Listen Up: Q+A with The Wombats

By SANNI YOUBOTY
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Liverpool, London, and Los Angeles. Of the 3 cities that British bandsters The Wombats compiled enough love/hate experiences to complete their latest LP Glitterbug, it was us – the City of Angels – that inspired most of the content for this new album. Throwing hi-fives? It was actually the city’s mix of opulence and anxiety, as well as a tumultuous relationship with a (so-called?) fictional LA lass, that inspired front-man Matt Murphy to write the set of songs with his music mates: drummer Dan Haggis and bassist Tord Knudsen. Nearly 4 years since the trio’s previous full-length, the band’s sonic style has progressed to include more synths and an evolved bass sound while still maintaining their distinctive drive and cheeky song titles like “Greek Tragedy,” “Emoticons,” and “Your Body Is A Weapon.” Back from a cold Winter and chilly Spring through Europe and the East Coast, we caught up with 2 of 3 Wombats on a LA rooftop for some much needed vitamin D and to chat about the new tunes:

LA CANVAS: Welcome back to LA. How ya been, where ya been?

DAN HAGGIS: This winter we’ve been in NYC and back in the UK. Our skins have become so white, we haven’t seen real sun in a while. We’re just not built for LA sun. My uncle, on my mom side of the family, has some Mediterranean kind of vibes going on. I obviously missed out on it (laughs).

LAC: You guys are back with new tunes, pics, and videos in celebration of your new album Glitterbug. We couldn’t help but notice a running theme of glum and gore though, especially with tracks like “Greek Tragedy” and “Your Body Is A Weapon.” Is there cause for concern? Do you need a hug?

DH: We always need a hug (laughs)! A lot of the songs and the recent video do have a bit of gore and may be a bit dark, but there’s also comedy to it. It’s not meant to be taken too seriously. And “Greek Tragedy” isn’t actually about a stalker, unlike the video. It’s about a relationship. As for the photo shoot… yes, it was a bit weird (laughs).

TORD KNUDSEN: I think the reference for the shoot was that movie Drive. They kept shouting at us “don’t smile!” The shoot started from 7pm and went until 7 in the morning. By the end of it, we were so dead. We’re all good though, we are happy.

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LAC: OK. Share with us one thing you’re super happy about.

DH: We are very about this new record and to be back on tour. Towards October of last year, we were all getting a bit restless. It felt like there was a never-ending process that we just kept banging our heads against, for when our music would finally be out there.

LAC: What were some of the parameters holding back the release?

DH: We initially came out to LA to work with a producer here, sort of as a trial. We were excited and open to taking our sound into a different direction. The way we work back home in Liverpool is that we demo our songs to a very high level. Therefore, we pretty much had a sound, and our label decided they preferred the way we did it originally versus how we did it in LA.

TK: We did as well. So it was back to the drawing board.

DH: From there, we got together with Mark Crew to record “Greek Tragedy.” He did Bastille’s album. It was the first song that we did, and we thought he was amazing. Here’s a guys who’s about our age, located in the same country as us, really talented, and we get along well with. We and everyone at the label were absolutely in love with the results of the songs. We felt like he took what we already worked on and really expanded and improved it. There was bit of an issue with scheduling though, because he had loads of other projects on. He was like “yeah, I really want to do this project with you guys, but I can only do 2 weeks in September… 1 week in October… 3 weeks in November…”

Tord: For us, he was worth waiting for though. We preferred to do it with one person and make the album cohesive.

LAC: Over all, how do you feel this new album is a step up for The Wombats as a band?

TK: We’ve definitely pushed ourselves more! This time around, we’ve been so much more involved during the process of producing.

DH: We’ve gotten so much better at what we do and what we like. After 10 years as a band, we really know ourselves individually and together. We have these sort of weird conversations with ourselves, like, “what would we do now versus what we would have done on the first album?” I really feel that stars aligned for us on this album, we’ve got some of the best songs that we’ve ever done out there now.

LAC: 10 years is a long time! That’s longer than a lot of other bands, and many marriages. For better or for worse, how has each person evolved over the years?

TK: Well, I got shit loads more of gray hairs (laughs).

DH: I feel like we’ve definitely matured over the years, but we do like to let the 21-year-old inside come out sometimes. I think that’s especially important on tour, to be able to have a laugh. On music though, I think that when we started, we didn’t know much about the business side. We didn’t know about what actually goes into making albums with major record labels, or touring the world and what all that brings, or dealing with not seeing friends and family for periods of time. We’ve gotten better with dealing with it. Also, everyone around you gets used to your lifestyle and you being gone.

LAC: Speaking of life on the road, The Wombats has had a big break from touring while between albums. What are some cities that you look forward to re-visiting?

TK: Honestly, everywhere. It all feels really fresh again, even though we’ve been to many of these places before. Like you said, a lot of time has passed since we’ve been back out. Different people are coming out to see us, and we’re meeting new people, with new stories. I really missed waking up and being like, “where are we going today?”

LAC: Like in your video for “Greek Tragedy,” have you guys truly had any weird/psycho fan experiences at shows or home?

DH: There was one girl who was threating to sue us because she wanted a signed keyboard of ours. It was thrown into the crowd, and she wanted to keep it.

TK: Also, sometimes there are people who maybe misread how much they actually know you. Maybe they’ve read something about you, but then believe that they are actually close friends with you, like full on.

DH: Yeah, and they even go out to find your family and real friends on social media.

LAC: How do you deal with that?

DH: We’ve been really lucky about having cool fans. For us, we do actually engage with our fans a lot. There isn’t that standoff-ish element, versus some of the artists that never engage and so they get put on an even higher pedestal. Where as people see and chat with us and go, “Oh, you guys are pretty normal.” We think, “Yeah, what’d you expect?”

LAC: What’s up with the title of your recent single “Greek Tragedy?” Before catching the song and video, as your band is from the UK, we were thinking that it might have been a low-key jab at the current dismay of the EU-Greek economy. Too deep?

TK: (Laughs) Love that you actually thought about that.

DH: It’s great though that you mention that, because it’s cool to think that the song can be interpreted in different ways. The truth is that it’s about how Murph was sort of breaking up with a girl, then the transition into a new relationship. It has never been politically motivated.

LAC: Dan speaks French and Tord is secretly Norwegian. As we’re now here in LA, how’s your Spanish?

DH: Wish you would have asked me this when I was 21. I used to takes courses, but now I haven’t spoken Spanish in way too long. I know how to order food though… Dos cervezas, por favor.

LAC: Anything else to add for the LA masses?

DH: It’s been fun playing all these fun, smaller shows ahead of the proper tour. We’re doing a full Europe tour, into a U.K. tour, into the U.S. tour and then festivals. Come out to see us!

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The Brits are back, now touring across North America. You can catch The Wombats in LA at The Fonda on Tuesday May 12th and head right here for your chance to get some free tix to the show.  

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