DMA’S im [Interview]

Vor drei Wochen spielten DMA’S im Molotow in Hamburg. Vor der Show hat sich Gitarrist Johnny mit uns in den Biergarten gesetzt und über den Erfolg ihres Debüt-Albums Hills End, ihr irritierendes Auftreten auf Pressefotos und australische Autos geredet!

Today is the first day of your tour in Germany. Do you expect something from the audience?

It’s the first time, we’re back since the album is out. And I think you can just reach a certain ceiling out of an EP. Once you have a full body of work out there, it’s easier to gain interaction.

So the album helps?

Yes, it makes it so much better. That’s the thing! I remember a show we played two or three days after the album came out at a venue, called “the Garage” – in London. That was a very special show. Especially because we’re from the other side of the world. The album was just out a couple of days and the people knew the lyrics of songs like “Timeless”, that have not been released before.

Talking about this phrase “from the other side of the world”: Here in Germany all the magazines headline articles about you with “Brit-Pop from Down Under”, really highlighting the fact that you’re from Australia. Is this also a big thing for you? An important part of the band’s identity?

Not really. I mean it’s an undeniable part of our identity. But you know this world. I’m 26 and we’re from the same generation. Gone from not having any internet at all to the internet we have today. So probably the generations before us think different, but since high school it became so easy to discover music and stuff from all over the world and it doesn’t matter, if you’re from Australia or from the other side of the world. I think that’s a beautiful thing!

Let’s talk about your appearance in the press and the public. I always struggled with the big contrast between your music – this very beautiful melodies and poppy songs – and your look on pictures – with a lot of aggressive attitude, looking a bit like a Hip-Hop-Combo. Did you have plans to use this contrast?

No, it wasn’t that contrived. It’s pretty funny. We just were what we were, you know? Ever since I get to know Mason he is pretty much wearing the same stuff. Obviously styles change, but also when I used to play country music with him we looked like this.

But it really seems like you play with it. I’m thinking about this press picture where a big white car is in the background. And it looks like a bad-ass white BMW or something similar.

Oh no, I’ll show you what it is. It’s called Holdon Commodore. It’s a very – like very – Australian car. And, to be honest, the only reason why we used it, is that we were to unorganised. We wanted to have some kind of hectic car, but we messed it up. So it’s just the car of the guy who was doing the light for the video and we we’re like: “Ok, fuck it. We’ll use it!” So once again we didn’t really thought about. Actually it’s funny, because that car is from the 90s and it’s not impressive at all! I wish we could get a fucking Bentley in there!

You talked about meeting Mason earlier. What’s the story behind DMA’S?

Basically, to sum it up a little bit, Tommy and I used to play in a band together. I used to play bass and he played the drums. It was kind of a psych band. And we started to hanging out and writing songs. Usually when the other guys from the band went to bed, that was when Tommy and I just stayed up and ended up getting drunk and writing songs like Hills End. Which actually isn’t on the album. What’s one of the reasons why we called the album Hills End.

And Mason?

I met Mason at a folk-festival when I was doing some solo stuff. He was playing in a band with our drummer Liam. And I just saw this rough looking guy with a baseball cap playing the banjo.

So again the contrast between the music and the appearance?

Yes, yes! I had that judged position. And when he started singing very nice harmonies, I was like “What the fuck? I want to make music with this guy!”. So I went down to him and gave him my CD. He went home and learned all the songs over night and on the next day we jammed all the songs from the CD and he played every single song perfectly! So we just started hanging out and I lived together with Tommy at that time, so they met.

It was a time, when I started to really get into recording and we all fell in love with that. That’s why we recorded the album pretty much on our own.

Speaking of the band. Officially DMA’S are just the three of you, but on tour you are six people. Are there any plans to expand the band and to integrate some members of the live band to DMA’S?

Probably not any time too soon. In our history of the live band we changed the members a lot. Mostly because the people do their own music as well. And if someone needs space to do what he loves, you have to give him that! And also when you’re making creative decisions it’s easier if you’re just three people – too many chefs in the kitchen, you know.

On the album there really is this band-sound, but originally you started more minimalistic with a drum machine and stuff like this.

Originally, I wanted DMA’S to sound more dancy. But we decided that this is something we can probably do later on. We just figured out, that it sounds better when it is a little bit raw. Also because, you know, these bands that go to a nice, big studio and in the end they just sound like the studio they recorded in. But our record sounds like my bedroom, which is very cool!

In one interview in the past you said that “DMA’S” is kind of a short form for an old band name you had. So what was the name?

We had like a joke name before. Something like “Dirty Mums”, or “Dirty Motherfuckers”. And once, our manager called us and said that we probably don’t want to be named like this. So we changed it. Never really gave a fuck about band names, but now I kind of like it. Looks wag. The people are like: “Why is there an apostrophe in it? And why is the ’S’ a capital? What the fuck?”

Let’s talk about the album. Are you satisfied with how it worked out?

Yes, I’m proud of it. We learned a lot from it!

Are you afraid of making a second one? After the first was very appreciated by all the critics? 

A little bit. But we still have a lot of songs, we didn’t release yet. Good songs! And on them we can use all the things we learned in the past 12 month – recording, touring and all this stuff. So a song is just some chords, a melody and lyrics. Timeless was originally written on a banjo as a country song. So you just put a few heavy guitars at it and it will change completely. Or you just put away the guitars and use a drum machine and some synths – what genre is it then?

You’re talking about your music quiet technically. More like a producer than a musician.

Yes. You know, a song is a song. And how you arrange it, is a completely different thing. After you have the melody and all that it is up to you, what you want to be. Do you want to be a folk-singer, or an electro-pop band. And look at Hills End, it sounds kind of raw, and shitty sometimes, because we recorded in my bedroom. And on the second album I want to try heaps of different stuff. I want to go into a bloody nice studio and do some high-end production. Probably something with an orchestra. And on the other side we maybe will just record something live, really rough and give it to the mixer and see what he can do with it.

So there is not the danger of just making another “Hills End” with a bunch of Brit-Pop-Songs which are just a little bit worse then the old ones?

You know, I don’t really think about it as Brit-Pop, though. I know that this is the vibe of it, but when we wrote the songs we were never thinking about Brit-Pop. It’s just nice melodies with noisy guitars!

Chris Umbach

Gründer von - studierte, neben dieser Sache mit Musik, irgendwas mit Flugzeugen im Norden Deutschlands und geht, ab und an, auf orangefarbener Schwalbe auf Reisen.

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