Formed in Sydney, Australia, DMA’s have tapped into a strain of indie pop that places 90s Britpop at the bottom of a well of influences. Embracing their inner Oasis, even their appearance is akin to what you’d expect on a Mancunian council estate in the 90s. With a mixture of melancholy lyrics, familiar acoustic chord arrangements and endearing amounts of sincerity, the trio of Matt Mason, Tommy O’Dell, and Johnny Took are poised to make great strides towards becoming the established outfit that their swagger deserves.
The next chapter in what has already been a confident and whirlwind start to any music career begins with the group returning for their biggest series of UK dates yet – topped off by this headline showing at Sound City. With the imminent release of their second full length effort For Now on the horizon, Jake Penn caught up with lyricist and guitarist Johnny Took to talk Cher, Aussie bands and their plans for world domination.
A recent blog described your vocals as “Liam Gallagher at his peak” and “music that helps share a sense of emotion”. Are there any words that you would use to describe this new album?
I’m not sure, I’d say it was still very DMA’s. We focused a lot on the songwriting: we like writing pop love songs with noisy guitars, but it’s also a step-up production wise. The first album we just did in my bedroom, so now we’re using proper gear. I thought I was always scared of using hi-fi recordings because I feared it might appear slightly lacklustre, but after working with Kim [Moyes], who co-produced the album with us and is a close personal friend now, that showed us that using the best gear lets you achieve the best true sound of what you sound like.
That leads on nicely to my next question about the sort of impact Kim Moyes [of The Presets] has had on the album?
He was great and someone who, growing up in Sydney, we respected as he has had a lot of experience in the industry. After touring so much, if ever me and the guys disagreed on something it was nice to have Kim there to buffer off and who didn’t give a fuck, because he didn’t know us all too well.
So, you’re saying he gave you perspective and an outsider’s opinion?
Yeh of course and as well, he’s a bit of a cutthroat motherfucker as well. So, he’s not too concerned about people’s feelings and just tell it as it is, which is cool.
The UK audience may be familiar with you from your appearance on Australia’s answer to the Radio One Live lounge, Triple J’s Like A Version, where you covered Cher’s Believe. How did you arrive on that song in particular?
We were weighing up a few songs for that slot and a lot got rejected actually, but I think Mason was playing it as a joke in soundcheck, which is something of a habit now. Then over the microphone I hear ‘No matter how hard I try’ then Tommy walks on stage just as the chorus kicks in and walked up and sang ‘Do you believe’. It was just the perfect register for it, it was really high but perfect.
After touring with The Kooks, who headlined Sound City last year, is there anything that you have learned about yourself as band whilst on the road?
It was more that we have never been part of an operation like that before, like building your own stage. Previously I thought ‘Why do these bands need someone to build their stage for them and a six-tonne truck full of stuff?’ But then you start understanding where all the extra production comes from. I think we’ve got a lot better at touring which is obviously great timing!
As potentially the most Northern England-sounding Australian band I’ve ever heard, what does it mean to headline a festival in Liverpool?
Well the sound works really well for us as there aren’t many bands in Australia doing the same kind of thing, which helped us stand out a bit more. We may have been a bit naïve in that we didn’t realise how deep the history went in England, so we didn’t care. I think a lot of English bands steer away from that because they don’t like the comparisons, but we just wanted to write good tunes.
Which should always be the case! Do you think Australia’s current musical identity matches up with its heritage?
Yeh, 100% man. There are some pretty amazing bands from the Australian scene like The Saints and The Go-Betweens, for example, and what I’m noticing as well is the Melbourne punk scene is very particular, with a very focused and in-tune sound. They don’t care about success at all, they are just concerned about the music, which I think is very strong.
Are there any bands at Sound City that you’re looking forward to catching this year?
We did meet a few bands on the festival circuit last year, but I don’t know a lot of the bands that are at Sound City. What I will say is I think it’s really cool that they have all of these new and young English bands playing, it’s awesome! They’re going to be the ones that we’ll be listening to and probably be the biggest bands in the UK soon and what a great festival to start them off.
Where do you see the band in a few years’ time? Do you set yourself goals or just go with the flow?
Yeh, I want us to be one of the biggest bands in the UK. But you don’t think about that and as far as I’m concerned, every facet of the music industry revolves around songs. What I learned from a very young age is that if you want to be a band manager or the head of a label, you want a band that writes good songs. So rather than focusing on all the other bullshit, we just want to write good songs and a lot of them. We feel really privileged, because we aren’t a band from the UK and all of our influences – Oasis, The Stone Roses, Primal Scream – being a kid and growing up in Australia and hearing those bands and really connecting with it, and then hearing that some of your idols have heard of you and your music, then giving you the nod, that’s the inspiring stuff.
What is the best thing about being in DMA’s?
You know what the best thing is, man? The way that the band has grown has been incredibly organic. It’s not like we have had one big song that has been picked up on Radio 1 and then gone ballistic or some shit. But touring over there [in the UK] as well and going to places like Milton Keynes and Stockton-on-Tees, we’d never heard of these places, but the response has been so cool. When we released Hills End we didn’t really have that support, so it’s really exciting that we are going to drop our new record For Now and we’re not starting from scratch, there’s a solid foundation for us to work off.
DMA’s headline Camp and Furnace on Saturday 5th May.