From performing at the Australian Football League’s Grand Final to shining bright on third studio album The Glow, it could have been a worse year for frenetic indie mob DMA’s. With a baseball hatful of hooks and a fresh set of Indie Wednesday bellow-along’s, the record is the perfect elixir to lockdown mundanity, and inspired a charismatic interview in which the Aussie band’s subdued strummer, Matt Mason, sat (upside) down for a chat with The Mic’s Lucy Gray.
Our last encounter preceded the album’s release, and Mason’s cool and collected attitude was ever present; I have to say I was glad to see his name pop up on the Zoom call. I’ve generally found all three members to be very lax about the prospect of the success, never seeming to pine too much towards the attention they’ve gotten and their accomplishments. If anything, they always seem a little thrown by questions that praise their successes, instead meeting them with but humility and composure. Mason, on this occasion was no different, and met my inquiries with a jovial honesty that put me much at ease.
Being a huge fan myself, interviews like these are even more nerve-wracking, but by the end of it my nerves had subsided completely, somewhere in between the swearing and laughter. His honesty and indifference to the limelight is so refreshing that its hard not to chuckle at the irony between the nonchalance of it all and their striking success. I began by asking him about the inability to perform abroad, especially the UK in which their music has surged in popularity, likely due to the Britpop influences. Talking with a coy adoration for the UK, he tells me: “We much prefer to play in the UK than anywhere else. I think we were meant to come over four times this year.”
“I don’t really read any of the reviews – I can say that my mum liked it and we got nominated for awards.”
Releasing albums this year has been a struggle for many artists, with tours nowhere to be seen and therefore new material tucked away in Spotify playlists rather than O2 academies and arenas alike; “It’s something we miss. We were really looking forward to bringing out a live show and advancing it insofar as production and crew size.” I ask whether they’re attracted to the prospect of livestreams, with many artists choosing this medium as a means of maintain contact with fans as well an outlet to replace the gigs that would have been; “I don’t wanna do a livestream gig, that’s for sure. That’s not fun I don’t think. As a whole it’s a bit disappointing for everyone. Everyone’s appreciative, but everyone’s a bit disappointed, so it’s like, maybe just don’t,” he laughs.
Following their MTV Unplugged: Live album, and being one of the first Aussie band’s to produce one, the boys’ musicianship has become increasingly showcased, having previously expressed interests to explore new avenues outside of their guitar roots. It makes perfect sense, therefore, of their desire to step up the production level of their gigs alongside their developing skills in the studio. Their success has now extended to commercial stages, being offered to perform at the AFL Grand Final last month, something Mason explains to be a major event in Australia. Yet, Mason’s attitude was comedically laidback, expressing a lack of interest in sport altogether, and echoing the band’s familiar attitude to famed achievements. “I don’t even know the rules to be honest. I basically left as soon as we finished playing; I just f***ed off. There’s a huge following here, and for the first time ever it was in Queensland, which I was stoked for because I love it there and we have heaps of friends there.”
Before I could ask my next question, Mason continues, “So that was cool; it was mimed as well. Well, Tommy was singing but I was just playing random chords. So that was pretty funny.” My reaction is surprise, more-so at Mason’s light-hearted approach to a situation that seems reserved for pop stars with intricate dance routines, not a Rock band whose most strenuous movements come from head nodding mostly. I double-check with Mason that this is a first for the band, having otherwise seriously questioned my previous experiences at their gigs, but he reassures me with a laugh that this was their first time; I breathe a sigh of relief and my faith is restored; “It’s TV and Sport; it’s a whole different world, so I’ll just do what’s normal for them. I liked it, I wasn’t even playing the rights chords and shit, I was laughing.”
After pausing to think, Mason explains himself a little more; “It’s like, zero responsibility. It’s quite a liberating way to perform; just pretend. Although we won’t be doing it again anytime soon.” I ask for clarification on whether he means the miming or the Grand Final, to which he responds with a chuckle, “The miming. Although now I’ve leaked their secrets maybe we’ll be blacklisted. But I did kind of like it to be honest.” With online feedback being a mix in response to the slow pace of their performance, I’m prompted to ask Mason why they opted for Criminals, a newer album track, and their infamous cover of Cher’s Believe, to which Mason offered another revelatory answer; “They were decided by the AFL. We said ‘Do we have to do Believe?’ and they said ‘If you don’t play it, you can’t do it.’”
‘The Glow is a true testament to the Aussie trio’s grappling with new ideas and ability to exercise them profoundly.’
When asked how the band felt about a pre-chosen setlist, Mason responded with a surprising contentedness, “I love those songs so honestly I thought, sick. I wrote Criminals, and I think it was my idea to cover Believe so I have to be positive about those songs otherwise it looks badly on me,” he ends with a chuckle. The undemanding nature of his attitude is a testament to the maturity of the band, and goes hand-in-hand with the extensive musicianship they have demonstrated thus far. It seems though, upon greater inspection, that it’s both their talents and attitude towards their position that establishes the trio as integral contemporary artists.
Mason follows with an answer soaked in a striking respect and understanding of the world of commercial stages for a band who are used to ‘Madchester’ raved fans who set off flares at any given opportunity; “There are songs I would have rather played but with Sports events it’s kinda mainstream. If we’d have done the shit I would’ve wanted to do, they would have f***ing hated it. There’s McDonald’s logos everywhere; just play the Pop songs, you know?” Mason goes onto explain that the band were simply pleased to perform at all, regardless of the occasion, given the severe lack of events at the moment. Explaining their disrupted plans to play the festival circuit this year, the AFL was the closest DMA’s had been to an expansive crowd in a while; “To be honest, we kinda needed the money. It’s good exposure and shit, but there’s so little happening as far as festivals and performing to bigger crowds.”
Moving from stage to studio, the topic turns to the release of the Aussie’s third studio album, The Glow. Incorporating elements unseen in previous records Hills End and For Now, the record was set to be challenge amongst loyal indie fans. However, it proved a true testament to the Aussie trio’s grappling with new ideas and ability to exercise them profoundly. Curious to hear Mason’s reaction to the positive feedback, I am underwhelmed, yet not surprised, to be met with his distanced approach to criticism; “I don’t really read any of the reviews – I can say that my mum liked it and we got nominated for awards, so that’s all of the feedback I’ve gotten, and I guess that’s positive all round. So, I’m super stoked.”
It’s yet another refreshing hit of humility, Mason explains the winder attitudes of the band when it comes to social media, divulging that lead singer Tommy O’Dell is only prompted to have his accounts for the sake of promotion. Mason, on the other hand, jokes about his fellow guitarist, Johnny Took; “I think Johnny does care a bit about it, but I don’t think he would admit that to me”. This prompts me to ask about the lack of critical influence in their music, assuming an exhibition of a more authentic rendition of the band’s true passions and interests musically, to which Mason confirms; “When we write, it’s all very much a case of going with how we feel. No one I know writes music to cater to any critics, and it they do then that’s pretty sad, but we certainly don’t.”
‘Mason’s comedic honesty breathes charm into the conversation; acting as a perfect paradox to the turbulent social landscape.’
I then ask about the prospect of new music; “I’m not allowed to answer that, I was told I wasn’t allowed to say anything about that” he answers with a laugh, “But, in turn, that does say something. Do you know what I mean? It’s a good thing.” Mason’s comedic honesty breathes charm into the conversation, and acts as a perfect paradox to the turbulent social landscape we find ourselves conversing in. I’m left craving a return to gigs more than before, and a desire to see what the band have intended for their new live shows, which I hope to be in the near future. Until then, fans are left to enjoy their latest release on repeat, alongside newly released acoustic rendition of Criminals, with the hope of new music on the horizon to keep them going.
Written by: Lucy Gray
Edited by: Olivia Stock
Article images courtesy of DMA’s via Facebook.