Interview: The Wombats

Prior to the release of The Wombats’ fifth studio album and this week's Official UK Number 1 album Fix Yourself, Not the World, Adam Goriparthi spoke to drummer Dan Haggis about recording new music, the impact of the pandemic, album expectations and the prospect of live shows.

After an initial conversation on comprising baking playlists and university degrees, a clear question to ask was how Haggis was feeling ahead of the release of Fix Yourself, Not the World. Unsurprisingly, the anticipation in releasing new music (more so after the last few years) was “exciting”. For Haggis, “being able to play the songs live and have people sing along” is what makes the experience. Nonetheless, he was notably “apprehensive as to whether gigs and the tour would happen due to restrictions but trying to stay positive”. Having attended an acoustic show by them last week, I can confirm that his worries remained worries. Haggis also mentioned how the band strived to “soundtrack a few people’s experiences and moments” with the album, and has “hope that people may connect with it”.


"Overall, recording in different studios led to diverse sound qualities and a richer sonic experience"

This feels more important than ever. Indeed, we swiftly moved on to the pandemic’s effect on the album and The Wombats. Whilst half the album was written in 2019 across two week writing trips in Los Angeles, the rest was recorded separately by the members during the various 2020 lockdowns. Collaboration between London, Los Angeles and Oslo culminated in individual files that were then collated by their producers. Haggis admitted that some tracks came together quicker than others - with different tracks often being worked on at once, leading to chaos and madness. Yet, the band members agreed that “overall, recording in different studios led to diverse sound qualities and a richer sonic experience”. He elaborates that this is due to already having well-planned (via Zoom, of course) demos as well as a long-standing history of making songs with the band; this enabled a clearer focus on their individual parts.

Thematically, the pandemic also influenced the lyrical content of Fix Yourself, Not the World. This album is notably introspective, which make makes sense after being continuously developed alongside lockdowns, lack of interpersonal interactions and just the “general state of the world”. Haggis states that these events have “rewired our relationship with the world and each other”. This Car Drives All by Itself is an example of these ideas; despite being masked by a funky pop sound, it reminds us that we are not in control on what happens around us in the world. As expected, the pandemic accentuated the introspective and self-reflective aspects that are already comfortable within The Wombats’ discography. This album was a therapeutic process for the band and allowed them to “get these thoughts and feelings out there… and to accept them whether bad or good”. Ultimately, the album is a lesson on living in the moment and a journey into finding inner peace. Indeed, the truth is that you can only fix yourself, not the world.


Following the announcement of intimate, stripped-back sets to mark the album release, we talked about the expectations for these shows, especially following lockdown. Haggis felt that it was “frustrating to not play for so long. Having played only three gigs in two years, we were finally going to be able to play music together… which is why anyone joins a band in the first place”. Excited to get on a stage, Haggis felt that playing songs live is the final part of an album’s journey, as the band gets to see the fan's reactions in person. After the unplanned break, the band hopes that hearing an old favourite, discovering new music, or just having a good time with friends is a memorable experience.


"We really pushed ourselves in different directions musically"

Given the musical exploration within this album, I asked Haggis what the band hopes to achieve moving forward. He pointed out that there are always songs that don’t make it onto an album – maybe they feel out of place thematically, maybe they’ll return later. However, this album allowed the band to explore further than they previously have, remarking that “we really pushed ourselves in different directions musically”. He elaborated on how Method to The Madness, for example, begins with a ‘lo-fi’, ambient sound and ends up progressing into a ‘Radiohead’-vibe. Playing around like this subsequently inspired other ventures for the rock band, like exploring ‘funky pop’ on tracks such as Wildfire, or even ‘electronic disco’ genres. Indeed, this divergence of sounds often resembles Love Fame Tragedy, frontman Matthew Murphy’s solo project, which is interesting since the project itself began so that Murph could record songs that wouldn’t otherwise ‘fit in’ with The Wombats.

We also discussed the potential of more gigs moving out of this pandemic, and how this allows the band’s older and newer songs to mix. Contemplating this, Haggis felt that his favourite song to perform changed from album to album and gig to gig, stating that “all the songs in the set make sense – combination of slow and fast songs makes the gig enjoyable”. However, he mentioned that Greek Tragedy, which has gained newfound popularity since a remix went viral on TikTok, is a highlight for him. Haggis suggests that this is due to production moments such as explosions or getting their wombat mascot out. On the new album, Ready for the High has a fun ‘grungy rock’ sound that he feels will entertain the crowd, who ultimately dictate how enjoyable a song is to perform. Having already heard it live, it isn’t naïve to predict that it will eventually become a setlist staple. Ultimately, Fix Yourself, Not The World reminds us to make the most of life and rewards the resilience that we, the listeners, have shown thus far.


Adam Goriparthi

 

Edited by: Gemma Cockrell


Featured image courtesy of The Wombats via Facebook.