Image: Mclean Stephenson

DMA’S Are Ready To Bring ‘THE GLOW’ To The People

DMA’S are a small pop-cultural phenomenon. The trio broke through in 2016 with an exceptional cover of Cher’s ‘Believe’ on triple j’s Like A Version segment. Debut album Hills End arrived the same year. The band’s guitar-driven signature sound drew several positive comparisons to ‘90s brit-pop superstars Oasis.

The group quickly became a regular presence on the Australian festival circuit. They would also build an impressive following in England and Scotland. The release of second album For Now in 2018 saw DMA’S stretch out musically. In 2020 they released third album THE GLOW. Recorded prior to the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic THE GLOW incorporated electronic elements evocative of The Chemical Brothers and Underworld. In December DMA’S announced their largest headlining Australian tour to date.

Emerging from an extended period of lockdown following the Australian outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic, the band’s Johnny Took reveals what to expect from DMA’S in the coming year.

MUSIC FEEDS: 2020 has been an unusual year for some and a very difficult year for many others. How has it been for you?

JOHNNY TOOK: It’s been weird. We haven’t been able to play in a small band live form but in saying that, like everyone, we’ve been trying to find the silver lining. We did things like MTV Unplugged and intimate shows where we got to play some songs. They were obviously in a different format [to normal concerts] but the response was amazing.

For me personally, I think I’ve been able to stop. After 6 years straight with DMA’S, COVID gave me a hard stop. I got to focus on my production a lot more. I’ve really been enjoying writing and mucking around with sound – sound machines, guitar pedals – and all the stuff that comes with it.

MF: Did you have a lockdown routine?

JT: Let me think… I’ve been trying to do a bit more exercise. It’s hard to not party and drink when you’re on the road. You get this rush after you play a gig, especially as our crowds have gotten bigger over the years. Every time you play a gig you get a big rush so it’s easy to fall back and want to have a drink and party. The endorphins are kicking in and running high!

I guess COVID made me focus more on my health. It’s been nice for all of us to stop. We’ve been doing a lot of collaborative writing, which I think a lot of people have been doing during COVID. Just working with a whole bunch of different artists and seeing their process. It’s been great.

MF: How is your process in DMA’S different from these other artists you have worked with?

JT: I’m not going to drop any names but some artists don’t play any instruments, which is more like Tommy [O’Dell]. He’ll do a bit of piano and strum some chords on guitar but he has a great musical mind and is an amazing singer. That is his instrument, to write those kinds of melodies uniquely like that.

But we started collaborating with artists who have these productions that start with a great beat. It can be really inspiring for songwriting when someone drops this fucking crazy beat. That’s one great thing that can get you writing quickly.

Also, [Matt] Mason and I have quite a good knowledge of music theory and chords and all of that kind of stuff. We always have heaps of options when we know what key we’re in or how to break the rules. We know what works so if we’re collaborating with people who have different strengths we can come up with some really interesting stuff.

MF: This morning I came across a study that said 55% of UK musicians made no money this year. Have you faced any coronavirus related pressures on the commercial side of things?

JT: It definitely was different. In terms of releasing our record, we had to think outside the box. We were lucky to promote it even because the biggest way of promoting or selling records is by touring. We were lucky to have done our [pre-outbreak] live show at the Brixton Academy which we were able to stream for fans.

We also went to the Splendour in the Grass amphitheatre on the week Splendour was meant to be happening there and did an acoustic set. Which was sick! And we did Crowded House’s ‘Better Be Home Soon’ for Music From the Home Front.

If you were a band just establishing itself and didn’t have that fundamental fanbase it [would be] hard to not be able to tour to promote your music. We’re lucky enough that we’re in a position where we were able to survive and, knowing that we weren’t touring, and work harder in a writing sense. We’ve written so much this year that when everything starts to go back to normal again, we’re going to have more records up our sleeve and have already done the hard yards.

MF: Was it weird playing to an empty amphitheatre?

JT: It was crazy! It was actually [I Oh You label head] Johann Ponniah’s idea to do it and it was a really great idea. I think originally Violent Soho were going to do it but it was going to be too hard to get the whole band. I think the DMA’S do a pretty good acoustic set. The opportunity was great.

RF: DMA’S have just announced a huge 2021 Australian tour. You may even be one of the first Australian acts to announce an arena tour. How are you feeling about getting out there again?

JT: It’s amazing, especially [Sydney’s] Horden Pavillion. For me, growing up in Sydney, to sell out the Horden would be a dream come true. And you’re right – it will be one of the first big tours, but we’re also one of the first bands to announce gigs after COVID lockdown, which we were really proud of. I guess we were feeling hungry because we didn’t get the chance to tour THE GLOW properly and want to get to people as soon as possible.

MF: Tell me about THE GLOW. What was it like recording that album pre-COVID 19?

JT: I lived in Edinburgh for a year and Tommy got me more into electronic music. Stuff like Underworld and Chemical Brothers. And I really fell in love with learning more about synthesis and programming and that kind of stuff I had never really been a part of. I had grown up playing bluegrass music and [performing] in rock ‘n’ roll bands!

I think it was important for us as a band to grow and we wanted to keep maturing. We always loved production so that was a big part of it. We learnt a lot working with Stuart Price who has produced The Pet Shop Boys and Madonna. We also worked with Scott Borgstroff for two tracks, ‘Silver’ and ‘Round and Around’. Scott has produced Empire of the Sun, Alison Wonderland and Silverchair. These guys have been making massive hits for decades so to have someone of that calibre in the studio was inspiring.

MF: A question about a song you did not write, but remains one of the most memorable triple j Like A Versions of the last decade, Cher’s ‘Believe’. How do you look back on that now a few years have gone by?

JT: It’s pretty funny. I guess it’s one of those things that are completely out of your control. Because of the nature of the segment, you play it live and it goes straight online. It’s not like releasing something you’ve been spending months on recording and then having the label put lots of money into a plan for releasing it. You just do it and it happens and you have to win with the internet. We’re first and foremost songwriters, but if it helps people discover the band? We’re into it.

MF: If someone said right now, “I’ll give you a lifetime supply of burritos if you record another Like A Version!” what song would you pick?

JT: Oh, I don’t know. I don’t know. I think we have a few things up our sleeve if we had to do it again but to be honest it would be kind of stupid because it just wouldn’t be as good as the Cher one. It’d be weird, a bit of an anticlimax.

MF: DMA’S will be touring THE GLOW for a while but looking further ahead, where do you think you will go recording-wise? Are you going to keep on with a more electronic vibe? Move towards more acoustic stuff?

JT: I think we’re going to do both, to be honest. I think it’s going to definitely incorporate more electronic stuff but maybe in a less refined sense. A bit dirtier and industrial-sounding is the way I’d like to go.

I think there is also a part of us though that wants to go back to our roots of 160BPM upbeat guitar and pop melodies. The last record was super pop, which we like, but it would also be nice to go back to classic guitar-driven DMA’S for a little while and then maybe come back again with more electronic elements afterwards. I don’t know.

RF: Is there a message you would like to share with the fans ahead of the Australian tour?

JTTHE GLOW has been a really special album for us and from the feedback we’ve gotten it’s been special to fans as well. It’s been a tough year to the world and we just can’t wait to get these songs to you in a live format.

DMA’S 2021 national tour is set to kick off next September in Adelaide, before travelling to Freo, Brisbane, Melbourne, and wrapping up in Sydney in October. ‘THE GLOW’ is out now, read our review here.

DMA’S ‘The Glow’ National Tour Dates 2021

Tickets on sale now.

Friday, 24th September

Thebarton Theatre, Adelaide – All Ages

Tickets: Official Website

Sunday, 26th September

Fremantle Arts Centre, Fremantle

Tickets: Official Website

Saturday, 2nd October

The Fortitude Music Hall, Brisbane

Tickets: Official Website

Friday, 8th October

Margaret Court Arena, Melbourne – All Ages

Tickets: Official Website

Saturday, 9th October

Hordern Pavilion, Sydney – All Ages

Tickets: Official Website

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