The Wombats: Past, Present & Future

The Wombats are back and stronger than ever with their new single ‘Everything I Love Is Going To Die’. Following a chaotic period for us all, The Wombats newest upbeat offering takes us back to a simpler time, a time with less worries and more joy. With nearly two decades in the game, The Wombats know exactly what it takes to get a crowd hyped up, and ‘Everything I Love Is Going To Die’ does just that – don’t let the title fool you, this is a track that celebrates life and reminds us to seize the moment. Released as a teaser to their highly anticipated fifth studio album Fix Yourself, Not The Worlddue for release in January 2022, the band have also announced a UK headlining tour from April 2022, with a landmark show at the O2 Arena.

This summer we had the pleasure to speak to The Wombats Drummer Dan Haggis at Reading Festival just before he hit playing the main stage during a somewhat sunny cloudy day. Luckily we were able to sit on some clean grass and had a long chat about life before and after lockdown. Dan openly discusses his struggles during the pandemic, and most importantly his love for baking cakes, all things music making, and the history behind the band before social media platforms became essential for musicians – read on for much more in our exclusive deep-dive.

Hey Dan, so tell us, what’s music life been like for you during the pandemic, how have you dealt with things as a band?

We were all just saying that I haven’t seen some of the crew guys for like, about some of them for two years. And then just we were all like fucking hell- It’s just like, nothing’s changed. We’ve all got through this weird two year period kind of didn’t know when it was gonna end and now you’re finally back again. It’s like, Oh, right. Okay. We’re back now, but for how long? Myself and Tord, we were supposed to be doing a tour with our side project Sunship Balloon, and we’d had everything rehearsed, ready to go and then a week before the first lockdown hit. So for a new project, we were pretty gutted, everything just got cancelled for the year. We had five festivals with The Wombats that summer that got cancelled. But we were genuinely like really lucky because we’d sort of earmarked the next year or so, to work on the fifth album.

So for us, you know, it wasn’t a big deal. I felt so sorry for all the bands who just released an album, and then they had all these tours lined up and everything, you know, like, that’s a real killer. Whereas we were recording, writing and all the rest of it. That was like the saving grace for the whole period to be honest because I just set up like a studio in the back room, and cycled down to my little studio got a mic stand and microphone, cycled back up the hill. We must have stopped the day before the first lockdown, thinking like, “well, it might only last for a few weeks or a month.” Then it was like three months wasn’t it pretty much to June – and then it just felt like a year, but being able to make music everyday. We made a load of songs with The Wombats and a load of Sunship Balloon stuff, side projects, you know just whatever it was, we made music, and it gave us like a sense of rhythm and routine.

And I mean, don’t get me wrong, it was fucking shit for everyone wasn’t it? I mean, not seeing family not seeing friends, trying to make the most of it, but never knowing when this will all end, and especially being in the music industry, knowing when things were going to go back to any kind of normality. So it wasn’t great. Mental health wise, that was very up and down for me. We got through it and tried to like, focus on the important things and the good thing like cooking-

That leads nicely into my next question – I was about to ask if you’ve learned any new skills throughout lockdown, cooking is great! What’s your go to?

Yeah, I always love cooking, but obviously being on tour, we never really had that much of a chance to cook. I mean, as soon as I got home I’d be cooking but it was just a chance to try some different dishes.

What’s one dish you made that’s your favorite now?

Well, I made I made a really nice rhubarb cake with white chocolate, which was actually amazing. Although, I’m not used to making cakes, so I don’t think I quite got it to how moist it should be, so it was a little bit kind of gluey, but it was really good. I also made some nice breads. Yeah, but you know like just doing kind of like things that you don’t normally have the time for you know, we do pancakes once a week sometimes and like things like that  because you start to just get bored of everything else that you know you’re like fucking hell. Just needs something different to change otherwise it’s just like Groundhog Day.

The weirdest thing is I started getting into like celery juice. I don’t know. You’re probably thinking, what the hell?!

I’m just not a massive fan of celery but I did start to juice things like carrot and ginger and all that. Like I do have a juicer. So is that just pure celery juice?

I mean if you don’t like the taste of it as much, put apples in or cucumber- it kinda just lessens the strong taste.

Yeah I like cucumber. That could work. Since we are talking about things that make us feel good, yoga has really helped me through all the lockdowns. I was doing that before breakfast, even for just half an hour. Then have your breakfast, start the day, crack on and, you know, go out to the park for the hour that you’re allowed. It’s so weird thinking back to it now, because being back here, it just feels like that didn’t happen. It was almost like a weird, bad dream.

Sometimes we get so used to old habits, and then when things go back to normal or when we get a bit happy/excited and sad/gloomy – it goes up and down. It’s a bit like a rollercoaster ride- you know?

Yeah- roller coaster, that’s a very good description. It ended up feeling, being like a rollercoaster but within days. I’d wake up some mornings, full of energy and be like, yeah, I’ve got this, this is fine- we can do this. And then some some in the afternoon, I’d just be like, looking out the window, wondering “when are we next doing a gig? Ah, I miss playing live so much and being with my friends in the studio!”

We did loads of our album remotely, Murph was in LA, I was in London and Tord was in Oslo. Then Tord managed to get over just before the November lockdown. We did six weeks but Matt was still over there, like in the studio with an engineer. To be honest, it actually worked out all right, we just had to make sure we stayed organised to like, you know, I’d do drums- Tord would do bass then we’d send that over to LA and then he’d (Murph) listen to it and go like, “Right, cool.” He’d work on his stuff on top and send it back and be like “Oh, I actually recorded a sitar on this song as well.” And we’d be like “Wow, that’s amazing!” then reamp it through stuff and fuck with the sound, and send it back.

So it was kind of it wasn’t as in the moment, but it just meant that each of us could really spend loads of time on whatever idea we had or wanted to achieve. You know, rather than having someone else looking over your shoulder, we could kind of just like, do it. If it didn’t work out, fair enough, but at least you went to the end of your idea, down that rabbit hole all the way. Music and art in general is always gonna reflect what’s happening at the time. So every time we listened to the album, even in 20 years, if we listen back to it and be like, fuck, the first time I heard that sitar, I remember when that happened during history. We just tried to embrace as much as we could.

You’ve been around for like 18 years, right? What was it like back then, in comparison to now? How does it feel to be this massive amazing band known around the world?

Oh, thanks for the “amazing” bit! We just feel honestly so lucky to be able to do music and not to get a job on the side, that was always our aim. Then the fact that we get to travel around the world, obviously not the last few years, but you know, travel around the world play music to people who get it, and feel something from the music we make, that’s obviously why we do it in the first place. When you get that connection with people, it’s just like the best feeling in the world – meeting people who make you part of their lives.

We recently had a couple send out their wedding card invitations of both of them dressed up in a Wombat costume. (Story behind that) A while back in Sydney, we did this competition and if you wanted to enter the competition, you had to come and dance on stage with us as Wombats. And that specific couple met there, they literally met and hit it off. Now like three years later, they’re together and getting married, and it was like “thanks so much. we have to let you know our first dance will be to one of your songs.” It’s moments like that when you feel like it’s almost more than the music – a massive part of their lives and it’s directly been impacted by our music and it’s so nice to see this.

What’s it been like essentially living through the birth of the internet as we know it today? When social media came along, what were your thought on all of this? How would you say this impacted the band and music?

When we started, there was no MySpace, no anything. We sort of started in 2003/2004 at Uni, and then like, we just went and played gigs wherever we were and whenever we could get a gig we’d say yes to everything- sleep on the promoters floors and stuff like that.

And then I remember Tord saying “oh, there’s this thing called MySpace, we should probably start, like, we could put our songs on there. We can write to people in the cities we’re going to play in and be like, “Why don’t you come to our gig and listen to our music”. That actually ended up helping us kind of get signed, because then we were getting more people are listening, and the label started looking at that. Nowadays, obviously they look at Spotify numbers and go like, are we gonna sign these people, TikTok and all those types of platforms. The whole musical landscape’s changed and now you can keep in touch with fans so much easier, and directly promote something, talk about something, or get a song out – it has been fascinating to see.

When we started, it was kind of all about albums and getting radio plays, and now it’s just as much about like playlists and streaming. I think for us, we always wanted to do different things per album, always trying to challenge ourselves and try and explore something new. In terms of like, the technology side of things, we’re probably not the best with social media and stuff. But the label has like a social media team and they always they say to us “Come on guys try and post a bit more or do this.” So we understand that we have to get in with it as band- you sort of have to do that now to stay in touch with fans. I guess we’re learning because we didn’t grow up with it – it’s not in our bones, the first thing we think isn’t like “oh, I want to take a picture and post it”. Whereas I think if I’d grown up with that of course, I probably wouldn’t even think twice but it just doesn’t come to my mind as often as it does with the label.

What types of music inspired your current sound?

All of us have always listened to quite an eclectic range of music, and that’s whether people can hear the influences or not. Everyone’s got their own interpretation of what they’re hearing but on the songs that we’ve put out so far from this album, like the method to madness is definitely a bit more influenced by like Lo-Fi kind of Electronica, which I guess we haven’t really done before – but Tord, he’s really into that stuff.

With Sunship Balloon, like we did a lot more Lo-Fi Electronica. I think when we went to do the writing trip in LA with Murph, and we started messing around with stuff and we were playing around on the piano – because we’d been doing lots of Sunship Balloon stuff before that, that world was still in our brain. We worked on something that we experimented with and got this really super chilled vibe from what we created.

I mean even our song writing process for each song is different. Murph could come in with the bare bones of an idea and we all get together and jam it out, we add sections here and there, tweak things, add backing vocals and so on. Other times, it could be a backing track that me or Tord or both of us have made- we send it to Murph and he sings on top of it. And sometimes all of us are just in a room and we just start jamming and you know, eventually we get something that we’re roughly happy with. 99% of the lyrics Murph always writes, but yeah everything else, we just try and be as flexible as we can really and whatever makes the best song.

I think our Zoom sessions were kind of interesting. Like, learning to try and make a song on Zoom but with the the delay, you have latency between the other person, for example when I play something and Murph would play something- you couldn’t play together. So it was that was interesting, but then again, you just have to say like, “right, we’ve roughly got a cool idea for the verse, right? You carry on working on the chorus, I’m gonna program and record stuff for that, and then we’d piece it together like a jigsaw.” 

Lastly, being at Reading festival I thought I would ask, what are some things that annoy you at festivals? 

Torrential rain. I know that’s an obvious one, but like I’ve experienced Glastonbury with unbelievable weather and it’s the best feeling ever. Everyone’s just like floating around sort of surreal for like three days. And then I’ve been and it’s been absolutely tipping down. You’ve got wellies on and everything’s getting stuck in the mud and there’s hundreds of thousands of people trying to like get through and they churn at the ground so much that I mean, you still have a great time but it’s just a pain in the ass. As a band, you end up having like a mile or two to walk at the end of the night to go and get your bus or to find your van and you’re knackered trudging through mud and you’re like “arghhh” – so I suppose they’re the only moments that I have a bit of a beef with mother nature. 

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Stream ‘Everything I Love Is Going To Die’ on Spotify
Pre-save ‘Fix Yourself, Not The World’

Interview: Rojan Said