Dropper: Screaming Internally with a Smile Upon Your Face

Brooklyn indie rock stalwart Andrea Scanniello has experienced all sides of the Big Apple’s gritty underbelly. After nearly a decade of working in the service industry and participating in the local Brooklyn DIY scene as a multi-instrumentalist in bands like Russian Baths, TVOD, and High Waisted, Scanniello began journaling about her many grievances with adult life on a regular basis. She gradually transformed these ruminations into songs, which she shared with her brother Larry and her drummer in High Waisted, Jono Bernstein. In 2019, the three of them formed a group with Scanniello on lead vocals, her brother on lead guitar, and Bernstein on drums. They later recruited Yukary Morishima on bass, and Dropper was born.

Photo by Cirsty Burton
Photo by Cirsty Burton

Dropper released their debut album Don’t Talk To Me via the band’s own label Dirt Dog Records in February of 2022. The band has called the record an album for “People who have worked in the service industry too long, and become curmudgeons at the ripe old age of 26. People who are lonely yet want to be left alone. People who drink because they are sad but also sad because they drink. Bisexuals with crumbs in their bed. Optimistic pessimists. Those with seasonal allergies. But overwhelmingly for people who, in lieu of being crushed by the eternal weight of existence, choose to scream internally with a smile upon their face.”

Don’t Talk to Me is a schizophrenic menagerie of shimmering psychedelic garage rock, krautrock, and shoegaze arrangements layered with Scanniello’s ethereal, Loretta Lynn style polemics about the trials and tribulations of facing down existential fear in the haze of a post-9/11 millennial fog. “I’m sorry to my dad and mom/They worked so hard, said to get a job/But the van’s got 300,000 miles so I’ll be sleeping on strangers’ couches for a while,” she reflects on “Waste of Time.” 

A Grrrl’s Two Sound Cents caught up with Scanniello to discuss the art of optimistic pessimism, looking on the bright side of the death of New York’s rock scene, and wanting to write a theme song for an Andy Samberg movie.

Is there a certain point in your early life where you can pinpoint the exact moment when you fell in love with music or has music always been a way of life for you? 

It’s kind of always been a way of life. My dad was a musician, he was a keyboard player who played in wedding and bar bands. Both my brother and I started playing music at a very early age. I studied classical piano when I was younger and then taught myself how to play guitar and have been singing forever, but Dropper is the first band I’ve ever been the front-person for, so it’s definitely different from what I was used to. 

Since Dropper is your first project front and center as the lead singer, what is the biggest challenge that comes with this shift in roles? 

A LOT of emailing. It’s mostly all of the other random responsibilities that come with being in a band, which is trying to book shows, organizing merch, marketing new material. It really is its own full-time job. And it’s such an important part of making things happen, and it can feel like a bit of a drag at times, but it’s worth it to get to write and play music. Hopefully in the future I won’t have to do as much of the other stuff. 

When it comes to writing music, I always start with the lyrics, which might sound incredibly strange to anyone else who’s in a band because the process is normally the other way around.

– Andrea Scanniello

I hear you. But it seems like these new skills you’ve acquired on your own have been extremely valuable. Would you agree? 

I think so. I’m definitely learning and getting better. I’m really lucky that my bandmates are willing to help with a lot of that. But I’m super excited to see how I’ve progressed as a songwriter. With the new record, it’s pretty clear which songs I wrote first because they have a very similar sound to my older bands, whereas the newer stuff is more chilled out. 

How did the band initially come to form? 

Myself and Jono, my drummer, were playing in a band together called High Waisted. I was playing bass and he was playing drums. When I started writing songs on my own, I was very self-conscious and wouldn’t show them to anyone. So he and my brother Larry, who’s also in the band, were the first people I shared them with. Me and Jono started jamming over my lyrics with guitar and drums while my brother, who lives in LA, was helping us demo the songs. Then Yukary, who plays bass, joined and that became our current lineup. 

I understand that Dropper initially stemmed from you writing down your many gripes with adult life. Can you describe to me the moment the idea came to you to turn these reflections into songs? 

I don’t think it was ever a conscious decision, I think I’m just a person who complains a lot [laughs]. So I think it was only natural for me to write about things that frustrated me. It was very therapeutic to turn them into songs, because it’s an easier way for people to relate. But really I’m just a whiner. That’s honestly what it comes down to. 

I feel like there’s not much of a scene anymore. I don’t know whether it’s because it’s fallen apart or it doesn’t really matter as much, but it feels less like a cohesive thing and more like there’s pockets of everything depending on where you go.

– Andrea Scanniello

You’ve described yourself as an “optimistic pessimist.” Do you feel like that mindset functions as a form of protecting yourself? 

The pessimistic side of me really comes down to being realistic about life. But at the same time I can’t be feeling depressed or down on myself about everything, because then it becomes impossible to survive. Even when things are trash, you’ve still got to hope for the best. It’s really hard to be objective with myself, but I guess that comes with making art in general, trying to see yourself from the outside. It’s a real mindfuck and the band still feels super new even though we formed three years ago, because we didn’t actually start touring until this past year. 

Hearing you sing these almost old-style country songs over these chaotic instrumentals is such an amazing contrast. How did you and the band initially come to form your signature sound? 

Well I have ADD, so that’s the first thing. When it comes to writing music, I always start with the lyrics, which might sound incredibly strange to anyone else who’s in a band because the process is normally the other way around. I think it’s more of a dude thing to be like “I wrote the riff, and then I constructed the drum part and the bass, and then I wrote the lyrics last.” I always start with the lyrics and melody first and then work outward from there. Maybe later I’ll add a riff or a keyboard line. Then I’ll meet up with the rest of the band to jam and see where it goes. I personally love psychedelic rock and krautrock but I also love old country and classic rock. I try not to sound so singular and try to find that space in between all of the things I like. 

How do you feel about today’s scene in New York compared to the previous phases of musical booms—like CBGB punk, garage rock revival, Brooklyn indie hipster time—that have happened here in the past? 

I feel like there’s not much of a scene anymore. I don’t know whether it’s because it’s fallen apart or it doesn’t really matter as much, but it feels less like a cohesive thing and more like there’s pockets of everything depending on where you go. There are so many different bands and artists everywhere. You could go to one venue and see the same old punk bands over and over again, but then you could go somewhere else and see amazing jazz, amazing pop music, amazing hip hop, and it’s actually pretty sick when you step away from the “scene” mentality and get more of the bigger picture, because there’s so much more to offer. The most recent one I can remember from when I was younger was the massive revival with The Strokes, The Yeah Yeah Yeahs, and Interpol. With the internet I think the idea of looking back at certain pockets of music with rose colored glasses might no longer be a thing in the future, but maybe it still will. Who knows.

Oh man, don’t even get me started. This will turn into a whole conversation about The Strokes. 

I don’t listen to them a ton anymore, but I’ve always loved them. Every so often when I put them back on it’s a real treat and I’m like “Oh yeah! This band fucking slaps!” I saw them live a few years ago in London and had the most fun ever. Is This It… That whole record is fucking perfect. Everything about that band just fits together so perfectly. They’re the type of band you listen to and think, “Nobody else could have made this.” Julian Casablancas’ lazy singing fits those guitar parts so perfectly. It was only those four people together who could have made that type of record. 

I started teaching myself guitar because I wanted to learn Bright Eyes songs. So Phoebe Bridgers is basically living my dream life. 

– Andrea Scanniello

On “Memoirs of Working in a Bowling Alley,” you describe the physical and emotional labor of working in the service industry, and on “Waste of Time,” you describe the pitfalls of touring as an indie band. What gives you hope in the face of these adversities? 

I’ve been living in New York for almost ten years and have worked in the service industry for the same amount of time. You end up meeting a lot of people and having very odd experiences. In terms of hope, I think every little success is a reminder that it’s worthwhile. A good example is Habibi bringing us on a brief round of tour stops in November. The response was great and seeing other people who aren’t local appreciate our work really helps me feel validated. Being in a band is dealing with so much rejection and rarely ever getting what you want, which makes it feel all the more rewarding when it happens. This is what I’m good at, and it feels nice to have that validated. 

If you could write a theme song for a movie, what movie would you choose and what would it sound like? 

Oh man. I have no idea what it would sound like, but it would probably be something really dumb, like an old Andy Samberg movie like Hot Rod or some shit, because I can’t take myself too seriously. 

Who are some of your favorite bands of all time? They don’t have to be influences, just music you genuinely enjoy. 

Oh wow. I hyperfixate on things for such brief periods of time where I listen to the same album for three months straight and then move on. But I think the one that’s stuck with me the most is My Chemical Romance. They were my favorite band ever growing up and I still love them. I also really love Weyes Blood, her music is so devastating and beautiful, and same with Julia Jacklin. I’m big into sad girl shit. But I don’t think I’d ever have the patience to write like that, which is why I admire it so much. With regards to MCR, I’ve always loved Gerard Way’s progression from accidentally becoming a global rock star and then a nerdy dad who writes best-selling comic books. It’s just so wholesome. It had such an impact when I was younger. My two biggest influences were My Chemical Romance and Bright Eyes. MCR made me want to be in a band and I started teaching myself guitar because I wanted to learn Bright Eyes songs. So Phoebe Bridgers is basically living my dream life. 

I’ve been living in New York for almost ten years and have worked in the service industry for the same amount of time. You end up meeting a lot of people and having very odd experiences.

– Andrea Scanniello

What was the best learning experience you had working with Andrija Tokic as a producer on this album? 

He was great. He’s like a mad scientist in the studio, which was really great energy for me to feed off of. I’ve had so many experiences working in studios with men who were so condescending and would never listen to what I have to say about mixing and engineering. Andrija was the opposite, just so chill and totally down for anything. He would throw out suggestions and say, “Why not try this? We don’t have to do anything you don’t want to do, but here are my ideas.” What was so cool is that we recorded it all to analog tape, and I really loved the idea of making it sound good in the room, so we wouldn’t have to add on too much later. 

What song on the album was the most gratifying to hear back after it was finished? 

“Telephone” was the most gratifying, because when we demoed it, all I had on it was my voice and an omnichord. We ended up doing a full arrangement in the studio and transforming the song completely, so it was definitely the most gratifying. 

What other exciting prospects have you got coming up? 

We have another show in May at TV Eye and hopefully another tour is in the works soon. Thanks for having me! 









The Emotional Timelessness of The Strokes

What I never expected during a year of total isolation was all of the nostalgia-fueled musical journeys I’ve been on thus far; whether it be reflecting on how My Chemical Romance provided an outlet for my queer awakening in middle school, my pretentious Indie Kid™ phase of thinking liking Nirvana and Joy Division made me unique, or finally shedding my “not-like-other-girls” mentality and admitting to myself that I’ve always kinda liked Taylor Swift. 

But nothing could have prepared me for the rabbit hole I would fall headfirst into the minute I picked up Meet Me in the Bathroom, Lizzy Goodman’s oral history of the garage rock renaissance that blew up in New York City at the turn of the 21st century. 

All of those bands mirrored certain turning points in my life. Karen O’s magnetic vocal performance on “Maps” by the Yeah Yeah Yeahs was a healing balm that soothed and comforted me through the emotional turbulence of starting puberty. Interpol’s “Evil” was the first dirty bassline I ever heard when I was five, and it changed my world. And the sorrowful “New York I Love You, But You’re Bringing Me Down,” by LCD Soundsystem was comforting to listen to whenever it felt like New York was crushing me.

But there’s one particular band whose discography I always return to every few months. The band that barreled through the doors of NYC’s Luna Lounge in 1999, and went straight into playing MTV and SNL not even three years later. The band that singlehandedly launched a brand new age of guitar music—The Libertines, Arctic Moneys, The Killers, and Franz Ferdinand are all heirs. I’m talking about a little band called The Strokes.

I won’t lie; when I was in my late teens I fully wanted to be Julian Casablancas. With his coldly rigid demeanor and scuzzy lyrics about casual hookups and the late night trivialities of city life, he was an unapologetically brash dirtbag to the core — but a self-aware dirtbag — one that I begrudgingly grew to love. He was easy for me to emulate with the way I dressed, the way I acted, and the way I conducted myself. I could easily relate to him because he was an endearingly awkward kid who was well aware that he was playing a game. He made it abundantly clear that the confident rockstar repose illusion he oozed was just that — an illusion. His image became a vessel for me to reclaim that confidence that I severely lacked growing up. If I faked it long enough, then maybe I would eventually believe that I was capable of being just as powerful — not to mention that his songwriting almost singlehandedly got me through college.

When I first arrived in New York, I was convinced it would kill me. The mythology I had internalized about the city being the place where people with “big dreams” go to “make it,” was immediately upended the day I arrived. It felt like having my soul sucked out by a demon. Everything was expensive. The smell of piss, garbage and tainted molecules permeated my senses every day, and the MTA was always late. I absolutely fucking hated it. And yet, that romantic mythology was, and is, still alive in me. I couldn’t imagine living anywhere else. The Strokes’ very first record, Is This It, was the soundtrack to my transition into college life, constantly in the backdrop of my excursions around the city from borough to borough.

Since the beginning of lockdown in March, I’ve been stuck in my childhood home in the armpit of suburban Massachusetts. It’s been exactly ten months and a total of 309 days; the longest I’ve ever been away from New York. As a result I’ve suffered from crippling depression, sleeping day after day with zero semblance of a routine except for school work. The only thing that’s been keeping me somewhat motivated to stay active and do something has been music. And the closest I’ve gotten to putting myself back into the spirit of when my bright-eyed, bushy-tailed self first arrived in New York at eighteen, was in April, when The Strokes released a record for the first time in seven years. The album cover was a Basquiat painting and the lead single “At the Door,” was a melodic, almost operatic departure from their typical classic rock sound.

What is it about the Strokes that makes me so emotional? Well, the only appropriate answer would be everything, but especially the way that the band uses intervals. I think Regina Spektor put it best when she said that the band’s riffs mirror that of a classical symphony, where the intervals compress and pulsate until they finally reach a climax and release, eliciting an emotional response from listeners.

Julian Casablancas’s rough, husky vibrato, Albert Hammond Jr.’s ascending leads, and Nick Valensi’s iconic intervals trigger these physical and emotional pangs in me that are hard to describe. The band is the very definition of the whole being greater than the sum of their parts. When they start playing, they transcend space and time. And the writing is sublime. The lyrics on a song like “Someday” are so melancholic and regretful. Casablancas references his fears coming to him in “threes,” breakups, and becoming an adult and quickly realizing that it’s not all it’s cracked up to be. The narrator is forced to work overtime just to survive, and like clockwork, he immediately wishes he could reclaim his youth; the “good old days.”

Is it possible to only be 22-years-old and already feel like “the good old days” are behind you? I’m about to graduate college without the experience of being on campus. I won’t be able to commemorate the experience with friends. I can’t see live music and I won’t be able to go out to my favorite spot in the city and get wasted one last time before I have to face the soul-sucking pressures of adult life. I still don’t have a clue what I ultimately want to do or how I’m going to survive. 

But by some miracle, every time I listen to The Strokes I feel like I’m being reassured that somehow things are going to turn out alright. I can’t quite put my finger on the pulse of what exactly it is about The Strokes that draws that response out of me, but they took so many sensibilities from many of my other favorite bands (The Velvet Underground, Guided by Voices, The Cars) and carried that invigorating sound and spirit into the modern age.

People often argue about The Strokes’ legacy, and many people are quick to diminish their impact. But nothing can take away the raw timelessness of a record like Is This It. And the fact that they released a sublime new record in April was a damn good silver lining to find in this dumpster fire of a past year. 

I haven’t been setting any goals or resolutions for 2021. The most activity I’ve done is weep in my childhood bedroom while looping the song “Brooklyn Bridge to Chorus,” as I continue down the path of figuring things out for myself. And that makes the idea of moving forward feel strangely comforting.