The Wombats are back with the new forthcoming LP, FIX YOURSELF, NOT THE WORLD.
Formed in 2003 and comprising of frontman Matthew “Murph” Murphy, bassist Tord Øverland Knudsen, and drummer Dan Haggis, the Liverpool band rose to prominence thanks to their vibrant indie-pop songs and talent for penning incredibly witty and relatable lyricism. It was their exceptional 2007 debut LP, A Guide to Love, Loss & Desperation, which saw the band become a main staple in the UK music scene. Eighteen-years down the line and with numerous accolades, sold-out headline tours, and four well-received records under their belt, the band have now announced their fifth studio album, FIX YOURSELF, NOT THE WORLD. It’s a record that beams with an energy similar to their previous UK top three album, Beautiful People Will Ruin Your Life, but it’s on a whole new level. This time round, Murph and co faced a different sort of challenge as they recorded the record entirely remotely whilst the trio were all in different continents. But if their new single “If You Ever Leave, I’m Coming With You” is anything to go by, The Wombats have pulled it off. Undoubtedly, It’s a record which highlights why they remain just as crucial now as they were when they first broke-out.
In conversation with 1883 Magazine, Murph spoke with us about the new album, their biggest headline tour to date, going viral on TikTok, and more.
Hi Murph, thanks for chatting with 1883. The Wombats have just announced FIX YOURSELF, NOT THE WORLD, which is the band’s fifth LP and it’s out JANUARY 7th 2022. It’s quite an achievement to get five records in. This time round when making an album, what did you want to achieve? And what do you love about this new one?
Well, quite simply, after GlitterBug, a lot of things changed. And we knew that we had to come back with something great. I think to a certain extent we did, and I’m just so proud of our fourth album [Beautiful People Will Ruin Your Life], In my head I was like, ‘right, It’s got to be as good as that’ or it’s kind of got to flow on from that record. And you know if, if I can make it better than that album, then great. But I didn’t really think about the albums one, two, or three, I just really thought about the fourth album, how much I kind of loved it and how proud I am of it. It’s not that I wanted to replicate it, but I wanted to take the energy that we’ve gotten from that and put it into this next one. And yeah, I think job well done haha.
“If You Ever Leave, I’m Coming With You” is the second track to be taken from the record, and it makes for one hell of a single. It feels like a classic Wombats tune but it feels fresh as well, can you tell us a bit about how you wrote the song?
Yeah… it was back in LA, 2020, a few weeks after the pandemic really got going. My wife and I, when the lockdowns were first imposed out here and stuff like it was kind of fun. Obviously the pandemic is a horrendous thing but it was kind of fun, as we were like ‘we can’t do anything so what we’re going to do? Okay let’s crack open a bottle of wine at 4pm’. There was a couple of weeks of this happening, and then it became pretty apparent that the curve was not about to get flattened anytime soon. And then it was like ‘oh right okay, so this is our life for the foreseeable future’. And so any kind of sheen that those first couple of weeks had kind of started to dissipate, and we were left kind of just being stuck together all the time, even more than usual.
Maybe human beings aren’t supposed to be locked in a house with the same people all the time. So that’s kind of what the song is about kind of the interpersonal stream that was put in a lot of people’s relationships, and you know like the divorce rate starting to skyrocket over here and it was that, combined with an image I had in my head of my wife and kids leaving me and getting in a car with like suitcases on the roof, and me being blissfully unaware that anything was wrong and like just happily getting in the passenger seat. Or me barbecuing some sausages in the garden while she is throwing all my guitars out and burning my clothes. So between those two worlds was one other word that song was born, I guess.
Interestingly, FIX YOURSELF, NOT THE WORLD, was recorded remotely, as you’re in LA, Tord is in Oslo, and Dan is in London. That must have made for such a different experience when recording the record surely? Compared to all being together in the same room?
I mean, the two songs that Jacknife Lee produced “This Car Drives All By Itself” and “worry”, they were the first two we got going on. Tord was in Oslo, Dan was in London, and I was in LA with JackKnife and that was kind of odd. But then Mark Crew produced the majority of the album. I was here in LA with an engineer and Mark was in London with Dan and Tord. The actual recording of it from my side was great. There wasn’t any frustration happening in the studio or the kind of smashing of heads or ideas colliding and us having to talk it out and figure it out it. We’ve been doing this for like 18 years so there are occasionally days in the studio where egos flare up or you have a disagreement on something, and obviously that was kind of almost completely ruled out because we weren’t all together or at least it was ruled out for me like I didn’t see any of it.
So it started off that we would hop on a zoom at 9am my time which would be 5pm their time to figure out what they’d done in the day and what I had to do in the day and it was kind of this sacred time that we would all try and get on the same page. And then as the weeks progressed, the Zoom calls got shorter and shorter until there was just no zooms anymore. I didn’t know what they were working on, they didn’t know what I was working on, we were all just recording audio, and it turned out that a lot of audio was just completely unnecessary. So the recording of it from my perspective was very free and enjoyable and it was great. It was the compiling of everything afterwards, that was crazy.
Obviously, if they hadn’t been in the room while I was recording vocals or keyboards or any parts I was attached or parts that I thought were good or things that I tried a different way and I wasn’t there for any of their experimentation. So, when we first started hearing some of the songs back it was just jam packed full of random shit that I didn’t think was going to happen and they probably thought that as well. So we had to press delete a lot, and it was a lot of hard work for Mark Crew, who at one point, just had to kind of take a couple of weeks off. It all got a bit much, he was in-between moving homes and he was living in the studio and he was having to deal with us three and he was just like, I need to I need to stop for a little bit.
And it turned out that was exactly what needed to happen. Everything he sent afterwards was great. So yeah, the recording was fine from my perspective, the compiling of everything afterwards was insane. The recording kept on going really I was zooming with Mark and just recording new vocals and new guitars and things in my studio here. I wouldn’t recommend it, I’m not sure I’d want to do it again. But It’s good to know it is possible to record an album while all being in different places.
Well, from what we’ve heard of the new album, everything worked out great.
I think one of the good things we did on this album was in some of the demos. We could feel there was some kind of new ideas coming out. So we were already on the same page that we kind of wanted to do this kind of pop LCD Sound System meets David Byrne and Bowie in certain places. We had the framework all laid out before we really started doing anything, which was really helpful to kind of make sure that it didn’t sound like we made it in two separate continents.
We need to speak about how The Wombats have a talent for appealing to new fans, it’s not always easy to remain relevant and it’s so good to see that the younger generations have embraced the band. One key example is when the “Greek Tragedy” remix went massively viral on TikTok and that then helped people discover the original version (which in my opinion so much better). That must have been a nice shock to hear that it went viral on a platform like that?
Yeah, it didn’t make any sense and still doesn’t really make any sense. The remix that I’d never even heard before, Warner commissioned it back in the day. it was on a random HeadcCandy compilation which is probably straight to CD and I can’t imagine It sold a great deal for them. But then suddenly one TikTok influencer starts singing it and off we go. It’s just so weird. This is the power of social media now, it’s kind of chaotic and uncontrollable. We’re very fortunate that all that happened, it still doesn’t seem kind of tangible to me, I don’t get it.
Everyone’s been trying to get us on TikTok for ages now but I don’t need another potentially toxic app on my phone haha.
Twitter is enough!
Instagrams enough, not that I did Twitter that much, but I don’t need another app. I’m quite a competitive person, I don’t need another app that wants to make me compete with other people…
I get what you mean and I think you’re right. I think when you’re growing you can be so obsessed with social media because it’s so prevalent now. Especially if you are teen growing up now. The older I’ve got the more I’ve realised that it is all a load of bullshit and you don’t really need it. Use it if you want, it has its benefits but if it makes you unhappy, you don’t have to use it.
If I was doing a TikTok dance in the living room and my wife saw it as a 37-year-old man, she would be like ‘what the fuck are you doing, like, this is disgraceful’ haha.
Although the remix was catchy, I think The Wombats have remained an important band because of your songwriting ability and the subjects you cover. You’ve always gone deep with lyricism, whether it’s in songs like “Anti-D” or “Turn”, you’ve always covered topics that feel so relatable, like on songs “Let’s Dance To Joy Division” or “1996”. When you sit down to write lyrics, how do you approach writing them? And in your opinion, what is the most essential factor that is needed to write a good lyric?
I think I’m kind of fortunate in a way that I see this when I work with other artists, I’m maybe not the best pop songwriter because I gravitate towards the odder end of the spectrum. Or I use really odd ways of describing everyday feelings which maybe isn’t kind of mainstream enough. It’s all about trying to find new ways to express the same old feeling. Human beings are only trying to convey maybe five or six very important things. Like ‘Hey, I feel alone’, ‘Hey, I am happy I want to express it’. There’s just these very core things that are happening within the human experience and it’s my job to find new and interesting ways to describe those things that are happening.
What I think I’ve got good at over the last five years is not overthinking things and just writing things that resonate with me. I feel like if something really truly resonates with me it’s gonna resonate with other people as well. And then a really simple thing that is really important to me is the title of the song. I need the title to excite me and to bring up other ideas and that’s how I can get from the beginning of the song to the end of it.
If I’m not too convinced by the title or don’t feel like it has enough sparks flying off it, I sometimes will give up on the song. So if the title is like “Lemon To A Knife Fight” or “I Like The Way Your Brain Works” or something like that, then I can get to the end.
Let’s talk about two very exciting things. This year, The Wombats are playing Reading & Leeds festival and have a really great slot. Secondly, when you embark on a headline arena tour in April 2022. Headlining the O2 arena in London is going to be such an amazing experience… how do you even prepare for a huge headline tour like that?
I don’t know, I’m just thinking about Reading and Leeds first. I have a flight back to the UK in a couple of weeks and we then rehearse for a few days and it’s going to be quite interesting because I haven’t done a gig for a year and a half. Last time I even saw tord was two-years ago at Reading Festival…
it’s gonna be an emotional experience then, very surreal…
Yeah, it’s gonna be surreal. I’m really excited and unbelievably scared as well. And then as far as like the O2 and the arena shows in the UK next year, I’m not even thinking about the shows I’m just amazed and have a bit of pride that we’re actually doing these big shows. To describe it, I would definitely never use the word like catapulted to fame, it was never like an Arctic Monkeys story. It was something that we’ve just ground away at and been a bit stubborn about and kept our heads down and kept on ploughing regardless of what was happening around us.
How’s fatherhood and life in LA treating you? Is there anything you really miss about Liverpool?
I miss lots of things about Liverpool and the UK. The sense of humour in Liverpool, my friends who still live there… I definitely have a bigger appreciation of London now, I lived there for a decade, but I do also miss the architecture and stuff. LA is a hell of a lot younger than London and so you don’t see too much of that over here. But being a parent is the best thing ever and it’s also one of the hardest things ever, and it’s just changed me a lot, all in positive ways. LA is great, I feel like I’m 15% happier here and this is good for me.
I’m glad to hear and yeah I can imagine that the nice weather over there beats rainy days in Liverpool.
Yeah a little, it’s crazy hot here at the moment there’s no real seasons here, I miss seasons. I don’t miss them that much but it’d be nice to have two weeks of winter, two weeks of spring, two weeks of August, rather than just being just baked by the sun every day.
Last year, you released your debut solo album, Wherever I Go, I Want To Leave, under the moniker, Love Fame Tragedy. What would you say has been the main benefits from working on this project?
It’s definitely kind of reignited my passion for songwriting and trying to do new things. It’s more of a collaborative project so it’s really nice to harness other people’s talents and skills and bring it in the studio and try to create something new. It’s not that simple with The Wombats or when you’ve been in a band for a long time to just kind of like go: ‘hey, let’s get this person to come and sing over the chorus’ or whatever, so I really love that freedom that the project gives.
The live shows and the band that I got together …l ‘m so fortunate that I found those three people and I hope they stick around for the next album. It was just a lot of fun, and it kind of means that I can write a song, record it, and put it out in the world. I then don’t have to go through the labyrinth that you have to go through to get a Wombats song from conception to release. Not to say that that labyrinth isn’t useful and important but it’s nice to have another arrow to my bow, if you will.
I know this was a couple of years back and it has probably been talked about before, but I remember you guys being amazed of that video of Mick Jagger dancing to “Techno Fan”… I mean that is pretty crazy to be fair. Has there been any other particular moments from the past eighteen years that have blown your mind? There must be a lot to pick from… is there anything moments the fans might not know about?
I mean…Mick Jagger randomly posting a video dancing to one of your songs and then him asking you to support him at a stadium show in New York was pretty ridiculous. My daughter came and Keith Richards said hi and kind of stroked her face and almost kind of blessed her in a catholic way. It was really weird but It was cool. There are so many ridiculous things that have happened which I can’t quite remember right now. But it’s like bumping into Paul McCartney at times and telling you he loves your albums is quite bizarre. I don’t know I need more time to think of any other silly things that have happened to us along the way.
Finally, why should fans look forward to the release of FIX YOURSELF, NOT THE WORLD in January?
I’m not amazing at self promotion but it’s kind of a different album for us. The themes are always about letting go and being a bit more present and not ping-ponging between the future and the past. I feel a lot of our previous three, maybe four albums, really tackle that. But this record tackles how to stop giving a shit about things you can’t control and why ultimately that’s gonna make you a happier, better individual with a bit more purpose maybe.
It’s all said in this humorous dark way, like all the other songs are, but the underlying core theme of this album is very different to the ones we’ve done before. Also a track called “This Car Drives All By Itself” is on the record. It’s just one of those very special songs that doesn’t come around too often, so I’m really excited for people to hear that as well.
FIX YOURSELF, NOT THE WORLD is out January 7th. Follow The Wombats @wombatsofficial
Interview by Cameron Poole