"We wanted a bit more swagger. We wanted the songs to be more sure of themselves" - The Wombats talk new Beautiful People Will Ruin Your Life
The advent of the internet has made working remotely an easy daily occurrence for so many people, it’s something that quirky indie types The Wombats are taking to extremes.
Frontman Matthew Murphy resides in sunny Los Angeles with bassist Tord Øverland Knudsen now living back in his native Oslo and drummer Dan Haggis residing in London, meaning a lot of new album Beautiful People Will Ruin Your Life was written over email.
Not that you can tell, it’s the band’s usual mixture of bouncy guitars, self-deprecating lyrics and catchy as you like choruses, all produced excellently by Bastille knob twiddler Mark Crew and Catherine Marks, who made The Big Moon’s debut LP such a smash.
As the album comes to shelves, we spoke to frontman Matthew ‘Murph’ Murphy about bridging the gap between continents, doing things with a bit more swagger and working outside a major label...
When did you start putting together the songs for this album?
“Halfway through 2016 was when I got started, then it ramped up towards the back end of that year.”
You live in Los Angeles now, your bassist Tord Øverland Knudsen lives in Oslo and your drummer Dan Haggis lives in London, how did that affect how you wrote songs?
“I wrote about 65%/70% of the album at home in LA and then I’d head over to Oslo to work with Dan and Tord and that’s how we finished it off. Then we recorded it together in London. It was pretty simple really, the internet is a powerful thing. It just meant I had to get on a lot of flights. It works well for us.”
Does it affect being a band in terms of camaraderie? Being so far apart?
“Historically the way it worked was I’d write in my bedroom and take it to them, so it’s not that different. It’s just a case of challenging yourself in how you write.”
Was there anything you wanted to do differently from what you did on Glitterbug?
“I wanted a bit more swagger. More confidence. I wanted the songs to be more sure of themselves, which is where I feel we are as a band.”
How did you find that sound?
“A lot of it just came from not throwing the kitchen sink at every song. Using space and allowing lyrics to drive the song. Not feeling every song needs a chorus the size of an atomic bomb.”
You worked with Mark Crew and Catherine Marks on the record, what did they bring to the process?
“We were going to try out a song with Catherine and Mark heard about it and got pissed off! He then asked if they could do it together and we said okay. We’ve worked with so many big producers over the years and Mark’s the one who has stuck. He’s very talented and very fast and having him around seemed like a no-brainer.”
What did Catherine bring?
“Mark’s a very dark and cynical person, which is hilarious, but Catherine’s very vibrant, positive and always optimistic, she gave us some youthful vigour, which we always need.”
What kind of album is this lyrically?
“I don’t tend to think of it as a whole album when I’m writing, I don’t sit down and come up with one idea. But looking back on Glitterbug, that’s an album about feeling trapped and escaping through partying. This album is different. I’m married, I’ve got a kid now, it’s coming through arrested development and trying to become mature adults, which is something I constantly fail at it.”
When did you decide on the title?
“It was the beginning of a song I started, but never finished. I just thought it fitted the album’s lyrical content and sounded really cool. That’s why we went with it.”
How’s your live set coming along? You’ve got four records to pick from now…
“I feel great this time. I feel like we’ve got an iron-clad set, a solid batch of hits. It is different now, we used to learn the songs before we recorded them and so we’ve got to learn how to play them live after we’ve made them in the studio. There’s a lot of technology and I’ve got this crazy pedal board to be able to pull it off. It’ll take a while to get right up to speed.”
You’re on your own independent label now, working in partnership with label services, how are you finding life outside of a major label?
“It’s been amazing. I love it. Everything is better, much better than the last record. We’ve got a team who are passionate about the band and I feel like we’re in a resurgence, which is not something I would have said three years ago. I’d rather have 10 people who give a s**t than an army of people who don’t.”
Are you more involved in things day to day now?
“Everything is more transparent now, we’re more in control, both creatively and business-wise. We did insist that we were given an A&R person though, because if we’re left alone to make a record then there’s no telling what might happen. We still need an adult in the room…”