Having last spoke to the band ahead of their two sell out shows at the Sydney Opera House in 2017, The Wombats are returning to Australian shores this December to play Grapevine Festival. The festival takes place in two wineries in Hunter Valley, New South Wales and Yarra Valley, Victoria. The Liverpudlian’s last album ‘Beautiful People Will Ruin Your Life’ came out in 2017 and was a huge success both in the U.K. and Australia. Beats Travel’s Paraic Walker catches up with Dan from the band to discuss his love affair with biodynamic wine, brunch, and, of course, Australia.
Hello Dan, thank you so much for taking the time to chat again! How have you been?
No problem at all mate. I’ve been really well thanks, yourself?
I’m doing great cheers. Last time you and me spoke was just before your huge Sydney Opera House shows. How did it feel to not only play, but also sell out such an iconic venue?
Oh yeah it was unbelievable. When we first found out we had an opportunity to play there none of us really believed it. It was just crazy, it is such an iconic venue and we actually sold out two nights in a row. There was just seas of smiling faces and people standing up in there chairs. Because the venue is normally used for classical music we were actually a bit apprehensive before hand wondering how it was going to be. Everyone sitting in chairs is a bit unusual for a Wombats show, but, fortunately it was great and turned out to be a really special moment in our careers.
That’s fantastic to hear. You guys really do have a love affair with Australia, don’t you? Can you remember when you first started to understand just how big a deal you are down here?
I suppose like the first time we played in Australia back in 2007, I think our first show was in Melbourne; I’m not quite sure what the venue was called, but it was like a thousand capacity room. To put it into perspective when we first played in America we were playing in front of maybe forty of fifty people, maybe one hundred if we were lucky. When you travel all that way you just expect that you have to build it up from the ground. One time in Boston we actually played in front of seventeen people. The first show we ever did in Australia was sold out and people knew all the words. We were literally like ‘holy shit what is going on here’ and I think from that moment on we have just been so spoiled. It’s always been such a great place for us to come. I suppose also Australians have found going to the U.K. is an easy place to go and vice versa for British people, we get along quite well and aren’t too dissimilar culturally.
Would any of you ever consider making the big move down under full time? It feels like you are here enough to at least merit buying a little holiday home of some sort!
(Laughs) Yeah when we recently played Splendor In The Grass festival we went for a bike ride along the Gold Coast, took a little break on the beach and I actually went for a swim. I remember we were all just saying fuck this area is so lovely and it’s the same for Sydney or Melbourne. My cousin used to live in Melbourne and we always used to say if it weren’t twenty odd hours on a flight away we’d totally get a little place or something, or even consider moving there. It’s just so far away and as, you know, we are getting older and family members are having children and stuff it would have to be a real special reason for any of us to do it. But yeah we love going there and long may it continue!
Well you are coming back this December! You are scheduled in to play Grapevine festival this year, which takes place in two wineries in Victoria and New South Wales, are you big wine fans yourself?
Oh yes! I absolutely love wine. I’m going through a kind of natural wine faze at the moment, like biodynamic wine, with the least amount of interference in the wine making process as possible. They are amazing, I don’t know if you’ve tried any but you should totally do it. My dad when I was growing up was always a bit of a Francophile; he really loved France, so there would always be a bottle of wine on the table. It’s something that I associate with meals and just good times with friends and family. I’ve got a friend who works in the wine industry and another friend who’s got a vineyard in France, and I just love the whole process. I’ve been to Penfolds winery in Australia and I’ve been to another one in the Hunter Valley before. We actually took all of our crew on a wine tasting tour on one of our trips to Australia once, which was awesome. So when we found out we were being offer to play a festival in a Winery we were just like ‘woo party time’!
It seems like a match made in heaven then. Your last album was called ‘Beautiful People Will Ruin Your Life’; can you give us some backdrop to why you decided to call it this?
Yeah, the titles of albums have always been important to us, we want them to sum up what is going on in the album to an extent, or, at least grab people’s attention. With the last album I suppose a lot of the songs were about the people that are closest to you. The people that you love the most are often the ones who can do the most damage to you, whether it’s your confidence or your emotions. So when we saw a lot of the titles that Murph sent over, that one sort of jumped out as being quite unusual can often affect a lot of that. It’s kind of weird because we thought well that’s not strictly true but at least it can make people question, you know, what’s going on here then? Apparently it was also a song idea to start with as well , but never finished, so that’s were it came from.
Last time you and me spoke you were visiting Tord in Oslo and you explained how the band are based in different cities all over the world. How does that work when it comes to making an album then? Does it make it any more difficult or do you find the process to still run smoothly?
Oh yeah, we are still kind of on and off in different cities. It’s been similar to that over the last couple of albums. Murph spends a lot of time in L.A. as he was getting together with his girlfriend, now wife, during the making of Glitterbug. You just have to make it work. You have to be a little more organised in the diary and dedicate two weeks when we all have to get together. Then we have to treat everyday as a studio day and don’t stop until we have three of four songs. It actually worked out fine and with the Internet nowadays it’s so easy to sends ideas back and forth. It often good to actually have a bit of space from each other as you are forced by geography to actually spend time on your own, coming up with ideas that you can send around, or save until next to we work together again. Then when the time comes around you can say “Oh I’ve been working on this” and we all listen to a bunch of ideas and go yeah I like that one, or I don’t like that one.
What are the plans beyond this tour? Can we expect another Wombats album to be conceived or do you guys have any other plans you want to pursue?
So we get back from Australia in early December, then we are going to have Christmas off. We are playing in Bali actually, on New Year’s Day, so that should be fun. We still have some touring to do early next year but we are going to try to put aside some weeks to get some new songs written. It kind of hard to say really because Murph is doing a solo project thing, I’m doing by third album on my solo project and Tom is doing his solo thing as well! We’ve always written and done slightly different projects, but obviously The Wombats always takes priority for us. So as soon as we have any new songs are main focus will be to make another album. In the meantime, there are a few other things that we want to record that we feel maybe don’t fit in The Wombats world, but we want to put them out there anyway. We will definitely get cracking on album number five as soon as we can.
Do you find you’ve all changed a bit over the years when you all meet up again and tour, or is it just like the boys back together the same as it was over a decade ago?
(Laughs) It kind of depends really, I think for this album, yes. We know each other so well now we’ve said everything there is to say to each other, as in “I don’t like that idea” or whatever it may be. So it’s kind of just water of a ducks backs to work together and get things done. I think we all kind of know what we do in the band a bit more. We are pretty flexible in terms of how we go about recording and making songs. It’s definitely changed from the early days when I’d sit on the drums, Tom would be on bass and Murph on guitar and we’d just come up with a song idea. We had so much energy to like punk it up, change things and just fuck around with it until it was right. We wouldn’t record them until we had played them live a bunch of time. Whereas now it tends to be the other way around, where we spend more time in the studio and don’t finish a song until we record it, and then play it live. So, yeah, things have changed a bit audio side of things, but we are still all good friends. Its like any friendship or marriage it grows more over time.
That’s good to hear. Just a couple more to finish up. Do you have favourite places to go to for food or drinks when in Australia?
Oh yeah, for sure. We are spoiled for choice in Australia, aren’t we? The key one for us is the brunches over there, we absolutely love it. My favourite place in Melbourne is probably Rice Paper Scissors, I don’t know if you’ve been there before, its kind of Asian food. As for Sydney, I suppose Bills in Surrey Hills, which was one of the first places we went and the scrambled eggs in there are amazing! Oh and Deadman Espresso in Melbourne as well, you can get an awesome brunch in there.
There are so many places though and every city we go to we try to sample different things. It’s nice to keep it fresh.
One last question to finish on; have you picked up any of the lingo on your countless trips down here?
Yeah I think I pretty much understand most Aussie phrases now. I’m trying to think of any. I like the abbreviations, which sometimes got me, like chopping a word in half and adding an O on the end. ‘Arvo’ for this afternoon is one that stands out in my mind. Like “Arvvvoooo” (in an attempted Aussie accent), when I first heard that I wasn’t sure if they meant avocado?
That was actually a pretty good accent! Thank you for taking the time to talk with us Dan; it’s been a pleasure, as always. Good luck with the shows and enjoy the wine at Grapevine festival!
Interview by Paraic Walker
The Wombats will be playing at the Grapevine Festival 2018
Saturday November 24th (SOLD OUT!)
Rochford Winery, Yarra Valley, Victoria
Featuring: The Wombats, The Jungle Giants, Tkay Maidza, MK, Miami Horror, Lovebirds, Dom Dolla, Joy and Arroyo
Saturday December 1st
Roche Estate, Hunter Valley, NSW
Featuring: The Wombats, Client Liaison, Tkay Maidza, Miami Horror, Dom Dolla, Young Franco, Joy and Arroyo
For information and tickets: www.grapevinegathering.com.au