Slaves seized Birmingham's O2 Academy with a heady concoction of heavy riffs and pummelling percussion, Music Writer Christian Nasillo reviewsWritten by Christian Nasillo on 23rd January 2019
Redbrick Meets: DMA’S
Emmanuel Gutman sat down with Johnny Took from the DMA's to talk about their sound, future and how the band met
With their second album For Now released in late April 2018, The Australian Garage-Pop band DMA’S started their second tour all around the world. Allowing some time for their Britain fans in this month of May, they gave a very energetic and colourful concert in Birmingham’s O2 Institute. In return, the crowd apparently enjoyed the show, dancing on each song, singing (if not yelling) until their voices were hoarse, and even throwing beers at their beloved rocking band!
But before the show started, the acoustic guitarist Johnny Took kindly answered our questions. During 20 minutes, we chatted about how the band met, Johnny’s vision of the genres in music, how they improved in recording their albums and the future of the band.
Where did this new tour started first ?
Our first gig started … (Jesus can’t even remember!). It started around London. So we left Australia about a week before the album was released, barely one month ago now.
You have barely stopped this week! You were in Southampton on Monday, Exeter on Tuesday, Reading on Wednesday, tonight you’re in Birmingham, and you will be playing for the Neighbourhood Weekender Festival this weekend. How do you feel about that ? Tired, impatient, stressed?
I think we were tired yesterday. But a good thing about touring is that all you need is one day off. Get out of the bus for a bit, have a proper shower. Spending a night in a hotel and just not thinking about music for a night. But it’s still pretty early in the tour so we’re not doing too bad. At this point we’re very excited to play for Neighbourhood Weekender, and festivals in general. But it’s been a pretty special week because we’ve been to play in the Barrowland in Scotland which I think is one of the most special gigs I’ve ever played.
Because it’s really a beautiful old venue. It has been around since the 60’s. And the crowd were extremely passionate.
How did you guys originally meet?
We were playing in different bands. Tommy and I used to play in a band together, he was the drummer and I was the bass-player, we met through that. Mason and I lived in the same area and we were both playing kind of country music, we played at festivals together. Liam and Mason were also playing together at festivals, I saw them playing and I definitely wanted to play with these guys! And naturally as I was living in the same area with Tommy we started to hang out all together, doing music and talking about music. And DMA’s was a rising project before we released anything. We started to write three years before we played live. Originally we were not even thinking about playing live. So Tommy and Mason and I started to record things for a long time before we put the 6-piece live band together. I guess that’s why DMA’s is more considered as a three-piece band.
“We started to write three years before we played live. Originally we were not even thinking about playing live
But would you say DMA’s is more a six-piece band ?
Oh, that’s a hard one. I would say it’s more a six-piece band, because of how we play when we’re touring.
Fair enough. And even before that, how did you all started playing music? Did you go to some kind of Conservatoire?
No, I played a little bit of music at school, but it was more after school. It’s just thanks to the people you’re with. I really didn’t know what I was going to do for the rest of my life, and I got a call, I was recommended to play the bass for a band, that’s how I met Tommy. I didn’t do very well at school, so I didn’t knew what I was going to do.
So what does DMA’s means?
I doesn’t mean anything. It’s like a barcode. (Johnny makes the sound of a machine). It doesn’t have any meaning you know, a name is a name. It doesn’t really matter.
How did you came to play this music?
I guess it’s just by growing up. When we were kids we had a group of friends and together we loved that era of music, we loved guitar bands. So I guess it was always there. That’s the beauty of the internet, when you grow up you can listen to all styles of music and you can be inspired by anything. In Australia it wasn’t that common to be into playing or write the Britpop kind of style of music, and at the time we were one of the only bands doing that. But it’s just pop melodies with noisy guitars and great beats.
“That’s the beauty of the internet, when you grow up you can listen to all styles of music and you can be inspired by anything
In my point of view, I would define your music as a mix of hard rock and indie rock. How would you define your music?
I don’t know, Garage pop maybe?
So what does Garage mean then?
I think it refers to when the whole DIY aspects of bands became more prominent over the years. But all these terms are … you know. Technically people don’t define Indie as a genre. Because Indie means made with an independent label. It doesn’t have anything to do with any style of music.
So do you think genres have their importance?
Genres are useful because people love comparing. They love to compare the chicken sandwich they ate yesterday with the chicken sandwich they ate the day before. They love comparing a cup of coffee from here to just down the road. They compare the person that dresses like this with the person that dresses like that. It’s just natural, it helps people understanding what’s happening.
So would do like to break free from the genres, and just do music without taking care of any classification?
To be honest, some of the songs we made like ‘So We Know’ or ‘Step Up the Morphine’ were country songs. But when Tommy sings it it doesn’t sounds like this anymore. But you can still sing ‘Step Up the Morphine' and make it sound like a country song. I think genres have to do with production, not the song writing. I could take any song and make it sound like Reggae for instance. People use genres as a point of reference. But we’ve never thought about it you know, we are just experimenting with sounds and writing, just writing pop music.
“I think genres have to do with production, not the song writing
I would say that the first album Hills End (2016) and the second album For Now (2018) have a lot of similarities. In which way is your second album different from the first one?
So Hills End and the EP were mainly recorded in my bedroom. With extra help we recorded some stuff in a little studio. And it wasn’t monitored very well. Like when you pull a guitar sound, the guitar amp would be two meters away in the same room, so you can’t hear what it really sounds like, which I guess gave Hills Ends its sound. But with For Now, the acoustic guitars were also recorded live into a tape machine. So the way that works is very different from the multi-tracking recording, we can have 5 or 6 takes but then the tape is full so we have to take a break in order for the tape to bounce and its data to be recorded in the computer. But that was kind of cool. Also we used a producer, and he has got more of a dance / electronic background. He had a lot of great ideas, that came from a drum machine, and synthesisers.
Do you expect your music to provoke something more than just music? For instance deliver message, or a specific emotion?
Well, when I got into songwriting, it’s because of therapeutic means for myself, as a release... And I guess it’s more like that for me. And I used it in order to go through personal things. But once it’s released then I don’t really feel like it’s a hundred percent mine anymore and I’d like other people to use it as I use it, for the same purpose but in their own personal way. Because I think music can be therapeutic in lots of way: bringing people together, helping you through sadness and happiness.
You released the EP DMA’s in 2015, Hills End in 2016, and two years later For Now in 2018. Without spoiling anything, what’s next? Do you plan to keep up the same rhythm?
I’m not planning on rushing anything. There’s two ways you can do it. There’s this great Australian band called King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard, they released 5 to 6 albums a year. That’s so prolific and that’s their vibe. But for DMA’S, I’d like – not to take out time, because I think this is important to keep up a certain rhythm – but the album will get released once it’s ready.
“I think it is important to keep up a certain rhythm – but the album will get released once it’s ready.
Are there things you’d like to change for the next projects? Do you plan to keep doing the same music, same way of processing or recording, same sonorities, or evolving to something else?
I think it’s very important to keep moving, keep pushing it. To be honest I think lots of musicians think DMA’S is kind of a safe band, we write our pop music and we don’t over-complicate it, and there’s no better or worse but as a songwriter, I think I would like to experiment more you know, keep working on the songwriting and keep pushing yourself because as an artist you can get stale if you don’t, so keep moving forward in the right way.
A last word?
We’re really happy with the last record we’ve made, it felt like a natural progression for us, but in the same time there’s some pretty special songs that have been around for years, and we wanted people to hear them. But now that this is out we’re just excited to keep writing music, keep playing great live shows and to hopefully have more stuff released!