The Wombats talk fatherhood, feeling zen and thriving in a post-indie world
2 years ago
The Wombats are set to launch their brand new album and Alex Green has caught up with the Liverpool band, ahead of its release
The Wombats have built their brand around spiky guitars, frantic live shows and frontman Matthew “Murph” Murphy’s angsty lyrics, but the Liverpool band’s new album, Fix Yourself, Not The World, is a burst of colour and full of polished pop songs.
Has becoming a father and moving to Los Angeles cheered up their singer and changed their sound? Not quite.
“It’s the same angst,” Murph deadpans. “I’m 37 years old but I have the soul of a 13-year-old.”
Murph and drummer Dan Haggis join the video call from London. Bassist Tord Overland Knudsen is absent. It’s been 10 days since they reunited in person for the first time in many months to film a music video for the new record.
Murph moved to Los Angeles with his wife Akemi in 2016 before welcoming daughters Dylan and Kai. He has two dogs – an American bulldog and a Rottweiler-Doberman cross. Domestic life may have eased his self-deprecative streak – but only slightly.
“My two children have thrown a huge spanner into the works – an amazing spanner,” he jokes. “I’m not sure it has changed the creative aspect of my life that much. I do find myself maybe trying to jam Baby Shark melodies into songs.”
Picture credit – Tom Oxley
Murph may be reluctant to admit it, but The Wombats have shifted away from the knowing irony of songs such as Let’s Dance To Joy Division, towards something sunnier and more vulnerable.
“A better way of saying it is that a lot of pressure has been removed by the addition of the children,” he adds. “The Wombats is a very important thing in my life, but not the most important thing in my life anymore. And I think that’s actually made it better.”
Murph admits that living in Los Angeles has changed him (his bandmates tease him for adopting words like “sidewalk”). “I am maybe a stronger individual and 10% happier living over there. But whether any of that has fed into the music we make is… I’m not sure about that.”
The Wombats met in 2003 while studying at the Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts so it’s been nearly two decades since their debut. In that time they have become a quiet phenomenon, attracting a new generation of fans largely unaware, or unbothered by, their origins in the now uncool indie scene.
While many of their contemporaries (often dismissively described as “landfill indie”) have fallen by the wayside, The Wombats have only grown in popularity and are now playing arenas and starting TikTok trends.
How have the band weathered the storm? “It’s not an easy question,” Haggis muses. “When you’re in a band I suppose one of the essentials is that all three of us have from the word go had this ‘on a mission’ attitude.
“It helps obviously that we have played together for so long and musically I feel like we gelled really well from the beginning. Murph’s songwriting is obviously unique and all the rest of it.
“And the live – I think there’s a frantic energy that we’ve always had. We all take so much from performing music that I feel like people who come to shows feel that same thing as well. We’re looking for a connection and looking for those moments. I never feel more zen than when I am on stage having a shocker.”