How the hell has it been an entire decade since The Wombats helped redefine indie-Britpop with A Guide To Love, Loss & Desperation? When it was released in 2007, the album propelled the trio to international stardom and produced hits like ‘Let’s Dance To Joy Division’, a timeless banger that still has legs long after it was a staple on many Myspace profiles.
Now, almost 10 years later, the Liverpool locals are putting the final touches on their fourth studio album, Beautiful People Will Ruin Your Life, which is set for release on 9th February 2018.
Their latest album, 2015’s Glitterbug, saw the band venture into much darker lyrical territories than their first two records. This time around, the boys have gone back to their roots with what they think is a no-filler cocktail of old and new Wombats.
And, after spending the last few weeks dropping clues in the form of cryptic lemon and knife emojis all over the internet, The Wombats proudly present …their latest single ‘Lemon To A Knife Fight’. The debut track from the new record, it’s an upbeat indie-pop jam that harks back to their quintessential indie pop sound.
We spoke to frontman Matthew “Murph” Murphy about getting back to basics on the new record and when we can expect to see The Wombats down under again (hint: it probably rhymes with blender in the brass).
MF: Your new single ‘Lemon To A Knife Fight’ is out. How are you guys feeling about it? Nervous? Excited?
MM: Yeah, it’s really nice. It’s like the calm before the storm. It’s nice to share new music with people. I’m like fully excited about this album much more so than I have with the last two. I’m really happy.
MF: You guys left a lot of cryptic lemon and knife emojis around on social media. What have the fans reactions been like so far?
MM: I think the majority of the feeling is just general hatred towards us (laughs). I think they’re a little pissed off because we’re just constantly teasing them. [But now they] understand it.
MF: This track is a little more upbeat than the tracks on Glitterbug. Would you say this album is more of a return to The Wombats’ signature sound?
MM: I think there’s something old and new about that song in a The Wombats way. On this album, I was trying to push it to be as organic and under-produced as possible. That was kind of the goal.
MF: What’s the story behind ‘Lemon To A Knife Fight’? It sounds like when you’re fighting for something even though the odds are against you. Is that the intention?
MM: Yeah, it’s pretty much a song about entering into a situation that you know you’re going to lose (laughs). The song is about me having a raging argument with my now wife on Mulholland Drive in LA. At that time, I’d been watching a lot of David Lynch. So, I think the two things kind of amalgamated together for me and the song just kind of fell out. So, especially lyrically, it’s kind of got this David Lynch theme, you know talking about brake lights and trying to be very descriptive and creepy about it, I suppose.
MF: And how come you guys decided to debut the album with this track?
MM: Well, I kind of let other people decide that. I don’t really feel like that’s in my job description but I think that was one of the songs that people thought was the most exciting. I try not to think about it because if I start, I overthink it and often it ends up being another song that everyone reacts to anyway.
MF: Yeah, I guess at that point you’re probably too close to it to decide which song is best to lead with, right?
MM: Yeah, exactly. It’s kind of like smoke and mirrors and it’s so subjective. I think people who are slightly more detached from the record can make better decisions regarding that stuff.
MF: And is the rest of the album wrapped up at this point?
MM: Yeah! There’s just a couple of mixes to come back in and then it’s done. So it’s pretty much there.
MF: You said earlier that you’re more excited for this record than you were for the second and third albums. I’ve also heard that writing Glitterbug was quite a torturous experience for you. So what was different this time around?
MM: It’s not to say that I don’t like or have any respect for the last two records. I’m pretty brutal on myself as well. So I don’t really mind talking about it but I know that management and the other guys think I’m being negative but I’d rather just be honest. But for me, this album just has a lot of breathing room, it’s got a lot of space. I think it’s well juiced. We aren’t trying to push it to 11 on every song and I think the lyrics are back to where they should be.
It just feels like a rejuvenating record. It’s like the record we should’ve made a couple of years ago. I think it’s stronger. Every song has its rightful place on there. Whereas if I’m being completely honest, even on the first album, there’s a couple of fillers on there. I don’t think this record has any of that.
MF: Why is that? Did you have more time to work on this one?
MM: I can kind of go down wormholes and over think things if I get too wrapped up in them. So for me, a lot of the writing process on this album was to chill out and just be a normal person about things rather than pushing myself to the limit.
On the last two albums, I’d lock myself in a room for like 14 hours and chain smoke and drink coffee or drink in the evenings or whatever it took to get a song out. Whereas this time I was like, “Let’s just not stress myself out”. And maybe it’s also because I got a married and maybe life is a bit more in perspective than it was a few years ago and maybe that kind of helped.
With the record, it was also like “Let’s not think about it too much”. I didn’t want it to sound like a wall of sound or like a Fall Out Boy album or something. I just wanted it to breathe and have space. The songs are great, so let’s just, kind of, live and not try to push them too far.
To be honest, for us, doing a small amount is a lot more difficult than doing a lot because we know we can throw the kitchen sink at it. But it’s whether we can be a bit more picky and choosey and maybe a little bit more tasteful about things.
MF: You guys worked with Mark Crew (Bastille / Rag n Bone Man) and Catherine Marks on this record. What was it like working with them?
MM: Mark’s like one of my closest friends. I love him, he’s just such a ridiculous person. He’s quite a negative, self-deprecating kind of character. Whereas one of the great things about Catherine is that she is so positive, she’s kind of coming into her own as a producer but Mark is more established. She’s still riding off the back of Alice Moon and some other cool stuff so she was just really amped about everything. Whereas, me and Mark were really negative (laughs), so it just kind of worked really well. It was also really nice having a female presence in the room. It definitely changes the environment.
MF: You guys toured Australia for Groovin’ The Moo earlier this year but now that there’s a new album on the way, can we expect The Wombats to tour Australia any time soon?
MM: Yeah! There’s already a tour booked for a very special festival and we’re really excited about it.
MF: Oh, really? What time of year would that happen to be? (laughs)
MM: Uhhh, I don’t know (laughs).
MF: Ahh, so mysterious. It’s the lemon and knife emojis all over again! Look, I’m going to take a stab in the dark here. Does it happen to be a little festival called Splendour In The Grass?
MM: (Laughs) Well, I can’t say! But maybe it is, maybe you’ve made a good guess (laughs). I’m bad at keeping a secret.
MF: That must be exciting, though. You’ve spent all of this time recording the album and now it’s almost time to play it live to the fans.
MM: Yeah, there’s going to be so much rehearsal and production and things like that that we’ll need to go over. But for me, that’s like the last hurdle before it starts feeling really good because that can be a little bit stressful trying to figure out what’s the best way to present the song.
The most exciting thing for me now in terms of live stuff is that we have four, kind of, relatively successful albums in their own right that we can pick from. So it just feels like the sets are going to be ridiculous, so that’s what I’m really excited about.
The Wombats’ new album ‘Beautiful People Will Ruin Your Life’ is out on February 9th, 2018.