The Wombats catchy indie anthems 'Let's Dance To Joy Division' and 'Moving To New York' filled dancefloors all over the UK back in 2007. After endless touring and festivals the band headed back into the studio last year to work on the follow-up.
Returning for their second-go-round, The Wombats sit down with Gigwise to discuss their new album, their sudden obsession with electro, and living in Paris…
What have you guys been up to since the last album?
Dan: “When the album came out we just toured solidly until the following Christmas in 2008. In January ’09 we started writing and demo-ing the new album. We did a few festivals that year because the album still had life left in it somehow, even though we didn’t want to do anymore gigs because we wanted to work on the new album and get that out. We had all these offers coming in and the people around us were just telling us we might as well do all these festivals because it could be another year or two until the next album comes out. It interrupted our writing flow so we stepped back from working on the album but then started again as soon as we were free to. So yeah, the last year has been a solid year of being in the practice room like a job, 9-5. Well… not quite 9-5, more like 12-6. Sometimes 12-12.”
Tord: “We’ve also been working on some side projects. I released an album with a mate from back home. We’re called Sin. There are songs that we write that we can’t fit in to The Wombats.”
Dan: “Basically, like when Murph moved down to London, if he wanted a week songwriting we wouldn’t just sit on our ass. The two of us would get together, or Tord would do something with his mate, or I’d just go in to the studio and write my own stuff. We’re always doing something, and I think that bleeds in to The Wombats music. It’s all useful.”
Tord: “We also just got back from Los Angeles. We filmed a couple of music videos and were on a TV show out there, ‘The Jimmy Kimmel Show’. It airs in March, nearer the release of the album, which is April time.”
Dan: “It’s the first big television show we’ve done out in the States. So fingers crossed it helps, because our maximum sized capacity over there for gigs has been 300/400 people.”
Tord: “New York was more like 500.”
Dan: “Yeah, but it’s still like College radio numbers. It’s still good because we get to go over there but it costs us loads of money every time we travel.”
Are you guys still signed to Roadrunner in the States still?
Dan: “We were signed to Roadrunner, we’re now signed to, as of two weeks ago, Bright Antenna.”
Tord: “It’s still Warner-related though.”
Dan: “Bright Antenna started up as a small indie label and we released a small EP version of the album. They probably printed a couple thousand copies before Roadrunner. It was literally just in indie shops to get us going. We know them. They’re friends of ours. While we were with Roadrunner, over the past two years, Bright Antenna have really built up their own reputation in the music industry Stateside. So at first they were this tiny label but they’ve now got more acts. They now stream through Warner. So being that we’re with Warner over here, we know them, and they care so much about the band, and I don’t think Roadrunner really worked for us as it’s a strange label for us.”
Tord: “It was definitely a strange one for us.”
Dan: “I think Nickelback were the ones really keeping the company going.”
Tord: “It’s funny because we don’t really sign to anyone. We’re on Warner. It’s our UK label. The others distribute our album in the States.”
Dan: “It’s all licensing deals. It’s a bit more than distribution I think. They just agree a deal that gives them the rights to all our masters, but they have to conform to lots of things first. They work close with Warner in the UK so it is practically distribution but it’s licensing.”
So are you guys living in America now?
Tord: “No… Liverpool.”
Dan: “Technically I live in Paris.”
Tord: “You do live in Paris!?”
Dan: “Ok, I do live in Paris. I do have a flat there, but I’ve still got my flat in Liverpool. We’re going back there today as we still practice in Liverpool. I live in Paris with my girlfriend. She’s French. It’s the first time I’ve ever lived outside of Liverpool and I’m 26!”
Would you say the indie/rock scene is like a specialist genre out in the U.S.?
Tord: “I guess it is.”
Dan: “Yeah maybe. I mean if you think about bands like The Killers. They were huge over here first whereas it took them a while to become huge in their own Country. The Kings of Leon are another one. Then you can look at Oasis, they didn’t really take off out there did they? So I guess it is a specialist thing.”
Tord: “The XX and Phoenix have done well over there. There are bands that are really indie at heart but when they get over there they go on to play places like Madison Square Garden and The Hollywood Bowl.”
Can you tell us a bit about the new album?
Dan: “I think musically, and probably lyrically as well, it’s definitely more, I don’t know…”
Tord: “It’s not as chirpy. You can’t nod your head constantly to it like you could the first album.”
Dan: “I think it’s slightly more epic, rather than it just putting a smile on someone’s face. I think there’s a lot more depth to it. We spent a lot longer on each song. So I think sonically it’s going to sound very different and more produced. But when you say something’s more produced, people hear over produced, poppy, boring, and too perfect. But that’s not the case.”
Tord: “I think it makes it more interesting. There are a lot of different sounds and details that we didn’t have on the first album.”
Dan: “I mean we still messed around on the first album but we recorded the first album in 18 days, whereas on this album we spent six days on one song alone, and it wasn’t even finished. On average most songs took us four days to complete. We spent at least double the time on making this album, if not more.”
Aside from the timescale, what else did you do differently this time around in comparison to your last album?
Dan: “On the first album we played a lot of live gigs before we recorded it. We did a 50 date tour right before we went in the studio to make the album. We went in to the studio, set up the bass, set up the guitar, and set up the drums. We all stood there, looked at each other and pretty much just played live.”
Tord: “The songs were the songs. We already had the reaction from the audience.”
Dan: “So we just played them live. There was no click track. When you listen to it, it was like a live gig going on. The only track we did to a click track was ‘Little Miss Pipedream’. On this album it’s the other way around. There’s only one song we didn’t do to a click track, simply because of the way we wanted to do it. We wanted to use programming.”
Tord: “That’s also something that comes from what we’ve been doing in between the albums. We’ve gotten a bit geeky in our spare time and it sounded like it could work within the new Wombats material.”
Dan: “There’s more synths used. At the start of ‘Jump In To The Fog’ there’s even a little children’s piano used. In fact a lot of the synths are from the demo. There’s no beating the sound that we originally did in Liverpool on our own.”
What sort of reaction have you had to the new material?
Dan: “We could go on forever talking about what we did and what not. It’s just annoying because you don’t think anyone will notice it. You just want to say, “On that bit that’s where we did this, that’s where we did that.” It’s funny because we’ve been really geeky and been looking at Youtube and reading peoples comments on our videos, and there are so many people that are saying things like, “I’m normally a hip-hop and RnB fan but I really like this.”
Tord: “Or, “I’ve never listened to this type of music before but this track…” It’s funny.”
Dan: “Some of the songs on the new album have rock outs at the end of them too. They’re quite grungy, very 90’s rock. It’s just stuff we’ve practiced on stage. We like the heavy side of things. Tord has got a hardcore project on the side where he’s really screaming his head off. There are so many different influences coming in. Sometimes Murph will come in and start playing a song that sounds a bit like Elliott Smith or something. He’s really influenced by that. We all just throw in different things.”
Tord: “Some people aren’t going to like it as much as the first because they’re going to want to hear the chirpiness and guitars, but we still have a lot of guitars on this one. It’s just not the same guitar sound. It sounds bigger.”
Dan: “A lot of people get personal when it comes to bands, and we’ve got a lot of fans who have left comments online saying things like, “What’s all this synths crap? You’re just following a trend.” It’s not at all true. They just put their blinkers on. We just tell them to listen to it. Yeah we’ve used the synths stuff and there are times that instead of a guitar we’ve got a keyboard going through an amp and it’s doing the same job. We’ve just tried to mess around with a few things. We’re very proud of it, but we’ll see what happens.”
So, it’s a lot different?
Dan: “To sum it up, as far as the writing process goes we sort of rebelled against what we did on the first album a little bit. Not intentionally. We just played every song so many times live that we just got a bit peeved with playing the same kind of music. So we all went off and came back with all this pent up energy after not doing a gig for six weeks. Everything we were doing was really heavy stuff. People were like, “Whoa. Who’s this? What band is this?” We also did a few DJ sets, and were listening to a lot of Kraftwerk, and not to mention that we’re all in to electronic stuff anyway, so then we came back and started playing around with synths. All three of us started having synths next to us as we played.
As a three piece there’s only so far you can go, almost. So we wanted to see if it was true. I think little by little, as we found a bit of electro coming in, our old stuff started to come back in too. In the first year, after it all then amalgamated, we found three or four songs that made it on to the album. This past year, within six months, we had the rest. The album’s called ‘This Modern Glitch’, and I think whatever that conjures up in the listener’s minds they’ll be able to find something in each song that will fit with it.”
Is it better than ‘A Guide To Love, Loss, And Desperation’?
Dan: “We think it’s better. Well, maybe not better but we’re more excited because it’s a new thing we’ve done. It’s just a step forward for us.”
What’s next for The Wombats?
Dan: “Touring our asses off from March non-stop until Christmas hopefully.”