hmv.com talks to... - January 19, 2022

"I was really just focussing on taking the energy from the last album and carrying it into this..." - hmv.com talks to The Wombats
by James
James
by James hmv London, Bio "Like the legend of the Phoenix, I've just eaten a whole packet of chocolate HobNobs..." Editor, hmv.com

"I was really just focussing on taking the energy from the last album and carrying it into this..." - hmv.com talks to The Wombats

When indie rock trio The Wombats delivered their fourth album Beautiful People Will Ruin Your Life in 2018, the album was welcomed as a return to form after a somewhat lukewarm critical reception to its 2015 predecessor Glitterbug, despite their third LP having reached the Top 5 in the UK Album Chart. Working with producer Catherine Marks, the band created a more upbeat and optimistic offering on their fourth LP that proved to be one of their most successful albums to date.

Work began on a follow-up as early as 2019, but in the meantime frontman Matthew Murphy had been working on side projects and by the time he'd returned from touring, the pandemic had begun to strike, forcing the band to complete their fifth album remotely as Murphy worked from his home in LA, with band members Dan Haggis and Tord Knudsen working from the UK.

Last week, though, the band finally got to deliver their fifth full-length offering Fix Yourself, Not the World, which made its arrival in stores on Friday (January 14). A few days after its release and with the album riding high at the top of the midweek charts, we caught up with Murphy for a chat about how it came together and why this has been one of the most enjoyable albums for him to to make...

 


So we understand you started writing this album back in 2019… and then, lockdown. How far into it had you gotten by that point?

“Dan and Tord came to LA two or three times in 2019, and my head wasn’t quite with The Wombats at that point because I’d be doing the Love, Fame and Tragedy stuff, but anyway we got, I think, four or five songs that ended up on the album in the bag. Then I came back from my tour and the world went to hell in a handbasket.

“So I just got on with the rest in my studio here, did a few studio sessions with Dan and Tord, although nothing much came of it. But I’d say about 40% of it was written pre-pandemic.”

 

Do you think you’ve ended up with something slightly different as a result of doing it that way?

“I mean, yes, but sort of unconsciously. For me, I was really just focussing on taking the energy from the last album and carrying it into this. Because there was a lot of pressure on that album, and it did really well, which gave me a lot of confidence, so I really just wanted to concentrate on taking that energy and transferring it into this next one, and that was it.

“There were a few dodgy moments with the pandemic and obviously it was sh*t, but I got to spend loads of time with my kids so I can’t really complain massively about it. I would’ve been on tour and all over the place but instead I got to spend time with them. So I mean obviously COVID has had an impact on me in some way, but it’s hard for me to decipher what that is.”

 

Was there a key track that kicked things off or set the direction for the rest of the album?

“Well, the first track we wrote together was ‘Ready for the High’. It had a load of brass in it, I remember thinking: ‘Let’s lob a load of trumpets and stuff on this album, where it fits.’ So that was really helpful and gave us a direction from the word go. And then for me, ‘If You Ever Leave (I’m Coming With You)’ and ‘This Car Drives All By Itself’ are the two special songs that every album needs, and when they come it gives you so much more confidence to continue through until the end. So I’d say those three songs were really helpful when they arrived.”

 

Do you tend to have a clear idea of what you want to do with a record, or do you just follow where the songs lead you?

“No, I have no idea what’s going on at any point during the process, to be honest. But I guess sonically ‘Flip Me Upside Down’ and ‘This Car Drives All By Itself’ had some kind of LCD Sounsystem / disco shit happening, on ‘Ready for the High’ I could hear trumpets, ‘Everything I Love is Gonna Die’ got all funky, with these phased, Prince / Bowie guitars.

"As soon as I saw these things happening I wanted to bring them to the fore as much as possible, because it’s really hard to toy with the core components of what makes The Wombats. 20 years in, I’m not sure that’s a task even worth attempting. So it’s more about kind of messing around with the rings of Saturn. I’d rather concentrate on messing with the rings around the planet than the planet itself, if that makes any sense.”


When were you able to start recording stuff? Did you find it difficult doing things remotely?

“The recording was awesome, for me. I worked 9-to-5 days with an engineer, just down the hill here in LA. It was great. We would have zoom calls in my morning / their evening, discuss what they’d done and what I was about to do, if there were any changes, debates or any arguments or whatever we would try and have them, and then as time progressed the zoom calls got shorter and shorter, until there were no zoom calls anymore. Everyone was on their different parts of different songs, and that’s how it happened.

“So the recording of it all was amazing for me, but the compiling of it and gearing everything back in full, that was difficult, to try and get into shape. We had to press the delete button a lot.”

 

You worked with several producers on this album – was that just a result of the way you put the record together, or were you looking for different flavours?

“Mark Crew was more like the executive producer across the whole thing and he did the majority of the heavy-lifting, then Gabe (Simon) had just worked with Lana Del Rey, and we’d worked with Jacknife (Lee) so many times we just knew that ‘This Car…’ and ‘Worry’ were perfect for him.

“I guess I’m just at this point in my life where I’m trying to utilise other people’s talents as much as possible rather than insisting everything has to be done from within. You’ve got to try and shift things up a bit and if that means having several producers on an album then that’s fine. Then it’s our job to make sure it all sits together and doesn’t sound like the work of numerous different producers.”

 

You’ve worked with Mark Crew with many times before – what makes him a good fit for you guys?

“We were introduced to him when we were signed to Warner, he smashed 'Greek Tragedy' out of the park and we just became like best friends. He’s so awesome, and I can say things to him in the most asinine, metaphorical, nonsense way – like I just did to you with the Saturn thing, sorry! But with him there’s no further explanation needed, he’s like: “OK, Murph’s a psychopath but I know what he means.’ He’s kind of like family to us now, we love being around him. I’m not sure if the feeling’s mutual.”

 

Well, he keeps working with you so he must be enjoying it…

“That’s true, yeah. And now I guess it’s just like, why would we work with anyone else?”

 

How much have you been able to play the new stuff live so far? How has it been going down?

“Yeah, we did three or four festivals in the summer, and we just finished a pretty gruelling promo run in the UK. I feel like I’ve kind of got a handle on post-pandemic touring now, so we’ve been putting on quite a lot of shows where we played the album from start to finish and the reaction’s been really good. Apart from a few people who thought they were going to a regular Wombats show and didn’t get the memo, so they were expecting to hear loads of old songs and stuff.”

 

Are you planning to keep doing that elsewhere?

“No, everything from now will be a mix, we’ll be playing stuff from each album.”

 

Do you like to change things up every night?

“We’ll change things up for about the first week until we stumble upon what works the best, and then we’ll probably stick to it. The synergy between us and the crowd is very important to us and when we see what works we want to keep repeating that.”


So where else will you be taking it?

“We start the US tour in a couple of days, the we’ve got Lollapalooza in South America, Autralia, a big UK tour and festivals. At the moment it looks like a regular album release year. I mean we’ll see how much of t gets pulled and what doesn’t. But I’m feeling positive about it, and there’s no pint in feeling negative about it anyway, so we’ll see how much of it we can actually do. Fingers crossed."

 

Anywhere you’re looking really looking forward to?

“Well, Lollapalooza and playing in Argentina and Chile for the first time will be amazing. But in my head, the apex of it is the O2. It feels like a lot of hard work is starting to pay off and having something like that to look forward to sort of reassures me that whatever it is we’re doing, we’re on the right track."

 

 

Fix Yourself, Not the World is available in hmv stores now - you can also find it here in our online store

Fix Yourself, Not the World
Fix Yourself, Not the World The Wombats

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