British-born rock band The Wombats have released their latest LP, Fix yourself, not the world. The album (the band’s fifth full-length studio) is full of energy and diverse in genre. But most importantly, the record makes you think, from its title and through its eclectic songs.
The American songwriter met The Wombats’ actor, Matthew Murphy, to ask him about the album’s origins, how he found the music and fell in love with it and what next for his sometimes bustling folk group.
American Songwriter: When did you first find music – when did music enter your world in such an important way as a young man?
Matthew Murphy: I’ve played classical guitar since I was 5, but I honestly think it was on New Years Eve when I was about 12. Randomly, Radiohead’s “Creep” showed up at a friend’s house and I immediately remember asking myself, “What is this?” Before that, I used to listen to a lot of Happy Hardcore and things like that, but after hearing that song everything changed.
AS: From there, what drove you to invest the most, and what did that sound like as you dived into playing and writing songs?
millimeter: Do not know to be honest. I was very shy and somewhat introverted when I was a kid. Being on stage and in front of people allowed me to escape from it all. I had no illusions that I was a good songwriter until I was in art college when one of my teachers – Mark Berman – shined for me and gave me a confidence I had never felt before. That’s when I thought to myself, OK, I’m going to be very successful with this.
AS: I can imagine you could write a book about this, but for a brief moment, what is the impact of the UK – LiverpoolAnd Specifically – on your voice and the way you think about music?
millimeter: I mean, the Beatles were everywhere when he was a kid. My parents would blow them up and The Eagles and The Beach Boys constantly while driving cars or at home. But what I find most important in Liverpool is the strength of its arts community. When I was in the beginning, the bands, the artists, the sound engineers, the promoters, you name it, everyone was willing to help each other out, get them on shows, find practice spaces for them, give them equipment, etc. It was really cool. There are still healthy competitions of course but that hasn’t stopped people from lifting each other up.
AS: Can you talk a little bit about the band’s early years, how you met in 2003 at the School of Dramatic Art, how you knew the chemistry was right, and how it lasted?
millimeter: Yes, I had a bunch of songs and was looking for a new car to take out there. Dan [Haggis] And I was already friends and we were looking for a bass player, Turd [Øverland Knudsen] He was in 9 other bands at the time, so what was another band. I’m not too sure when the chemistry will arrive, but it wasn’t at the beginning moment. There was a fourth member at the time, from Orange County. When he left, we replaced his guitar parts with oohs and harmonies. That’s when we started honing whatever sound The Wombats would become.
AS: What is the genesis of the new 12-track album – it has a bit of a disco feel, as well as rock. She’s insightful, and makes a sarcastic comment – was she logged remotely?
millimeter: To be honest, all I was really focused on was taking the energy that I got from our fourth album and transferring it to our fifth. There was no upswing, other than the fact that I had finished my solo album and it was time to start my new Wombats business. Much of the record was written before the pandemic, and then the other 50% during it.
We’ve noticed some new ideas and sounds for us popping up in some of the songs and it was our duty, in the studio, to bring them to the fore. Lyrically, I love the weird, introspective, and deep lyrics, so there’s been no shortage of inspiration for that over the past 2 to 3 years. The album was self-recorded in Los Angeles and Dunn and Tore in London. Although some of the songs were even crazier with all the band members in different countries and the producer. Personally, I liked this way of working/recording. But putting it all together after that was a lot of fun.
AS: There are many great songs out there, but perhaps one of the standout songs is “All I Love Will Die”. Is death a popular topic of conversation or songwriting for you – how do you feel about introspection and clarity in your work?
millimeter: Thanks I appreciate it. “All I Love Is Going To Die” is really meant to be a liberating song with a very grim title. Titles have always been important to me, if I believe in the title I find it really helps me commit to finishing the song or getting it “above the line”. I don’t think death is not a popular topic, but it often serves as a good reminder.
AS: How do you feel now that the album has been made – for the first time since 2018? Beautiful people will ruin your life?
millimeter: I’m excited. I feel really confident in this album, I’m so proud of it and it feels great when it comes out. I don’t always feel this way.
AS: The band has also enjoyed some success on TikTok – the re-emergence of “The Greek Tragedy” (2015) with tens or hundreds of thousands of views.–Is this strange, welcome?
millimeter: Absolute madness. Welcome of course. I had no idea this particular remix even existed nor had I heard it yet. Social media can be a very intimidating place, but at the same time it is capable of so many wonderful things.
AS: How do you think about the future these days – is there still a round coming out of quarantine?
millimeter: We have just completed a very arduous tour of the UK and started our US tour on January 20th in the capital. I feel very familiar with the post-COVID world now. We just have to be as reasonable as possible and expect the unexpected. I’m excited about the future, there wouldn’t be much point in thinking about it negatively.
AS: What do you love most about music?
millimeter: It is clearly a very powerful means, and it has many healing qualities. But what I love most is the struggle. Each song is completely different, introduces new problems, and can be a new puzzle to piece it all together. Some work, many don’t. You are constantly looking for something exceptional in a sea of the Mediterranean. Some songs (usually the best) I feel like a passive spectator watching them make themselves. You really never know what you’re going to get, and one of the big things I’ve come to realize about myself is that I need to rely on that uncertainty and learn to love it. The moment I start responding to those forces is the moment I have to pause for the day.
Wombat tour dates:
North American dates:
Jan 20 – 9:30 p.m. The Club, Washington, DC
January 22 – Fillmore, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
January 25 – Building 5, New York, NY
January 26 – House of Blues, Boston, Massachusetts
January 28 – Corona, Montreal, Qatar
January 31 – St. Andrews, Detroit, Michigan
February 1 – Newport, Columbus, Ohio
February 3 – Park West, Chicago, Illinois
February 4 – Fillmore, Minneapolis, Minnesota
February 5 – Truman, Kansas City, Missouri
February 7 – Cannery, Nashville, Tennessee
February 8 – Buckhead, Atlanta, Georgia
February 10 – House of Blues, Houston, Texas
February 11 – Imo, Austin, Texas
February 12 – House of Blues, Dallas, Texas
February 14 – Ogden, Denver, Colorado
February 15 – Union, Salt Lake City, Utah
February 17 – Showbox Market, Seattle, Washington run out
February 18 – Venue Nightclub, Vancouver, British Columbia run out
February 19 – Revolution Hall, Portland, Oregon
February 21 – Regency, San Francisco, California
February 22 – Observatory, Santa Ana, California
February 25 – Wiltern, Los Angeles, California
European / British flight times:
April 14 – First Direct Arena, Leeds
April 15 – The O2, London
April 16 – Motorpoint Arena, Cardiff
April 18 – Barrowland Hall, Glasgow
April 22 – Mountford Hall, Liverpool
April 23 – Mountford Hall, Liverpool
April 29 – Moulin Rouge machine, Paris (France)
May 1 – Karlswerk Victoria, Cologne (Germany)
May 2 – Bad and Dangerous, Hamburg (Germany)
May 4 – Slachkerkan, Stockholm (Sweden)
May 5 – Rockefeller Music Hall, Oslo (Norway)
May 6 – Dr. Concerthauset, Copenhagen (Denmark)
May 7 – Huxley’s New World, Berlin (Germany)
May 9 – Gasometer, Vienna (Austria)
May 10 – Backstage Werk, Munich (Germany)
May 12 – Estragon, Bologna (Italy)
May 13 – Fabrice, Milan (Italy)
May 14 – Complex 457, Zurich (Switzerland)
May 16 – de Roma, Antwerp (Belgium)
May 17 – Paradiso, Amsterdam (Netherlands)
May 18 – De Osterpoort, Groningen (Netherlands)
May 19 – Tivolfriedenburg, Utrecht (Netherlands)
May 26 – Open Air Theater, Scarborough
Photo courtesy Grand Stand Media