DMA’s have been compared with many of the great and good of British music – most notably, their sonic resemblance to the raw and provocative years of early Oasis.
However, being from Australia and outside of the continuum of British indie music, they bring something progressive and vital to a ‘Britpop’ sound that so encapsulated the 90s era. They are the outliers of the post-Britpop movement and it has made them compulsive listening over the last couple of years.
After the enormous success of their critically acclaimed debut album, DMA’s are back with a new album, For Now and will be starting the UK and European tour this spring. The Aussie three-piece will be headlining this years’ Liverpool Sound City which has returned to its city centre roots and located right here in the Baltic Triangle.
We caught up with DMA’s Johnny Took to discuss their forthcoming Sound City appearance, circumnavigating the issues around ‘second album syndrome’ and slowing things down in a world hell-bent on insta-tainment.
Hi Johnny, paint us a picture…where are you right now and what are you up to?
Well, actually…you’ve caught me whilst I’m out at dinner with my partner and her parents at a Vietnamese restaurant. It’s actually a good moment because now I’ve got an excuse to step out and go and buy some cigarettes! So, thank you!
You’re about to start another European tour, tell us what you get out of performing live and what are you all like on the road?
The live set up that we have now is perfect and we’re essentially all friends which are the ideal situation. It’s not like some session guy comes in and says, ‘I’m great on this instrument, let’s do it this way’. We’re all tight as f*ck and no one is going to mess around with that. It’s pretty special this way and especially because we do a lot of tours and you can’t go away with someone who’s not that into it or not part of the group – it just doesn’t work.
I think the problems other bands have when they’re developing and then going on tour after some success is this sense of entitlement – entitled bullsh*t is the downfall of so many bands and in the end that story never ends well. The relationships we have in the band is the thing that I’m most proud of in terms of everything we’ve done so far.
You have a big following here in Liverpool, what are your experiences of the city?
Well, I suppose like many other people, I know about Liverpool through The Beatles. We’ve also played in the city a few times and those gigs have always been memorable and a lot of fun.
However, the main thing I know about Liverpool is that Tommy’s dad is from there and, as a result, Tommy’s a massive Evertonian – he’s always rambling on about them. But, I’ve got say, I’m well into all that myself! My dad is also British, so I suppose that’s one of the reasons why me and Tommy get on.
You’ve just released your new single, In The Air. Tell us a bit about it and also the idea behind the video?
It’s a straight-up love song. In terms of the video, we really just wanted to keep it simple and reflect the feelings in the song which we felt was a good fit for Tommy’s vocals. The video allows the vocal to shine so we wanted the focus to be on that and follow his journey.
The thing is – everything is really fast these days. The way we consume news, entertainment etc. is all really fast. It’s happened with music were there’s this idea that the perfect pop song – the most exact and perfect pop song would be about 15 seconds long haha! With In the Air we just wanted to react against that idea and bring something simple which can be reflected on.
Your first album, Hills End was an enormous success and you’ve played it all over the world. Did the success of the record take you back a little bit?
It was crazy. We’d had everything recorded for about 2-3 years before release, so it was a case of everything being held up and delayed before we got released in the UK but, when we did it was amazing. However, what I’m really happy about in terms of how our work has been received is that the trajectory of our success has been really organic. It’s not like we had one really big song that went f*cking massive and got played on Radio One or some sh*t, became huge and people only came to see us to hear one song. It hasn’t been like that.
People have seen us play and our audience has grown and then people have heard the album so when they come to see us live they know every song and want to hear the whole record. We also had this thing whereby the UK took us under their wing – we’re not from Britain but we do have elements of that ‘Britpop’ sound. The songs are real, and we mean them and I think that’s what they connected with.
You mentioned ‘Britpop’ which was a phenomenon here in the UK. Being from Australia, how big an influence did that era of music have on you?
I actually got into via a few friends and also through someone I was in band with. I must have been around the age of 15 or 16 and they’d tell me about these bands from England like Blur and Oasis and that’s when we first got into that.
We obviously didn’t have the context and understanding of how deeply all that went into the culture over there, so we were a bit naïve to it. However, as we experienced it out of context it didn’t come with anything except the quality of the music and that’s what we loved. So, all those bands like Oasis, Blur, Jesus & The Mary Chain etc. we just couldn’t get enough of them.
You’re about to release your second album, For Now. In terms of ‘second album syndrome’, how was writing the new album after the success of Hills End?
In terms of ‘second album syndrome,’ we planned for that. Tommy and I have been in bands before and you’ve got to think, right? How does a typical band start out? Ok, so you might start with a few dickheads hanging out as we did and after a bit, you get together about 9 songs and then you’ve got something like a 45-minute set. Then you go and play your set, your mates come to the first two or three, you’ve got a couple of good songs and then they stop coming. So, we were like f*ck that and didn’t play or anything like that for well over three years and during that time we just wrote and wrote and ended up with 50-60 songs.
So, by the time Hills End came out, we were ready for the attention and all the demands that come with that situation. After we’d finished and released, Hills End we still had over 50 songs recorded that we could use and develop. After, the first album we then started to understand production more and understand how we wanted our music to be sonically. Our new album is much more mature, and I think you can hear the things we’ve learned in the music we’re putting out.
You’re headlining Liverpool Sound City this year, what can people expect?
What I can promise is that we’ll be doing some completely mad f*cking songs played very f*cking well. What I will say is that every bit of music is entirely subjective in terms of people’s enjoyment of it. But, if you like music played with heart and played with authenticity then you will not be disappointed.
What’s the rest of 2018 looking like for DMA’s?
We’re just excited because we know we’ve got good tunes and we really just want to get out there now and play them to people. Our biggest audience is probably in the UK so we’re looking forward to getting there and showing people the next stage and what we’ve been working on. We’re ready to prove that we’re here for the long term and that our fans have a lot to look forward to in the future.