Back in 2008, it seems that Liverpool trio The Wombats were poised for huge things. Their debut album, A Guide To Love, Loss And Desperation, had been released towards the end of 2007 and its singles ‘Moving To New York’ and ‘Let’s Dance To Joy Division’ were being heard at indie club nights all across the country – so much so that the latter song won an NME award for Best Dancefloor Filler. But then, things slowed down. That well-known prophecy about the "difficult second album" proved itself to be truer by the day.
In the end, it took almost four years, much heartache and a lot of headaches for their sophomore effort to finally appear. Entitled This Modern Glitch, with its spritely, upbeat tunes and deceptively mopey lyrics, it still sounds like The Wombats, but the band – frontman Matthew ‘Murph’ Murphy, Dan Haggis (drums) and Tord Øverland-Knudsen (bass) – have introduced synths into the equation. Here, Murph talks about the rocky road that got them there.
It’s been four years since the last album. You probably get this question a lot, but what took so long?
I don’t know. It was three-and-a-half years, I guess. Four sounds much worse. But the first album was so easy. We were so full of confidence and we thought we were brilliant, but this album has obviously taken a lot of hard work. We were really banging our heads against the wall. But I essentially think it’s better than the first and I think it’s probably an easy road to go down for the future. But you always get the best results if you opt to go the hard way.
You recorded the album in LA with numerous different producers. How did that shape album? It must be difficult to switch from one person to another to another.
It was quite nice, actually. There was always a refreshing atmosphere every time we changed. But that was never the plan. We had a batch of songs that we needed to record, so we went and did them, then ending up redoing some with other producers. We went to LA seven times.
Do you think being there influenced the record?
Not really. We could have been anywhere really. But it was nice to have some days off in the sun. It was also important to not be around friends or family and get cabin fever.
Did you find it difficult not recording stuff for so long?
It has been very tough indeed. But we’re a live band. When we’re doing gigs, we’re at home. We love that and we love the challenges it brings. We had 35 songs written for this album and there’s only ten songs on the album. We got beaten up by the label quite a lot.
In terms of...?
In terms of them getting all of our potential out of us. Essentially, it was really good that they pushed us and we got these songs out. I guess it has been a fairly interesting little journey. But everything’s calmed down now. We’re back on the road and life is slowly getting back to normal.
Before you started touring again, you hadn’t played a gig for almost a year. Did it take time to get used to it again?
Yeah. Our first gig back was a festival in Australia called Parklife. It was five gigs in the main cities. We literally finished recording with Butch Walker [one of the producers], had one day rehearsal and flew to Australia from LA, got off the plane and did a gig. There were about 20,000 people at the festival. We were relatively high up the bill and I was nearly throwing up beforehand. We totally blagged it. We pulled it off, but it was the first time we’d ever played some of these songs and I think because we got thrown in at the deep end straight away we didn’t have to relearn the ropes, we just had to deal with.
What’s the reaction been like to the new songs?
It’s been good. I was reading this thing on the internet, which said we could be the best indie rock band in the world, that all we needed to do was release A Guide To Love, Loss And Desperation two or three more times. But we needed to change, just for ourselves. For fans, I don’t know. If I was in love with a band, I wouldn’t want them to do the same thing again.
Does it annoy you when people want you to?
I guess so. But they’re all twisted pop songs at the end of the day – this album, the last album. It’s just a matter of what uniform you want to dress them in.
How much of you would you say is in this album, compared to the last one. Is it more personal
Yeah. I’d say it’s more personal, especially the song ‘Anti-D’. I felt the need not to write songs that were just stories. I felt like I wanted them to be a bit more from me, as opposed to me just being slapped at a disco. I wanted to say more.
Do you have much touring planned for the year?
Yeah. Pretty much till Christmas. We're at the back end of a UK tour now, then Scandinavia, back here for the album release, European tour, festivals and shows in Australia, back for the UK and European festivals, off to America briefly, back for a bigger UK tour in November. We do love it. I've had sinusitis this tour - it's exhausting, but it's so much fun. We did 450 shows in two years. It was absolutely ridiculous. No wonder we felt like sh*t when we finished.