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The Sound

The Wombats continue to defy expectations

12/9/2015

Over the past decade, The Wombats have firmly staked out a place in the long line of great Liverpool bands. Originally pitched to the world as an indie rock band, The Wombats have evolved with each album and do not put much stock in that — or any — label anymore.

The Wombats play Wooly’s on Wednesday, Dec. 16 at 7:30 p.m. Photo by Matilda Finn

The Wombats play Wooly’s on Wednesday, Dec. 16 at 7:30 p.m. Photo by Matilda Finn

“People always try to pigeonhole bands into genres,” said drummer Dan Haggis. “Every album we’ve done has been different sounding. ‘Indie’ doesn’t really describe music very well anymore. There was obviously a period when that meant something, but that’s kind of gone by the wayside nowadays, I think.”

For its latest release, “Glitterbug,” the group teamed up with Bastille producer Mark Crew for an album that has a brighter sound than just about anything they have released previously, infused with faux electronic dance music (EDM) beats and upbeat tempos.

“We’ve always worked in a kind of co-production way with all of our albums,” Haggis said, discussing Crew’s influence on the album and the band’s sound. “Sonicly, Mark brought the whole album together and made it sound like one piece, as opposed to a collection of different songs. He’s really good at working with drum sounds and bass sounds and making it sound whole.

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“He was great at going between the three of us, trying to mediate (the album). That’s one of the most important things a producer can do — pull musicians together and keeping us on track.”

That task was made more difficult for “Glitterbug,” because the band was rarely working in the same space. While The Wombats’ first two studio albums were written in a more traditional fashion, for “Glitterbug,” front man Matthew “Murph” Murphy spent most of the writing period in Los Angeles, while Haggis and bassist Tord Øverland Knudsen stayed in Liverpool.

“Murph has always written all the lyrics,” Haggis explained. “He’s a really great lyricist and, being the singer, it’s important that he feels a connection to the things he’s singing. So, usually, he’ll bring a song in, and we’ll all arrange it and kind of tweak it until it sounds like how we want it. On the second album, we kind of jammed more beforehand, and then he would take that product off and write lyrics for it. But for this album, since he was in L.A., Tord and I would work up what were almost backing tracks and send them to him. He’d work with some and turn them into songs, or he would send some back, and we’d retool them and send them back.”

In many ways, this back and forth has helped the band put together what might be its tightest work to date, with Crew’s guiding hand helping keep everything coherent and flowing well. “Glitterbug” is still vintage Wombats, of course, but comes off as a very different sounding album from the band’s debut, which is par for the course for a band that never sounded like anyone thought they should.

“When we first started, a lot of people — mostly journalists — said, ‘You guys don’t really sound like you come from Liverpool,’ ” Haggis said. “I think it’s because one of the guys (Tord) is actually from Norway, so we’re not all from Liverpool. Obviously, we love Liverpool, but the world is a lot smaller now, and the influences come from all over.

“We had the chance to meet Sir Paul McCartney (while studying at McCartney’s Liverpool Institute for the Performing Arts), and he told us he loved (2007 single) ‘Let’s Dance to Joy Division.’ I think that gave us plenty of confidence that we were heading in the right direction.” CV

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