Interview: The Wombats

The Wombats

the wombats - gaz jonesWords: Gary Lambert

Photos: Gaz Jones

The highpoint in the Popped Music interviews for 2015 was undoubtedly the invitation we received to meet up with The Wombats prior to their sell-out gig at Liverpool’s Guild of Students. For The G’s it was an opportunity to meet up with a band we had grown up listening to and for the band it was more than just another date on the tour. When you are sharing introductions with a band and their tour manager comes in to ask Dan Haggis, drummer in The Wombats, how many Triple A passes he is going to need because the current total stands at 36, you get the feeling that the gig everybody is preparing for is a very big deal indeed, “that’s the thing about doing a hometown show, it’s like doing a gig and having a house party at the same time, a house party that you haven’t kept track of who is invited”.

 

Even though we were sat there several hours before the gig, there was a thrilling tension and vibrancy in the air. As we were talking with the band, it was impossible to escape the feeling that tonight The Wombats were not just going to work, but were looking to make a statement and they were feeling great about it.

 

We had been delayed from starting the interview because the band had been having massages. What seemed like a brilliant cliché of rock n roll excess turned out to be a key factor of a performing band – and a recommendation for any younger bands touring hard for the first time. “The first time we went on a proper tour at the end of it we were aching and it was difficult getting on stage to perform. And when you don’t enjoy it, you generally don’t perform well. Then we were told to think about ourselves not like musicians, but like footballers or athletes. They have massages and ice baths to keep their bodies in peak condition. If you don’t look after yourself, you end up with terrible RSI. It makes you feel better and that is really good for your mind when you’re on stage as it provides you with more confidence”.

 

“It really hits home when we do some of the early stuff which is still fun to play, but is so fast and energetic, like the beat is based on an angry wasp. When you get to the end of the song the three of us will be looking at each other thinking ‘why did we ever write songs so fast’.”

 

the wombats - gaz jonesOne thing that has not been fast is The Wombats release programme. An album released every four years does not sound like the most torrid of plans, but apart from scheduled breaks between European and Far East tours and the like whilst the logistics of moving so much kit around the world takes over, the best they really get off in that time is around three months. “With each album, we have tended to tour it for about two years after the release, taking the show all over the world and back again. Writing an album about touring life is not what The Wombats are about, so we do not get started on writing the next one until the tour is finished and we have had a few months off to recuperate. Then you have to write, rehearse and record about thirty six songs for a ten or eleven track album. As we are on a major label, you have to wait for the people the label want to work with you to be ready. As they are investing so much money in you, they want to make sure it is right, so do we have the singles, the quality songs and the right sound. So there is lots of second guessing and discussions going on behind the scenes For example, this time they wanted us to work with Manny Marroquin who was busy on Kanye West’s album and when that album was delayed, it put us back for a bit

 

“It was good to wait though as we hardly had to do any additional work afterwards because of how he got us to sound. On a major label they are putting the big money in for you, so sometimes you have to accept that you have to wait your turn. Especially if Kanye West is using your sound engineer”.

 

January 2016 saw The Wombats back in one of their favourite territories, Australia. And it is a reciprocal love. Whilst their first album saw them bag a slot on Neighbours performing at Lou’s Bar, their second albums have both reached number two in the Aussie charts. For Glitterbug though it was only 150 records difference on a big selling week. Unfortunately after leading the race all week, Australian patriotism won the weekend with Lee Kernaghan’s Spirit of the Anzacs charity album surging to pip our boys at the line. Whilst selling a lot of albums on a busy week is good for the accountants, it doesn’t work for artists and record labels. `

“Everybody was gutted. All week we thought we had it in the bag. The daily totals were keeping us at number one and then when the final result came out. It’s good to sell records, but it really does have an extra special ring to being able to refer to your ‘number one album’. But that’s just a little thing. We are all really proud of the record and the support we have, especially in Australia where it is amazing”.

 

Throughout the Australian festival season, The Wombats were positioned high up on the bill at many events including headlining the New Year’s Day party in Sydney at Field Day with Disclosure. It is this which makes the recent LIMF announcement so exciting. We are going to see one of only two Liverpool acts to headline our own arena; who as well as being one of the most compulsive live on the circuit, have recent experience of topping the bill at events and dealing with the pressure of that; and who have been throwing out indie disco floor fillers from day one. This is going to be a real Scouse party. And you don’t even need to be mates with the drummer to get in as it is all free!

the wombats - gaz jonesAfter Australia the band were heading to America to further cement the gains made whilst touring Glitterbug. “America takes a lot of hard work and because our music is a mixture of pop and alternative, previous albums had found it difficult to get radio play because it did not quite fit the genre-specific radio that they have over there. But this time has been different, we’ve done three separate tours of during this album and the audiences have grown from last time. The American audiences tend to appreciate you doing the hard work of playing across the country for them, and we have had a lot more airplay too. In fact this set of tours has been the first time we haven’t lost money playing in America so that’s been great”.

 

If you are wondering why The Wombats have a strong and loyal following around the world, then you have never seen them play live. This is not a band who play live in order to simply advertise a record, but they play live because they are music fans. They have the same attitude as their audience. “If you don’t come off stage knackered and sweating then the gig just wouldn’t be right. It’s like when we get tweeted by fans to say ‘I’ve just been to see you. I was punched in the mouth and lost my phone and shoes. Best gig ever!’, you see something like that and you just have to favourite it because that’s the feeling we are after”.

 

Later on we were allowed backstage with the band as they were coming up to showtime and excitement was at fever pitch in the venue. As the guys were shaking hands and geeing each other up for the show, the house lights dimmed and their followers erupted in a wall of noise. The hairs on the back of my neck stood up with a combination of excitement and jealousy. People love watching The Wombats because The Wombats love playing for them.

 

So next time you see these guys coming to town, trust them to entertain you for the night. And if you are in Sefton Park in July, prepare to lose your shoes. Just make sure you tweet Murph, Dan and Tord afterwards to tell them.

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