Johnny Took, guitarist and songwriter with Aussie trio DMA’S talks to Jules Pestano about the influence of Britpop, artistic progression and playing packed out gigs half a world away.
Despite hailing from Sydney, Austrlia, DMA’s are a band who have an intrinsically British feel to them.
Their euphoric anthems invoke the indie rock heritage of 90s Britain, with Oasis a definite reference point. Their new album, For Now, however, hints at a change of direction.
When you first started releasing stuff did you realise it would connect so well over here?
Not really, to be honest. I didn’t realise how deep the culture ran in that style of music, I was naive to it. It would have been very easy for the UK people to dismiss a band like DMA’S, but it’s been quite the opposite; they’ve taken us under their wing. That’s been really humbling, really inspiring and makes us want to write more records.
Was it important for you to break in Britain?
One thing I’ve learned with the music industry is that every facet of it stems around the songs. So, if you have a good song, you’ll get a manager, you get a record label, people come to your gigs and you’re gonna sell some CDs. I realised you should focus on that rather than focusing on the other shit going on. I think music is about timing in more ways than one, but if it aligns then things come together.
The press and media have compared you a lot to Oasis and Britpop, is that something that irritates you?
No, because I think it was a pretty amazing era of music. It’s funny because I totally kind of get it with Tommy’s voice, although maybe less so on this last record. But Mason had never listened to those bands, he was more into people like Sonic Youth, which you can hear in his guitar tones.
And as much as I think it’s a great compliment, if you really know music and get that era and understand different types of music, you can look deeper into it. I love all those bands from that era but I also think you can see other influences.
Mason and I used to play in a bluegrass band together and one of our songs, Timeless, was originally written on the banjo!
You seem to explore slightly different musical areas on For Now compared to your debut, is this a move to prove there’s more to you without alienating fans?
Yeah, 100%. We didn't wanna stray too far from where we started, but no one wants to make the same record again and I don't think as an artist it’s healthy to do that; you can’t just regurgitate exactly the same thing, there’s no point.
So you have to grow and I think with this album we’ve grown in a real organic way, but we’ve still got the noise guitars, pop melodies and pretty honest lyrics.
There’s also been a rise in the production quality, It wasn't tracked in my bloody bedroom this time!
I don't think anybody should ever stop learning. Everyone’s actually three years old, we’re all just little kids, you know: I wanna do this! I wanna do that! As an artist, or in anything you do you, you’ve just got to keep moving.
What do you find more important being on the studio or being on the road?
They’re two different things. When we played the Ritz in Manchester last time there were people from the other side of the world singing our tunes, there’s nothing quite like that. But also, us three hanging out in the studio is where this band started and we have a certain connection with each other when we are there, so it’s not better or worse, it’s just different.
What does success look like for you?
I think for us ,we’re songwriters at the end of the day. We play as a six-piece but it’s promoted as a three-piece because it’s a song writing collective.
I think if we keep writing music and releasing music that we believe in, that will be success.
I’d also like to maybe start a record label. Me and Mason have already talked about picking our favourite bands from Sydney - really nurturing song writing in Australia.