story / Damon Campbell
photographer / Katy Pritchett
They may be named after a marsupial from down under, but make no bones about it, The Wombats are at the top of their game. The Liverpudlian trio comprised of front-man Matthew Murphy, drummer Dan Haggis, and bassist Tord Øverland Knudsen – is preparing for a U.S. tour in support of their third
album Glitterbug and are less than an hour away from premiering their latest single ‘ Give Me A Try’ on BBC Radio 1 as Zane Lowe’s Hottest Record in the World, when I hop on the phone with Murphy for a “bizarre” look back on the collective’s journey thus far.
NOW INTERVIEWS IN THEIR NATURE TEND TO BE A BIT AWKWARD, BUT I HAVE TO IMAGINE THIS IS GOING TO GO BETTER THAN THE ENCOUNTER YOU HAD WITH KIRSTEN DUNST BACK IN THE DAY?
Well, I hope so. It depends, doesn’t it? I can’t imagine any worse encounters than that one, to be honest.
IT WAS IN GLASTONBURY? WHAT HAPPENED EXACTLY?
Yeah, at Glastonbury one year. She asked me for a lighter, and I gave her one, and then I realized it was Kirsten Dunst, and I had just come off stage and I was still buzzing from that, and I was like, “Oh, I really love your films.” I turned into an alien creature and just stared at her. Then I felt tremendously embarrassed, but I didn’t really know what else to say.
AND I DON’T KNOW IF THIS WAS AT A FESTIVAL, BUT WAS
THERE REALLY A TIME WHEN DOGS CRAPPED ALL OVER YOU
IN YOUR TENT?
Ducks, not dogs. Yeah, ducks. Camping in the Lake District. There was lots of wildlife everywhere; it’s a beautiful place. And anyway, they all snuck in. We were sleeping in tents, immersing ourselves in lakeside life, and woke up with duck shit all over us.
SO NOT DOGS. SPEAKING OF CANINES THOUGH, YOU’RE QUITE
OFTEN COMPARED TO DROOPY THE DOG, PERHAPS FOR YOUR “SUNKEN EYES, UNDERSTATED ENTHUSIASM AND GENERAL LOOK OF MISERY.” AND ON THAT NOTE, IN YOUR VIDEO FOR “ANTI-D,” IT SHOWS YOU GETTING JUMPED IN THE STREET BY A GROUP OF DOCTORS. IS IT TRUE THAT ONE OF THEM EVEN CLAIMED TO HAVE SPARRED WITH SUGAR RAY LEONARD WHEN HE WAS YOUNGER?
Yes, well that’s what he said. That’s what he claimed. And to be honest, he did [seem to have]. As it’s a
one-take video, I had to do it like 20 times, and
whenever he punched me, I knew about it. I imagined he was probably telling the truth.
SO IT SEEMED LIKE HE KNEW WHAT HE WAS DOING?
Yeah, no I think it probably was true. He wouldn’t hit me very… He wasn’t putting much effort into it, but it was really hurting [laughs].
OH NO! WELL, IT’S A GOOD THING YOU CAN TAKE A BEATING, ‘CAUSE IT SEEMS TO BE A RATHER UNCOMMON NAME, TO THE POINT WHERE, IF I’M NOT MISTAKEN, YOU EVEN HAD T-SHIRTS MADE BEFORE THAT SAID, “WHY THE WOMBATS?” I UNDERSTAND THERE WAS ACTUALLY A TIME WHEN YOU WERE RECEIVING THREATS FROM OTHER BANDS OVER THE RIGHTS TO THE NAME?
Yeah, some weird band from… It was a southern state,
I can’t remember which one.
WASN’T ONE OF THE BANDS ALSO FROM SAN FRANCISCO?
Yeah, but we never spoke to them. I think they may have brought up whether we had copyrighted the name or trademarked the name, which we had. I think that they were quite friendly or whatever, but there was another band saying that if we ever passed through their town, they were going to like break our knees with baseball bats. I think they were like a weird, angry punk band. Obviously very, very angry. They might have some anger management
issues. So obviously it was a pretty simple response to that one: we just won’t pass through their town and get our knees broken. We’ll just go to another town.
AND I IMAGINE IT WOULD’VE BEEN ESPECIALLY DEVASTATING TO HAVE HAD TO CHANGE YOUR NAME AFTER BEING GIVEN CELEBRATORY
CASES OF WOMBAT HILL WINE THAT ALSO CAME WITH YOUR MASCOT, A STUFFED WOMBAT NAMED CHERUB. WHAT’S THE LATEST ON CHERUB? ‘CAUSE INTERESTINGLY ENOUGH, OUR EDITOR-IN-CHIEF’S NAME IS KOKO, AND I UNDERSTAND CHERUB WAS ACTUALLY STOLEN ONCE AFTER A GIG YOU GUYS HAD AT KOKO LONDON?
Yeah, umm… Koko’s such a good name, oh I like that. Umm, what was I gonna say? Yeah, Cherub is no longer with us. We did a festival in Norway, and Dan left him in the airport. He was stolen after the KOKO show, but we got him back. One of our crew chased someone down [laughs] and got him back. But then Dan left him in a Norwegian airport. I think Cherub might be worm food now.
AND IF I’M NOT MISTAKEN, HE WAS ULTIMATELY REPLACED, AT LEAST TEMPORARILY, WITH A DR. CHODE, AND IT’S ACTUALLY QUITE SMART FOR YOU GUYS TO KEEP DOCTORS AROUND – AS LONG AS THEY’RE NOT BEATING YOU UP OF COURSE – SINCE THERE WAS ONCE A
PREGNANT WOMAN WHOSE BABY KICKED FOR THE FIRST TIME DURING A SHOW OF YOURS?
[Laughs] I can’t remember – maybe. I’m sure I would’ve responded, “Why the hell are you at a gig right now? You need to be at home.”
IS THERE ANYTHING ELSE YOU’D LIKE PEOPLE TO KNOW ABOUT THE WOMBATS?
[Laughs] No, I think we’ve covered all the uhh… all the bizarre stuff.
HA, FAIR ENOUGH. ANY FINAL THOUGHTS FOR OUR READERS?
Well, obviously we’ve got an album coming out, and I hope they enjoy it.
Glitterbug, The Wombats’ third studio album is out now which includes singles “Your Body is a Weapon,” “Greek Tragedy,” and “Give Me A Try” is out now. They are on tour now.
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