Ahead of the bands gig in Cologne last month, Getintothis’ Amos Wynn caught up with DMA’S Tommy O’Dell to see what they’ve been up to since the release of their second album.
It’s been a busy period for Aussie three-piece DMA’s.
Following the release of their second album the Sydney-hailing trio have already toured North America, the UK and made appearances at a number of festivals this year, solidifying their position as one of the top acts to see live for any Britpop fan.
Lead vocalist Tommy O’Dell, along with band mates Matt Mason and Johnny Took have enjoyed growing success ever since the release of their debut album Hills End in 2016, with accolades including an appearance on the cover of Australian magazine Happy Mag and charting number 6 of Triple J’s Hottest 100 for their cover of Cher’s Believe.
From bedroom project to festival headliners, the trio are certainly a success story worth telling, and we chatted with singer O’Dell to hear about the new album, Everton being “s**t” and how not the band are pleased to be able to showcase their new material to the masses.
On releasing second album For Now in April, O’Dell said: “it has been good to perform the new songs and to see the crowds learn them more and more as the tour has gone on, it’s been all good so far.”
The latest album has received its fair share of positive feedback, from fans and critics alike.
“Even though it is sonically slightly different to our first record, I think people are still enjoying it. We toured our first album, Hills End, for quite a while, so to bring some new songs in is quite refreshing.”
The difference in the new stuff comes from the way the songs were produced, O’Dell explained: “We wanted to record them in a different way to Hills End, we wanted to bring out the vocals more and put less emphasis on millions of different guitar layers to concentrate on a couple of layers sounding really good.”
This was also the first time the three-piece worked with a producer. “It was new for everyone, but I think it helped bring out certain aspects of the song that helped us decide what sounded good and what sounded s**t. It certainly helped me zone in on parts of my vocals.”
Although there are differences between the two albums, O’Dell believes it still has “the same DMA’S sound to it.”
Like on the first album, elements of For Now were again recorded in their bedroom, “so we haven’t lost that kind of charm” O’Dell says.
Despite a popular debut album, the vocalist believes the only pressure on the band for the second was to deliver “justice” for the new songs.
“We knew the songs on this record were special and we recorded them in the way we wanted. I think we did a pretty good job and listening back I feel it’s kind of where I want the band to be going. Tracks like The End and Time and Money are especially heading in the right direction. So yeah man I’m proud of it.”
After performing them on tour O’Dell feels Break Me has proved a popular track with the “best traction live” as “it is sort of rock ‘n’ roll and an uplifting tune.
“You can tell which songs are going to take off a bit quicker when people are singing the choruses back to you.”
The band have travelled to various countries on tour, but one city that stands out to them is Glasgow.
“It is good for us to play everywhere in the UK but particularly Glasgow; we have Summer Sessions with Catfish and the Bottlemen.”
The band also have good memories of playing T in the Park when visiting Scotland: “We had a great reception, it is probably the most memorable festival, everyone was watching really vibing on it.”
O’Dell also admits there are plenty of cities in the UK he cannot wait to visit and play in again.
“We played Manchester last month and that was a sick gig, I’m looking forward to going back and playing a bigger venue. Sheffield is a cool place to play as well. Newcastle and Leeds, they’re all good man.”
The three-piece also recently enjoyed a headline slot at Liverpool’s Sound City, which had an extra special feel with O’Dell’s dad originally coming from Liverpool.
“It’s always great to play there, the people are dead nice, it is a great city. Sound City was really good, it had a great vibe, there were lots of good bands and the weather was nice. The atmosphere was good, and it was well organised.”
Music wasn’t the only thing on the agenda during their visit to Liverpool, with the band heading to Goodison Park to watch an Everton match. While O’Dell might be a blue himself, it doesn’t stop him berating a bad performance: “unfortunately they lost because they are f**king s**t.”
One place where the crowds have shocked O’Dell, is Tokyo: “We played there on our way home last year because it is an easy stop over to break up the journey back. I remember it being a real buzz and totally different hearing the crowd singing the tunes back in a different accent, it is an awesome city.”
When he was younger, O’Dell went travelling and lived in Poland for a while. He admits “I would like to go back and play there, I would also like go to South America because I think our type of music would go down well there.”
The band have also enjoyed two dates at Sydney’s Enmore Theatre. O’Dell admits it is always good going home as you don’t have to travel very far.
“I only live across the road so its kind of weird but also very special as I’ve seen some of my favourite bands playing there growing up, so it has always been a dream for me to play there. It’s funny when you go home because you get hit with everyday reality stuff like getting your brother on the guest-list.
Coming from Sydney certainly has an impact on the three-piece: “Wherever someone grows up has an effect on the type of music you make.
“There are a lot of great bands from Australia I grew up listening, that always plays a part in your musical accent. You can’t help being affected unless you try to avoid it, you need to sing from the heart and write lyrics that means something to you, whatever emotion you want to portray you have to do it in different ways.”
Despite being from Sydney, DMA’S have a very distinctive Britpop feel to their music.
“I have an older brother who grew up listening to a lot of great bands like The Stone Roses, The La’s and Oasis, so I was brought up with that type of music, I also listened a lot of the Beatles stuff as well.”
Despite those bands being a “huge influence” for O’Dell, the other band members have their own musical background which he believes makes them “sound the way we do.”
“Johnny comes from a folky background, listening to a lot of Bruce Springsteen and Dylan. Meanwhile Mason is a real lover of American guitar bands like Sonic Youth. If you listen to our music, you can hear three styles and three vibes coming together.”
DMA’S came together when Johnny and Tommy were in a psych rock band together called Underlights.
“We started to become better friends during this time and started writing tunes on the side, we had something kind of unique, so we recorded songs in his bedroom and when Underlights folded we put more effort into our songs.”
Without even playing a live show the band were signed after putting a song on YouTube. “It was just a bedroom project and people showed interest and that’s why we became a live band.”
It was during this time they also met Mason, citing “it felt more like a band when he joined, maybe he was the missing link, he is multi-instrumental, so things fully formed when he joined.
“When he brought Delete to the jamming room and we recorded it, we knew we had a good member on board.”
The name DMA’S is an abbreviation of previous names the band had, “we thought it looked cool when written out and no one else had it so it was original. We didn’t have to spell another name in a weird way because someone else had it on Google.”
O’Dell explained that he spends his free time “continually writing’” as he believes you can never write too many songs.
However, you can’t let the rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle create a diva out of you, and to avoid any over-inflation of the ego O’Dell took a “reality check” by returning to working with his brother, a painter, for a few weeks over Christmas. “It was nice spending some time with him, I used to do it before I joined the band, so I sometimes go back and do a bit of work.”
When he’s not songwriting or painting O’Dell enjoys “chilling” watching football – or seething at The Toffees. As a footie fan the appearance of DMA’s song Play It Out on FIFA 17 is a fair feat: “I wouldn’t put it up there with the band’s greatest achievement, but it is cool when my nephew sings it back to me because he knows it from FIFA.”
O’Dell’s plans for the next 12 months are to “tour this album as much as we can,” as well as “getting as many singles out and having as much radio play.”
The idea of the third album is also in the back of his mind. “We had songs left over from Hills End for the second album and we have unreleased ones now as well. It is on the cards, but we need to do a little more touring before we start thinking of that.”
With everything going right for the three-piece at the moment, they are certainly living For Now.