Relaxing at the first ever Dubai Sound City, The Wombats' Daniel Haggis and Tord Overland-Knudsen talk to us about their new album, mud starfish and waking up in the wrong tent.
A staple of the festival scene in 2008, The Wombats’ catchy indie pop on their debut album ‘The Wombats Proudly Present: A Guide to Love, Loss and Desperation’, spiralled the band into the big time.
Now back in the studio, 2009 has been relatively quiet in comparison for the Liverpool group, but we caught up with them ahead of their Dubai Sound City show and the release of their next album, which is scheduled to be released next year.
Virtual Festivals: What are your first impressions of Dubai?
Daniel Haggis: “It’s just such a strange idea that there’s a big shiny city in the desert. I can’t quite get over that fact to be honest. It feels like L.A.. To be honest, we’ve been in the hotel, and we’ve been sat by the swimming pool.”
Tord Overland-Knudsen: “A bit worried about the temperature to be honest.”
DH: “All the bands that have played said it’s been a bit of a struggle. We play on Saturday evening, though.”
VF: How do you feel about the restrictions of what you can do on stage, like the drinking and swearing? Is that going to hamper you at all?
DH: “No, there is swearing in one of the songs but we’re going to turn it into ‘shhh’. They changed the lyrics as well here. And you can’t take any clothes off, can you? You can’t take your top off. So I don’t know if that’s a good or a bad thing for the crowd really. Probably a good thing! We don’t really want to get our teats out on stage.”
TOK: “But you’ve got some mean guns there.”
DH: “You’ve been down the gym more than I have recently.”
VF: And what about drinking-wise, are you going to play sober?
DH: “Yeah, I think it’s too hot to play drunk. To be honest we don’t really play drunk very much. We’ll have a couple of drinks before but that’s all. Some bands like getting slaughtered before they go on but we don’t really do that, obviously we do the odd gig a bit drunk.”
VF: So you don’t have any Dutch courage to settle your nerves or anything like that?
DH: “Not really. Most bands, I think, just play better when they are not drunk. And also I think once you’ve done it [performed live] for a while any of those nerves that you do have sort of leave. You just get used to it. You just look forward to going on. And if you do get any butterflies it’s the good ones that give you a little tingle down below.”
VF: And what about set-list. Are you playing any new songs?
DH: “Probably one. I don’t know yet. We’ve got loads of new ones from the album. We’re up to like 18 songs, and we want to hold some of them back and some of them aren’t totally ready yet so we don’t really want to unveil them without the full stamp of consent of the three of us.”
TO-K: “We want to play a completely new one, it’s called ‘Flip’.”
DH: “It’s only a 40 minute set so it doesn’t really leave a lot of time to do new ones. And obviously it’s our first time doing a gig in Dubai so it’s not as though people here have ever seen us before.”
VF: The majority of the people here seem to be English, though.
DH: “Yeah there aren’t a lot of locals at all.”
VF: And there also seems to be a lot of Liverpudlian and north-west bands too. Do you know any of them?
DH: “Yeah. I think, because it’s done by the people who do Liverpool Sound City as well, it’s obviously like a little sister sort of festival. It’s not a big festival. Who is there from Liverpool? Sound of Guns.”
VF: Wave Machines just played.
DH: “Yeah they’re really good. Who else is there? Echo and the Bunnymen, The Farm, the Bicycle Thieves. There’s a bunch of them, it’s amazing.”
VF: What is the strangest thing that has happened to you at a festival?
DH: “Strangest thing? One thing that’s amazing about here, I love the cranes at night. Have you seen it when they start moving as the bands are playing? It just looks amazing. It’s like part of the show.”
NO-K: “One of my highlights was when he [Dan] Klinsmann-ed in the mud at Glastonbury.”
DH: “Oh no. The mud starfish. That was the worst idea ever. We just did a gig in the Garden Lounge at Glastonbury and we were just so hungover that day. And the mud was awful. We just literally ended up falling down and lying in the mud. It felt great at the time. Then we had to drive four hours back to Liverpool, and about halfway through the journey it all started drying out and I had it in my ears and everything. It was like having a really weird facial. But yeah, it was horrible.”
VF: So that’s not something you’ll be doing again then?
DH: “No, no, no, definitely not. I’ve learnt from my mistake. Matt [Murphy, singer] actually got into the wrong tent. He woke up next to some randomer and crawled out the tent, and then he couldn’t remember where we were so he was just shouting ‘help, help!’”
VF: What’s the best performance you’ve seen at a festival?
DH: “Radiohead at a festival called the Main Square Festival and it was the main square in the town basically. Sigur Ros were amazing and we played on the same day and it was stunning.”
TO-K: “Absolutely, I’d say Coldplay actually in the Baseball stadium in Tokyo. They made it so special.”
DH: “The music is just so perfectly suited for a massive audience.”
TO-K: “Huge crowds. Loads of Japanese people and they loved it. They’re so receptive and the atmosphere was perfect. It was just like a baseball stadium and it was like ‘Okay this isn’t very atmospheric’ but they just created this atmosphere.”
DH: “They sung in Japanese actually. And I just thought that Bruce Springsteen this year was unbelievable, at Glastonbury he was stunning. He ended up doing all those Peter Seeger sessions, and he ended up doing do-se-dos and proper rings of dancing and stuff were going on, it was such an amazing atmosphere.”
VF: They are obviously all bands that build their musical sound for the stadiums. Is that any way you’d like to progress because you’re obviously quite fresh and only one album down? Do you see your sound progressing already with all these sessions you’re doing at the moment?
DH: “Yeah, we’re definitely progressing. I don’t whether they’re big stadium songs.”
TO-K: “There are no stadium songs but the sound is definitely bigger.”
VF: Are you playing different instruments or anything like that?
TO-K: “There are more synths in some of the songs and the guitar tends to be a little bit heavier in more parts.”
DH: “But we’ll have to wait and see because we haven’t recorded it yet, so we don’t know exactly what the sound is going to come out like.”
TO-K: “Now it’s going to be a little bit grungier maybe. Synths and different elements.”
DH: “Garage Synth [laughs]. Lyrically, it’s nice lyrics. We’ve bought in stories.”
VF: Is there a release date?
DH: “No, well we’re hoping it could be anytime between April and June. We’re hoping for some time around there.”
VF: Are you gearing up for a lot of festivals next year with the release?
DH: “We were just talking about that actually. It depends when the album comes out obviously, or when the first single comes out. It just depends, if we’ve got any new material that people want to come and see.”
VF: Do you like playing festivals or do you prefer playing gigs?
DH: “I wouldn’t say I prefer one or the other to be honest. They are just different. It’s all about the atmosphere and what you feel like when you’re on playing really.”
TO-K: “Obviously a gig is our crowd.”
DH: “And you play for longer at your own gigs obviously.”
TO-K: “They’ve come to see your songs. They know your songs.”
DH: “Playing festivals is like; you have to give these people respect. It’s a good thing obviously, playing to new people and obviously a stadium atmosphere is quite different to your average gig. People wear silly things and get their clothes off, get their flags out.”
VF: What festival has given you the best reaction?
DH: “Glastonbury 2008.”
TO-K: “Yeah. I thought it was Hurricane in Germany to be honest. The first time we played there we didn’t really expect much at all. And for the bands that played before us it was fairly busy, it was like seven thousand people, and all of a sudden it was twenty odd thousand people flocking up to see the ‘Bats. And we were just a bit shocked.”
DH: “That was amazing. And Fuji Rocks in Japan is unbelievable.”
VF: Is there one festival that you’ve been to that you would never like to go to again?
DH: “Never want to go back to? I had a bad experience at...”
DH: “Luxembourg, yeah. It was a council thing, I mean; you couldn’t call it a festival. It was one day basically with loads of local bands and I don’t know how we ended up playing it. It was this tiny little town an hour north of Luxembourg. It was okay, there just weren’t many people and we were knackered, we’d played in Belgium the day before. We went there and there were literally about eighty to a hundred people in this… it wasn’t a big square but it was a bit ‘Oh God’.”
VF: One last question. Have you got any festival tips?
DH: “It depends really. I mean somewhere like here just don’t stay in the sun too long without any sun cream. Just be responsible and open-minded, don’t plan to rigidly. If there are bands you want to see, especially if it’s a big festival like Glastonbury and Reading and Leeds with the littler tents, they just let you know if you hear something good is going on. Don’t sleep in other people’s tents. Bring a bog roll.”
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