Words by Molly Chen.
The United Kingdom fell in love with Liverpool three piece The Wombats more than a decade ago, after their charming debut album “A Guide to Love, Loss & Desperation”, which included the band’s award winning and most listened-to track “Let’s Dance to Joy Division”.
In 2011 they released yet another well-received album, “This Modern Glitch”, and the electrifying fan favourite “Glitterbug” followed in 2015, the first of The Wombats’ albums to chart in the United States.
Now, after three years, Liverpool three-piece The Wombats have finally graced fans with a brand new album, “Beautiful People Will Ruin Your Life”. After releasing the first four tracks off of the album teasingly slowly since November, the group’s fourth album was highly anticipated, and clearly for good reason.
Prior to dropping the new album, The Wombats toured the United States throughout the month of January before returning to the United Kingdom. Before they left (and therefore before the release of the full album), Molly Chen was able to sit down with drummer Dan Haggis and bassist Tord Øverland Knudsen to talk to them about their experiences while touring armed with a brand new album.
Molly: How long did you guys work on your new album?
Dan: Probably … it’s probably like around two years maybe. It’s been a time of … a period of transition, and like, Tord had a baby back in December, or end of November last year?
Tord: It’s over a year ago.
Dan: Right, the year before that.
Tord: Yeah so the last year I was kind of being… yeah we’re trying to record and finalize the writing of the album but I’m, I’m also kind of like, *laughs*
Dan: Being a father.
Tord: Yeah in this new situation, and having to, you know … doing all that.
Dan: but, yes, we did like, we went over to Oslo four times I think? And did like, a couple of weeks each time of, ya know, writing and just preparing some songs that Murph had written in LA and just, sort of working out how we were going to arrange it and, all the rest of it in Oslo, and then we did six weeks in London, and then we finished the album in like, October. But then it always takes quite a lot longer to get all the mixing and mastering and all that kind of stuff approved and finalized. So yeah … it’s pretty quick for us to be honest.
Dan: Yeah normally between albums it’s like, it’s normally about four years or just under four years, so this one’s…
Tord: In three.
Tord: In April it’s been three years.
Dan: So it’ll be under three years
Tord: Yeah it’s a year quicker. *laughs*
Molly: Is there like, a kind of overall theme or feeling that you feel like this one is going for compared to your previous albums?
Dan: Hm, I think like, I mean you’d have to ask Murph exactly like about lyrics and stuff cause he does most of that, but like, Murph always just writes about what’s going on in his life, really, and he’s been married and it’s normally to do with a girl of some sort. I think this one’s a bit more abstract sometimes – as far as Murph goes abstract – but ya know, it’s not just like a story, it’s kind of fragments of a story, you don’t really know exactly what’s going on. So in that sense of it it’s interesting, and musically we sort of tried to stay away from using as many synths I guess. That was kind of like one thing, when we started recording and working on stuff, especially Murph was like “let’s try and not go to -” cause you know it’s easy to go to like, synths, when we’ve been doing that for the last couple of albums, and so it’s just kind of like…
Tord: It’s very easy to just like, get a bit, ya know, go a bit overboard with layers and add too many bits and pieces and so yeah the whole idea was maybe to keep it a little bit simpler and, kind of, in a way kind of look towards our first album a bit more than our second and our third, maybe. And like, kind of try and go – although it doesn’t sound like that maybe, on the album – but the aim was maybe like, kind of go a little bit back to what we used to be, ya know like the three-piece and a bit more guitar based. But it doesn’t necessarily sound like that, not all of it, like some of the songs definitely do,
Tord: but, some of the songs maybe sound like it could have been on “Glitterbug” almost, ya know, so.
Molly: Are there any tracks specifically that you guys are especially excited about releasing? That already haven’t been.
Dan: One of my favorites that we’ve ever done is “I Don’t Know Why I Like You But I Do”, it’s the last song on the album, and it was actually the first one that we wrote in Oslo together. And it was just one of those songs that just kind of like, came together from, within three days of not having nothing, just started jamming, and then we had this song. Yeah, I just really love it.
Tord: It was a pretty cool experience, a cool kind of way it came together, we started with nothing and within three days we had this like finished song. So it’s like the quickest we’ve done a song, in terms of like just having nothing and ending it with a finished product in that short space of time.
Dan: And it just feels a bit like, dreamier.
Tord: It’s not the most “Wombats”-like sounding thing, it does sound a bit different maybe.
Dan: Hm. Yeah there’s like this little weird almost Beatles-ey section and there’s a bit of, like, almost a bit more Radiohead-ey, or that’s kind of what we were going for,
Tord: and then it’s really riffy and heavy and…
Dan: it’s got three different sections almost.
Tord: Definitely, yeah.
Dan: Someone, they mentioned that in the review of the album as well.
Dan: Yeah. it’s like a … anyway, that’s the one, one of the ones I’m most happy with.
Molly: So, how have the other three tracks been received so far?
Dan: Oh yeah it’s been, awesome. You always get that sort of trepidation before a new album or song even comes out, and, in terms of like,
Tord: It’s been much, like, better reaction than what we expected I think.
Tord: Not that we expected much. *laughs*
Dan: No it’s been great. Loads of good feedback and all of the shows we’ve done in the US this last like, two weeks. Ya know seems like a lot of people are singing along to, especially “Lemon” and “Turn”, cause “Cheetah Tongue” only came out two days ago so, last night there were like, I think a couple of people you could tell they were like “whoa, I know this one”.
Tord: There was a bit, there was a few people who knew some of the words for the first time, and that was kind of cool to see, but yeah. Still a bit early days with that one.
Dan: Yeah, yeah. It’s been great, and lots of people on, you know, twitter and instagram and all the rest of it saying’ like “oh if the album’s anything like these first three then I think we’re in for a treat” and it feels like it’s in a good, as good a place it could be leading up to an album, so, yeah.
Molly: Awesome, and the music video for “Lemon to a Knife Fight”, how was that, like filming everything?
Tord: We were only on set for like, two hours, like filming in that kind of like, the opening scene and the closing scene of the video. So we were kind of just like sat there for two hours, kind of.
Dan: In the cold rain.
Tord: Actually … the way we look is the way we felt, because it was cold, it was rainy, it was really miserable. It was not a very nice experience. We kind of just sat there and we were really cold. *laughs*
Dan: But it was kind of, we had a few moments where we were like almost delirious, we were laughing so much at how, just like ridiculous it was just like sat in the middle of nowhere in Ireland. I mean, you know everyone’s jobs takes them to weird experiences and weird things but … Oh and that day we’d been holding snakes as well, so we’d gone from a photoshoot with snakes to sitting on a roadside in Ireland.
Tord: We were like, in Ireland for about 24 hours…
Dan: No, less.
Tord: Maybe less for you guys.
Dan: Yeah yeah we flew in in the morning, and then flew back the same evening.
Tord: Yeah … we didn’t actually know anything. Everything else, in the music video – what it was going to look like, apart from what we’d seen and the kind of ideas that the director was kind of throwing out.
Dan: But we, we knew the story obviously and that’s why, like, we were like, listen, he’s the same guy that did “Greek Tragedy”, and we absolutely loved that video that he did for us.
Molly: That kind of makes sense, looking back now.
Dan: Yeah exactly. *laughs*
Tord: *laughs* He’s just the man with a … the man with a twist.
Dan: Yeah, and a vision.
Tord: And a vision.
Dan: He’s doing the one for “Cheetah Tongue” that’s coming out on … Tuesday, I think it is. But yeah it’s not going to be anything like the other two, but, I mean it’s still ridiculous, um… don’t know what’s going on in that guy’s brain but it’s great. *laughs*
Molly: So you’ve been on tour for a couple weeks now, right?
Dan: Yeah I think it’s a couple of weeks, yeah.
Tord: Must be.
Dan: Yeah, two weeks.
Molly: Have you had a favorite show yet so far?
Tord: Last night, for me, I think.
Tord: That’s like, when it finally kind of like, I felt like we were kind of, back into the world of…being The Wombats. *laughs*
Tord: It takes a bit of time get, you know, like, just to get used to being in a band again *laughs*. At least for me, cause my life in Oslo is, you know, as opposite to this as it could be, pretty much, so.
Dan: And I mean in a way I think all of our lives, like, it’s been similar over the last year know, ten years or whatever, where you go, like, you tour for ages and get used to this like, bubble existence of touring, and then you go home and, either, you know you’re making an album or you’re making stuff, but your day to day becomes quite like, you know, get up in the morning, go to the studio, come home, cook yourself some food, watch a film. It’s very like… it’s normal like, hours, and you spend time with some people and you like, go to the cinema or restaurant or whatever it is like a normal life, and then you come on tour and it’s just like … you forget almost how ridiculous it is. It’s not quite the same, and having a baby as well obviously thrown into the mix, I can’t even imagine how different that must be! *laughs*
Tord: That has to be so routine based, like, for the baby so it’s kind of like, you know, it’s mental cause you’re getting up at like, 6:30 in the morning and have the morning kind of like, routine of, ya know, breakfast and all that kind of getting her dressed getting going to kindergarten, drop her off, then I got like, six hours where I can do whatever but I always go in the studio, make sure I get as much done as possible, pick her up in kindergarten, and then make her dinner, maybe make myself dinner at the same time or wait till she’s gone to bed.
Dan: and then you come here and you’re up till 4 in the morning on a tour bus just like “ahhhh!”
Molly: I’m sure it’s exhausting, do you guys get any like down time at all to recharge or anything?
Dan: We’ve got a day off tomorrow, but we’ve got like an 11 hour drive.
Tord: It hasn’t been too ridiculous.
Dan: Omaha, Nebraska we’re going to on the way to Denver, cause we couldn’t do it all in one go. A., because we’d all probably lose our minds, and um, I think you guys did do that once, didn’t you? I think they did Oslo to Paris, which was like…twenty something hours?
Tour Manager: San Diego to Des Moines.
Dan: Oh did you do that one as well? We flew I think.
Tour Manager: And then Oslo to Paris.
Dan: But, anyway, it’s so good to be back on the road and like, it is like, playing new songs it always like, feels fresher and like, seeing people singing along. We just can’t wait till the album’s out and then we can, obviously, play some more of the songs from the album. Yeah. This is the first time we’ve done like a pre-album release proper tour really. Um, so yeah, it’s been fun.
Molly: And then you’ll come back, right, this summer, with the…
Dan: Yeah we’re doing a tour with Weezer and Pixies.
Molly: That’ll be great, that’s really exciting!
Tord: Yeah that’s very exciting. I find it ridiculous that we managed to get that one, I don’t know how that happened.
Tord: It’s really cool.
Molly: Do you really have a squirrel?
Dan & Tord: *laughs*
Molly: It’s on your rider, and we were all just like kind of talking about it wondering.
Dan: That’s awesome, I wish we did have a squirrel. This guy over here basically is our tour manager, and, I’m trying to do like a vegan, veggie at the moment, um, so, but he’s taking the piss outta me kind of, but also wanted to like, bring a bit of humor about with the whole thing, and so. Did you actually put like a picture of a squirrel on the rider?
Tour Manager: holding a knife.
Molly: There’s like stuff throughout it though that’s like, if the show is on like a Monday or a Thursday, provide seeds and nuts and stuff.
Dan: No, seeds and nuts every day!
Tour Manager: You said you didn’t need seeds and nuts every day that’s where the whole kind of thing came about.
Dan: Oh, right.
Tour Manager: Directions to the nearest oak tree.
Molly: That’s right, probably wouldn’t be much help in this weather though.
Dan: That’s amazing, or just any good spots where other squirrels have hidden their nuts as well would be great, cause I can just go in and have a little dig for them.
Molly: Well I don’t want to keep you guys any longer but thank you guys so much!
To buy tickets for The Wombats current world tour, please click here.
To buy/download The Wombats’ brand new album Beautiful People Will Ruin Your Life, please click here.
Interview by Molly Chen, you can follow Molly on twitter here.