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Monday, July 2, 2018

The Wombats Like the Challenge of Opening for Weezer and the Pixies

Posted By on Mon, Jul 2, 2018 at 3:11 PM

click to enlarge TOM OXLEY
  • Tom Oxley
One of those rare original bands to become popular, the Wombats, a three-piece indie rock group from Liverpool, speak to the wars waged in the human heart and mind with edgy, dark lyrics that somehow manage to provide a quirky sort of social commentary.

With blatant British accents in their vocals and instrumental inspiration pulled from indie, dream pop and rock, the Wombats have been players in the American radio game for several years now, posting four singles in the Billboard Alternative top 100 since 2012.

Dan Haggis, drummer for the Wombats, knew the name for the band’s fourth studio album the moment he heard it. Beautiful People Will Ruin Your Life was one of the ideas on a list that lead singer Matthew Murphy brought in, and Haggis says it stood out head and shoulders above everything else.

“The people in your life that you find the most beautiful, the people that you love the most, are the ones that have the power to hurt you the most,” Haggis says in a recent phone interview.

“Turn,” the album’s most prominent single thus far was another brain child of Murphy’s. The track was written by Murphy in L.A. and when a demo was brought into the studio, Haggis, bassist Tord Overland Knudsen, and the band’s producers and management were in consensus that it was something special.

“It’s the most romantic song I’ve ever heard him write,” says Haggis who went on to say that it was far happier and more hopeful than the general theme of the band’s catalog.

“Lemon to a Knife Fight,” another single that was released in promotion of and prior to the release of Beautiful People Will Ruin Your Life, creates a strong visual. The track was also written in L.A. by Murphy after a fight that he and his wife had when a moment of clarity brought him to the realization that he wasn’t equipped to win any of their fights. “I Don’t Know Why I Like You but I Do,” the closing track and Haggis’ favorite from the album, however, was not picked to be a single.

“That riff at the end is the most fun part of our entire [live] set,” Haggis says.

When asked how the making of this record differed from the making of the Wombats’ first three efforts, Haggis hesitates before sharing that they fine-tuned the synthesizer so that it didn’t have to be the focal point of every track sonically. New producers were also brought in to help change up the end result after the band messed around in the studio to vamp up the initial concepts.

For the sake of keeping themselves and the fans interested, Haggis says the band tries to shift things sonically for every album.

“You have to experiment and do something a little different with each album,” Haggis says. “Especially in such a long career.”

On the heels of the release of Beautiful People Will Ruin Your Life, the Wombats are in the middle of a turning point in their career in the U.S. market.

Earlier this year, the Liverpool three-piece got an email that changed everything; the band had the opportunity to play at huge American venues for the first time, opening for alternative legends Weezer and the Pixies. The tour will come to Blossom at 7:30 p.m. on Wednesday, July 11.

So how did three blokes from Liverpool end up halfway across the world, opening for two infamous American rock bands that they grew up listening to?

“Road tripping across America as a musician is every kid in Liverpool’s dream,” says Haggis. He went on to recall leaving the comfort of the European fan base to play for 100 people in the U.S., then slowly but steadily increasing venue sizes over the years. Currently, the Wombats have headlining shows booked in the U.S. for mid-sized venues in September when they’re done touring with Weezer and the Pixies.

Opening for bigger acts, however, has presented a welcome challenge for the band.

“It takes us back to the days when we were first starting out and no one knew our stuff,” Haggis says. “And we only play for 30 minutes, so we can really go hard and give it our all.”

While Haggis prefers playing to fans that know the words and are there to see the Wombats, he says that being in the position to win over crowds again is a fun change of pace. While it’s strange to see people just standing there looking at you rather than singing along, it’s a vital part of the crossover to becoming something larger in a foreign land.

“There’s no quick way [to make it in America]. It’s a big country, and it takes time to play everywhere,” says Haggis. “If this is the biggest we ever get, then great, but we’d love for it to be how it is for us in Europe and Australia over here someday.”

Weezer, the Pixies, the Wombats, 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, July 11, Blossom, 1145 Steel Corners Rd., Cuyahoga Falls, 330-920-8040. Tickets: $25-$69.50, livenation.com.

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