As we steer into a new year, it’s easy to get lost within our thoughts and lose perspective of everything. Sometimes we just need an escapism through music with reflective lyrics to reconfigure our thoughts, and that’s what The Wombats have created within their fifth studio album.
‘Fix Yourself, Not The World’ is a record that hears the British trio actively pushing their sonic like they’ve never done before while still capturing their signature high energy tone. There is a really animated tone to tracks like ‘Flip Me Upside Down’, ‘This Car Drives All By Itself’, and ‘Don’t Poke The Bear’ which steers the record to feel like an immersive and bright body of work. It draws the listener in with its bouncy and festival ready singalong’s, before punching you with strong and reflective lyrics. There is a lot of heart present, and therefore it feels ultimately relatable. And the song’s hooks are sharp and infectiously catchy which will have you ready to experience them live on their upcoming Australian tour in June.
I recently chatted to drummer Dan Haggis from The Wombats about the visual and experimental identity behind their fifth studio album ‘Fix Yourself, Not The World’, the creative process behind ‘This Car Drives All By Itself’, and discussed the unique opportunity to play the album live in its entirety on tour before it officially came out. Check it out BELOW;
THOMAS BLEACH: ‘Fix Yourself, Not The World’ is a vividly charged record that feels quite animated through Murph’s storytelling which has then been translated through the bright production and the animated visuals. When you were working on this record were you immediately seeing a visual identity for it with where you wanted it to sit as a whole package compared to your previous records?
DAN HAGGIS: Often when we are describing where we are going with songs, we will talk in colours and imagery. It’s a pretty good way to visualise how the sound is going to be and feel. In terms of the artwork itself, it was mainly just that Murph was a big fan of eBoy as he had a poster on his wall of Groove Armada’s album cover which they did. He suggested that we do something like that given what the album was about. So we got in touch and they came back quickly and said they would love to do it. We just sent them a bunch of pictures of where the world was at in our minds, and what this album is talking about thematically. It was a little bit Black Mirror *laughs*. We love what they did. Every time you look at it you find something different and go on a different journey.
TB: Who is one of your favourite characters on the album cover that your eyes instantly go to?
DH: My favourite one is the little skeleton doing yoga! I’m actually thinking of getting him printed on my drum skins for the upcoming tour. I just love him!
TB: You’ve explained that on this album you were all quite conscious to push your sound and experiment more than you have previously. So how did you navigate that? Did you find yourselves pulling each other up when you may have started to go down a familiar route?
DH: Yeah, I suppose a little bit. We did a few writing sessions over in LA at the beginning of the process. One of the first songs we did was ‘Ready For The High’. Once we got to where the chorus was going to be we decided to do something we had never done before and go from a straight beat to a swung beat, and deliberately change the feel of the song halfway through. It took us a while to figure out how to do it, but we got there, and I feel like we did it in a way that didn’t feel too jarring. Then once we got to the second chorus we decided to do a brass solo which was again something we had never done before. We really didn’t want to tread any old ground deliberately, but at the same time, you can’t really change what makes The Wombats when it’s us three doing it. Another song that was really different was ‘Method To The Madness’.
TB: Is there a unique instrument or sample on this record that people can listen out for?
DH: There are loads of little bits to look out for! Towards the end of the second verse of ‘Everything I Love Is Going To Die’ there is a little funny sample that lives there. We had this sampler keyboard that I was mucking around with as the producer Mark Crew encouraged me to go in and give him a bunch of random sounds that he could later cut up. So I was being really stuipid with it, and for one of them I started yelling “what the fuck, what the fuck” in a Scottish accent, and he cut it up and it’s now in there. We only figured out he included it while we were mixing the song *laughs*.
TB: What song on the record went through the most versions to get it to where it is now?
DH: Probably, ‘If You Ever Leave, I’m Coming With You’. We had been working for 6 weeks with Mark Crew, and it was in the middle of lockdowns and we were all placed in different spots. So Mark had to keep up with files coming to him from London and Los Angeles, and make sure all the sessions lined up. So he was flat out the whole time. He was trying so hard to get that song perfect and finished, and he ended up doing 7 versions before we got it over the line. We told him to have a break over Christmas and then return to it with fresh ears, and once he did that he absolutely nailed it straight away.
TB: ‘This Car Drives All By Itself’ is an athemic track that immediately stands out on the record. So what was the creative process behind this track?
DH: Murph had this song idea where the overarching theme was that we row but the universe steers. It was a phrase he heard somewhere and thought it was interesting, but he didn’t want to specifically say it like that. He then saw a car driving near his house one day and it looked like there was no driver. So he thought “this car drives all by itself” has the same metaphorical meaning to it. The song then sprouted from there.
In terms of recording it, it was one of those songs where Tord was in Oslo, I was in London, and Murph was in Los Angeles with Jacknife Lee who produced it. I met up with Jacknife at nine oclock at night and did a 3-4 hour night shift on my own with him. It was really fun as you could just go crazy on your one instrument, record backing vocals, and do a bunch of random noises, and then it’s all up to the producer. We had never done that before as we’ve always had a hands-on approach with production, but for the songs we did without Mark we had more of a collaborative approach which was cool.
TB: The music video for the song sees you becoming characters in a racing game. So if you were all to verse each other in a racing video game who is most likely to win?
DH: *Laughs* Well unfortunately Murph won in this one, and I came last which I don’t really know how that happened. But I do think it would be between me and Murph, as Tord doesn’t really like driving very much. I actually don’t own a car, and Murph has a car and drives more than I do, so I would say Murph would come first, but I would beat Tord in reality.
TB: You’ve just wrapped up a very intimate record store tour in the UK where you played the new album live in its entirety, which is something you don’t really ever get to do now. So how has being able to do this to release the album specifically shaped your connection with this record?
DH: It was such an amazing experience. At first we were only planning to play a bit of the album and then we got the idea of “why don’t we just play the album from start to finish and then do an encore of favourites”. Then the album got pushed back a week because of vinyl pressing issues and the idea became even better as it became a live album listening party.
We have only done 3 shows together over the past 2 years, and we haven’t even been in the same room together while doing the album, so it felt so cool making this really noise together and seeing everyone’s reaction to the songs for the first time. It was such a special week. But we are all absolutely broken now *laughs*. We are so out of training for touring.
TB: Has there been a song from the album you’ve been surprised with how it’s been perceived by the audiences, or by how it feels playing it, which makes you definitely want to play it on the upcoming full tour?
DH: I think one of the most surprising one’s for me was actually ‘Wildfire’. We all obviously love the song, but we didn’t realise how catchy the chorus was until we played it live, as by the time the second chorus came along the crowd were already singing along. It was a proper goosebumps moment.
‘Fix Yourself, Not The World’ is out now!
The Wombats 2022 Australian Tour
Sunday 5 June – HBF Stadium, Perth
Tuesday 7 Junes – City Hall, Hobart
Thursday 9 June – Adelaide Entertainment Centre, Adelaide
Friday 10 June – John Cain Arena, Melbourne
Saturday 11 June – Hordern Pavillion, Sydney *SOLD OUT*
Wednesday 15 June – UC Refectory, Canberra *SOLD OUT*
Friday 17 June – The Riverstage, Brisbane