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DMA’s Talk Life On The Road & The Journey From The Annandale To Coachella

Written by Chelsea Deeley on February 24, 2016

A boardroom seems to be an incredibly official way to meet a very relaxed two thirds of Sydney trio DMA’S, but on this sunny Thursday morning, as they chomp away at their recently purchased wraps, the setting could be anything but important.

You see there’s a certain buzz in the air. Not only with anticipation for their debut album release in just over a weeks time, but also for a mammoth tour spanning across the UK, America and Canada in an almost two month period. With shows nearly every night there seems to be minimal days for the guys to actually get out and explore their destinations.

“We’re used to it now,” says guitarist and backing vocalist Matt Mason. “Last tour was the same. We’re just not in a position to take days off on tour.”

“Yeah, believe me we did try,” adds fellow guitarist Johnny Took. “We were like ‘why don’t we just have like a week off?’ to our tour manager.”

“He was just like ‘mate, it’s just too much,’ but we do have some time off,” Mason says. “We have a week off in between Coachella.”

“Yeah that’s what I’m looking forward to,” nods Took.

Being no strangers to touring, Took, Mason, vocalist Tommy O’Dell and their band have accumulated more stamps on their passports than they can commit to memory. Under the guidance of Johann Ponniah, the mastermind behind I OH YOU records, DMA’S “threw a band together with a couple of friends,” and played their first gig at the former Annandale Hotel. But what has transpired since is a straight up rock n roll show, with barely any banter and the music taking sole focus.

“Tommy was a drummer for years. But I think he always admired front men more so than drummers,” Mason muses. “I think some of the front men he really respects don’t really yap on too much on stage.”

“I think that saying less you can give off a stronger presence,” Took adds. “Sometimes if you are up there and you’re just yabbering on you can give away too much.”

It’s this demeanour that has won over many people across the festival circuit. But while a good many new bands attract a younger crowd, it’s a very different story at a DMA’S gig.

“[It’s a] pretty broad demographic,” says Took with a laugh.

“Johnny said that one of his mates who he used to work, his parents were up the front of a show in Melbourne,” says Mason.

“Oh yeah, yeah,” Took laughs.

“But especially in England we get a lot of super young kids with fake IDs and then 60 year old dudes with all of their mates,” Mason says. “It’s probably a bit weird for a new band.”

Took adds, “I remember before we even released anything though, playing songs for a few people and people would be playing it at home, then their parents walk in and be like ‘What is this?’”

It’s an occurrence that surely will continue with the release of their debut album, Hills End. Containing a few previously released tracks, mixed with new tracks such as ‘Melbourne’, ‘Blown Away’ and latest single ‘In The Moment’, the album sounds cohesive while still holding that DIY charm that attracted the masses in the first place.

“We did a lot of the drums and the bass in Coogee [in the studio]. I suppose you could say the ‘loud stuff’,” explains Mason. “But we kind of realised that we could finish it and do a lot of the other elements that weren’t so loud that Johnny would get noise complaints at his apartment, so we instantly went back there. You can kind of hear it in the music that it was done at home I think, but a super, amazing engineer, mixed it. He’s one of the best.”

Took chimes in, “David ‘Spike’ Stent, he’s done so much crazy stuff like Depeche Mode, Massive Attack, Yeah Yeah Yeah’s, even The Spice Girls and Oasis. But the cool thing about him is he’s one of those engineers who don’t need to pick up work. He chooses what he wants to work on. Which is a nice thing.”

“I remember I met him once in Santa Monica, USA and I had a few drinks under my belt,” Took recounts sheepishly. “I guess I thought that a lot of the files he would usually be getting would be really well recorded, so I was trying to explain to him that we pretty much tracked the majority of it in my apartment with just a couple of microphones and pre-amps. I was just rambling on and he just kind of patted me on the shoulder and said “don’t worry Johnny, I’ll make it sound great.” It’s just what you need to hear.”

But unexpectedly, the talk soon turns to the follow-up to Hills End.

“Johnny has a travel case that fits a laptop, pre-amps and microphones and everything that you need in it, essentially gear that is better than the stuff we use to record the album,” explains Mason vividly. “So we’ve been thinking about taking it on tour. I mean for instance, once you do a sound check

you’re sitting around for 3 to 4 hours, so I was thinking why not just mic up a snare drum and then sample or loop that, or mic up a guitar amp and do a guitar part. It might sound better than anything we can do in a studio and, who knows, we might use half of it when we get back and the album may be half finished!”

So whether they decide to “create as many demos as possible” or while away their free hours on Mason’s newly acquired PS1 (“Crash Bandcuit is a classic!” Took claims), you can bet Hills End is going to fuel some of the most raging DMA’S shows yet. World, be ready.

‘Hills End’ is out Feb 26 via I OH YOU, grab a copy here and read our review here.


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