door without someone trying to get on your case but here it’s got a bit more… enjembemom, you know, ha.

Matt Hitt of Drowners (left) with 's Steve Malinski at Governors Ball 2014
Matt Hitt of Drowners (left) with ‘s Steve Malinski at Governors Ball 2014

SM: Aside from SKATERS, is there anyone else you’re looking forward to catching while you’re here?

MH: I want to see Jenny Lewis but I think I missed her. I’m gonna go see Julian Casablancas – I can actually hear Julian playing now. I’ve seen him like three times already. His front of house co-produced our record, so we have a mutual friend. But yeah, Julian. I want to see Vampire Weekend but I’m working Sunday night so I’m going to have to miss them, but I’ve seen them at Reading.

SM: Before we wrap up, if there was one artist you could sit in with either in a session or on stage, who would that be?

MH: I really would have loved to have seen The Beatles perform because they say they couldn’t even hear themselves through  a mixture of shit technology. Any video I’ve seen of them is either grainy or been on television so I’d love to be in a Beatles gig to see what it actually sounded like. I think that bands sound better now through technology. But I want to know what shit sounded like before tuning pedals.

SM: Matt, I know you want to get out there to catch Julian’s set, so I’d like to thank you very much for your time.

MH: Thank you for having me.

SM: Perhaps we’ll catch up again in the future.

MH: Cheers, and thank you very much, I appreciate it.

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