Liverpudlian three-piece The Wombats released their fourth studio album Beautiful People Will Ruin Your Life in February this year. Featuring singles such as ‘Turn’ and ‘Cheetah Tongue’, the album peaked at number five on the ARIA Charts.
The band first found success with the release of their debut studio album, A Guide To Love, Loss & Desperation, in 2007. Single ‘Let’s Dance To Joy Division’ was #12 in the triple j Hottest 100 of 2007, and won the NME Award for Best Dancefloor Filler in 2008. The band’s second studio album, This Modern Glitch, peaked at number two on the ARIA Charts in 2011, as did their third, Glitterbug, in 2015.
Ahead of The Wombats’ Australian tour next month, Music Feeds caught up with drummer Dan Haggis to chat about what made him fall in love with music, the new song the band will be releasing in November, and the demos and rarities they hope to put out next year.
Music Feeds: What are you most looking forward to about being on tour again?
Dan Haggis: I’m looking forward to… well obviously playing the shows and catching up with some friends I haven’t seen for a while in some cities in America. Playing Austin City Limits festival is always a lot of fun — last time we were there we ended up hanging out with Michael Fassbender and a few other people, they were filming at the festival. So, I look forward to more surreal encounters and moments such as those!
MF: You’ve recently released ‘Bee-Sting’, is that a hint of more music coming this year?
DH: It is, yeah! Originally our album was potentially gonna have another song or two on it when we recorded it last August/September, but we ended up sort of running out of time but also going like, ‘You know what, this feels like we’ve got the album we need, and we can worry about those songs later.’ In May just gone we recorded ‘Bee-Sting’ and then another song which we’re gonna release in November. They’re almost like gonna be an extended version of the album, I think.
I think we did the same sort of thing with Glitterbug as well with ‘Flowerball’ and ‘Sex and Question Marks’. It’s not a sign for the next album, it is still kind of part of the last album. To be honest, for us it’s just really nice to be able to keep releasing new music. Looking forward to getting back into the studio early next year, hopefully.
MF: Of all the songs you’ve recorded over your 15 years as a band, which one took the longest or was the hardest to write?
DH: I mean, there are some songs that… we’re hopefully gonna release like a rarities thing next year ‘cause we ended up hanging out after Leeds Festival and listening to loads of old demos from before we were signed, and ones that never made it onto album two, three, four as well. Some of the guys on the crew were like ‘you’ve gotta release these!’ and we were like ‘yeah, we probably should, I guess!’, for people just to see all the different songs that never actually got onto the albums. There’s some really good stuff there.
I think the hardest ones are the ones that even listening to them now, they still don’t feel finished, you know what I mean? ‘Cause of all the songs you end up finishing, like, you got there in the end, somehow, but there are some songs honestly where it’s like so hard to figure out what to do.
I remember actually, the chorus for ‘Jump Into The Fog’, that was really hard to figure out how to do that one. We kept going over it just being like ‘ARGH!’ and we couldn’t actually figure out, and then once we had that big tribal tom thing going and me and Tord playing together with that, it felt like, ‘Right, okay, this is cool, it’s got its own thing.’
But then we didn’t have the break section, and it took a while to get that written and finished. That song definitely came together in pieces from when we had the initial idea when we were jamming. We had the opening hook and then ‘til the time that we finished the song it was like, it was definitely a bit of a jigsaw, trying to put it all into place.
Every song’s different and it’s hard to remember often like, how long it actually takes ‘cause once it’s finished you forget about all that, it’s just like, ‘Woohoo!’
MF: Yeah, of course. Do you often write in jamming sessions?
DH: It depends on the song, honestly. I mean, ‘Jump Into The Fog’, the sort of opening section with the [sings riff], I had that on a keyboard and I was just playing it and then the guys were like ‘oh, that’s cool, let’s have a jam around with that’, so we started playing over that section and then we were like, ‘Right, okay, cool, that’s a good starting point for a song.’ Then Murph went away and came back like a week later and was like ‘okay, I’ve got this’, and then he had a verse and chorus idea and we were like ‘this is awesome’, and then we all were like, ‘We should probably have a break.’ So, that’s one way that we could potentially write a song.
Another one would be Murph would come in with an acoustic guitar and like, play ‘Pink Lemonade’, for example. He’d be like ‘I’ve got this song’ and he’d just be playing it on an acoustic and then we’d go, ‘Alright, cool, how can we figure that out?’ And actually, for that song I’d just done a half marathon and I couldn’t even walk let alone play the drums, so I ended up sitting on the floor with a keyboard, and I said, ‘Honestly, I can’t play drums, can we just program the drums and I’ll play keyboards?’ So, we programmed some drums on the computer and then I started playing all the arpeggios stuff and Tord was playing bass, so that was the way that song came together.
A lot of the time it can be circumstantial. A lot of the time it can be just a jamming thing, like ‘Emoticons’ was a jam to start with that turned into something else. ‘Greek Tragedy’ was a song that me and Tord started making and then Murph started singing over the top of it. ‘Moving To New York’ was a song that Murph had on piano, originally, and we were like, ‘Oh, that’s so lovely, why don’t we try and turn that into a more upbeat song?!’
So, it just depends, really. Every song’s different, that’s kind of what keeps it exciting, you know, being in the band and making music. It’s like, there’s no one way to make a song, and in actual fact we often try to impose things on ourselves to actually try and write a song in a different way.
MF: Do you find that the artists you’re listening to at the time influence the music that you make during that time?
DH: Um, I suppose, yeah. The short answer is I guess you can’t help but be a bit influenced by what’s around you, especially if you hear something that you go like, ‘Oh my god, I love this!’ And it could be like, a drum sound or a combination of a synth with a guitar – whatever it is. It could be things you go like ‘wow’ and it sticks in your mind, and you go, ‘I’d love to try and do something in that world.’
A lot of the time – especially when we’re actually producing things – I try not to listen to too much stuff, just ‘cause you don’t want to be too influenced by what’s going on around you. Obviously you want to be as original as possible, if that can even be a thing nowadays in music, but like, definitely try not to be too influenced by other things.
I think the good thing with being in a band is that each of us will listen to slightly different types of music and maybe one of us will come with an idea that has been inspired by one type of music, but then it will go into some else’s brain and they’ll go ‘oh yeah, cool, maybe we can do this’, and then you get their influence put into it, then someone else’s and before you know it you’ve got this new mix of something. So yeah, there’s very rarely like, one starting point. ‘Emoticons’ was like, we were thinking like David Bowie kind of stuff when we first did that.
MF: Who are you listening to at the moment?
DH: I was listening to Big Red Machine yesterday, actually. Like it’s Justin Vernon and I think one of the Dessner brothers [from The National]. Have you heard it?
MF: No, I’ve been meaning to check it out though!
DH: Yeah, it’s really good. I absolutely love Bon Iver, so much. I saw him a year ago, live, and it was one of the best gigs I’ve ever seen. I just love his like, quite a lot of some solo stuff as well. I dunno, it feels like everything somehow just makes sense and you feel like it’s one person – I mean, obviously it’s not, I’m sure he’s got loads of other people he works with – but I just love how he puts songs together and like, how unexpected sounds, and his voice is just unbelievable. Big Red Machine is nuts! There’s some really weird beats and time signatures going on, beautiful harmonies, really cool guitar work in parts, interesting synth sounds. Check it out, I think you’ll like it!
MF: I’ll definitely give it a listen! What are some of your happiest memories from touring and being in a band?
DH: One that just sprang to mind was playing in Cologne on our European tour back in April. My Mum was there, and she came on stage dressed as a wombat and was dancing, and that was definitely a moment that I was very happy and laughing my head off. Similarly, my Dad came on stage dancing in Sheffield on our UK tour and I couldn’t even sing, to be honest, in the last chorus, I was just laughing so hard ‘cause his dance moves are so bad [laughs].
Playing the Sydney Opera House in Australia is definitely one of my all-time favourite memories. I don’t even know how they let us in there, to be honest, but we managed to blag our way in. Playing Glastonbury on our first album, which at that point we’d never played to like 30-40 thousand people, and seeing all the flags flying and again, my brother and sister were in the crowd. Those moments when your real life kind of thing is mixed in with this kind of, weird dream world of being in a band on stage, those moments are really powerful.
MF: Was there a moment when you first fell in love with music, when you were like ‘this is what I really wanna do with my life’?
DH: I think there were several. I played flute when I was seven, and then by the age of like nine-10 I was in an orchestra. I absolutely loved that. Making music together with other human beings, I think from early on I used to love, love that feeling and the sound that everyone can create together and being a part of it, no matter how small, you know, a little flute playing all the wrong notes, even. I think early on that spoke to me.
Then when I first saw ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’ on MTV, when I was 12 or something, and seeing Dave Grohl playing the drums in that I was just like, ‘Holy shit, that looks like fun!’ And then I was like ‘Mum, Dad, can I get a drumkit?’ and pestered them for a couple of years until they were like, ‘Right, this isn’t a fad anymore.’ Then I started playing drums, and I was playing guitar, and I think just music in general, from those early orchestra days, I just always wanted to do music, basically. When I was supposed to be doing homework I was playing acoustic guitar along to songs I liked, and it’s just always been something that I’ve loved doing and it’s been a source of comfort in my life. I love it!
The Wombats will tour Australia this November. The band’s latest album ‘Beautiful People Will Ruin Your Life’ is out now.
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