Interview: The Wombats

Posted: Friday 9 March 2018

As they embark on their almighty headline UK tour in support of their chart smashing new album Beautiful People Will Ruin Your Life, we caught up with The Wombats’ bassist Tord Øverland Knudsen to discuss how things have changed in their 15 years as a band and how the new record came together.

It’s been a month since your album was released, how have the past few weeks been for you?

It’s been amazing, just to get back on the road, and obviously every time we release an album it’s exciting and it’s also a bit scary I guess to see how people react to these songs, but people keep just singing along and knowing the words straight away which is unbelievable. We’ve been doing this for 15 years now, we’ve been a band for 15 years and just still being able to do the level of touring that we are doing, I feel very privileged.

It reached number three in the UK charts, which is amazing! Congratulations on that. Did you have any expectations for the album when you were writing and recording it?

Thank you, yeah we’re pretty chuffed with that. I guess when we’re in this kind of, creative mould or whatever, everything we think about with the songs and the recording is just making the album sound as good as it can be. We don’t think that much about the aftermath of when the album is coming out, it’s all about the details and the nitpicking of production bits or parts that we work on, you get so obsessed with that part of things that you don’t really think about what’s going to happen with it when it’s finished, when it’s coming out, when we’re playing live or whatever.

We obviously love playing music and touring and travelling places that we either have been or haven’t been, so it’s important for us to be able to keep doing that and I as I said before, we’re lucky enough to still be able to do that.

How do you feel things have changed since the beginning, since your debut album was released, in the way you create music and how it’s consumed? Have you noticed a big change?

You take on everything that you learn from every single album, you feel like you did okay and we did this on this album and we can better these parts of it or whatever. You take on more experience, whether it’s studio techniques or having synth or not having synth – like this time we wanted to maybe go away from adding loads of layers and pad synths, make it a little more guitar based again, which is almost like it’s going full circle, a little bit more back to where we started I suppose.

But, what has massively changed is like, we’re 10 years older now, we’re at a very different stage of our lives. I live in Oslo now, Murph (Vocals/Guitar) lives in Los Angeles and Dan (Drums) lives in London, so we’re not living in the same city anymore, which I guess is a challenge in terms of how to put things together creatively. And also Murph got married; I had a baby about a year ago, so that’s going to change how we do things a little bit. We did a bit of writing and recording in Oslo for that reason, so that I didn’t have to be away so much, and that was fun as well, just to be in a different city with the guys. A lot’s changed but at the same time, not that much has changed in the sense that we’re still doing what we’re doing on the same level and we’re still friends.

Well as long as you still like each other, that’s the main thing. How has it been as a band with all three of you living in different locations? Has it been quite difficult or actually an easy thing to manage?

It’s obviously a challenge, but a challenge in the sense that, to get all three of us in the same room Murph has to get on a 10 hour flight and then another flight for two hours just to get to Oslo, so it’s been a lot more challenging for him. But honestly, with the internet these days it’s a lot easier to communicate and do things without having to be in the same room.

Not that much with this album but maybe more on the previous album, we’d send ideas over and we’d do individual parts and then eventually when we get into the same room we’ll finalise what we started. It’s definitely easier these days with technology and obviously it would be easier if we all lived in the same place but it’s not going to happen, so we just have to make the most of it and do the best we can to make it work somehow.

You seem to be doing alright so far!

Yeah and the thing is, not being able to see each other all the time can be a really good thing as well. When we are all in the same room it feels refreshing and we actually get to miss each other a little bit.

The new material does feel a lot more mature, but also adventurous, both lyrically and musically, so where did the ideas and influences stem from when you first started writing?

I think it was a lot of different things really, a lot of the lyrical content is about Murph’s life, it’s real stories and real things in his life. It’s about him trying to grow up and being an adult, but kinda failing, so that’s what a lot of the lyrics touch upon.

With the more musical or productional style, I think it was a lot of nostalgia, we were listening to loads of 90s stuff again, things that we grew up with, things like Britpop, or Blur and even like, The Dandy Warhols. More riff-based music like Black Rebel Motor Cycle Club, but also things like Radiohead or a band like Weezer for example. Not that I think we sound like any of those bands, I think a lot of it seems to reference the 90s guitar vibe, there was a lot of that going on and actually having said that we are touring with Weezer this summer, which is unbelievable. I can’t believe we are actually doing that, it’s a bit of a childhood dream, I can’t wait to just play a half hour support slot and then get to watch them every night. It’s a co-headline with the Pixies, which is another band I really love, so to see those two bands every night, it’s pretty amazing.

You’ve just kicked off your huge headline tour as well, are you nervous to see the crowds reactions to the newer material?

Not really, because we did some smaller venues the week of the album release, we did a bunch of small clubs, pubs and bars around the UK, just to build some excitement around the album release. We got to play cities we haven’t played before and a lot of cities we haven’t played for a very long time, like we did a show in Blackpool and Bradford and Milton Keynes and places like that, places where we’d never usually play, and in those shows people really seemed to like it and were singing along to all the new songs, so in that sense I think we all feel quite confident that people will know at least the singles from the new album.

I’m just excited really to get back out there. It’s always a lot of fun playing the UK, the crowd really get into it and it’s just full of energy. It’s a completely different atmosphere to shows in America, for example, where people are a bit more reserved, they’re not as wild as the UK crowds.

We like a good dance over here, that’s why! A lot of the shows sold out pretty much instantly and you then added second dates, which again then sold out. After 15 years as a band, is it still quite mind-blowing to see that happen?

Yeah, we wouldn’t have expected anything like that, just the fact that after this many years people are still that excited to see us play live. I guess as a band, we’ve always been a live band before a studio band, I feel like that’s where our music makes the most sense in many ways. Maybe that’s why people really want to come and see us live, it just feels like a party atmosphere when you come to a Wombats show and that’s what it feels like on stage as well, it’s like a giant party with the band and the crowd, maybe that’s something to do with it, I dunno. It feels like escapism from everyday life I guess, that’s the idea.

When you sit down to write and record, do you ever take in the element of playing it live? Does that effect how the songs turn out?

Maybe sometimes, but overall we just do whatever it takes to make the song as good as it can be as a recorded version and then okay, maybe we’ll do it slightly different live, or we’ll say, “yeah we should do this when we record it, but when we play it live we should do it this way” or whatever, so a lot of the time yeah, we have it in the back of our minds but it doesn’t necessarily effect the outcome of the recording. Studio work is almost a completely different thing and there are only so many things you can do in a studio that you can do live as well, so you want to take advantage of those possibilities.

You must have already ticked off quite a lot of things on your band bucket list over the past 15 years, but is there anything else you’d particularly like to achieve?

We always want to go to places we haven’t been before and we’ve been talking a lot about South America to do a lot more there. We have played Brazil once, but we’d like to do more and maybe go to other South American countries, that’d definitely be something cool to tick off the bucket list.

We haven’t headlined somewhere like Wembley, something like that would be really cool to do, but again you don’t expect that to happen, that would just come as a bonus I guess. Overall I think it’s about seeing new places and playing to people we haven’t played to before and experiencing new cultures. That’s one of the exciting parts, when you go somewhere you haven’t been, so South America or South East Asia would be awesome.

Sounds good! Finally then, do you want to tell the people reading this why they should listen to your new album?

I mean, if you’re into the band, if you like The Wombats, if you like indie-rock and guitar music, if you like quirky lyrics, then you should go and pick it up. I think it’s a really good album, all three of us think it’s our best album yet. If you hate the band then you’re never going to like it haha.

If you're eager to catch The Wombat's new music live, well you're a little late as all the dates are now sold out, but if you were lucky enough to get tickets, we'll see you there!

O2 Academy Sheffield: Saturday 17 March - SOLD OUT
O2 Academy Newcastle: Tuesday 20 March - SOLD OUT
O2 Isntitute Birmingham: Friday 23 March - SOLD OUT
O2 Academy Bristol: Wednesday 28 March - SOLD OUT

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