The Wombats, Interview
Interview with Wombats
With performing in aid of the Olympic Torch's tour around the country prior to the Olympics, opening for the Red Hot Chili Peppers and even holding there own shindig in rural Cheshire, The Wombats have one busy summer coming up. Fresh from an exultant excursion across North America, this is nothing new for the well-travelled Liverpudlians, who are already renowned for their lengthy stays on the road.
Before their hectic schedule resumes, we managed to catch up with the band to talk Dizzee Rascal, Conan O'Brien and perhaps most importantly of all; Steve Winwood.
You've recently performed a couple of gigs as part of the Olympics; what does it feel like to be representing your region in such a fashion for the Olympics and for the country?
Matthew Murphy: Yeah, it's a great event to be a part of, obviously trying to get young people and just everyone in general in the North West involved in the Olympic Games and obviously music's a good way to get people involved, isn't it? We're really proud to represent the North West.
Are you all excited for the Olympics?
MM: Oh, yeah, we can't wait! We haven't managed to get any tickets but we've got some fairly decent widescreen TVs to be watching.
Tord Ãverland-Knudsen: We'll all be spending a few hours standing in front of the TV somewhere.
MM: Yeah, I'm looking forward to seeing some of the javelin and the shot put.
Dan Haggis: I'll be watching the badminton and Tord will be watching the fishing.
MM: Yeah, we were wondering if there was actually like fishing in the Olympics or not?
I don't think so, but I'd wouldn't be surprised if there was
MM: Well, if there is then that's what Tord will be watching anyway.
DH: I'll be watching the netball as well.
MM: They do beach volley, yeah, my uncle's going to see the women's beach volley final.
DH: I bet he's quite happy with that one.
MM: I'm looking forward to the 100 metres final to be honest.
DH: Watching the thighs?
MM: Yeah the thighs and the banana and two apples as well.
You'll be hosting a 'Party in the Forest' at Delamere Forest in July, what made you chose to put on a gig in such an unconventional place?
MM: It's always kind of exciting for a band to just play somewhere that you know you may never get the chance to play again or something different and, for us, a bit of a session in the forest had a pretty decent ring to it. And it's pretty close to where we're from - we've all, well, myself and Dan have spent a lot of our childhood walking around the forest.
DH: Learning to ride!
MM: learning to ride bikes, pondering life whilst looking at a nice little.
DH: Spider webs just kind of dripping with a bit of autumn mist.
MM: Yeah, so it's nice to go back there and do something.
DH: And the thing is organised by the Forestry Commission, isn't it? To try and promote outdoor spaces and keep forests as an everyday part of people's lives.
As well as Delamere, you'll be playing with the Red Hot Chilli Peppers at their shows at Knebworth and Sunderland's Stadium of Light. How did you wind up getting involved with this?
DH: Dunno really [laughs]
MM: Well, basically, we got the offer through our booking and we jumped at the chance obviously.
TOK: We're kind of old school Chilli Peppers fans. We were delighted, we just love them. All of us.
MM: I think at one point or another we've all tried to learn 'Under the Bridge' on the acoustic. We've never actually supported a super-group such as them, so that's one thing to kick off the bucket list. The bucket on stage as well once we get up in front of about 80,000 people.
With Dizzee Rascal in particular, the choice of supports for these shows are unusual. When you go on tours, do you look to do something similarly unconventional?
MM: I guess it's nice to have variation with the support acts and to, not educate the crowd but show them some current music that you like, help your mates out or help other bands that you really like out.
TOK: It's important to put on a band that can work with our crowd, put on something a bit different. We've had some support bands that haven't gone down very well with our fans in the past.
DH: I think Dizzee Rascal's just got so many tunes he's just gonna get them riled up to an unholy degree ready for the Chilli Peppers.
MM: It's all about just building up the anticipation.
DH: That's if the crowd is still there after we've played.
Whilst you were in America you looked to be making some strides in establishing yourself over there. How do you think US audiences take to your typically British sound? Do you think they appreciate it as much as we do over here?
MM: Erm. Yeah? [Laughs] There's always been a fascination with British bands and British music in America and vice versa; in the UK there's always been a massive influence from American music as well and it's just like a circular thing that is reciprocated on both sides of the pond. When we're over there we meet lots of people in smaller towns who are just so intrigued to meet British people and I think, culturally, there's a lot of interest in Britain as well so it works out well for us.
DH: I think at the moment people seem to be paying us a bit more attention than we're used to, I mean, all the shows we've done touching on that kind of crowd reaction. It's been a wholly positive experience.
TOK: People are talking about the British invasion as well these days; a lot of British bands have been recently doing really well in the States so I think British music is doing alright.
What was it like performing on The Conan O'Brien show?
MM: A bit nerve-racking but it was good fun. We only played one song so it was over before it had begun almost. A bit like a weird dream.
DH: Getting knee deep in tequila.
MM: Yeah, it was a really good experience and we met him after, he put us at ease. We got to shake Tom Selleck's hand and stroke his moustache a bit.
DM: And stare at Liam Neeson's arse.
What an honour!
DM: I'm still a bit in awe of the whole thing actually.
Is the indie rock scene in America a much more specialist scene, something that you have to try and infiltrate in a very different way to say back here or in Europe?
MM: We really don't think about how we fit in or how we're supposed to fit in or anything. When it comes to America (well, when it comes to anywhere, really), we turn up in a place, do a gig and hope the people have the best night possible as we do from playing the songs and hopefully it brings the songs that they've heard on the album to life. We really don't think of ourselves in terms of how we fit in against say Phoenix or The xx, it's not really something that goes through our heads really.
There's quite a noticeable difference between your first and second album. Do you ever feel that a reinvention of your sound is sometimes necessary?
MM: We did what was best for the songs and what was best for us at the time an we'd gotten a little bit bored of just playing guitar, bass and drums so it felt like a natural progression for us to move on to using synths and just talking to ourselves a little bit.
What were the major contributing factors into experimenting with your sound on the last album? Do you put it down to new influences, producers or from the band itself?
MM: On this second album all the songs sounded more or less the way they did in terms of instrumentation and stuff before we actually went into the studio with it. I think it definitely comes from us and our guts and, I don't know, it kind of happens naturally. And it terms of what we were listening to, I guess, early on, there was a bit of listening to Kraftwerk and Depeche Mode, maybe a few references we chucked in but I don't think we like to stick to one band in particular to try and base our sound on. Take the odd influence and something can work out but obviously it'll end up being more original if you let it come from your bowels.
There was quite a big gap between the first and second albums; will we be waiting as long for number three?
MM: Hopefully not! But who's to know?
TOK: When it's ready, it's ready. We're not in a rush to finish. We've started writing the songs already so.
DH: And a lot of that gap, as well, was pretty unconstructive because we didn't have this control over it, there was a lot of touring at the back end of the first album then the label pushed the album back.
TOK: 6 months nearly.
MM: Yeah, nearly 7 probably.
Do you see yourself as a touring band or more strictly a studio band?
MM: Probably a touring band. We do enjoy being in the studio, sometimes the studio is more like a nicety, isn't it? Like a 'well this is cool, we'll go play with a load of crap for a month or two' and it's a relaxed, enjoyable atmosphere but the touring is what gives us the throb-on. [Laughs]
You seem to incorporate a lot of poppy elements in your music, are you unashamed pop fans or is this just how your sound turns out?
MM: I think we all appreciate a good pop song and we've all got slightly short attention spans so when it comes to us making and arranging our songs, we normally end up, if we get bored for a second, then we stick in another hook or we change something up. We all love really alternative and varied types of music like Tord can be listening to Refused, y'know, some hardcore music and then Matt might be listening to Elliott Smith just on acoustic guitar and I can be listening to.
TOK: Bob Marley.
MM: .Bob Marley or something so it's all very different and all these influences come together. We did a reggae version of 'Kill the Director' once; it was heavily influenced from my love of Bob Marley. That was good.
I bet. Did the Refused link come into play at your MTV Awards performance when you covered 'Bleeding Love'? [The band played a Refused-esque cover of the Leona Lewis track]
MM: That actually came more from us drinking copious amounts of red wine in a small studio. [Laughs] We like to rock out!
Can we expect even more pop on number 3 or will you be mixing it up even further?
MM: I think between the first and second albums we've got a pretty good idea of where things are gonna go but, at the minute, the last few songs we've done have, maybe they haven't been quite as pop.
DH: A bit more rock!
MM: . A bit more maybe grungey and rocky but we'll see. If you listened to the first four songs we did for 'This Modern Glitch', you wouldn't have expected the way the album turned out so I think it's a little bit early to say for us now.
Who are you major influences, in all aspects of writing/recording/performing?
MM: We all came together over a love of bands such as Radiohead, Smashing Pumpkins. who else? I think in the early days that's what we liked but.
DH: Beach Boys!
MM: Beach Boys as well and Weezer and obviously we grew up listening to The Beatles and Neil Young and Bryan Adams.
TOK: Bon Jovi.
MM: And Bon Jovi and stuff. We're just big fans of music in general, anything that floats our boat.
DH: Mr. Bon Jovi though.
TOK: 'Waking Up the Neighbours'.
MM: Well, 'Waking Up the Neighbours' but 'Reckless' by Bryan Adams - that was the first album I ever bought.
TOK: Stevie Winwood?
MM: Stevie Winwood's been a lifelong-
TOK: Massive, really big influence.
MM: You know that song 'Higher Love' by Stevie Winwood? Before we start working on a song, our first thing is like 'this has to get close to 'Higher Love''. We base everything on. It's an impossible task really. It's like comparing yourself to God or something. It's futile. We're never satisfied, so that works out well really; it's more of our philosophy on life: to have an unattainable target such as making a song as good as 'Higher Love' and then never reaching it so we're always striving for better.
Is there one album that you wish that you'd had made?
MM: It's more of a collection of songs really but 'The Greatest Hits of Stevie Winwood'. I don't know how that album even exists to be honest it's that amazing. So, probably that is our benchmark.
For all of you?
MM: For all of us, yeah.
Finally, when will you be returning to the studio?
DH: Probably next year.
MM: When we've determined that the album is ready to be recorded.
MM: Yeah, 'captured', sorry. We've been working on four or five songs now and, I don't know, we'll just keep going until everybody's happy, really.
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