have been impossible to ignore since ‘Let’s Dance to Joy Division’
hit the charts in 2007. This is particularly the case in Australia – peeps freaking love them over here. So it was a ‘no, der’ situation when we were asked if we wanted to interview them. Ahead of their return to our grasping, outstretched arms for Future Music Festival we spoke to the Norwegian leg of the tripod, Tord Øverland-Knudsen.
First meeting bandmates Matt Murphy and Dan Haggis when he moved to the UK to study at the Liverpool Institute of Performing Arts, Tord and the guys quickly formed the band we know today. The Wombats weren’t the only group Tord joined on arrival though – some counts have him enlisting in up to eight bands at LIPA, and he even confesses that at first the Wombats weren’t that different to the other groups.
“To begin with, starting at uni, you just want to do as much as possible. A lot of the projects I did, it was more something to do... I didn’t necessarily like the music, I just wanted to do a lot of different things. To be honest there wasn’t anything special with the Wombats to begin with, it wasn’t very good,” he admits.
“What was good was that it was with two local guys – they were from Liverpool. We got on really well and we had a lot of fun in the practice room or in the bar after. It was very like... we just got on very well. That’s what kept me doing it. It wasn’t very good to start with and then what was fun with it is that it grew and it just got better and better, and you can see that. You can see it developing a lot quicker than the other projects I was doing and for that reason it felt more fresh and exciting.”
Liverpool is still the main base for the band five years on, with Matt Murphy returning to his Liverpudlian home between records to write new music. “I think he wants to have some sort of normality in his life to be able to write songs about life,” Tord says. “Usually his songs are about like his life and all the things that he does.”
“When you’re on tour it’s not really... if you’re not in band you can’t really relate to that lifestyle. I think as soon as you get home you do what you used to and you’re in an environment that you know and like... or don’t like. Whatever makes you work the left side of the brain and write songs and it’s good.”
With many of the Wombats’ songs revolving around stories of a twenty-something’s everyday life, it’s easy to see that returning to their hometown is grounding for the band. “Liverpool does stuff for Murph,” Tord says. “We’ve all got a base here. I live here and he’s got a flat here. He lives in Paris as well but a lot of the time he’s here, and Murph has his parents here as well. It’s a good base.”
Liverpool isn’t the only way they keep themselves sane though. Tord himself has a couple of side projects on the go, his most prominent being with Norwegian musician Marius Drogsås Hagen (Team Me) as Sin. “Whatever songs we can’t fit into our main projects/main bands – like songs I’ve written that I can’t fit into Wombats – we use them for Sin. I guess it’s slightly more electronic. A bit more mellow, a bit more epic. A little bit less available, less poppy. It’s definitely something I’ll keep doing on the side. We’re working on some new songs, there might be a record at some point but it’s for when we’ve ever got some spare time.
“Me and Dan, we have a side project as well called Captain & the Princes. It’s kind of like the same thing. A lot of the songs that we make for the Wombats that we don’t end up using or whatever. It’s like ‘let’s work on these songs and finish them off’ - we formed a band around that. Dan does his solo stuff as well, called Dan the Man. It’s very nice, like more singer/songwriter. We do a lot of different things. Like I said, it’s when we’ve got spare time.”
Tord emphasises that he thinks it very important to “do a lot of this on the side.” Playing different instruments and listening to other genres of music, while helping them not to “get bored”, is also key to staying fresh musically – almost like bringing more spice into a tired relationship. “I think it’s good to bring in things from other genres. It’s a bit more exciting.” For example, recently he has been listening to M83’s record, as well as Air’s 10 000 Hz Legend
. “I was listening to that the other day for the first time in probably four years – it’s a very inspirational record,” he says.
It hasn’t been the easiest time for the band though with Matt Murphy opening up last April about his recovery from an addiction to anti-depressants. It was one of the reasons why the band took four years between their debut and sophomore albums. Tord says that at first it was not a noticeable problem but soon began to take its toll on the band. “I think when he was on the anti-depressants we were on tour, and we didn’t really notice it that much. I mean, I guess the idea of taking them is to make you feel good so we didn’t really feel that much of difference. We felt the difference when he went off them”, Tord explains.
“He sort of got a bit more anxious... like writing the second record for example, he was always doubting decisions or ways to do things in the studio or his song writing. There was all this questioning how good he was, being a bit more worried.” Tord doesn’t believe this is the worst situation though, “I think it’s a good thing,” he says. “You don’t want to be so comfortable that you don’t get anywhere... It was a bit tough at times. You know, we started working around an idea and now we can’t do this and this and this, and went round this massive roundabout way to sort of come back to where we started. Which I also think is one of the reasons the second record took so long as well. I think it can be a good thing though as well, finding the one or two little details that will essentially make it better.”
Things are looking up for the band however, with their popularity increasing by the day. In fact, you might question why they are here in Australia so often, but the truth is you only have yourselves to thank. The Everguide theory is that when you’re offered a Neighbours cameo
you take it, but Tord shines a different light on the matter, putting it down to demand. “People want us back,” he says. “On Facebook or Twitter, the majority of our followers are mostly Australian and they seem to be the most eager. They want us back, and the promoters want us back and the label wants us back, and you know, the demand makes us come back.”
“But we really want to go back as well. We’ve said it before, but somehow I think Australian fans understand us that tiny bit better than people from other places in the world. I don’t know why but it seems to be that way, it just makes us feel really welcome. It’s just more enjoyable in a way.”
Words by Anna Horan. More at everguide.com.au