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Feature Interview: Winston McCall of Parkway Drive

Parkway Drive

Sixteen years and six albums into his glittering career, Parkway Drive frontman Winston McCall isn’t about to start taking anything for granted.

“From day one, we’ve always had to prove ourselves,” he says. “We’ve always said in interviews that we just go out there and do what we do, but, now having sat back and looked at it, the place we’re at now is literally the last place anyone would have expected for this band, including ourselves.”

Sixth album ‘Reverence’, released in May last year, pushed the band’s creative ambition further than ever before and has brought not only exciting new avenues and achievements, but additional pressure to the Byron Bay metallers.

“The past 12 months has been crazy; like a complete time-warp,” McCall says. “We’ve done a hell of a lot of touring and the band has grown so much in that time that I forget the fact it’s only been a year since [‘Reverence’ came out]. It’s been the biggest release of the band’s career and we’ve reached several milestones in the past 12 months. These are things we never even thought we would see and they just rolled over, one after the other. It’s been busy and hectic; so hectic. We’ve had three major injuries within the band in the past 12 months, we’ve played the biggest headline shows we’ve ever played in every continent we’ve played in, then we’ve played the biggest festival appearances and biggest shows of our lives.”

Written and conceived around a dark period for the band, ‘Reverence’ was informed by personal tragedy and loss, and took the five-piece’s music into sometimes difficult yet often ground-breaking territory.

“All of that writing and stuff happened, we brought the record out during that whole ongoing thing, and I guess it’s just a part of life.” McCall says. “It’s something that never leaves you, that loss. It gets easier the amount of time you put between when it happens and now, I guess. You carry it with you all the time and you see it through different lenses and shades as you go. In that respect, dealing with it is going well, but you always have a relationship with it. That’s probably the best way to describe it.”

After a heavy few months spent touring Europe and the States, where McCall says he was offered crack in a diner before food was even mentioned, the band will play its only Australian shows of 2019 at Good Things Festival; a trio of dates which stand out for several reasons.

“It’s our first time being able to headline a major Australian festival,” he says. “And it’s really cool to see heavy and alternative music making a resurgence in festivals in Australia because it’s such a massive thing and it’s such a massive community. It’s been underplayed in the past as a lot of people think it’s a small amount of people in this country who enjoy this music, which is so far from the truth it’s insane. So it’s really nice. So many people in the past have seen the local Australian scene of lesser or less of a commodity than an overseas name, and for us to be able to make a statement by being in that slot is a massive, massive deal. It’s going to be fucking awesome and we’re pumped.”

Australian fans can be guaranteed an eye- and ear-blistering live show when the band lands for the December run of shows. Inspiration for the visual spectacular that is a Parkway Drive gig can come from almost anywhere, McCall says.

“We’ve retained creative control over every single aspect of this band, which means there’s a hell of a lot of work that goes into it. If you have the drive to create something more, we have a very large canvas, but that means you have to have the imagination to fill it. Ideas come from everything: other bands, theatre, music, film, videos, from literally just walking around spaces, architecture and anything from the past. We’re taking an interest in what our lighting guy is doing and work with him to create something so we know what the physical and emotional impact of the stage show are. It takes a hell of a lot, but being able to couple your music with something you know will heighten the experience is a very powerful experience. At the end of the day, when you rock up to a gig, you know it’s very different to just watching your favourite band play your favourite song. We want it to do things that create moments that are worthy of your time.”

While they’ve come a long way from that Byron Bay backstreet to being a major player in Australian and world metal, McCall and Parkway Drive will likely continue aiming to prove themselves for some time to come.

“Years ago, nobody was saying Parkway was going to be able to get as big as we are, play the songs we play, create the music we do, put on the shows we put on and have the actual imagination to do that,” McCall says. “We’ve had 16 years’ worth of pressure and this has been the year we’ve realised we can do this and we have the space to create something using our imaginations, rather than just be in survival mode. So there’s more pressure, but we’re also aware of what the pressure is, and how to deal with it better. There’s been a hell of a lot of people who say we’re one thing and we’ll never be anything else, or we’ve been left out of many equations, which is fine. But it helps us realise the fact we were aware of that status the entire time, and it’s something we’ve been trying to smash. It’s nice to know we’ve been able to do that. It’s been a very interesting experience.”

For Scenestr

Joe Bonamassa: “Oh it sounded shit, never mind”

joe bonamassa 2016

BLUESFEST Byron Bay is almost upon us and American blues-rock maestro Joe Bonamassa is seeking redemption.

His two exclusive Australian shows at the Easter long weekend event, while hardly requiring a crossroads-like pact with the devil, will provide the hugely talented singer-guitarist with a chance for atonement.

“I played Byron Bay one time; I believe it was 2010,” he says. “I had the shittiest backline and came off the stage thinking I had ruined my entire career in the country of Australia. I thought my guitar sound was just dreadful, but sod’s law meant that I had more people, artists included, coming up to me asking me ‘Man, what were you using up there because it sounded great?’. So I go ‘What fucking show were you watching?’. This year I’m actually shipping my own gear over there, so it gives me a fighting chance; at least me personally. But probably nobody will say anything. ‘Oh it sounded shit, never mind’ [laughs].”

The garrulous and amiable New Yorker’s 12th studio album, Blues of Desperation, will be released just in time for his Australian shows, and represents somewhat of a return to his roots.

“After exploring so many avenues – I was in a hard rock band, I did two years of doing traditional blues, we did The Three Kings tour, the album with Mahalia [Barnes], the stuff I do with Beth Hart – I woke up one day and thought that what I am really good at is blues-rock,” he says. “That’s actually probably what I’m best at, and I should get back to doing what I do best. The album represents that; the urgency to get back to swinging the heavier bat and playing heavier stuff.”

Blues of Desperation sees Bonamassa once again teaming up with producer Kevin Shirley; an arrangement that is unlikely to change any time soon.

“Kevin and I came up with the title based on the song,” Bonamassa says. “It has this weathered kind of feel. It was brought to my attention it was maybe too dark of a title, and for a minute it was changed to Drive, before I finally decided that my life should not become a focus group thinking about who will be turned off by a title. Frankly, it’s not going to sell one more or less copy either way, and I’ve always done things in my career that just felt good, natural and organic. If I saw the record in a store, I would stop and look at it. But if I saw an album called Drive; it’s too vanilla for me. [Kevin and I] have been together for 11 years now. I told him that I think the reason we get on so well together is that everyone sticks to their job; I’m the travelling salesman, Kevin does the records, and Roy [Weisman, manager] runs the business. Kevin is great about putting me into situations that challenge me, and with musicians I would never think of. He has such a great vision of what I’m capable of, even when there is some resistance. I come in with the songs and we hash out the arrangements and we’re pretty much always on the same page. I’ve also learned to appreciate the inspiration of a single take, rather than grind the inspiration out of it, if you know what I mean?”

At only 38, Bonamassa has already been a working musician for 26 years, having opened for B.B. King when he was 12. The idea that a true bluesman never really retires might not apply here, however.

“I reckon I have another 24 years left before I can officially retire after 50 years in,” he laughs. “I’m not a run-of-the-mill blues guy. I tell you, I’m not going to be a lifer. The problem is to do this at a high level and to keep the quality up, it takes a lot of preparation. I’m not one of those cats who just walks on stage and it all just comes out of me. I think there’s more to life; I don’t want to look down the line when I’m too old to pursue something else and think I squandered the opportunity [to do something else]. Not that having a career in music is a bad thing; it’s an honour to do this for a living, but there’s more to life than plugging a Gibson guitar into a Fender amp, you know? There’s a big world out there. I get to travel it, but I never see it. I go to all these great places, and I see the hotel and the gig. I could get up super-early and see some museum but I don’t feel like doing that after singing the night before. I’d like to be a tourist once in a while, you know?”

On top of his abundant playing and writing skills, Bonamassa has been a student of the blues since childhood, starting with the ’60s British blues guitarists who brought the form to the masses.

“It was my original gateway into blues,” he says. “As a kid, to hear blues music that was basically early heavy rock was very appealing to me. As a six or seven year-old, it’s very hard to get the subtleties of Robert Johnson, as you can barely hear it on a record player. Only 20 years after the fact did I realise the true genius of those original masters, and even now I’m discovering them and realising how many of their ideas were, let’s say, borrowed by the British blues-rock scene of the ’60s. My first introduction was the Jeff Beck Group, and that was the gateway. After that it was Fresh Cream, Disraeli Gears, all the Free stuff – I was enamoured with Paul Kossoff, Rory Gallagher, Gary Moore. [Gary Moore album] Still Got The Blues was one of the most pivotal albums in my early teenage years because it taught me I could overplay and people would still like it [laughs].”

While Bonamassa is a big fan of Australia and its music, he admits he lives in a bubble when it comes to what music is most popular here, or anywhere. Luckily his Queenslander girlfriend keeps him informed.

“I have a lot of ties to Australia,” he says. “Mahalia [Barnes] and I were literally just a week ago at Carnegie Hall; she was singing with me. I kind of know what is going on. I’m wilfully ignorant about the pop music scene. I mean, sometimes I’ll run into somebody and my girlfriend knows I have that what-the-fuck look on my face. She’ll be like ‘That’s actually a really popular artist’, and I’ll be like ‘Great! Congratulations’. One guy I love is [blues slide guitarist] Dave Hole, who lives in Perth. He’s one of the best.”

JOE BONAMASSA PLAYS BLUESFEST BYRON BAY SATURDAY MARCH 26 AND MONDAY MARCH 28. BLUES OF DESPERATION IS OUT MARCH 25.

For The Brag

Steve Earle: “Byron: it might be the best beach town in the world”

steve earle

THERE’S a little corner of northern New South Wales that really floats Steve Earle’s boat, and given his country-rock pedigree, it’s perhaps surprising it’s not Tamworth.

Luckily for music lovers it’s also the location of one of the world’s premier blues and roots festivals: Bluesfest.

“Byron: it might be the best beach town in the world,” Earle says. “It’s my favourite, anyway. I’ve had some really good shows there over the years; the last few years particularly. I had a really good show there with the band on the last tour, and I had a really, really good solo show there on the trip before that. I got to ride back to town with John Paul Jones and Donovan in the same car, you know? I got to interrogate them about all those great records, because Jones played on all those great Donovan records, so that was pretty cool. [Bluesfest is] one of my favourite festivals, period. The other big blues festival I play is in Ottawa, but it doesn’t have that beach.”

The 61 year-old Texan released his sixteenth studio album, the bluesy Terraplane, last year, and is set to appear at the Easter weekend festival with his band The Dukes alongside similarly-billed legends Brian Wilson, Tom Jones and Taj Mahal.

“I don’t know [if I’m a legend]; I’m more of a rumour,” he laughs. “It’s weird. It’s the thirtieth anniversary of Guitar Town this year. We’re going to try to do a few things to commemorate it. The Australian tour is actually the last leg of the cycle we have been on all of 2015; the very last leg of the Terraplane tour. I’ve already recorded the record with Shawn Colvin, and that’s what I’ll be doing next summer. Then I’m going to make another record with The Dukes, which will come out in 2017. I decided I was going to make a blues record [with Terraplane], but it’s a big deal when you’re from Texas; it’s a high bar. So I decided my next record was going to be a country record, whatever that means. Sometimes I think it means what I might have done after Guitar Town if [producer] Jimmy Bowen hadn’t pissed me off, but mainly it’s going to be based on honky-tonk. I’ve been putting aside the country-er things for that.”

Terraplane came into existence just as Earle was going through his seventh divorce, resulting in an album that was not only steeped deeply in the blues, but intensely personal at the same time.

“I don’t know how cathartic [writing] it was,” he says. “At the time, they were the only songs I could write. You know, I’m not writing jingles. I mean, I can write projects; I can write for somebody else, for a television show, or for a movie, and put myself in a certain place. This was a very personal record, because there wasn’t much else I could do. It might be I made a blues record because it was the only type of record I could have made last year.”

Having survived major drug and alcohol problems in the 80s and early 90s, Earle is now able to help others in a similar position, but does admit to being suspicious of why his past addictions are still interesting to people.

“I’m doing this residency at clubs in the States right now,” he says. “I’m doing a song from every record I ever made. There’s only four of those records that I was taking drugs when I made them. So it seems silly to be talking about it now. It’s still a big part of who I am; right now I’m writing a memoir, so I’m right back into that shit again. I have no problem with talking about it if it’s going to help somebody, but I get tired of talking about it with people who I suspect don’t have any other reason for talking about it except the lowest common denominator reasons. That part of it gets on my nerves from time to time.”

When not writing top-notch blues and country songs or warding off questions about his past, Earle is heavily involved in political activism. He is vigorously opposed to the death penalty, has argued in favour of access to abortions for all women, and his most recent work has been both close to home and on a national level.

“I’ve been raising awareness for schools with autism, because I have a son with autism,” he says. “Politics gets personal sometimes. My son gets the best care we can get him, but I have to lawyer up to get it. Luckily, the law says the city has to help me and my neighbours’ tax dollars have to help me. I’m the poorest guy in New York City, I think. Manhattan, anyway. I live here by the skin of my teeth, so I can’t imagine what happens to people who have regular jobs and four or five kids. I’m also very actively supporting Bernie Sanders’ campaign; ‘The Revolution Starts Now’ plays at almost all of Bernie Sanders’ rallies, and I’m very proud of that. I’m a socialist and he is a socialist. Normally if there’s one thing I can do for a political candidate I want to see elected, it is to stay as far the fuck away from them as possible. In the case of Obama I was able to say in the second term that I was a socialist and Obama definitely wasn’t. Hillary [Clinton] is, left to her own devices, almost a Republican. She’s very much a creature of Wall Street. I’m having the luxury of having a viable candidate running right now, and that’s Bernie Sanders.”

Away from the concerns of national politics, time spent in the southern hemisphere will not only allow Earle to rekindle his love for Australian beaches, but also his fondness for our musicians.

“It’s where I met Kasey Chambers,” he says. “I was there with Buddy Miller and my band, and Buddy was also opening our shows. Julie Miller didn’t make the trip, and Kasey, when she was 18 years old, sang with Buddy on that tour. On a bill before that, I saw a great show by The Saints there, although the first time I saw The Saints was at the Cat Club in New York years before, but I saw a great Saints show ten or twelve years ago in Byron. I’ve known Paul Kelly since before I even went to Australia for the first time; I met him in ’86 when he was [in the States]. That’s one of my favourite things about Bluesfest; you get to see a lot of good music, as you get to play twice.”

STEVE EARLE PLAYS BYRON BAY BLUESFEST MARCH 25TH AND 26TH

For Scenestr

Record review: The Babe Rainbow – The Babe Rainbow EP (2015, EP)

babe rainbow ep

As sure as smoke means fire, where there are psychedelics, the sitar is certain to follow. George Harrison and Brian Jones were largely responsible for introducing it to Western audiences in the sixties, and it’s satisfying to see its mystical qualities still enhancing the mood of music lovers half a century later. Byron Bay’s The Babe Rainbow have risen to the challenge of being modern-day champions of the ancient Indian instrument, and carry the weight of expectation with aplomb on this debut self-titled EP. Describing their style as ‘punk mushroom’ on social media is somewhat of an evasive move by the trio; in truth this EP owes as much to the Kinks and the Beatles as it does to Syd Barrett and Kevin Ayers. At only four tracks and 12 minutes it’s a brief but absorbing affair, opening with the infectiously jangly ‘Love Forever’. Galloping single ‘Secret Enchanted Broccoli Forest’ flips the calendar back to the summer of love with the aforementioned Eastern flavours, while ‘Planet Junior’ finds a much more mellow level and ‘Ash May and Dr. Lovewisdom’ is deceptively dark. The best bit about this EP is that it’s not a wig-out record that gets lost in a droning fog, but a comfortably hazy, psychedelic twangfest reined in by a three-minute pop structure. Incorporating pop sensibilities is an ace move by a group of guys who don’t allow the ability to play tightly get in the way of a being a band who look like they just got off the bus to San Francisco circa 1967. These tracks are fun, catchy and just a little silly, making this a promising release from a band worth keeping an eye on.

For Beat

David Gray: “You have to leave everybody behind in spectacular fashion”

David Gray

His upcoming Australian visit has been a long time coming, so David Gray plans to grab the opportunity with both hands.

The 46 year-old Englishman is set to appear at Bluesfest at Byron Bay, as well as complete a run of theatre shows, but even after 25 years in the business the indie-rock veteran doesn’t take anything for granted.

“I love all the shows,” he says. “They’re all special. I’m more at home in an intimate setting, because so many of my songs tend that way, but I also have expansive songs, so I can deal with the outdoor situations. I’ve been doing it a long time, and I can sense that it’s finite these days. The commitment to make a record and tour around the world is one thing; it doesn’t come from an endlessly-replenishing well. You sort of have to leave everybody behind in spectacular fashion, friends and family and whatever. It’s a big commitment and I just treasure every opportunity. The last time I was at Bluesfest it was just a spectacular gig; everything just came together that night. There was a euphoria in the air that swept us away. If it’s anywhere even close to that this time we’re going to have a great gig.”

Gray last passed our way in 2009, so he’s keen to introduce Australian audiences to his new band.

“It’s great that we’re coming back to do a really meaningful tour this time, with what is a really wonderful incarnation of the band,” he says. “It features seven people singing, and in order to give voice to this new music, that is what I deemed necessary. As much as it is a financial and organisational nightmare, it’s quite something when it all cranks up and everybody starts singing away. It feels important that we come down and do something; it’s been too long.”

His 1998 breakthrough White Ladder has sold seven million copies and counting, and while much of that album still features in his show, Gray has a new approach to wowing crowds.

“When my voice is in the centre and the mass harmonies are happening in four parts, I sing my solo but everyone else’s is doubled in some way,” he says. “It gives it this big sound; like a bank of vocals. It’s special to be singing together and is a holy thing, I think; it’s as close to the bone as it gets in terms of the spirituality of music. To sing together is a really wonderful thing. That’s very much at the core of the show, and through the filter of this new band I’ve passed the older songs, particularly the ones where the big backing vocals can play a part; songs like ‘My Oh My’ and ‘Silver Lining’. Every time I have a band and go out, I try to re-jig the songs. I don’t just leave them as they are and drag them out of the cupboard, but I try to do something new with them.”

With a tenth studio album, Mutineers, released in 2014, Gray has a strong body of work to choose from and a wealth of experience in festivals and intimate shows.

“Big outdoor shows are different,” he says. “For an audience who might not be as familiar with my new record as they are with a lot of the older stuff, I’ll have to play a slightly different hand. I’ll just have to choose my moments and get my point home with the new music and a slightly different strategy. Also, you’re time-restricted. The current set is just over two hours, so it’ll feel really short to us. I’ll just have to make sure it’s peppered with the goodies from the new music, yet hits the right buttons in the right places. It’s a science when you play to lots of people outside; you can be dealing with the weather and all sorts of crazy stuff. A festival crowd aggregates out with different levels of interest; people are there to see you who perhaps aren’t such avid fans as those who came to see you in a theatre somewhere.”

A man who has been as successful as Gray could be forgiven for taking an extended holiday, but that’s not on the cards for the singer-songwriter.

“We have [single] ‘Snow in Vegas’ coming out in America, so if that hits it would mean more offers from promoters,” he says. “It could change the year if it does well. I’m intending to do some solo shows around Europe, and then there will be some festivals. I’ll be writing some new songs and maybe record a bit of an album; there are still several dozen songs from the Mutineers period waiting to be captured officially, so that’s about as far as I’ve got.”

David Gray tour dates:

State Theatre, Sydney – April 1&2
Bluesfest Byron Bay – April 4
Palais Theatre, Melbourne – April 5

Mutineers (Good Soldier Songs) is out now.

For mX

Paolo Nutini: “Sometimes I let good things get me very high”

paolo nutini

It’s just gone lunchtime and Paolo Nutini isn’t having a great day.

“Sorry mate, the phone is making such a stupid noise right now. It’s this touchscreen phone thing they’ve got in the hotel – I just want to take my f**king hands to it, you know? It just won’t stop.”

Assurances that he can be heard perfectly and attempts to steer him towards the subject of music don’t deter the 27 year-old Scotsman from getting some choice complaints off his chest.

“I’m just in this hotel and it’s all so streamlined,” he says. “What I can’t stand are the taps and soap-dispensers. They should just have a handle that you turn to make the water come out, or a button you press to get soap. Now it’s all motion sensors; I’m standing in front of it like some sort of Jedi trying to wash my dirty hands, as if I have all day to stand here dancing with this f**king contraption.”

One subject that calms the multi-platinum-selling singer and songwriter down is Bluesfest, at which he will be performing in 2015, although it’s the memory of a previous festival experience that gets the conversation flowing most freely.

“The last time we played Bluesfest, I remember looking at the bill and seeing the name Rodriguez,” he says. “My friend had introduced me to his music when I was about 16 or 17, and I’ve always been fascinated by those two records of his. For years nobody knew anything about him; there was something otherworldly about him. People were wondering whether he was alive or not, and nobody could find out that information. I managed to meet the man himself that day. He was exactly what you would imagine, you know? Elegant, charming and everything I had hoped for. It was weird after that, because we got to know each other in a way; he came to our show in the States, I got to know his family and since then we’ve played on stage a couple of times together. One day I even got sent a little bit of footage of him singing my song ‘Last Request’, which is one of my prize possessions. Now, I play that song more the way he played it than I ever used to. I’m almost covering a cover of my own song. I’ve heard rumours of him making a new record; I just hope whoever is making it with him takes the right approach and makes it as good as it should be. I’m excited to hear what new music from him would be like.”

Nutini and his band will appear at the festival in April as part of a typically impressive line-up, which includes legendary funk godfather George Clinton.

“I love some of the mad sounds on the [Parliament/Funkadelic] records,” he says. “He’s a wild character and really individual. You don’t get a lot of George Clintons around in today’s music scene. The Black Keys are a great band; they seem to be smashing it wherever they go. And I believe there’ll be a bit of the Gypsy Kings as well. Alabama Shakes, Jurassic 5, Gary Clark Jr., Pokey LaFarge; it’s a pretty tasty bill. I’m just looking forward to getting on there playing, sampling the atmosphere and enjoying the fruits of the soil. I remember Byron Bay being a great smelling place [laughs].”

His latest album, Caustic Love, has earned rave reviews, but it only came about after over four years away from music; something Nutini offers several explanations for.

“Mainly because I’m f**king hopeless, that’s why,” he laughs. “Well, there’s an element of that, but sometimes I let good things get me very high and they can take me away somewhere. All of a sudden I can find that a few weeks have gone and that has had a knock-on effect when you’re working with other people as well – you can’t just pick up people and put them down. The other side of that is that I let negative things drag me down, you know? I can find myself wallowing; it’s something I’ve noticed about myself. Then I’ve just been liking the idea of working with my hands; I was getting a great sense of pleasure and achievement from days where maybe all I did was cook or plant a few things in the garden. I was picking up some wood and trying to do some carving. I was also travelling around places with no agenda; around Valencia and Barcelona then maybe to the Netherlands. I was re-tracing the footsteps of places I’d been on tour and not really seen much stuff, and I was writing all the time. I liked the fact that there was no schedule and no pressure. It’s nice to feel you’re not being challenged all the time. I think my body might’ve need a bit of life nutrition; I had to expand my mind a little bit.”

PAOLO NUTINI PLAYS BYRON BAY BLUESFEST SAT 4TH APRIL 2015. CAUSTIC LOVE IS OUT NOW.

For mX

Tord Øverland-Knudsen of The Wombats: “At our first practice we all had massive hangovers”

The Wombats

NEW year’s eve for Wombats bassist Tord Øverland-Knudsen normally means snow and family times in his native Norway.

The band’s upcoming appearance at Falls Festival will change all that.

“On a personal level it’s going to be strange,” he said. “I’ve never been away from Norway for New Year’s Eve; I’ve always been back with my family. I’m always home for a white Christmas and a really cold winter, so it’s going to be really weird to not have snow around I think. We’re really looking forward to the shows – Australia is our favourite part of the world to play in, and playing a big gig on New Year’s Eve is going to be pretty special. We’ve done a few pretty hot shows in America and Dubai and different places, so hopefully we can cope.”

The Liverpool-based trio have kept themselves relatively out of the spotlight in recent months, with work on a new album already under way.

“We’ve been in Liverpool working on new songs,” Øverland-Knudsen said. “We’ve been making the demos and trying to finish the third album. We’ve been to LA to record one song properly, and we’ve done a few gigs here and there in between. We went to Brazil, which was a nice experience; we did some headline shows in fairly small venues in both São Paulo and Rio. It was the first time we’ve been there and it was amazing; the gigs were packed and people knew our songs, which was kind of crazy. Hopefully we’ll finish the writing this year and record half of it before Christmas, and the other half in January, with the idea of a release around March or April, but you never know with these things. It depends on when producers are available and stuff like that as well.”

It has been a long road from when the band first got together in 2003 for them to arrive at the synth-led sound they are now known for.

“We met in university,” Øverland-Knudsen said. “At our first practice we all had massive hangovers, and in the beginning we were just really crap, but I’d like to think we’re not crap any more. Murph’s song-writing is still recognisable in the early stuff, but it was more like Pixies or Weezer; except more garage-y and immature, and his voice was softer and more high-pitched in the early days. After we released our first album we didn’t stop touring for about two and a half years, and we only wrote one song in that space of time. I think we almost forgot how to write a song, and I think you have to keep doing it for a while before you can make anything good. We had to get refreshed, take a month without doing anything with The Wombats, then get down to writing again.”

We wanted to do something different, and there was only so much we could do as a three-piece, and that’s when we brought the synths in. We had a couple of synths in a practice room and brought a couple more in because we didn’t know much about them before we started experimenting with them. After we wrote more and more songs, they became an integral part of most other songs, and it’s really great that we got to learn how to handle them. We’ll still be using them on the third record. I think that as soon as you experiment with something it’s really hard to go back – especially in the studio. I really love experimenting and using technology, but maybe at some point we’ll get really bored of that and just do a guitar album again, just the three of us.”

The band’s upcoming appearances at Falls, a New Year’s Day set at Field Day, and a gig at Southbound Festival on January 4th will allow Australian fans to sample new material.

“We’re really looking forward to coming back and doing some big gigs,” Øverland-Knudsen says. “We haven’t done that many shows recently, and it’s really exciting to be able to play some of the new songs. It’s going to be nerve-wracking as well; it always is with new songs, but it will be great to play them live in a place that we know appreciates our live shows. We’re really looking forward to it.”

THE WOMBATS PLAY FALLS FESTIVAL AT BYRON BAY JAN 2.