Known for their melodic, chaotic fusion of synth-pop and indie rock, English rock band the Wombats earned themselves a dedicated following with The Guide to Love, Loss, and Desperation, This Modern Glitch, and 2015’s Glitterbug. Their albums have sold over a million copies, garnering positive reviews and lengthy international tours for lead singer and guitarist Matthew “Murph” Murphy, drummer Dan Haggis, and bassist Tord Øverland Knudsen. Earlier this year, the Wombats welcomed a new era with the release their fourth studio album, Beautiful People Will Ruin Your Life. This fourth album is a noticeable shift in sound, removing some of their signature synth-pop elements in favor of psychedelic rock sound and Strokes-like guitar riffs.
We recently had the chance to talk with Matthew Murphy about Beautiful People Will Ruin Your Life, ridiculous lyrics, and most importantly–ice cream.
The Young Folks: In case some of our readers aren’t familiar with your work, can you describe your band in three words?
Murphy: Describe us in three words? Technical, self-deprecating–that’s probably two words. Frenetic? Frenetic maybe. I don’t know. I’m so dreadful at self-promotion (laughs).
TYF: You just recently wrapped up a tour for your latest album, Beautiful People Will Ruin Your Life–what would you say was the most memorable part of this tour?
Murphy: Definitely Alexandra Palace in London. I think it was our biggest headline show to date. It was just…nuts. Kids were getting crushed, we had to keep stopping–we stopped songs about four times. It was very intense but a pretty amazing gig. Something I’m never going to forget.
TYF: This latest album has a slightly different vibe than your other albums–some tracks have a slightly dreamier, psychedelic flair to them. Was there something that specifically inspired that? Or was it just that you wanted to explore something new?
Murphy: Well, yeah, one of the demos–I think it was “Cheetah Tongue” had this–yeah, what you said, psychedelic kind of flair to it. I don’t know where it really came from, but it was something we wanted to explore a little bit more. The main goal for me was mainly to keep this album a bit organic, not too many synths. I wanted to make something that would stand the test of time, I think. Just wanted to keep everything as analog as possible and not make it sound overly produced.
TYF: Did your writing/recording process differ in any way from prior albums?
Murphy: Yeah, I mean, 70% of the writing I did in Los Angeles, and then 30% I flew to Oslo and we wrote together, then we kind of smashed it all together in London and recorded it there with Mark Crew and Catherine Marks. So yeah that was the first. It was very kind of black and white–it was a good way of working, actually.
TYF: This album includes a song called “Ice Cream”–if you could describe each of your albums as a flavor of ice cream, what would they be?
Murphy: The first one would be some kind of sour sherbet raspberry ice cream, the second one would be charcoal vanilla, the third would be some kind of like swirl? Like a blueberry swirl. And the fourth would be…an almost caramel-y chocolate one with like molten salt in it. You know, one of those really nice ones where you get that kind of saltiness to it.
TYF: Delicious choices. All of your albums have such great names–how do you come up with them?
Murphy: A lot of them are kind of failed songs, really. Yeah, Beautiful People Will Ruin Your Life was a song idea at the start, but it just didn’t really go anywhere. But I liked it, and thought it represented the album very well as a whole, so that’s how that came about.
TYF: Do you have a favorite lyric you’ve written?
Murphy: No, not really, I can’t think of any now that you’ve got me on the spot–I struggle to think of any. There’s definitely some utterly ridiculous ones–oh, maybe “Don’t feed me plant food” from “Techno Fan” off the second album, because I still don’t think anyone gets it. It’s a lyric relating to methedrone–like a drug that really kicked off in the UK, which is a plant food and people started snorting it in illegal raves and things with a similar effect to molly and ecstasy. Most people just think I’m nuts when I start singing that line.
TYF: What have you guys been listening to recently from other artists?
Murphy: I’ve been listening to the Arctic Monkeys record quite a lot, to be honest. What else have I been listening to…I was thinking I should listen to a bit more Michael Jackson than I’ve been doing. Drake, I’ve been listening to quite a lot. Kendrick Lamar, we’re playing with him in Australia. What else…ah, that’s all I can think of right now.
TYF: If you could tour with any other band or artist, who would you choose? They can be dead or alive.
Murphy: I’d love to tour with Elliot Smith–but I don’t know if it would be amazing, it would be kind of a weird line-up.
TYF: It would certainly be a combination.
Murphy: Haha, yeah. We’re touring with Weezer and the Pixies this summer, and both of those bands were huge inspirations to us, so that’s a bit of a dream come true.
TYF: What’s up next for you, besides warming up for your summer and fall tours?
Murphy: Europeans festivals–I’m going back to Germany and England for some shows. We’re actually giving a talk at Oxford University, which is so weird. And then I’m starting a new project, which I’m writing for–I’m writing with and for other artists, so I’ve got my hands in a lot of pies, which is good.
TYF: Is there anything else you would love our readers to know?
Murphy: Uh…I don’t know, the album’s out? I have no idea (laughs). Again, I’m terrible at self promotion.