The Verse’s Rebecca Bench interviews Australian indie pop band DMA’s to discuss touring, their sound and the year so far.
It seems as though you have had a really busy year touring, have you been able to write music while you’ve been on the road or are you going to take time out to write a second album?
Yeah well one thing we actually did as a band that was kind of a bit different was we didn’t play live for maybe two or three years, because we didn’t really feel like we needed to, as we were still learning how to record and write and we wanted to write. I have been in bands before where they had written maybe their first nine songs and they start playing live but only one or two of them are probably only really good.
We decided to write probably 50 or 60 [songs] before we started playing live. So we have still got heaps in the back catalogue, but it is hard to write on the road. I brought a recording set-up with me, and I do a bit of stuff on that because it’s easy, but yeah it’s a lot harder. Normally if you’re mucking around a hotel or in sound check or something; like Tommy and I have written a couple of songs recently that were just kind of ideas and demo’s that we’ve had and we joined them all together. But we are back home for six weeks and we’ve been on an Australian tour recently and we got to write [then]. And we’ve got a fair bit of time off coming up now, because we’ve been touring for nearly two years now.
You’ve played so many festivals over the summer, what was your secret set at Glastonbury like?
Yeah it’s been pretty cool. We didn’t know what the vibe was going to be like especially as we were not announcing it. We got stuck in mud twice just trying to make our way into the stage. And then we left 20 minutes afterwards.
Where do you feel most inspired to write a track and what do you like to write about?
Probably like relationships but not necessary a couple, but [relationships] between friends and acquaintances and human interaction.
I suppose that is quite a universal thing…
Yeah that’s right it transcends everything. Which means you can listen to it from anywhere in the world and you can relate to it.
What was the first record you bought that made you want to be in a band?
Probably not to be in a band, but I remember buying a Bob Dylan’s Greatest Hits that was the first record that probably like yeah… got me into song writing and stuff like that. And I was lucky growing up because my old man had a vast CD collection, so as a kid I would just go in there and pick random CD’s out. Like close your eyes and pick a random one. Bruce Springsteen actually as well was a massive one for me.
You have been in a number of different bands before you were a member of DMA’S, was it a slow transition for you?
It was a more of a slow transition, I was playing in a 7-piece Australian punk, blue grass band, which ended up getting signed and stuff but it got a bit weird. When we first started we’d play at house parties through Sydney and stuff like that. It was pretty raucous, and we’d play three hour sets; we could play so many songs. So I was doing that for a bit, then I kind of wasn’t playing as much blue brass country music anymore. But it’s funny – some of the songs in the album like ‘Timeless’ [Matt] Mason and I wrote on a banjo originally, it was like a cowboy song and then it ended up obviously becoming what it is now. It’s the same with ‘Step up the Morphine’. Mason had played in some metal grunge bands as well before [DMA’s] and Tommy and I used in a more psych band, he played drums and I played bass. That’s where we met.
Do you have a favourite song to perform live?
At the moment I would probably say ‘Step up the Morphine’ just because it’s the newest. We added that into the set recently. We were gonna add some unreleased songs but then we just decided to chill and take our time over the summer, because when we go back home it’s straight into the Australian summer. So we’ve got to go play some festivals back there as well. And then after that we get a bit of a break.
So when you release your new album will you be using songs from your back catalogue and new songs you have written?
Yeah that’s right. Whatever feels right, I think. We had a whole bunch of songs that we probably could have put on the first album, but the songs that we chose seemed to feel right together.
Are you excited for your show in Brighton tonight, do you like Brighton?
Yeah Brighton’s cool. All the gigs that we’ve been playing around the UK have been cool. It gets pretty raucous up North. Manchester was pretty good as well. It’s been cool – and I feel like it’s a strong way to finish off the album cycle because we probably won’t be back for a while.
Do you ever get nervous before you perform?
[Laughs] Not really, not anymore. Like I was saying we were playing in bands for like 10 years before, you know we’ve been playing in so many different bands, so I kind of lost that a long time ago. I guess maybe live TV. We did one of those ones in America, Jimmy Fallon, no Colbert, and that’s kind of nerve-racking. I don’t know. ‘Cause you know there’s all that stuff/money gone into the production; you don’t want to fuck it up. The emphasis is on looking at the camera and stuff. Yeah just all the production of the whole show and watching them rehearse it and stuff is pretty interesting.
Did you have any artists that you were into when you first got into music?
Oh I don’t know. I was into heaps of different stuff. I was listening to Springsteen, Dylan, Neil Young and all stuff like that. And getting into bands and I had a group of friends at school who were kind of getting into lots of that Brit-pop vibe and I was probably 15 or 16 and not that many kids were, where I was at school or growing up were into bands, because it’s not like it is here. And I didn’t realise how hectic the culture was here. We started listening to bands like the Stone Roses and Oasis and The Jesus Mary Chain, Primal Scream and that’s when I first got introduced to those bands. Yeah it was cool and we had a small group and they now play in bands as well. These mates I had when I was younger; they’ve got a similar vibe as well.
Britpop does come out in the DMA’s sound…
Yeah yeah yeah – well we just like noisy guitars and big melodies basically.
When you were busy playing at all the festivals over the summer, did you get the chance to go see other bands or were you constantly moving between them?
You don’t get to see many, maybe like… we’ve seen Rat Boy a few times because they always seemed to be playing similar spots to us at a bunch of festivals over the last couple of years. We were playing the same stage as Kurt Vile at Latitude and I couldn’t stay; it is pretty much in and out. Especially for a young band like us who doesn’t have that much money; you’ve got to be efficient. So we left and had to drive for three hours to make the next drive less long. And that’s what we’ve got to do. Glastonbury was the same, we had to leave and drive to Heathrow straight after and get on a plane to Spain or something.
So a lot of gigs?
Yeah so another thing about the nerves thing. We’ve done 60 gigs in the last 3 months or something and a lot of touring over the last few years, so you get use to it. Also it’s like a little bit of nerves is good, but people have come to see you play and there’s not time for that, you just get up and fucking do it right.
DMA’s’ debut album, Hills End, is out now on Infectious Music.