Wed, October 5, 2016
Doors: 7:00 pm / Show: 8:00 pm (event ends at 9:00 pm)Trees
This event is all ageshttp://www.treesdallas.com/event/1089901/
"It was such a good way to round it off," says drummer Dan Haggis. "We had a two day party after that. Obviously you can't help but go 'bloody hell, remember a couple of years ago in Liverpool, we'd be lucky if we sold out the Academy downstairs to 500 people. How did we get to this?'"
Big numbers, big gigs, but for a band with the intense work ethic of The Wombats (lest we forget, in the build-up to their breakthrough hit 'Kill The Director' in 2007 they played 50 tiny pub and club shows around the UK in almost as many days) they took their toll. Having continued their breakneck schedule for eighteen months solid, they came off a mammoth US tour in 2008 "pretty broken… physically and mentally."
"We did a couple of months too long," says Dan. "I had problems with my arms so every night going up onstage hurt, so it wasn't really that enjoyable. I had a gig where I didn't want anyone to look at me. I sat on the drums at Glasgow and you start feeling guilty because you think you should be having the best night of your life but I didn't know why I was there."
Over the summer of 2008, between festival dates, two more singles were recorded – the stop-gap classic 'My Circuitboard City' and their sardonic (anti-)Christmas song 'Is This Christmas?' before singer Matthew 'Murph' Murphy sat down to begin writing new material for album two. But in his new home in London, Murph found the loneliness, dislocation and routine of being off the road and writing in a big city difficult to cope with. He'd simply become too accustomed to the adulation of the stage.
"My downfall was I got used to it," he admits, "and then when it all stopped it was a bit of a reality bite-back and I had to level myself out. It was my general unhappiness of not being on the road and being in a new city."
"Every night for a couple of years to have always been on your way somewhere," adds Dan, "always about to do a gig or an interview or whatever, always people interested in talking to you about music. Then suddenly stopping and not doing gigs and not having the adrenalin rush every night, it's like hitting a brick wall."
The few gigs that the band did play occasionally ended in near-death experiences. On his way home from a show in Skegness, Murph almost flipped his car on an icy motorway but emerged miraculously unscathed (the incident inspired a new song called 'Motorphobia'). And during a trip to Dubai to play Liverpool Sound City, Dan had his own four-wheeled run-in with the reaper.
"It was fun but me and my girlfriend almost had a pretty serious accident," he says. "We went dune buggy racing with no insurance, no anything. They just went 'have you done this before?' and we went 'no, not really' and they went 'great! Put this on!'. We stuck this helmet on and went off over these dunes having a great time and ended up going too fast over one of them and basically coming off and crashing quite badly."
With so much alienation and vehicular trauma around, it's perhaps no wonder the first batch of songs Murph wrote in London in February 2009 were delivered to the record label and met with some concern. Lyrically they were the bleakest tracks Murph had ever written (he doesn't expand on their subject matter) and musically they were heavier than heaven and louder than war.
"The initial thought was to do things relatively far away from what you'd be known for or what your comfort zone is," he says, "which is maybe a good thing, but the first batch of songs that the label heard, they were like 'who the hell is this?'"
Bassist Tord Øverland-Knudsen chips in. "They were much grungier. More like the 90s grungy thing, for those first four songs. We needed to get the energy back, make heavier music."
Or, more accurately, Murph needed to get his Merseyside Mojo back. "I went back to my mum and dad's house to recapture whatever former glory was once there. It was kind of miserable being locked away in a room for eight hours every day with just a little lampshade and piano. You kind of go round the bend, there was no reality to draw from. So I had to go up to Liverpool and get back to getting slaughtered and doing recreational things in order to find anything to draw on."
Back in Liverpool, The Wombats Mk 2 instantly clicked. They plumped for a synthier sound, Murph's keyboard often replacing the lead guitar, and the tunes poured forth in ever more innovative and colourful guises. Tracks such as 'Perfect Disease' took on the sonorous disco moods of Depeche Mode and Echo & The Bunnymen, lashed to The Killers' arena pop sensibilities. One of the album's "curveballs" 'Jump Into The Fog' came out sounding like nothing more than The Horrors covering Queen. Often only their intense catchiness marked these songs out as traditionally 'Wombats' at all: no matter where the sonics strayed, the tunes were always glint-in-the-sunlight perfect - better even than the dancefloor killers of their first chart onslaught.
"I felt like I was rebelling against what we were as a band," Murph explains. "Somehow we've come back round and amalgamated bits of that into the newer stuff and it'll hopefully make it better. There are elements that are so different from what people will think. There's songs that are akin to the first album but it feels like we've escalated. I'm 100 per cent certain that some of the songs on this album are the best we've ever put out."
First single 'Tokyo (Vampires And Wolves)' certainly fits that category – an instant radio hit that's so insanely catchy it's impossible not to spin again the second it's finished. An ode to the Neon City? "It's just a bit angsty," says Murph. "The new album hasn't got anything to do with touring, it just represents escapism and wanting to run away."
This new batch of songs finds Murph's lyrics developing a depth and personal confessional slant that's rare in modern song-writing: take the blunt and startling theme of 'Anti-D' for starters, in which Murph likens himself to an anti-depressant. But fans of his more story-based writing will find much to enjoy in the synth-rock, disco-destroying brilliance of 'Techno Fan' – the tune where 'Mr Brightside' chats up La Roux in a drug-swamped Hoxton dive bar. Key line: "I'm in debt to you/But don't feed me plant food".
"That's more of a story," Murph says. "I went to a minimal techno rave in Shoreditch with my girlfriend. It was dirty, I didn't stay there for long. I've never seen a longer queue for the toilets in my life. People had their hands up going 'I actually need a wee' and everyone in the queue would go 'go on then'."
The album has been recorded through 2010 over three sessions with separate producers, all in L.A. – first U2 and R.E.M. producer Jacknife Lee brought his precise technological nous to 'Anti-D', then Eric Valentine helped them put together 'Tokyo (Vampires And Wolves)' and 'Techno Fan'. Muse knob-twiddler Rich Costey joined forces with additional creative input from TV On The Radio's Dave Sitek and John Hill (Santogold, M.I.A., Devo) to complete a record that will shock, impress and spin opinion on this most uncompromising of 21st Century pop bands. The resulting album, subsequently titled 'The Wombats proudly present… This Modern Glitch', even finds rooms for a guest appearance courtesy of Jane's Addiction guitarist Dave Navarro on 'Girls & Fast Cars'.
"You take the electro and you take the grunge and you put it together with what we used to do on the first album," says Tord, "then that's what the album's going to be."
Dan nods, a sparkle in his eye. "It's gonna be a whirlwind adventure."
Having entered the charts at #3, the album has provided three of the band's biggest airplay hits to date with its first singles 'Tokyo (Vampires & Wolves)', 'Jump Into The Fog' and 'Anti-D' as The Wombats subsequently become one of the stand-out names on this summer's festival circuit with headline sets at Lovebox and Wakestock as well as other major events including Glastonbury, V, Radio 1's Big Weekend and Rockness. Always a resolutely popular live band, both of their recent UK tours were entirely sold-out and included major London dates at the Brixton O2 Academy and the HMV Hammersmith Apollo. Having recently released the single '1996', The Wombats culminated a triumphant year with three special homecoming shows at Liverpool's O2 Academy with further major shows already confirmed for 2012.
There's a thin line between rock'n'roll and religion, and nowhere thinner than in the intense, sharp, sweat-drenched, duelling-guitar euphoria of Mona. The four-piece Nashville-based band – or family, or gang, or band of brothers – are young, charismatic punk preachers. They'll testify to the thrill they get from hunkering down in a Nashville, Tennessee basement, writing and recording the best debut album of 2011. They'll hymn the praises of visceral rock with heavenly fireworks in its soul. They want to convert everyone they come across.
This, by the way, isn't the old God-and-the-devil schticky music-biz hyperbole. Three-quarters of Mona did learn their music – how to play, how to perform, how to work a crowd – in church: frontman/guitarist Nick Brown and drummer Vince Gard in a Pentecostal Charismatic congregation, bass player Zach Lindsey in a Southern Baptist congregation. For all three, while they were growing up, secular music was frowned upon, and transporting an audience – the congregation – was paramount. For all four – guitarist Jordan Young completes the line-up – imbuing secular music with honest passion and true grit is what Mona are all about.
Mona keep the faith, "but it's definitely our own brand, We've had to walk away from a lot of the bullshit of church," says Nick, as verbally forthright offstage as he is forcefully charismatic onstage. We're all family people. We're all mamas' boys. We all try to be good brothers, to be good sons. The same thing with the band – we're a family. But obviously with the band we're more like a family in the Mafia sense. We're a fucking gang as well. It's all hugs and kisses on the cheek – but if you fuck with us, we're vicious," adds the singer who dispensed with the services of his previous lead guitarist by "breaking my fist on his face". With in-band fraternalism this zealous little wonder, perhaps, that "Mona's never lost a bar fight."
Mona are Sun Studio's Million Dollar Quartet (Presley, Perkins, Lewis, Cash) rebooted 54 years on. They're rock revivalists, in the sense that they like, as Nick puts it, "the golden age of the United States – the James Dean, Marilyn Monroe type stuff." This iconography and idealism, he says, informed the writing of Listen To Your Love – and the reasons why it became their first single.
"It felt kinda reminiscent of some of the old stuff," he says of the song, released on already-rare and already-pricey seven-inch vinyl only. "Even Roy Orbison-type melodies. But still, a little bit of a punk thing in there. It just felt like a good first introduction, a first impression."
Nick and Vince grew up in Dayton, Ohio. They met via their church musical group. Says Nick, "I needed a drummer and Vince needed an outlet. We didn't even get along as people, as friends, at all, it was more of a musical connection at first. The friendship thing developed much later. But at first, growing up in church and having a little bit of a chip on your shoulder, you want someone that's gonna play aggressively and have fun with it. And both of us were very zealous, even in the church, very passionate people. He beat the shit out of the drums and I used to break pianos."
As musical "support act" to the pastor, they learnt how to improvise, and jam, to follow the flow of the service. "That's kinda how we view rock'n'roll now. I know there's a lot of stuff that's about scheduling – with radio and TV and the market now, they want you to fit in to a thing. But we've always prided ourselves on the timelessness of the experience. Just let it happen. Even when we write we don't book writing sessions or schedule time to write. We just get together and whatever happens, happens."
Zach Lindsey is from Bowling Green, located in a dry (booze-free) country in Kentucky. Whereas for Nick and Vince non-religious music was banned (Vince: "but my mom would play me Creedence Clearwater Revival and The Police and tell me not to tell my dad…"), in the bassist's church non-religious music was tolerated. "I was born listening to The Beatles."
With musical options dead in the water in Dayton, Nick and Vince moved to Nashville. Why? Nick: "It was five hours' drive away as opposed to 14 hours to New York or 26 hours to LA. And way cheaper. We're a bunch of poor kids."
Once relocated to America's Music City, they ran into Zach on the local gig scene. He in turn introduced them to Jordan Young, an old Kentucky friend who had grown up in the farm town of Breeding. Having gone through serial line-up upheaval – including the bust-up with the unfortunate guitarist with the broken face – Mona was complete.
"Now we're four horses pulling the carriage," says Nick, who's worked on the "idea" for Mona for years – not least because the band is named after his grandmother. "There's a lot of people that wanted to be in this band. There's a lot of people that locally support this band. But as far as having people that understand their roles, and being happy with their roles, it's chemistry, man. It's just like a relationship. It's a marriage."
Nick's top-to-bottom vision for Mona encompasses everything from the archive pictures picked to feature on the largely monochromatic design of their Myspace; to only making the odd song available, and briefly ("too many people have artistic bulimia," he spits, "eat and puke it up and they're onto the next thing. So we made people saviour it"); to creating their own label Zion Noiz; to hammering out a major record company deal that, unusually, stacks things in the band's favour.
At the end of 2010 a debut TV gold performance on 'Later with Jools ' set things up for 2011 . It ended up being an incredible and whirlwind year for Mona. The bands debut album was released to acclaim in the UK and singles 'Listen To Your Love' , 'Trouble On The Way ',Teenager' and 'Shooting The Moon' proved to be massive fan favourites on the live scene.
From early gigs at 150 capacity venues such as the legendary Flowerpot and Rough Trade East, they went on to headline and sell out a number of shows in the UK including London's premiere music venues The Shephers Bush Empire, Electric Ballroom and Brixton Academy as part of XFM's Winter Wonderland show.
MTV invited Mona to play Koko in London as part of their Brand New For 2011 competition, the band went on to win this beating off competition from artists such as Jessie J and The Vaccines.
In the Summer of 2011 the band joined the Kings Of Leon on the road on their stadium tour, playing some incredible venues such as Ireland's Slane Castle and London's Hyde Park. For all the fans that missed the stand alone shows they had the opportunity to catch the band at some of the worlds biggest Festivals. Mona played to huge crowds at Reading & Leeds Festivals and of course Glastonbury to name just two.
It was not just the UK that were treated to the energy and sheer power of Mona. 2011 saw the band play over 150 shows that covered Germany, Japan, France, Spain, Australia and many more.
Sights now set on conquering home - the US. Mona having already toured with The Airbourne Toxic Event, The Joy Formidable and joint headlined shows with Funeral Party release the album debut with a debut headline tour on February 28th 2012 .
The only thing slick about Mona is their hair. The rest is arm-pumping, vein-throbbing, knee-jittering, raw-throated, singalong rock'n'roll. Thank God they've come.
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