DMA’S: ‘We spend so much time in the UK…it feels like the right time to come home’
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20.07.2023

DMA’S: ‘We spend so much time in the UK…it feels like the right time to come home’

DMA'S
Words by Cody Brougham

Since their beginnings back in early 2014, Australia’s own DMA’s have consistently subverted expectations for a band’s typical journey.

Their first single Delete skyrocketed immediately to number 88 on the ARIA charts, and after drawing a legion of fans at home and abroad including the likes of Liam Gallagher, the band have continued to expand upon their initial traction, where many bands falter at such lofty early expectations.

Their most recent album How Many Dreams has continued the band’s meteoric rise, as the band took a left turn from their earlier Brit-pop roots and headed into a more electronic era with their most danceable record to date. Critical acclaim and new chart heights have followed, and after playing sold-out shows around the UK and Europe the group has announced a 19-date Australian tour this spring.

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Speaking to guitarist Johnny Took during a brief stint back in Melbourne, the band have clearly recovered as strong as ever from the dark period of Covid that briefly put the whole music industry on pause.

Their most recent venture overseas included sold-out shows in Ireland, England, the Netherlands and Germany, and although their sound may have shifted towards a more dance-centric area begging for parties, the band have been able to mature on stage and evolve their live sound for the growing audience.

“We did Wembley Arena, which was an amazing gig,” Johnny says. “It was quite a simple layout which I kind of like, I like those shows where it’s just a big hall you know, maybe a bit of tiered seating on the side.

“I think it’s just like any job that you have. You get better at the little things, we’re onto the fourth album now and maybe a little smarter when it comes to touring. The live show has come a long way, especially after incorporating some of the songs with more of the electronic elements in it, it’s rounded off the set a lot more now.

“There are still those big singalong moments with Delete and Silver, but there are songs off the new album that have really brought a new energy, we’re feeling like all bases are covered now.”

A band much loved for their UK influence, you can almost visualise songs such as album closer De Carle pounding through the walls of the iconic Hacienda back in the early 1990s, and although a quick image search of DMA’S may show the group adorned with their favoured acoustic guitars, Johnny’s studio now features a wall lined with iconic synthesizers and a tumble of wires.

Change can be jarring for longtime fans, but the new direction may just be the injection needed to revitalise their already polished show and provide new energy to concertgoers, returning to the live scene in the hangover of the Covid shutdown.

“There are a lot of upbeat songs, and even though they’re not fully electronic, it’s nice to just incorporate some aspects of it in there. It’s like in the 2000s – New Order were still a rock band, but they were bringing those elements of electronic music into their set.

“It’s definitely elevated the live show a lot, there’s a lot of really upbeat, feel-good songs on the new album so we’ve enjoyed putting those into the setlist.

“It’s funny, Delete was always the big song, and then Silver was our big song from The Glow, but we’ve been doing these shows in the UK and the one song we always know that people are really going to get into seems to be Everybody’s Saying Thursday’s The Weekend.

“I feel like if there’s a few songs off each album that people really want to hear live, then that’s enough. People are always going to want to hear songs off the first EP, they’re going to want to hear songs off the first and second records, but you can’t always play them all.”

“Every time it’s just like tightening the screws of the set. There’s going to be songs that you only incorporate for a tour, but then there’s songs that really stick around and they become staples of the live show and I really love that aspect of it.”

Appropriating new sounds into the live set can often be a challenging task. As the sound expands and new elements are brought in, the band have had to adapt to a new set of challenges while their shows continue to grow bigger every tour.

It’s no secret that fans are finding it harder to reach into their pockets and find reasons to spend their dwindling resources on live music, so while the public has higher expectations of what production should be, the band have taken on the challenge to always evolve as they quickly approach the ten-year mark of first being introduced to the public.

“Like anything you just don’t bite off more than you chew. You just take little steps, and then all of a sudden two years later it’s a completely different show. All of a sudden the band’s playing better and the arrangements are better than ever.

“When we first started out we were literally just a rock band on stage, you know? There’s a lot more going on now and to be honest, I’ve really enjoyed the growth there.

“I think people in whatever industry they’re in, they want to keep learning, they want to keep growing, and that’s the approach we’ve taken. We’re always quite curious about how we can grow and adapt. Some fans just want to hear the first album, or sometimes they really like the latest record, and I think at the end of the day fans just enjoy coming along for the ride and adapting with you.”

The band’s 19-date tour of Australia is their largest to date. As well as hitting usual stops such as The Forum and Enmore Theatre, they’ve decided to spread their wings and explore the country, stopping in more regional towns for the first time.

Starting in Hobart, the tour sprawls upwards along the East Coast and visits many live music-starved regions that have been crying out for a tour like this. In Victoria alone, Frankston, Castlemaine, Torquay and Wodonga can all expect the group later this spring.

“It’s really unique for us because we’ve never done a regional tour before for our own shows, so this is the biggest Australian tour we’ve done so far. I love driving around Australia, so I’m excited to go up to places like Castlemaine and Torquay, and going up to Cairns for the first time.

“I think it’s long overdue. We spend so much time in the UK and we’ve done a bit of regional touring there, but it feels like the right time to come home and do a big tour in Australia.”

It’s the band’s first time touring the country via the scenic route, as opposed to flying in and out for each stop. Spending a tour crammed into a bus can be a much more gruelling and monotonous task. Johnny assures the band will be able to survive each other’s company.

“[Laughs] I think we’ll be fine. We were doing eight-hour drives in Europe recently, so we’ll survive. I think we’re just going to have fun playing some new venues and meeting new people after the shows. Obviously, when you go to regional towns, the gigs will be a little bit smaller and more intimate – we really enjoy doing those as well. I think it can be quite memorable for people.”

Although places like Torquay are a million miles away from the dazzling lights of Wembley – both geographically and figuratively – Johnny’s insistent that every show is just as important to the band. Traversing the world and exploring different cities, in different settings, is all part of the job and the band are just grateful to be there and engaging with fans.

“Obviously every show’s different, but I love them all to be honest. Before Covid hit I was starting to get pretty tired, we’d been pretty much non-stop touring for five or six years. Now that’s over, I just feel really blessed to play every gig that we have, I just want to see the crowd and see people enjoy live music, it’s one thing I don’t take for granted anymore.

“I remember what it was like when we couldn’t play shows and that makes you really realise how important that is. I spent a lot of time in the studio – a lot of musicians did – but there’s no point in writing the songs in the studio if you don’t get to see people singing them back.

“Some people are fine just writing in the studio and that’s cool, but for me, I need to see and feel that connection to  make sure that the song has done its bit.”

Grab DMA’S tickets here.