WRBBie Derek McCormack sat down with bassist Tord Overland-Knudsen of the Wombats last Tuesday April 24th at the Middle East in Cambridge. Check out the exclusive interview below!
Hello, this is Derek McCormack and I am here with…
Tord, from the Wombats. We’re just having a quick chat before their show tonight, here at the Middle East. Just have a few questions to ask, this will probably be pretty quick. So, what other musical artists would you say have had a huge influence on you, personally?
Um, I guess like I kind of started with a very different sort of genre than the one you know. I started out with classical music. My dad was really into classical music and I started playing cello when I was about six or seven. I think it was the skid punk like Millencolin and NOFX, The Offspring, Green Day that sort of thing made me think, “Oh this guitar music is really impressive and cool”. And shortly after that I found Weezer and Smashing Pumpkins and all of that nineties more grungy music. Foo Fighters, a bit later down the line. I guess that’s sort of what triggered my interest in being in a band and playing bass, I suppose. But this Norwegian band called Motor Psycho is probably like the band that really changed my taste in music. It’s kinda like more toward the Sonic Youth side of alternative scene and then all of a sudden there was all these different ways of arranging and playing and you know, it was just really interesting. You can make an eight minute long song instead of the usual sort-of punk song. Yeah, that sort of changed my taste. I mean, then I’ve gone through periods of loads of things. Radiohead changed a lot when they came out with Kid A, it was awesome. There was this technology thing that you could use within songwriting and being in a guitar band, that was really interesting as well. Yeah, so I pick influence from a lot of different things.
Okay. And the thing I’ve probably noticed the most is, especially because you guys are from Britain, definitely the whole Libertines, Arctic Monkeys kind of sound. Are you a fan of them as well?
Yeah well, I didn’t know too much about British music until I moved to the UK in like 2003, that’s when I sort of like got introduced to the indie clubs. I guess I was a fan of the Strokes before I moved to the UK, and I sort of found Joy Division and that sort of angle. So I guess I got a bit late into that whole lot. Also, the Smiths. I knew about these bands, but I never really understood how good they were until I moved to the UK. I mean, I do like the Libertines and I do like Arctic Monkeys, but I wouldn’t say that they were like a massive influence. I can understand why people say that we maybe sound similar. I think it’s maybe the lyrics and the words and a lot of the way Murph writes songs. There’s a lot of common ground there I suppose. And then accents! Singing in accents, it’s all that as well. I think all of us like to listen to State-side music as well.
Alright, well that’s cool, very cool. I guess I’ll move on then. So far, you guys have been together for a while now. What’s your favorite venue that you have played at?
Hmmmm….the problem is that we’ve played so many different ones. One of my favorite festivals that we ever played was in Japan, Fuji Rock Festival. It was by the Fuji mountains, and it was great. It was the first time we had come to Japan, it was very special and different experience. And there’s been a great many in the UK. Like, just to be able to play the Albert Hall that was like an experience. A lot of fun. Obviously like, ‘cause I’m from Norway, every time we come to Norway is really, like to be able to play venues where I used to go to see bands, that’s almost like a childhood dream. Rockafeller is one of the main venues. We played there and we sold it out, and it was pretty crazy. I was like, yeah, this is amazing. But I don’t know, there’s so many great venues.
Yeah, it must be hard to remember. Okay, what song are you most proud of, as a band? Is there one song where you just think, “Okay, we got it right”? Is there a song for you guys, or for you at least?
No, I think it’s unfair to pick one song. I like them all, it’s like picking your favorite kid. You know, you can’t really do that. I like them all for different reasons. The day Murph came into the practice room, on this second album writing process, he came into the room and played on the keyboard and sang, it was like a moment I’ll always remember, ‘cause I was like, “Wow, that’s, that is something else, that’s amazing”. ‘Cause I knew he was struggling at the time and to write a song like that was moving, and I knew it would be amazing. Yeah, it was a lot of fun working on that as well, because it was very different from anything we’d ever done. Like proper ballads (laughs).
That’s great. Also I’m just kind of curious about this: Besides other musical artists, what other things have influenced your music? Like books or movies or art or anything like that. Would you say there are many?
Well, I’d say a lot of our songs are story-based, like events, things that we do whether it’s on tour or at home. A lot of it are like silly things that happen. I think everything we do is just like, on a daily basis. It’s like very important for us. I’d say like 95 percent of the songs are about Murph’s life and his experiences. But yeah, in terms of art and stuff, I wouldn’t really say so. These are just like pictures of our lives.
Well , that’s very nice. How old were you when you first realized this is what you want to do, like be in a band? Or at least realize that you wanted to play music professionally?
Um, I was quite young actually. It was kind of a joke, I think I was about thirteen, fourteen, and I got asked, “What do you want to do when you get older?”, and I was like, “I want to be a rock star”. It’s not like, I don’t think you can ever be a rock star unless you actually really like prepare, you know think. You have to really want to be that sort of….I think we’re too down to earth to ever get to that stage. But, as far as I was thinking back then, “Okay, I want to be doing music full time, I want to be able to tour the world, and make songs. And that’s what I’m doing now, so I’m sort of doing exactly what I wanted to do when I was a teenager.
That’s very inspiring, I guess. A lot of people don’t end up that way. Okay, we’ll go back more to your music itself. What do you think is different about the second album, compared to the first?
Yeah, I mean, what people are saying what I think too, the songs are produced a lot. It sounds big, it’s more keeble. In terms of the songwriting, I think it’s maybe the lyrical contexts are even darker than some of the songs from the first album. And I think the music kind of follows the darker topics. I think the music is closer to what the lyrics are like, on this record. And on the first album, it was very much like at times there were dark lyrics, but it was quite happy music. Although I still think that we got that on this record. And, it was a very different process as well ‘cause on the first record, we played the songs live before we went into the studio and recorded them. And I think, for that reason, we had already tested the songs out on an audience, and also recorded them live, more or less. Most of the vocals were added after. This album, we sort of spent ages on details, and added like layer by layer, and spent like ten times as much time on this record. It just took a lot longer, because there’s a lot more detail, a lot more thinking put into it. Maybe because we didn’t have an audience to test it on, because we didn’t play gigs before we recorded the album. It was just songs we played for friends and family and the guys at the record label. So it was kind of like, “Is this good enough? How are people going to react to it?” Because it was kind of different as well. And, it went well and people seem to be liking the new stuff as much as the old stuff.
Yeah, I definitely do. A few more things left….Which music video was the most fun for you to be a part of?
I’d say “Backfire at the Disco”. Because, I actually enjoy roller skating, it was a lot of fun. And for that reason, it was a lot of playing around and doing stupid things. And I had my brother over as well and he was in the video. It was good fun having family members on the set as well. Yeah, I think that was the one I enjoyed the most. Yeah, it was quite fun when we did the video for “1996” as well, we were in scuba-diving outfits and we actually got to do the proper thing and swim with them. That was a lot of fun as well.
Yeah, it looks like a lot of fun, just watching them. You guys do some cool stuff.
I do enjoy doing music videos. I think we need that element of fun.
Alright, and I think I have two left. This is completely off-topic, but because I’m a Cinema major: What is your favorite movie?
Lost in Translation probably. I think it captures Tokyo and the same feeling I had when I came to begin with. It just captured things in such a…it’s perfection, I think, that movie. Yeah, it just makes me want to go back when I see it.
Okay, cool, very cool. So yeah, I guess I’ll finish things off: What’s next for the Wombats?
Well, we got three weeks left in the states, obviously, to finish off this tour, and then we’re gonna go back in the studio, in the practice room, and keep writing. We’ve already written three songs, so it’s exciting. It’ll be interesting to see where we go with this third album. By the sound of things already, it sounds like it’s going to be more guitar-ry. There’s hardly any keyboards whatsoever. But that could change, the next three songs we make could be all keyboard. It’s kind of like a bit like grungy, yeah it’s kind of like a bit different, again. But it keeps it interesting for us. I like to be able to dig into other things.
Alright, well thank you very much Tord, nice talking to you and I’m looking forward to the show tonight. This is DJ Derek from WRBB, and thanks for watching.