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DMA’s Interview

Australia. A distant land separated from Britain by a rather long plane journey. To Brits, Aussies are portrayed as cheap tinnie drinking beach goers who enjoy cooking outdoors. These people are comfortable with creepy crawlies, practically eat the stuff off I’m a Celeb and say ‘G’day’ mate far too much.  The more musically acquainted may even think of psych rock from Tame Impala, Pond or at a push King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard.

Does baggy tack suit jackets come to mind? Or perhaps Britpop? Is this article secretly written back in 1995?

Yes, yes and no (I’m not a timelord). In fact, Sydney trio DMA’s have been brandishing vintage tracksuits and ‘undiluted Oasis’ comparisons ever since… 2014. This trio consists of vocalist Tommy O’Dell and guitarists Matt Mason and Johnny Took (plus three additional live musicians). Anyway, I chatted with frontman O’Dell about Britpop, Sydney and potential new music.

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DMA’s unashamedly make Britpop comparisons describing “influences stemming from the British sound like Stone Roses, The La’s and Oasis”. The resemblance is uncanny at times, vocalist Tommy O’Dell could easily feature on ‘Definitely Maybe’ in 1994 before Liam’s voice had deteriorated from the cigarettes and alcohol, and nobody would even bat an eyelid.

They’ve even managed to ruffle a few Britpop feathers and piss off Noel Gallagher before he’d even heard their music. In a recent interview in Australia, Gallagher stated “[if DMA’s are on the same bill as me] I’ll have to watch them from the side of the stage and boo them”. Is this an Australian band I’m talking about? Where’s the psych so prominent in Australian bands? Either way, it’s clear that DMA’s are bringing Britpop to culturally deprived millennials.

DMA’s dropped their debut LP Hills End on Infectious in February of this year. It definitely seems an album of two halves. In fact the first 7 out of the 12 show promise featuring major chords, acoustic guitar strums and hands in the air choruses. Sound familiar to Oasis? Perhaps unsurprising since the Aussie trio enlisted Oasis producer Mark “Spike” Stent to mix.

‘Timeless’ is a roaring indie pop start highlighting DMA’s melodic potentials, this raging start continues through the energetic ‘Too Soon’ which O’Dell aggresses “when you’re on your own/ do you break down?”, it sounds moody. ‘Step up the Morphine’ is equally compelling sounding akin to The La’s featuring an infectious psychedelic hook.

The cream of the rather good crop on Hills End is the thrilling ballad ‘Delete’. The song first appeared in 2014 on their self titled debut EP, although I’m informed that it was written by Mason, albeit in a different form, around seven years ago. The emotive song has been playlisted on Radio 1 and featured on Guitar Hero. ‘Delete’ was a clearly a tipping point to their successes, O’Dell admitting “the song kinda helped us and put us out there to people who would not otherwise no who were are”.

For four minutes twenty-seven seconds, the song is an acoustic ballad O’Dell croons purposively, and with intent “Don’t delete my baby, don’t defeat her still”. So you may have guessed, it’s about deleting an ex from social media. The final minute morphs into blissful shoe gaze anthem, and the final fifteen seconds ensures the ballad must be one of the most emotive rock songs of the decade. Although, some may argue that a ballad about removing contact from social media is trivial, as well as dating the song.  For instance, The Smiths classic ‘Bigmouth Strikes Again’ is now dated as Morissey yelps “and her walkman started to melt”. However, personally I believe the lyrics enhance ‘Delete’, as for millennials disposability of ‘friends’ on social media and deleting ex’s perhaps has become reflected in modern life.

Although it must be said that Hills End is truly an album of two halves. ‘Blown Away’ and ‘The Switch’ are forgettable, despite O’Dell’s impressive kooky vocals salvaging ‘Blown Away’ to an extent and mitigating forgetfulness. That’s not to say their bad songs, just DMA’s melodies and harmonies are far better on the first half. The consequence means Hills End burns hard and fast but then just fizzles out.

It’s been said by Paul McCartney that Oasis’s biggest mistake was suggesting that the Gallagher’s and co were “bigger than The Beatles”. That 1996 quote turned out to be the kiss of death for the ‘wonderwall’ band, with everything they then completed compared in the Liverpudlian’s light. For instance, when Oasis’s third album ‘Be Here Now’ landed in 1997, critics shafted the LP calling it a “loud lumbering noise of nothing”. This highly anticipated album was supposed to be the crowning moment of the influential genre, yet retrospectively is now credited Britpop’s demise for it’s bloated sound. Although, it must be acknowledged that some contend that Britpop is a conspiracy theory made up by marketing companies, and the genre never actually existed.

When speaking to O’Dell he seems to have done his homework on the rise and fall of Britpop, and carefully treads around being thrown into the burdens of the genre. He makes no deception that his “influences stem from the British sound like Stone Roses, The La’s and Oasis”, and that his kooky voice “gives a more British feel to it”. However, O’Dell does not brandish such a big mouth as Liam Gallagher, and distances DMA’s from the Britpop kiss of death, describing that guitarist Mason is into “Dinosaur Jnr”. Even their recording process is to “record the song how it best songs”, suggesting a lack of conscious effort towards their 90’s sound.

Although, Tommy O’Dell is not tired the labelling and believes it a “fair” reflection that DMA’s are thrown in with the likes of Oasis and Happy Mondays. Throughout the interview the frontman is polite, attentive and humble for the success he is receiving, a far cry from the Gallagher’s. For those looking for distinctions, there is clear distinction regarding their character. In fact, I’d say the Tommy O’Dell bears closer resemblance of the whimpering pianist and resident Brit hoarder of similar name.

Anyway despite all this talk of Britain, DMA’s seem nomad in their touring hopping frequently from the USA, UK and Australia often. In fact, the date of this phone call is the end of a manic three months touring for DMA’s before they head home to Sydney. Perhaps surprisingly, O’Dell still describes the day long plane journey is still “brutal”. Anyway this relentless touring has seen DMA’s appear on the CBS Late Show with Stephen Colbert, Soccer AM and even Coachella.

Despite DMA’s Aussie credentials, O’Dell suggests Coachella “was really hot”. Apparently  “this was a different kind of heat, it was desert heat”. Yet O’Dell managed to brave the sweltering weather to which he describes as successful double weekend for DMA’s. He even got to see the recently reuniting Guns N’ Roses. Further, I’ve been well informed that the Aussie band (and the additional three touring members) are not sick of each other yet, “almost though”.

Given such a large proportion of their touring schedule is based within the northern hemisphere, O’Dell suggests that DMA’s may think about changing their Sydney hub next year. This decision is exacerbated by the dire state of Sydney’s night time economy. Over regulation of booze around drinking establishments and activity in public places has implications of closing licensed premises. Although, Sydney’s “lockout” laws were introduced to curb alcohol fuelled violence, it’s given Sydney the title of a ‘nanny’ state.

“I love Sydney, it’s a great place. It’s going to a bit of a weird place at the moment. I haven’t spent much time there recently. It seems like a bit of the atmosphere is taken away. When laws like that come in, it also creates an underground music scene. So I’m sure there’s gigs happening at warehouses, I’m sure there’s other s**t going down.”

Regardless of where DMA’s eventually decide to base themselves, new music is on the way. O’Dell informs excitedly “we’re writing new songs for the record, we’re probably about three or four songs off”. The frontman adds open-mindedly “we might experiment with different production, yet the main influence is song writing from an acoustic guitar”. There may even be “some electronic stuff”. However, the next headache for DMA’s will be how it will be produced. Whereas debut Hills End encapsulated the best of bedroom production (only So We Know was produced in a studio), the frontman has not ruled going into the studio.

You can catch DMA’s at festivals this summer and back in the UK this October.