Interview: The Wombats talk Glitterbug, mixing new sounds and touring

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Interview and photo by Winnie Surya. English indie-rock trio The Wombats have recently released their third studio album, Glitterbug. We caught up with with bassist Tord Overland Knudsen and drummer Dan Haggis on the first day of their North American Tour in Toronto. In this interview, they tell us about Glitterbug, mixing new sounds, and awkward moments last time they were here.

This is the first day of your North American tour. What can we expect on this tour?
Dan: We’re going to play a selection from our first album, second album, and obviously, mostly our new album, Glitterbug, that just came out last week. We’re super excited to play new songs, lots of running around and sweating. It’s going to be a great time.
Tord: Yeah, we just spent a month in mainland Europe and UK. We’ve kind of been doing it for quite some time and started to get comfortable with new songs and stuff.
Dan: When we first started, it was really crap and really sloppy [laughs].

You guys just wrapped the Europe and UK tour a couple days ago, and here we go with another tour kicking off. Feeling tired?
Dan: I mean, bags under the eyes, some powerful make up, and a little tired… but to be honest, we did thirteen days in a row without a day off until we flew here yesterday.
Tord: Our day off was on our flight.
Dan: Our last show in the UK was in Newcastle and we were already tired all day, and all hung-over because we had a party in Liverpool at our homecoming show the night before. But we walked on stage and it was one of the best show in the end. You feed up the crowd and as soon as you go on stage, the adrenaline level and the endorphins kick in, and it doesn’t really matter if we’re tired.

The storyline for “Greek Tragedy” music video is about a crazy fan who turned out to be a psychopath. Have you guys ever had a crazy fan experience?
Dan: Nah [laughs]. Nothing that bad. It wasn’t inspired from a real life event, fortunately. The director, Finn, had the idea and we thought it was great. It had really good climax to it.
Tord: It’s just nice to have a video that had a little of a storyline. The story itself had nothing to do with the lyrics. That’s the Greek tragedy line.
Dan: Everyone dies at the end of the Greek tragedy.
Tord: It was really fun and really cool to see all of the special effects with all the killing and stuff too. I had this neck piece that this guy made… he’s done some horror films.

It’s really cool. It’s not like a typical music video, you know with the romantic storyline or just live music shots. It’s really something unexpected.
Dan: Yeah, it’s unusual. It’s almost like a big horror movie and we all like The Walking Dead, True Blood, Dexter… shows like that with all the blood, you know.
Tord: We just love blood [laughs].
Dan: And to see ourselves die.
Tord: But to answer your initial question, we’ve never had any crazy fan experiences.
Dan: We’ve been very lucky.

Have you guys gotten to explore the city of Toronto yet?
Tord: We arrived here late-ish so we dropped our stuff and went out for food.
Dan: We forgot one of our bags on the flight which is really annoying, so we had to wait for a while at the airport and explain what happened, show them what’s not on the list. So we didn’t get to get off until nine o’clock, but we went to some dim sum place. Really nice.
Tord: We’ve been to Toronto two times before. First time in 2006.
Dan: North by North East (NXNE).
Tord: We played The Cameron House, in the back. It looked like a small theatre.
Dan: The strongest memory I’ve had of Toronto was arriving here, going to The Cameron House because we knew we were playing there and it was near where we were staying. There were five or six people playing folky-twenties-country music and we just stood there and were like, this is so cool.
Tord: The bartender shouted at you (Dan) for not tipping him.
Dan: I didn’t understand because in England, we don’t tip when we buy a drink so it was different culture.
Tord: That was the last time we didn’t tip.

What are the five must-bring items on tour beside your gear?
Tord: Laptop, toothbrush, and…
Dan: Clean underwear – it’s pretty important. And a hairdryer.
Tord: Or knife [laughs].
Dan: When we’re on tour with a bus, a soccer ball. We don’t move around too much when we’re on the bus but sometimes it’s just nice when you’re parked in a parking lot… you can get off and have a run around and be like a dog and chase after a ball.

Your third studio album, Glitterbug, has just been released. Can you share with us a bit about the writing and recording process?
Dan: It’s been a gradual process over the last two years. Whenever we started writing for the new album, we always had a tendency to go back to this drum, bass, and guitar – a little bit to a 90’s sound and very quickly we started getting bored with that, so we added lots of synth and got ready to produce it in our studio.
Tord: The intention was to make it simple, but we worked a lot in studio and we liked experimenting with sounds… Sometimes the guitar, bass, and drum doesn’t really sound that exciting.
Dan: So we kept writing and writing and until we were all sitting down and had this masterplan about the sound or what direction we were trying to go in. We kept going and experimenting with different things until we felt like we found a sound that we could base the album around. “Your Body is a Weapon” is a little synth-y like and I feel like that was kind of the template for us, so we kept it going and Matt spent a lot of time in Los Angeles and us back in our studio in Liverpool, making backing tracks. Matt would send us a little riff and we would build a song around it and send things back and forth to each other like that.
Tord: We finished all the songs and ideas all in Liverpool together.
Dan: That was slightly not a new direction because we’ve done it in the past a bit, but it felt like a slightly new template. We mixed things a little bit just to see if it would go a new way, we’ve been writing together for ten years and it’s nice to spice things up and whip some change in the studio and stuff.
Tord: This is the first album that sounds pretty much exactly like what we were intending it to sound.

Is there a specific meaning behind the album’s name?
Tord: Glitterbug – it’s like pretty on the outside and ugly on the inside, like a city – it’s sparkly and glamorous, but when you get to know a place, you get to know all of the dark sides, and that also transfers into relationships or life in general, or life within the city. Most of our songs are based either in LA or London… in the city, you know?

How’d you guys decide you wanted to do a B-side to the album release?
Dan: HMV asked us if we’ve got some B-side that they could use as a way to make you go to HMV to buy a CD, since people buy music online these days.
Tord: We wrote about twenty five songs and it’s only thirteen on the album, so more for the B-side, making it kind of special in a way.
Dan: For us, it’s great because we’ve got these extra songs we want people to hear. We could just put them out but our label might not let us do it, so we just went to the studio and finished off some of the demos we already recorded, got friends to play some trumpet, some cello, etc. It was really fun. We love recording and producing and we’re always happy when people get to hear them.
Tord: I always like that as well with bands I’m into, the fact they release rarities and b-sides. It’s cool.
Dan: It shows a different side of the band, often. It’s a little bit more raw.

Your music has this 80’s-90’s electronic pop sound to it. What are some of your musical influences?
Tord: It’s all mix with the influence. We could listen to something acoustically or folky and then the next day, listen to hardcore and electronic. We love pop music as well.
Dan: We’re all born in the 80’s and we were probably still young, but Michael Jackson and the 80’s sounding things like Genesis, Phil Collins, and Bryan Adams… The kind of stuff you grow around. Those sounds remind you maybe of a time or a place when you were younger. It gives us comforting and nostalgic feels, and what’s really fun is to twist it around to make it like a modern day, sounding like a pop song with the most interesting lyrics written. We just like so many different styles of music. We all like The Beatles, The Beach Boys, and we just mix whatever we like, but often we don’t really think about it.

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