By Alice Loughran, Second Year Music
In the wake of Wombats’ new studio album, ‘Fix Yourself, Not the World’, I was lucky enough to interview drummer Dan Haggis (Dan the Man). Alongside Matthew Murphy and Tord Øverland, the trio have taken the indie rock genre by storm since their formation at the beginning of the century; fast forward to 2022 and The Wombats are bigger than ever.
After meeting in 2003 at the Liverpool Institute for Performing arts, the audacious trio have flown the flag for UK alternative music. Dan expands on their original approach, ‘we sought to rebel against the pristine nature of a lot of music students’ performances’ in turn, ‘creating a sound a little more rough around the edges’. He owes the band’s success to the city recalling ‘we played at little venues with loads of local and touring bands to take inspiration from’. However, it hasn’t always been sold-out shows and superstardom; ‘I remember one gig we did at the Barfly and we were first on, there were three people in the crowd, my girlfriend and our two flatmates’.
Since their humble beginnings, the Wombats’ popularity has skyrocketed along with the sizes of their audiences. The band surprisingly welcome nerves before a big show to ‘get the adrenalin pumping and get you focused’. Dan reminisces that ‘before Reading Festival this summer we were all extremely nervous as we hadn’t done a show in two years. We weren’t used to the insane rush you feel when walking out on stage’. He then shares with me a secret to combat the pre-show jitters “we have a ritual where we all huddle together, shake hands and say ‘have a good one’ in a very professional and calm manner”. This has become such a superstition that they are unable to go on stage without it!
Unsurprisingly, The Wombats have played on some of the most prestigious stages in the world. I naturally ask about his stand-out favourite but he assures me that he couldn’t pick just one. He lists the Sydney Opera house among the best and remembers thinking ‘how have we been allowed to play this iconic place?’ as well as supporting the Rolling Stones in New Jersey. Dan confesses that ‘Mick Jagger saying we were on some of his Spotify playlists was fairly memorable!’. From the small audiences at uni to thousands screaming their name, their enjoyment of the gig remains. Dan clarifies ‘we’re excited to play literally anywhere that fans take the time to come and sing and dance with us’, ‘every night we play is the most exciting at that moment’.
Of course, I had to ask about The Wombats' experience of Bristol! Following years of gigs since their inception, the band find the city ‘absolutely amazing!’. He then amusingly shares ‘the Bristolian legend that is Big Jeff would show up and get the crowd going and we’d sleep on someone’s floor, it was awesome’. However, ‘even as things have got a little bigger, the Bristol crowds still have the most insane energy’. We discuss about how he finds touring the world and if the band have any request for their rider; ‘We once, jokingly, requested nuts for our mascot squirrel who sits on my drums’. He chuckles that ‘most venues have a laugh about it but one gig the runner provided a huge pack of animal feed and asked to meet the squirrel, it was genius!’.
With a wave of streamers too young to have grown up to the songs ‘Moving to New York’ and ‘Kill the Director’, The Wombats have entranced a whole new generation of listeners. Oliver Nelson’s remix of their 2015 nostalgic hit ‘Greek Tragedy’ has spread through TikTok in true Gen Z style; these household names aren’t going anywhere. Dan laughs as I ask him about social media stardom and claims they ‘didn’t even know what TikTok was!’. He explains ‘it’s been great hearing lots of new fans saying they discovered us through the TikTok remix but actually digging into the rest of our music. We couldn’t do any shows of course so it’s been nice knowing there are other ways for people to hear our music and engage in some way, whether it’s a 12-second video lip-syncing along or screaming the words at a live show, it’s all a connection in some way’.
A new year can only mean one thing: new music from the Wombats. The much-anticipated album Fix yourself, then the world was released on 14th January 2022. Dan finds it difficult to choose a favourite track but decided on a tie between ‘Method to the Madness’ and ‘People Don’t Change People, Time Does’. I ask about the inspiration behind the album to which he replies ‘we actually recorded the whole album during a lockdown so it felt like the whole world had experienced a real change. All the distractions we usually have to avoid confronting weren’t there anymore. The idea is that if you take the time to work on yourself, rather than trying to solve everyone else’s problems then hopefully, you will become a better friend, partner and member of society as a result’.
‘Every album and song we make we try to keep things fresh and exciting for ourselves. In this album we’ve really pushed ourselves and used everything we’ve learnt over the years to make a real sonic journey which will hopefully keep surprising the listener. We don’t really try to keep anything the same but no matter how different we think we sound, it ends up sounding like The Wombats.’
However, the pandemic brought about much more than self-reflection. Dan tells me of his unexpected surge in creativity ‘there was so much to process and my mental health was pretty up and down so I used writing as a way to get through it’. He tells me that the recurring isolations weren’t too much of an issue as the stars are regularly apart explaining that ‘it’s not as good as being in a room with each other, but we’re used to living in different countries so we have been adaptable. I’m so bad at not doing anything so I set up a mini studio in my spare room and got through the lockdowns one song at a time!’. It’s amazing to hear that their music has been a comfort over the past few turbulent years. ‘Our songs have often had an introspective nature, making music is like therapy and a place for us to process complex moments, thoughts and feelings’.
Featured image: Pomona
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