AUSTIN — The 2018 Austin City Limits Music Festival had somewhat of a new wave of the British Invasion, with artists like Paul McCartney, Arctic Monkeys, Lily Allen and ... The Wombats
Having been a band for about 15 years, Liverpool's The Wombats consists of lead vocalist and guitarist Matthew Murphy, drummer Dan Haggis and bassist Tord Øverland Knudsen.
A day after Sir McCartney closed out the American Express stage, Knudsen and Haggis sat down before they played that exact stage to discuss their new music and connections to fellow ACL artists like St. Vincent and McCartney himself.
So you guys are from the United Kingdom. How does it feel to be playing on the same stage fellow Liverpool native Paul McCartney performed on last night?
Haggis: We’ve met him a couple of times and he’s such a lovely guy. We interviewed him once as well. We sat kind of like where you are right now and were like, “Holy [expletive].”
Knudsen: It was on live radio as well.
Haggis: He was such a nice guy. He made it easy. And his show last week was so good. He’s had so many songs over his career, it’s unbelievable.
Knudsen: He seems like he’s always got music playing in his hand. Did you watch him?
Knight: Yeah, I saw him last night. I might have cried.
Knudsen: Then you know the way how he’ll finish a song and he sort of walks off as though he’s still dancing to music.
Knight: Yes! I noticed. He's a legend.
Haggis: We’ve got even more links to him. He founded the school where we met at. It was a music school in Liverpool – the Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts – and it was the school he went to as a boy, and then he rescued the school basically. It’s a great thing for Liverpool. So without Sir Paul, we probably would not even actually be a band, which is weird, genuinely.
Knudsen: I wouldn’t have come over from Norway if it wasn’t for that school.
Haggis: Thank you, Sir Paul!
You also have a connection to another 2018 ACL artist, St. Vincent. Have you heard from her since putting out your cover of “Los Ageless” with Spotify?
Together: Yes! She tweeted us!
Knudsen: “Check out this rad cover of Los Ageless.” That was really cool. I’ve been a fan of her music for a time, so that was pretty cool.
Haggis: I remember hearing that song, and obviously the lyrics, it’s just so good. Aghhh. The way the production is done, it’s very pop isn’t it, her version? It felt cool to do something a bit more Nick Cave…
Knudsen: Hip-hop beats.
Haggis: Peaky Blinders! We were doing that and it felt cool, and then he started doing the hip-hop thing. Oh, that’s a cool mixture.
Did you get to see her performance last weekend?
Haggis: Last week we were having a drink with friends and were like, "Oh, we’ll see her next weekend." And then we found out she wasn’t playing on Saturday … it’s a real shame.
Coming from England, how do you feel performing in the U.S.? Do you feel like Austin lives up to the "Live Music Capital of the World" hype?
Haggis: Ahh, Austin was the first place we played in the States! We did SXSW.
Knudsen: 2006 that was.
Haggis: And it was amazing, so fun. And we were just like, this is carnage, crazy. People partying in the streets. Music coming from every bar – and it was amazing.
Knudsen: I feel like also in touring, when we are growing up or whatever, to actually finally come over here and do it in that way, you know, it definitely feels like…
Haggis: It’s a milestone every time. I remember first hearing – I must have been 16 or 17 – The Dead 60s, this Liverpool band. My dad saying to me – he was friends with the bass player’s dad who lived around the corner – he was like, "Oh, Charlie Turner’s off on tour in the States at the moment," and I remember just thinking like, “Oh, my god! Touring the States!” And when we first got to do it, it’s such a sense of adventure and just road tripping around the States. It’s such a big, fast country. It’s a lot of fun.
Knudsen: It also makes you realize how big and how many cities there are. You can actually be on the road for three months and not ever play the same place twice. It’s pretty crazy.
One of your latest singles is called “Bee-Sting.” You’ve also just released the music video for it last month. How did that come about?
Haggis: We were supposed to record those two songs that we’re adding onto the album last September but we were running out of time. So, in May, we went over to Oslo, where Tord lives, and recorded "Bee-Sting" and the song "Oceans," which is coming out next month. And "Bee-Sting" is like a bit of a 90s nostalgia-sounding thing I guess. And the video, we’d just come back from a festival weekend. We had just spent the whole day in a really hot warehouse in London, getting really, really sweaty. Not quite as sweaty as ACL Weekend 1, but not far off.
Knudsen: We wanted to have a performance video. All the other videos for this album have been more kind of like, storyline…
Knudsen: We haven’t been in the videos that much, so let’s do a performance-based video. We did some special effects or whatever.
Your latest album came out in February. Are these new singles a sign of a new album to come?
Haggis: "Bee-Sting" and "Oceans" are more linked to the body of work that is “Beautiful People Will Ruin Your Life.” "Oceans" was the next song we were thinking of having on the album originally.
Knudsen: It was on the board when we were recording the album but obviously…
Haggis: We ran out of time!
Knudsen: We had to priortitize and that was the one that kind of got postponed.
Haggis: With both of them, we were kind of like, "Oh, we’ll record them early next year. It will be really nice to get back into the studio and do it as kind of a bonus track thing on the album." We’re just glad that it’s finally coming out. But we haven’t started the writing for the next album yet. Probably early next year we will.
Finally, why the name The Wombats? You’re from England, they’re from Australia…
Haggis: We’ve given lots of answers to that over the years. Unfortunately, the boring one is that we needed a name for our first show in Liverpool and we used to call each other “you stupid wombat.” Wombo the Wombat was a character in a song and that was it really. We thought we were going to change it but we never did.
Knudsen: Also, WOMBAT in military terms means Waist of Money, Brains, and Time.
Haggis: We only found that out after the fact though.
Knudsen: You didn’t need to say that...