Finlay Holden speaks to Matt Mason of the Australian rock trio DMA’S after the release of their third album, THE GLOW, which saw the three-piece delve into the world of electronic production with an ambitious 11-track LP boasting tunes that have already been sung back by crowds of thousands.
Hi Matt, how are you doing? Been up to much since your album release?
I’m good, bro! We just played some shows in Sydney a couple of weeks ago, we did three weeks of them and did 18 shows in total. It was cool, it was 2 shows a night but it was only 45 minutes per gig; we usually play for an hour and a half so it was basically like a regular show just split in two.
As DMA’S started as a side project to other groups, are you still actively involved in other bands?
I’ve got two different side projects, two different bands; one of them is like a punk band and the other one’s guitar-punk-pop. Johnny’s got a bunch of different things going on, he’s got a band with his brother called Big Time, he’s got a DJ-production-duo thing called Sullen Kink that he does with his girlfriend; he does a bunch of shit, you’d have to ask him about it.
Although you have a versatile sound, DMA’S have always been associated with Britpop – is that something you enjoy, or is it frustrating?
I don’t like it. I don’t really listen to English music and I write a lot of the songs myself so when people say “hey, you guys are trying to rip off these bands” it’s like well actually, I wrote a bunch of the songs and I don’t even listen to that stuff so that’s just not true. That kind of annoyed me a bit at the beginning, but I have come to embrace it because that culture has been such a huge part of our success, all those old fans from the Britpop era have helped us so much that I’ve learnt to put up with it and enjoy it.
Australia has a lot of influences from the UK, but our actual influences are Australian, but a lot of people ignore that subtlety as go “you’re just trying to be English”, like yeah sort of but it’s a bit more complicated than that.
Was a huge UK fanbase something you anticipated or instigated yourselves in any way?
It wasn’t on our minds, we were just focused on Australia like a lot of bands here are, and then we were flown over to support The Courteeners – you know them? Well, you would, of course. We supported them ages ago and after that tour, it caught on from there. Every time I see Liam [Fray] when we’re getting pissed I always start saying “thanks so much man, we wouldn’t have a career over here if it wasn’t for you” and shit. I think that was a big help in getting us started over there. Before that, we weren’t focused on it, and we never thought it’d be a big thing. Last year we flew to the UK and then back to Australia 5 times, which is a lot, man – that’s like over 250 hours of just being on a plane.
Plenty of time to get some songwriting in!
I guess so, I feel like if you whipped out a guitar you’d get fucking restrained or something. I suppose you could lock yourself in the toilet with a little ukulele.
The artwork on THE GLOW is really cool – do you guys have much involvement with that?
It’s a funny story actually; when we were filming the clips for the single ‘Silver’, Tommy went over to the director’s little screen that looks back at the shots they just filmed and he took a photo of that on his phone and because it was at a weird angle, the colours all split into red blue and green like we’ve used, and it was all a bit warped. We liked it and we took it to our friend who does heaps of design stuff for us and we said can you just take what has happened there and replicate that over all the releases, and it really worked! So it was kinda a happy accident.
Speaking of ‘Silver’, I heard that’s another tune that’s been around for a while – what made you choose to use it now instead of for previous records?
We’ve got this big Soundcloud that has a couple of hundred songs on it and when we go in to record an album, we give that link with all of our demos over to the producer. They’ll then listen to all that and just pick out the songs that they like. It’s better to have what the producer really likes because then they’ll give their all into it, instead of spending time on shit that we think might be good. They can pick the songs that they think that they would have the most impact on instead of us assuming that, so it gives them more control of the sound and also on the songs that make it onto the record. So THE GLOW just has songs that Stuart Price [producer] picked out, it wasn’t really down to us.
For the next record, are you going to lean even more into the experimental production like with the song ‘Cobracaine’?
We haven’t really spoken that much about the fourth record, but it’s definitely gonna be more like ‘Cobracaine’ and ‘Life Is a Game of Changing’, a bit more like that for sure. One hundred percent the next record will be more even more dancey.
The Britpop fans won’t know whats hit them!
We’ve spoken about making like a 5 or 6 track EP before then to keep those people happy, because there are so many fans that have been there since we started that aren’t entirely happy about the electronic element. If we’re gonna lean into another direction then every now and then we’ll try and do a little EP that sounds like that, because we still wanna make music like that too and people definitely wanna hear it.
‘Pop’ is often treated as a dirty word, is that something you feel you have to shy away from?
Yeah it is treated as a dirty word man, I think everybody likes pop music though. If you go onto a building site, they’re listening to Miley Cyrus. Even the toughest guys in society are still listening to Taylor Swift while they’re roofing and cementing and shit, so I think it’s fine. A lot of musicians shy away from it, but its something we love and have always loved.
Its also harder to do, like a lot of people think that pop music is easy and a cop-out but if you’re saying that, you’ve not written a successful pop song. It’s the hardest genre of music to write – yeah, it can be really repetitive and the chords can be the same but in a way that makes it harder to make something that stands out as sounds original, its actually a daunting task.
A lot of people think that pop music is easy and a cop-out but if you’re saying that, you’ve not written a successful pop song. It’s the hardest genre of music to write.
You, Johnny and Tommy all share songwriting responsibilities – what’s that dynamic like?
Because we’re really good friends, we’ve never really argued about much. We understand that we all contribute different things, everyone knows that we wouldn’t be in the position that we’re in without any one of us. That’s created mutual respect where if someone says something, no one argues. If one of us says “I don’t like that”, we would change it or get rid of it. We value each other’s opinion so much that belittling anyone’s opinion by arguing is disrespectful.
We just get along, we’re lucky that we’re really good mates, it makes it really easy. I know it’s not always easy for some others, I’ve seen so many songwriting groups fall apart because they argue and it’s just not worth it. If someone does something you don’t like, just put up with it. Who cares? Your career and your band are way more important.
Newcastle’s Hit The North festival, which you’re headlining, has recently been delayed to next year. Which festivals are your favourite to play?
Any festivals in the Northern UK really are our favourite to play – we were supposed to play Live at Leeds as well recently, we were really looking forward to that. It’s where our most psycho fans live.
In Manchester we played a headline show, the promoter told us afterwards that 28 flares were set off, which is the record for that venue. He was like that’s sick, but we were like well no because its indoors and people have asthma attacks and shit. We appreciate the enthusiasm, but just save it for the outdoor festivals man
DMA’S third studio release THE GLOW is available on all streaming platforms
Last modified: 5th September 2020