The Wombats Share Good Advice on New LP, ‘Fix Yourself, Not The World’

photo courtesy GrandStand Media

Videos by American Songwriter

Videos by American Songwriter

British-born rock band The Wombats have released their latest LP, Fix Yourself, Not The World. The album (the band’s fifth studio full-length) is rife with energy and is diverse in genre. But most importantly, the record makes you think, from its very title and throughout its eclectic songs.

American Songwriter caught up with The Wombats’ frontman, Matthew Murphy, to ask him about the album’s origins, how he found and fell in love with music and what’s next for his popular at times, raucous group.

American Songwriter: When did you first find music—when did music enter your world in a significant way as a young person? 

Matthew Murphy: I played classical guitar from age 5, but I honestly believe it was on New Year’s Eve when I was about 12 years old. Randomly, Radiohead’s “Creep” came on at a friend’s house and I remember immediately asking myself, “What is THIS?” Prior to that, I was listening to a lot of Happy Hardcore and stuff like that, but after hearing that song everything shifted.

AS: From there, what made you want to invest further, and what did that look like as you dove into playing and writing songs? 

MM: Don’t know to be honest. I was pretty shy and somewhat introverted as a kid. Being on stage and in front of people gave me an escape from all that. I was under no illusion however that I was a good songwriter until I was at Arts College when one of the tutors—Mark Pearman—took a shine to me, and really gave me a confidence I had never felt before. It was then that I thought to myself, right, I’m gonna have a real good go at this.

AS: I can imagine you could write a book about this, but just briefly, what was the U.K.’s Influence—Liverpool, specifically—on your sound and the way you thought about music? 

MM: I mean, The Beatles were everywhere as a child. My parents would blast them and The Eagles and The Beach Boys constantly on car drives or at home. But what I find more important about Liverpool is the strength of its arts community. When I was starting out, bands, artists, sound engineers, promoters, you name it, everyone was willing to help each other out, get them on shows, find them rehearsal spaces, lend them gear, etc., it was really cool. There were still healthy rivalries of course but that really didn’t stop people from lifting each other up. 

AS: Can you talk a bit about the early years of the band, how it came together in 2003 in performing arts school, how you knew the chemistry was right, how it’s lasted? 

MM: Yeah, I had a bunch of songs and was looking for a new vehicle to get them out there. Dan [Haggis] and I were already friends and we were looking for a bass player, Tord [Øverland Knudsen] was in 9 other bands at that time, so what was one more. I’m not too sure when the chemistry arrived but it wasn’t at the moment of inception. There was a fourth member back then, from Orange County. When he left, we replaced his guitar parts with oooh’s and harmonies. That’s when we started honing in on whatever The Wombats sound would become. 

AS: What was the genesis of the new 12-track album—it has a little bit of a disco feel, also rock. It’s insightful, offers wry commentary—was it recorded remotely? 

MM: To be honest, all I was really focused on was taking the energy I was given from our fourth album and moving it into our fifth. There was no genesis, other than the fact I had finished my solo album and that it was time to get going on new Wombats stuff. A good portion of the record was written prior to the pandemic, and then the other 50% during.

We noticed a few new ideas and sounds for us popping up in certain songs and it was kind of our job, in the studio, to bring them to the forefront. Lyrically I do love weird, introspective, and hopefully profound lyrics, so there’s been no shortage of inspiration for that over the last 2 to 3 years. The album was recorded with myself in L.A. and Dan and Tord in London. Though some songs were even crazier with all band members being in different countries and the producer. Personally, I loved this way of working/recording. But putting it all together afterward was pretty interesting.

AS: There are many great songs but maybe one that sticks out is “Everything I Love Is Going To Die.” Is death a common topic of conversation or songwriting for you—what is it like for you to be so introspective and clear-eyed in your work? 

MM: Thank you, I appreciate that. “Everything I Love Is Going To Die” is really supposed to be a liberating song with a very grim title. Titles have always been important to me, if I believe in the title I find that it really helps me commit to finishing the song or getting it ‘over the line’. Death is not a common topic, I don’t think, but it often serves as a good reminder. 

AS: How do you feel now that the album is set to come out—first since 2018 Beautiful People Will Ruin Your Life

MM: I’m excited. I feel really confident in this album, I am proud of it and that’s a great feeling going into the release. I don’t always feel like that.

AS: The band has also enjoyed some success on TikTok—a resurgence of “Greek Tragedy” (2015) with tens or hundreds of thousands of viewsis that weird, welcome? 

MM: Absolute madness. Welcome of course. I had no idea this particular remix existed and still haven’t heard it all the way through. Social media can be a very scary place, but at the same time, it is capable of so many wonderful things.

AS: How are you thinking about the future these days—is there still an upcoming tour coming out of quarantine? 

MM: We have just completed a pretty grueling tour in the UK and begin our US tour on Jan 20th in DC. I feel like I’m well-versed in a post-COVID touring world now. We just have to be as sensible as possible and expect the unexpected. I’m excited about the future, there wouldn’t be much utility in me thinking negatively about it. 

AS: What do you love most about music?

MM: It’s obviously a very powerful medium, and has many therapeutic qualities to it. What I most love however, is the struggle. Each song is completely different, presents new problems, and can be a new puzzle to piece together. Some work out, many don’t. You’re constantly searching for something exceptional within a sea of mediocrity. Some songs (usually the best) I feel like a passive spectator watching them create themselves. You really never know what you’re going to get, and one of the big things I’ve realized about myself is that I need to lean into that uncertainty and learn to love it. The moment I start pushing back against those forces is the moment I should probably stop for the day.

THE WOMBATS TOUR DATES:

North American Dates:

January 20 – 9:30 Club, Washington, DC

January 22 – The Fillmore, Philadelphia, PA

January 25 – Terminal 5, New York, NY

January 26 – House of Blues, Boston, MA

January 28 – Corona, Montreal, QB

January 31 – St. Andrew’s, Detroit, MI

February 1 – Newport, Columbus, OH

February 3 – Park West, Chicago, IL

February 4 – The Fillmore, Minneapolis, MN

February 5 – The Truman, Kansas City, MO

February 7 – Cannery, Nashville, TN

February 8 – Buckhead, Atlanta, GA

February 10 – House of Blues, Houston, TX

February 11 – Emo’s, Austin, TX

February 12 – House of Blues, Dallas, TX

February 14 – Ogden, Denver, CO

February 15 – Union, Salt Lake City, UT

February 17 – Showbox Market, Seattle, WA SOLD OUT

February 18 – Venue Nightclub, Vancouver, BC SOLD OUT

February 19 – Revolution Hall, Portland, OR

February 21 – The Regency, San Francisco, CA

February 22 – The Observatory, Santa Ana, CA

February 25 – The Wiltern, Los Angeles, CA

European/UK Tour Dates:

April 14  – First Direct Arena, Leeds

April 15  – The O2, London

April 16  – Motorpoint Arena, Cardiff

April 18  – Barrowland Ballroom, Glasgow

April 22  – Mountford Hall, Liverpool

April 23  – Mountford Hall, Liverpool

April 29  – La Machine Du Moulin Rouge, Paris (France)

May 1  – Carlswerk Victoria, Cologne (Germany)

May 2  – Übel & Gefährlich, Hamburg (Germany)

May 4  – Slaktkyrkan, Stockholm (Sweden)

May 5  – Rockefeller Music Hall, Oslo (Norway)

May 6  – DR Koncerthuset, Copenhagen (Denmark)

May 7  – Huxley’s Neue Welt, Berlin (Germany)

May 9  – Gasometer, Vienna (Austria)

May 10  – Backstage Werk, Munich (Germany)

May 12  – Estragon, Bologna (Italy)

May 13  – Fabrique, Milan (Italy)

May 14  – Komplex 457, Zurich (Switzerland)

May 16  – De Roma, Antwerp (Belgium)

May 17  – Paradiso, Amsterdam (Netherlands)

May 18  – De Oosterpoort, Groningen (Netherlands)

May 19  – TivoliVredenburg, Utrecht (Netherlands)

May 26  – Open Air Theatre, Scarborough

photo courtesy Grand Stand Media

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