“I hope people take the message of acceptance and letting go; stop trying to control the uncontrollable and put your arms around your demons. That’s what I try to do, and this album marked part of that journey,” says Dan Haggis, drummer, backing vocalist and keyboardist for The Wombats.
“Fix Yourself, Not the World” – The Wombats
If you’re filled with unresolved issues and unconfronted demons, then you won’t be as helpful to the world and the people around you.
For anyone interested in indie-guitar rock, the Wombats are a key feature. The band’s debut single “I’m Moving To New York” and classics “Let’s Dance to the Joy Division” and “Greek Tragedy” are still ringing loud and clear at festivals and bars around the world years after their release. But, neither of their respective albums got the top spot as Fix yourself, not the world done this January.
Today I had a great idea
I jumped up and grabbed the coin
I drowned out the noise
There’s no room for mistakes here
Everybody wanna be the man
The singer of the group
Sometimes I go to sleep in my bed
Sometimes I stay awake
Sometimes I forget
Everything I love is going to die
So baby keep your big mouth shut
And stop wasting my time
Icarus was my best friend
So I’ll make him proud in the end
Everything I love is going to die
– “Everything I love is going to die», The Wombats
Rare is the circumstance that a band does not reach its peak until 16 years after its first band of top 20 hits. But, with their biggest show yet, the trio’s first sold-out gig at the O2 Arena coming in April, and a UK number 1 album under their belts, it looks like The Wombats are doing just that.
After the release of their fifth studio album focused on funk and pop, Fix yourself, not the worldBritish indie rockers The Wombats sat down with Atwood magazine to reveal how they hit their first UK number one over 16 years after releasing their debut single.
A CONVERSATION WITH WOMBATS
Atwood Magazine: Fix yourself, not the world came out on Friday. And, like all your albums, it delves into complex themes and emotions. Now that it’s out, how is your relationship with the album evolving? Does public broadcasting help release the thoughts and emotions associated with it?
Dan Haggis: For us, making music and writing songs is like the best therapy imaginable. We can express our thoughts and feelings and capture everything we experience. So yeah, once it comes out there’s a feeling of release, especially when we’re playing the songs live and having that interaction with the crowd. This is when the songs really come to life, and every night we can all relive a bit of what happened in the songs.
The disc is obviously called Fix yourself, not the world, but the title track, “Fix Yourself, Then the World”, is slightly different. Was it always the plan or a retrospective decision after realizing you can fix aspects of both sometimes?
Haggis: It was a retrospective decision. We wanted to use this jam as an interlude or last song on the album, and when we discussed the title of the album, we realized that we wanted people to understand that the title shouldn’t be taken as a selfish statement. We wanted to make sure the meaning was clear; if you are filled with unresolved issues and unconfronted demons, then you will not be as useful to the world and the people around you.
You formed a band in 2003 and have had relatively consistent success since the release of your debut album. 19 years after its formation, it’s generally expected that a band’s trajectory will shrink and venues will get smaller, but you’re about to play the the biggest British show of your career at the O2 in London. What do you think made it possible for you to get there?
Haggis: A bit of luck, a lot of perseverance, a lot of love and passion for what we do and literally the best fans in the world.
I think you’ve said in previous interviews that the first records were much more cynical, whereas this record finds its strength in positivity. I think in indie music in particular, sad or more cynical music is put on a pedestal compared to happy music. Why do you think that is?
Haggis: I think that given the therapeutic nature of songwriting, it’s inevitable that songs are written during times of sadness, anxiety or reflection, because the simple act of making music can help mitigate and make sense of those feelings. It’s definitely harder to do genuinely positive lyrics, I would say, but musically we’ve almost always had an upbeat feel to the songs. It comes naturally because when we all get together in a room, we have a lot of fun. It’s fun to dance and sing your blues!
This record, sonically, is such a cohesive piece of work. But it’s also probably the record on which you experimented the most with incorporating a wider range of genres and sounds. What do you think prompted you to take this chance?
Haggis: We tried to push ourselves on every album we made, but I think on this album we went further than ever. It’s probably a combination of getting better at producing and songwriting and having done a few side projects (Sunship Balloon and Love Fame Tragedy). We dove into slightly different musical territory, so when we all got together in a room, we could tap into an even wider canvas of sound.
Recently, your tracks have had some success on social media, with “Greek Tragedy” going viral. Apps like TikTok have completely changed music consumption, sales, and even the way people go out and make music. Since your beginnings, what do you think have been the biggest changes in people’s attitude towards the consumption and dissemination of music?
Haggis: Streaming is, of course, the most important. When we released our first album, legal streaming and social media barely existed. Since then, the shift to online consumption and social media interaction has taken over. As a fledgling band, the only way for us to get our music out there was to burn our own CDs and sell them at gigs. Then Myspace came along and started the change. But these days, fans can discover new music through such a wide range of apps and services that bands no longer rely on the head of a label or radio station to get a song off the ground; you just need the right playlist or influencer to give your song a boost. It certainly added a few more layers to the lottery nature of the music industry! We still make albums because we love them, and there are still a lot of people who want to listen to an album from start to finish, rather than just your best songs on a DSP.
As a band, the Wombats are truly a “live” band, playing tons of gigs and festivals. But this aspect keeps coming back for artists. when you were writing Fix yourself, not the world, you didn’t know when or if you could go around the slopes. Did this have an impact on your approach to writing the album compared to previous records?
Haggis: Not really. We knew we’d be back on the road at some point, and since our debut album, we’ve been creating and producing songs that felt great in the studio, with lots of layers and details in there. We tend to figure out how to play a song live after recording it; it’s always fun trying to get an idea of the games we’re going to play! This often leads me to do octopus, play drums and keyboards simultaneously while singing. We all enjoy the challenge of coordination!
And finally, what did you personally learn from the process of make this record, and what do you hope others get out of it?
Haggis: For me, I will always remember the oddity of being separated for recording, but how we all came together and focused on making the best album possible and the challenges ahead. The title of the album and the general introspection and reassessment of life that took place during the confinements too. It was a real journey of an album for us.
I hope people take the message of acceptance and letting go; stop trying to control the uncontrollable and put your arms around your demons. That’s what I’m trying to do, and this album was part of that journey.
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