It’s a chilly night when I sit down with The Wombats frontman Murph, as Groovin The Moo continued to roll on around us. It’s perhaps the third time I’ve sat down with Murph, testament to the long-running relationship the British band have had with Australia – we can’t remember how long it’s been since their last tour or how many times they’ve been on the festival circuit, but their return feels oddly homely. It might not have been a shock welcome back, but it was a fond one nonetheless.
The band’s appearance on the Groovin The Moo tour was also accompanied by a select run of headline shows celebrating the 10th anniversary – yes, 10th – of their acclaimed debut album, A Guide to Love, Loss & Desperation, particularly a bucket list gig at the Sydney Opera House this week.
Reflecting on the sheer amount of touring The Wombats have been able to accomplish since that 2007 album release, Murph admits he’s learned how to deal with the tour life better over time.
“I feel like I can do down time better now than I maybe could before.” he says. “I’d freak out. Between the first and second album releases, I didn’t know what the fuck was going on. Now I understand that there are two separate lives happening and I know how to deal with it.”
“We finished [touring 2015’s Glitterbug] at the end of last summer and all of a sudden, another two months in the US got put in. That was brutal, but we made it to the end and enjoyed every show. Sometimes the traveling was a bit of a pain but it was fine. We always pull through.”
With pockets of great memories and friends in most corners of the globe now, thanks to touring, Murph has a particular soft spot for the American West Coast. He’s been living in Los Angeles for a little while now and attributes a positive personal influence to the constant sunshine and creative liberty that the City of Angels offers.
“The sun and the people and the friends I’ve made, other musicians and stuff, it’s all much more inspiring.” he says. “I think London is more insular, like how New York can be. I love it there, it’s great. I spent a lot of time in LA before and we recorded all of the second album there and some of the third. I used to just get on a plane and go over there and spend a couple of weeks just writing in a room or whenever I’d get bored of the English weather. On one of those trips, I met someone and then that was a thing that started happening. She moved to London to be with me for eight months on the premise that we were going to go back to LA, so I was happily dragged there!”
Though he is now based in LA, Murph will soon return to London to join Dan Haggis and Tord Øverland Knudsen in the studio to put Album Number Four together. Differing slightly from Glitterbug, he’s confident about the direction The Wombats are heading in currently.
“I think our dynamic is the strongest it’s ever been, at this point.” he admits. “I wouldn’t say it’s been a gradual slope, at least not in my head. It feels really good to be in The Wombats right now and I’m looking forward to Album Four. Everything feels exciting.”
“It feels like it’s a good time to make a guitar album. Not that it’s going to be strictly guitars, but it definitely feels like a more relevant time for guitar music than maybe when we released our last album.”
Working with producer Mark Crew, who was also onboard for the Glitterbug sessions, Murph takes us through the process behind the new Wombats album as it’s been playing out.
“There’s quite a lot of songs, to be honest.” Murph says. “We’ve already got studio time booked in, so I’m hoping that this one is going to have a quicker turnaround than the previous three, really. Mark Crew is producing it in conjunction with Catherine Marks, who did The Amazons and she’s doing lots of cool, new guitar music in the UK. She’s also a female, which is so good for us; we fall in to line way quicker. It’s sad to say, but it’s the truth! She’s been great. Sometimes, if a guy tells one of us to do something we’re like, ‘Nah we don’t really agree with that, so we’re not going to do that,’ whereas when she’s telling us, ‘Just do this,’ then it’s like, ‘Oh okay, yep’.”
“It’s maybe gotten a little more psychedelic, but it’s still poppy.” he adds, of the new material. “I feel like the lyrics are more like the lyrics I used to write on the first album. I always say this with every album, but this time I really feel like they seem more exciting to me. Just as weird, if not weirder. I’m really excited about it.”