Lost at Splendour: Interview with DMA’s

DMA’s are one of those bands that get lumped into the ‘overnight success’ category.

And, true enough, they had big success with the hit ‘Delete’. But it was hardly the first song they wrote.

The trio had holed up in a flat in Sydney’s inner west suburb of Newtown, writing and recording for years before they launched into the stratosphere.

Of course, since their self-titled EP came out, it’s been non-stop for the lads, touring relentlessly, while managing to also release their debut album, Hills End, which killed in the Aussie charts.

Still in the middle of a crazy, worldwide tour, DMA’s have come home to play Splendour in the Grass, with the boys appearing at the Amphitheatre at 3:15pm on Friday, July 22.

Ahead of their set, we caught up with vocalist Tommy O’Dell, to talk the amazing people they’ve worked with, unexpected crowd reations in Japan, and just how the band are recording now they don’t have the digs in Newtown anymore.

You’re in the middle of a globe-trotting tour that’s set to stretch well over a year. How is life on the road? Can you tell us about some of the people you’ve met and most memorable places you’ve been to on your journey?

“It’s exciting being in a new city almost everyday. We’ve had a chance to play music and travel, which is something I’ve always wanted to do growing up. Some of the most memorable places I’ve played are Tokyo, Bologna and Glasgow. Because of the unsuspected crowd response.

“Last year we recorded a tune of our album with a producer called Youth Orient. He’s done heaps of cool shit like worked with Pink Floyd, The Verve and played in a band with Paul McCartney (The Fireman) it was great working with him, and chatting about music. He showed us the original premixed files of Urban Hymns. That’s one of my favourite albums, so yeah that was definitely a highlight.”

There have been so many great musicians coming out of Newtown and making it big overseas. What makes that part of Sydney such a strong breeding ground for Australian artists? Can you tell us about your time as emerging artists in Newtown?

“I think the inner west is an area in Sydney where music, particularly live music, is encouraged. Everyone is supportive of each other’s creativity and it generally possesses a great atmosphere to make music and, more importantly, meet people who want to make music.”

You famously laid the foundations for debut album Hills End in guitarist and producer Johnny Took’s flat. Are you guys keen to stick to your low-fi roots, or are recording sessions a little more sophisticated these days? Can you describe a typical recording session for DMA’s?

“We always want to remain in control of our music. So yeah, we’ll pretty much record everything ourselves in whatever space we can find amongst the constant travel.

“Typical recording sessions don’t really exist for us anymore. We don’t have Buckland Lane, so we just do what we can. Last month we hired a studio in London for a day and recorded some rough demos.

“I think it’s important to be versatile with recording. It’s important to change your environment and approach to recording so things don’t get stagnant or safe, this way you are constantly challenging yourself, ultimately making better music.”

Classic festival problem – band clashes. If people are torn between seeing you and someone else, what would you say to sway them your way? What can we expect at a DMA’s show?

“If they want a loud guitar band with big choruses then you’ll have a good time. If you want EDM, go to the dance tent.”

Have you got any tales from times you’ve got completely lost at a festival and ended up having a great – or terrible – time?

“Not really, but my friend played at a festival in Perth and after the gig we lost him and like four hours later he was in a mosque talking and praying with some old dude. He was not religious prior to this experience. But I’m sure he had a few moments of clarity that night ☺️. Fuck knows how he found the place.”

Getting away from the mainstage, which lesser-known acts are an absolute must at Splendour 2016 – those we can’t afford to miss?
“World Champion are a great new band – ‘Tip Pit’ and ‘Shakes’ are cool tunes.”

Splendour in the Grass will be held from July 22-24 at North Byron Parklands. Whether you’re heading along or not, be sure to stay up to date with all the action through Lost at E Minor with the hashtag #LostatSplendour

Featured image: Dan Boud