In the midst of their Australian tour, I had a chance to chat with Dan Haggis from indie pop icon The Wombats. We talked about the ten year anniversary of their first album, their psychedelic fourth album, and how it felt to play the Sydney Opera House.
Dan, how are you going?
I’m good thanks, a little bit tired. We played the Opera House last night and obviously because it was a pretty ridiculous occasion we had to celebrate. Then we had to get up for breakfast this morning and do the breakfast show on Triple J, so we’re burning the candle at both ends today.
So, the Sydney Opera House, that’s a pretty big deal!
Of all the places we’ve ever played, our parents and our family were all so excited for us on this one. It was just a really surreal experience because obviously most bands that are more punk rock end up playing in kind of dingy night clubs or warehouses, more traditional rock venues. And to play somewhere like that, that is predominately classic, it had a real sense of occasion and weight to the event. We wore suits and had people in wombat costumes on stage, so it was a very surreal night. It was amazing.
What can we expect from the encore show?
Well we’re kind of celebrating the ten-year anniversary of our first album and so we’re actually going to be playing a few more of our old songs that we usually do. It’s been a bit of a trip down memory lane. It’s kind of like looking at some old photographs and you end up thrown into lots of different memories, it’s very nostalgic. It’s been fun though, and there probably won’t be that many occasions for us to actually play some of these songs ever again. We’re not playing any new songs yet, we’re still in the song-writing process for the fourth album. We do have some new songs that we’ve finished, quite a few actually, but we thought it wasn’t really the tour or the occasion to start playing them just yet.
How does playing somewhere like the Opera House compare to a festival like Groovin’ the Moo?
It’s very different [laughs]. You’ve got a room in the Sydney Opera House which is a seated venue, but to be fair, from the word ‘go’ everyone stood up and was dancing and going crazy, it was amazing. But with festivals like Groovin the Moo, it’s always a bit different because there’s people just letting loose and y’know, everyone’s on each other’s shoulders and there’s a lot more face paint and glitter and a whole different vibe. It’s fun to kind of do both. If you were constantly in fields doing festivals you’d probably miss playing at venues. I don’t think we’d ever forget playing the Opera House, we can’t wait to do it again tonight.
As you mentioned, you guys are celebrating the tenth anniversary of your first album, what’s it like playing songs you wrote in 2007 to fans at the Opera House in 2017?
It’s just surreal. I don’t really know how else to describe it. Some of the songs that we were playing … we can remember making them. We used to practice in the lounge at my dad’s house, and we could practice till he got home from work at 6pm, and then we had to quieten down and be weary of the neighbours. I remember my little brother used to stand by the door of the lounge and listen, and we could hear him singing along to the songs afterwards. There are so many different memories. Then to be in the Opera House … there was a bit of a moment where I could actually connect all those moments. It feels like wow we’ve come a long way from playing small venues in Liverpool to doing this, with all these people in the room singing along when we’re so far away from home—It’s mind blowing.
What do you think it is about songs from the first album, like ‘Let’s Dance to Joy Division’ or ‘Moving to New York’, that have made them so timeless?
I have absolutely no idea. I mean, all we’ve ever done is make music that we like and we feel something about. So I guess with all music you just hope that other people can connect with it in a similar way—that it will give them the same feelings and they can connect with the lyrics. [Laughs] I wish I knew the answer to that question.
You guys have album number four in the works, how does it compare to what we’ve already heard from The Wombats?
We haven’t properly started recording it yet, so it’s a little early to say, but we’re throwing the word ‘psychedelic’ around a bit. Not that it’s going to be psychedelic, it’s still going to be wonky pop, but we’re definitely trying to push ourselves in a slightly different direction. Sometimes we throw words out there whilst we’re making music to try and give ourselves a little nudge in a certain direction and hopefully we can find a new sound that we can get excited about. When we’re making each album, we often feel like there’s one song in particular or a recording of the song that makes us feel like we’re onto something new and exciting for us. I don’t know if we’ve had that yet, but we’ll see.
Were there any bands you took inspiration from for the new sound?
All of us have so many different influences from different genres. We try not to have any specific influence because you need to be careful that you don’t end up sounding too much like anything else. Of course every band, as you record, throws references in there just to get your idea across. You might have a sound in mind where you might think ‘that sounds good for this album’. But it could be anything from Talking Heads to Tame Impala or Air to something like Rage Against the Machine. It could be anything really. It might not make any sense to anyone else though.
Going back to celebrating the ten-year anniversary of A Guide to Love, Loss, and Desperation, was there a specific reason you chose to tour that in Australia, or was that just a happy coincidence?
To be honest, we were talking about doing some shows because we couldn’t believe that it had been ten years since, so we thought we should do some gigs. At first we were thinking of doing a little show in Liverpool and just have a party basically. But then our manager told us that he had talked to our booking agent and Groovin’ the Moo festival wanted us to play if we were up for it, and we were like ‘fuck yeah, why not, that’d be awesome!’. And from there we thought, seeing as were going to be in Australia, we might do some celebratory ten year shows as well. Then they asked us about doing the Sydney Opera House and we were like ‘oh my god’. It just spiralled a little bit. We’re doing a week in the UK as well so it turned into a little more than we were planning on, but I’m really glad that we ended up agreeing to do it, it’s been awesome.
How has the response to these massive shows been?
It’s been amazing, honestly. Even some of the older songs that we haven’t played for ages, ones that aren’t even singles, like the last track on the first record, even that, people have been dancing along and singing. It’s just amazing, we’re so spoilt in Australia that our fans are always so warm and friendly and nice, and it feels so good. Everyone just wants to have a good time and there’s no bad vibes anywhere. You can’t help but feel like this is why we do music. It’s just been great.
So what are the post-Australia plans?
I’m actually, on the way back, going on holiday in Bali. I’ve never been there before so I’m going to have a couple weeks of fully chilling out. Then it’s going to be straight back into writing for the fourth album. We’re going to Oslo to do a couple of weeks of writing there, then we’ve got a weeks of touring in the UK, then some festivals this summer, and then we can hopefully start recording the album in August or September.
Album number four isn’t too far away then?
[Laughs] No, not at all!
You can catch The Wombats play their last show at The Opera House tonight, or in Metro City, Perth, on May 11, or Groovin’ the Moo, Bunbury, on May 13