The Festival Experience with... The Wombats

Henry Lewis sat down with Dan Haggis to talk Postman Pat sang in Norwegian, a decade since The Wombats' debut and donning fancy dress at Bestival.

Henry Lewis

Last updated: 13th Jun 2017.
Originally published: 9th Jun 2017

Image: The Wombats

The Wombats are another one of the indie outfits celebrating a ten year anniversary this year, with their debut album A Guide To Love, Loss and Desperation dropping in late 2007. The year proved to be a mementos one for skinny jean wearing, guitar spanking collectives, with releases from contemporaries of the scouse trio including The Pigeon Detectives, The Cribs, Arctic Monkeys and more all cementing indie music's place in modern chart history.

That year the group also took on the NME rock'n'roll riot tour, alongside The Enemy and Lethal Bizzle, proving themselves as a household name in the UK charts with massive singles including 'Kil' The Director','Moving to New York' and 'Let's Dance To Joy Division'.

Further releases have seen the group achieve even greater successes, with their last two studio releases This Modern Glitch and Glitterbug securing them top five placings on the albums chart. 

Later this year the group play a string of shows to commemorate a decade since their debut, but before then they hit festival season with performances across the UK. This includes a huge slot at Community Festival which hits Finsbury Park on Saturday 1st July with the likes of Catfish and the Bottlemen, Slaves and more also involved. 

Ahead of this date, we spoke to the Wombat's drummer Dan Haggis to get his verdict on the joys of festival season. 

Hi Dan, how are you? Busy in the studio?

Yeah yeah it's going good, we're off to Norway next week, the three of us, to do some writing sessions and get some demos done. 

Are you in Liverpool then?

I'm in London actually, I moved down here just over a a year ago due to my girlfriend being from France, but that's another story. I've got a tiny little studio where I can get ideas together and Tord's got a studio over in Oslo and we have some shows at the end of the month in England so it made sense to come over from LA, do some work over there and then finish off with a little tour at the end of the month.

So does that mean there will be new music from the Wombats come the end of this year?

We've tentatively said early next year and we're looking to record at the end of this summer in August/September time and then hopefully we will have a song out before Christmas, that's the plan at the moment. It's getting there, we have about six or seven or eight songs that we're all really happy with. Hopefully in the next few weeks we can get some more. 

Was it a Christmas song that you recorded in Norwegian?

No we did one in English, the only thing we've ever done in Norwegian is Postman Pat. That was very random. I think we were hungover one day and started singing Postman Pat, then Tord started singing it in Norwegian and I guess we never thought that, of course, other country's children's programmes have their own versions in their own language. When we heard him sing it we were all laughing and then we were like "can we please play that". We did it for a few shows, just randomly, it was amazing. Some fans ended up learning the Norwegian lyrics just to sing along. We're inspiring linguists across the world. 

You've been in Australia over the last couple of weeks I believe?

Yeah we were there from the end of April for nearly a month and it was amazing, so cool. We got to play at the Sydney Opera House for the first time which was an unbelievable experience. Because it was a ten year anniversary, we wanted to do some side shows, because we were already over in Australia to do do a festival called Groovin The Moo.

So we were seeing these shows as just a bit of a party and then the promoter was like "do you guys want to play the Sydney Opera House?" and we were like "fuck yes we do" and he was like "I reckon you can do two nights" so yeah we ended up selling out both nights. We thought we best make an occasion of it and dress smart, we couldn't very well have pictures of us from the Opera House with us in shorts and a t shirt.

Where there many English bands at Groovin the Moo?

There was a German band called Milky Chance and then I think a couple of UK bands, but it was mainly Australian acts to be honest.

So you're doing pretty well over in Australia then?

I guess so, we're doing alright there. It's definitely one of the best places for us to play in the world, which is awesome because we get to go over there twice a year and have a big party. Live music is really big over there as well, similar to the UK to be honest, people are just really enjoying going to see bands and having a night out. We've been very lucky.

I assume there's not a lot of difference between English and Australian festivals?

That's pretty much it. There's one that's totally off the beaten track, so they definitely have less bands coming through their towns or cities than Sydney or Melbourne. We played in Townsville and lots of the people we were speaking to there were saying that's the only time of the year that they get any international artists over.

So for them I think it's even more special in a way because they won't get another chance to go to a festival or to see bands they really like for potentially another year or so. It's been six years since we've been back to some of those places. To be honest it was a b it like growing up in Liverpool. I always used to go to Manchester to see bands. Now it's definitely a lot better but I just remember, when I was younger, any american bands. going to see Deftones - they never played in Liverpool. Until we had the arena you wouldn't get bands like the Foo Fighters or any if those big American bands. 

You're not the only band doing ten year anniversary shows, how is preparation for them going? Are you doing the album through then a greatest hits set after?

We were thinking about doing that but there's obviously some songs from the first album that we play loads anyway. I guess it is greatest hits which sounds hilarious, we're basically doing all the singles from the albums then probably eight songs from the first album. We wouldn't have had time to do all the singles we had in an hour and a half.

It's been really fun, a few of the songs we played when were in Australia we haven't played live for about eight years so it was a proper trip down memory lane and nostalgic. We were kind of thinking "what the fuck were we thinking with some of these parts?" they're so fast and mental.

To be involved in that era of UK indie music, how exciting was it?

It was unbelievable. When I was 12/13 for me it was Nirvana and stuff. I basically just wanted to be like Dave Grohl and be in a band, and then all of a sudden to find yourself actually in that situation, obviously on a smaller scale, but actually touring around, making an album and doing all these things it was such a whirlwind and so exciting.

There were all these new experiences, going to all these countries and meeting all these people. To be honest, all we wanted to do was play shows every night and we got to do that so we were fucking made up., It's mad now when you look at the charts or listen to the radio, how much it's changed since even seven or eight years ago. No one can do much moaning about it, it is the way it is, you just have to keep on making music and I obviously would hope that it comes back round and that there are loads of bands back in the charts. 

Where you aware of what was going on around you?

I guess you only really get that with hindsight. At the time we were just playing music that we loved. From playing tiny venues to it getting bigger and bigger, you end up doing events, whether it's the NME tour or various things, of course you end up meeting bands. You definitely get a sense that the music that you're making, there's other bands who are doing stuff that appeals to a similar audience which is the first time you feel like you're part of a genre.

We honestly didn't really think about it at the time. I don't think we ever saw ourselves as being necessarily like a part of anything. When you look back at it though I can see why people would think that we were. We played a lot with Pigeon Detectives and Reverend and the Makers and Kaiser Chiefs, shit loads of bands.

You're playing Community Festival where Catfish and the Bottlemen are headlining - they're sort of the leading light in British indie at the moment, where do you stand on them?

They're great. I remember first hearing about them, they're from Wrexham or somewhere like that fairly near to Liverpool, Dougie, our guitar tech at the time, he used to work at this pub. He always used to say "there's this band..." and he was always talking about Catfish and the Bottlemen, saying how good they were and how they're going to smash it. I remember hearing about it and he played us some stuff and it was like "oh yeah that's awesome". It's so cool to just see a band all of sudden go boom and smash it, everyone knows their songs and it's amazing and I wish them all the best. I haven't actually seen them live so it'll be a good chance to watch them because I've heard how good they are live.

That's the last show of that week for us, we haven't got any gigs at all the next day so we'll be sticking around for a party.

What were your first festivals?

Towards the end of the summer of 2007, before the album had come out, we played Oxygen in Ireland, V Festival in the UK then we did Bestival on the Isle Of Wight. I'll never forget that one because I was dressed as a woman. It was like pirates and whores or something as the theme. I was a whore basically.

We had make up on and everything, it was ridiculous. Those festivals were so fun because we played 'Kill the Director' and that song had been getting played on Radio 1 quite a bit but we'd been in the studio working on stuff so we hadn't really heard it. Our manager had told us that we were getting some plays of it, but then to actually play it in a small tent at a festival and there's like a thousand people singing along and going mental, we all looked at each other like "what the fuck?". It's so exciting. For young bands, you might have your family members singing along but you don't generally have people in the crowd and knowing all the words, I'll never forget that feeling.

We did a music festival in China in 2006 before we were signed, and we also did one in Canada then we did South By South West before things started kicking off. 

When you did SXSW, did you know what things were going to blow up? That's normally a good indication that good things are set to happen. 

Yeah I suppose. There's so many bands that are playing that you just have to enjoy every gig. It's pretty hectic, I'm sure any band would tell you that/. We did eights hows in five days. You do lunch time gigs then an evening gig, like non stop for the time you're there. It's dead exciting, I ended up busking with a street performer over there. I was on banjo he was on drums.

It's just this mad occasion and you don't have a clue what's going on half the time. We  did have some meetings while were over there with some American labels and UK labels and I guess that was led to us getting signed. It's definitely a good sign if you get to play over there, but nothing is set in stone in the music industry. 

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