Interview: The Wombats

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Known for their effervescent pop stylings and infectious hooks, Liverpool trio The Wombats have made a name for themselves in the indie music scene over the last two decades.

In anticipation of their fifth studio release, Fix Yourself, Not The World, I sat down for a chat with Dan Haggis to pick his musical brain.

The Indiependent: Hey Dan! How are you doing?

Dan: Yeah, I’m fine. Just in my flat. Chill enough.

The Indiependent: How have the past few weeks been for you?

Yeah, a lot better than the rest of the year. Like, we finally got to rehearse, and we did all the new songs from the new album, getting ready for next year. And like hearing the songs properly come to life, in a room with your mates, like it was such a good feeling. Because, you know, we obviously have only done a few shows this year, and we did the whole album kind of in separate locations, so we haven’t actually properly played the songs all together – it was such a nice moment. So I’m still kind of vibing off that, to be honest.

The Indiependent: So did you write the album completely remotely?

We did the first half of the album, pre-pandemic. We had three writing sessions of a couple of weeks each over in LA, and we did a load of songs. And so that’s about half the album. And then we did some, like zoom sessions, and Murph did some demos with some of the producers that we ended up working with, over in LA, and then basically would send songs over and we’d work on them remotely.

And then last November, we had a studio booked in London to record the whole album. And then obviously, due to travel restrictions, Murph couldn’t come over. And we were faced with the decision, like, do we push it to next year? Or, you know, what do we do, and we just thought the way things are going, we could be waiting forever. So we were like, listen, we can do this, we’ve done enough long-distance things where we just need to get a studio in LA, and send files back and forth, and just be really organised with it. And that’s what we did, and we’re really happy with how it turned out.

Because of the time difference, we would wake up in the morning with what the other person had done – and so you get that sort of surprise moment. It was kind of a bit chaotic, but it worked really well in the end. And you know, sonically having two different studios on the go over 24 hours, kind of meant that we had different sounds and different instruments over in LA compared to the studio in London. And we just got to like, experiment with loads more things. And yeah, it just made for a richer experience of an album.

The Indiependent: In retrospect, are you glad you did it that way?

I’m glad we did it. You know, art in general always reflects what’s happening at the time. And for us, you know, the memories associated with this album are going to be, I suppose, a bit bittersweet in the sense that when we made some of the songs, there was the pandemic and then when we were recording them, there was like an actual lockdown in the UK. It was a very strange period of our lives and, but we made something really positive and that helped us through it. And music has always been kind of like therapy and a crutch for us all, whether it’s the music we’re making, or just music in general, it can be such an aid, it really helps you through periods. We had something to pour on our frustrations and like feelings and confusion and thoughts and everything and an energy really and just give us something to focus on. So yeah, I’m really glad and really proud of what we did.

The Indiependent: So, the title of the album, Fix Yourself, Not The World – with you saying that half it was written pre and post-pandemic, when did you come up with the name?

So that came along towards the end of the recording process. The songs in general have often been kind of introspective and real-life kind of lyrically very much coming to terms with how you’re feeling, trying to sort out in your head, like who you are, what’s going on. And, and as I said, with the therapy points, you know, it’s kind of like a, it’s almost like a therapist in a way. And so like, when the pandemic hit the everyone’s gaze turned even more inwards than usual, and rather than all the distractions we have in life, normally, they all went, so there was nowhere else to look. Like I remember Murph sending it over, “what you think about this guys” and it started a big conversation between the three of us like, well, you know, because it does bring up so many questions with how best to help others in the world and all the rest of it. And I suppose like, after the journey we’ve all been through, it was like, if you’re not at peace in your own mind, and if you haven’t accepted who you are, and all the rest of it, and then you’re not going to be much use to anyone else.

It just felt like it was so fitting for the album and hopefully asks people that question and makes them think, maybe it is time to work on myself a little bit rather than try and solve everyone else’s problems. But with a view to then, you know, as you see in the tracklist, by the time you get to the end of the album, it starts with the absolutely chaotic kind of flipping upside down and by the end ‘Fix Yourself, Then The World’ hopefully you’ve come to some kind of peaceful state that you can then go out and like help people.

The Indiependent: It’s like a philosophical journey, listening to the album, it’s such a roller coaster.

Oh, have you listened to it?

The Indiependent: I have. I’ve listened to it a few times, actually! My favourite track on it is ‘Ready For The High’. It’s a lot heavier than like the rest of the album – it’s a proper standout for me

Absolutely love that one. That was, funnily enough, the first one we made for the album. And it just started with that little riff at the start. And then it was like, we’re all big fans of ’90s grunge and it was like, oh, yeah, let’s f*cking kick off it. Can’t wait to play that one.

The Indiependent: Are you excited to be able to play the album in full for the first time in Liverpool?

Yeah, can’t wait. As I said, we’ve just been practising it recently. And it’s going to be so nice to finally be playing it live. It’s always that final nail in the coffin or piece of the jigsaw that you know, if you write the song, record the song, mix it, master it, and then when you finally play it live and people react to the song in real-time. It’s just like, the best feeling.

The Indiependent: Where do you think the new album stands in terms of just your discography? How does it compare to your previous releases?

 I think musically we’ve pushed ourselves further than we’ve been before. With each album, I feel like we’ve always tried to, like take it in a slightly different direction and push ourselves as much as we can musically and challenge ourselves and keep it as interesting as we can.

We wanted to make the whole album bit of a journey and keep it unexpected.

The Indiependent: I genuinely think this is my favourite of your guy’s albums.

Amazing. It’s really hard for us to say because every album we do it kind of feels like that at the time. But yeah, really, I’m really, really happy with this one. It was such a beacon for us throughout the dark of the lockdowns. It’s, you know, it does feel extra special.

The Indiependent: The whole album is pretty positive as a whole. But then there’s the one track ‘Everything I Love Is Going To Die’, and it’s quite nihilistic, is there a particular situation that that song was born out of?

It’s meant to be sort of uplifting, in a way and we can all acknowledge and safely say that everything is going to die at some point. And it’s not a nice sort of thing. But then, you know, at the same time, hopefully, it’s liberating, But you know, you can get like negative and you can worry about all this stuff, and actually to realise that, you know, it’s not going to change anything, or you’re worrying unnecessarily, you know everything could change tomorrow, so just make the most of the moments.

The Indiependent: Your lead single was ‘Method To The Madness’. What was the reason behind releasing that one first?

When we made the song, it felt like a real special moment for us. You know, when that happens, and a song just comes together and like, pops out, we were all kind of like, f*ck, we just couldn’t stop listening to when we played it to our manager, and friends and stuff, they were like, f*cking hell, I didn’t expect that.

It’s unexpected, so it’s such a perfect, opening song for us to release and hopefully, people would not know what to expect. But then within the song itself, life’s been very unexpected recently – so to have that kind of shock factor of just, well, where did this come from? And it’s so cathartic, like on the one we’d sort of made the outro and we will pause it and then Murph came in and went “I think I’ve got the outro lyrics”. He started singing and we were just like, yes, it’s so kind of “f*ck everything” kind of feeling and yeah, it just felt so right. And we felt like it was the perfect introduction to this album for people.

The Indiependent: That sounds like that’s your favourite track off the album. Are there any others that you’re excited for fans to hear?

You’ve already had ‘Ready For The High’. I think ‘People Don’t Change People Time Does’ – that’s one of my favourites as well. Like, you lose track of time within the song, it’s this kind of like, a journey floating like dreamy sort of thing that just keeps pushing you along and feels very different to anything we’ve done before as well. It’s got a bit more of an Americana kind of influence.

The Indiependent: One of the downfalls of releasing new music is that when you play the album live some tracks have to be cut from the setlist. Have you guys had that conversation yet?

No, we haven’t. And that’s kind of why we wanted to do the full album for the shows in early January. So at least we’ve got to play every song and then I mean, there’s always songs that end up working better live. So I imagine that you know, the first four or five songs that we’ve released now, they will all end up being in the set probably most of the time. And then after that, there’ll be another couple probably interchanging, depending on what mood we’re in. But yeah, you can’t play every song from a new album.

I suppose that’s what’s good about the January shows though, because you’ll get to experiment with which one’s fans react best to.

Yeah, exactly like, I mean, an example of that was on our third album Glitterbug, ‘Pink Lemonade’ wasn’t a single. But we played it at some shows and stuff and we love playing it but little by little it just became like one of the best songs streaming-wise on that album. Now we play it all the time, so you just never know with an album, which songs are gonna resonate with people and for whatever reason.

So apart from the wombats, you’ve got Dan The Man and Sunship Balloon, Murph has Love Fame Tragedy – are there any planned releases from those in the future?

With the pandemic, we’ve literally had nothing but time in the studio, really. When we couldn’t even leave the house, I had a studio setup in the back room. It’s been so helpful for all three of us that have different outlets – it kind of stops you from focusing too much on one project. And so, me and Tord actually wrote a whole second. Well, we’ve almost got a double album. And then we’re going to do a more electronic one, because we made so many songs over lockdown. I know Murph’s working on another LFT album. And I’ve been doing my own solo album, I put one up during lockdown, I’ve got another one as well.

For all three of us like music is literally the best therapy we can go back and have. But weirdly enough, like since we came out of the, you know, January to March lockdown, I’ve barely written a song since probably like May which is kind of mad.

The Indiependent: What do you think 2022 will look like for The Wombats?

I cross my fingers and toes that all our gigs will happen. And just can’t wait for people to hear the album. Honestly, it’s been bouncing around in our heads for like the best part of the year now. So it’s just going to be so nice for people to finally hear it and get some reactions to it, and soundtrack a few memories for people. And then for us to play live is like, you know, that’s one of the things we all love the most and to get to like travel around the world and meet people and bring music to random places. I just hope we get to do that really. And not you know, everyone’s life gets back to some sort of normality.

The Indiependent: I can’t wait until it’s finally out there for you guys. That must be so exciting

Yeah, it’s like giving birth, which I will never experience but it’s as close as I get to.

The Indiependent: I’d like to think releasing the album might be slightly less painful.

Depends on the reviews. Joking – I couldn’t care less about the reviews. It’s literally just about getting it out there. And yeah, can’t wait.

Fix Yourself, Not The World is out 7th Jan 2022.

Interview conducted by Lana Williams


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