‘Erm, I know exactly what you mean. I think it’s a good question’ responds Johnny Took from DMA’s when I quiz him on whether he finds the recurrent Britpop comparisons a compliment, or an attempt to pigeonhole his band. With their sharp, angsty wit and penchant for a hard-hitting chorus, they’ve been hailed the new Oasis, Stone Roses and The La’s, all in one neat, Australian package.
‘You know what, there’s a lot of shit going on in the world – way more important things to worry about. Me and Tommy in particular are massive fans of that era, but we have heaps of other influences as well. I can understand why people have those comparisons and everyone’s entitled to their own opinion, it’s what make this world beautiful. We just do what we do, and as long as they keep listening to the songs, I don’t give a fuck!’.
It’s this street-smart ambivalence that have garnered DMA’s such a hefty following since their formation in 2012. The trio consists of Johnny, Tommy O’Dell and Matt Mason, Sydney natives with a sentiment to match their swagger. They get the Britpop thing a lot, even on the way they dress:
‘We’re into style and fashion even though people say we dress pretty shit. I find it funny when people say we dress bad and they’re wearing some stupid fucking fedora or something. You know what I mean? It’s a beautiful world, there’s no right or wrong. I just chuckle to myself and cop it on the chin. Who gives a fuck!’.
Throughout our conversation, Johnny is warm and attentive, even going as far to invite me for a beer next time the band are in town. He strikes me as an artist who is revelling in his own success, grabbing the opportunity afforded to him with both hands.
‘We like melodies, we like noisy guitars’ he explains.
‘I personally think you can overthink stuff. It’s a weird topic, because in the future with writing I want to experiment and try heaps of different stuff, but sometimes the best songs you write are the three chord songs with the simple lyrics that really hit home.’
Take Delete, for example, their debut single. As a piece of music, it’s minimal, but both rousing and grand, too. On first listen, I smiled and nodded my head, unaware that I’d still be belting out the chorus a week later, unable to erase its titular hook from my head.
This is what Johnny loves about music he tells me, before eagerly going into a story:
‘I saw The Stone Roses play in Sydney and I actually lost all of my mates, so I ended up watching the gig by myself. Obviously, I was loving it because I knew all the tunes. I realised after I met up with everyone after that gig is that yeah, they’re a great band – Ian Brown isn’t the best singer in the world, but it doesn’t fucking matter. It’s not about that. It’s about people coming together and singing louder than the vocals coming from the PA.’
For DMA’s, it’s very much about the collective. Their critics will point the finger and sneer, reducing them to nothing but a chorus band – but for Johnny, that wouldn’t matter, as long as people were experiencing something from it.
‘Someone can be born and just be an amazing musician, hit every note right – but there’s just no vibe. It takes a lot more to write a chorus that can bring people together.’
Tiring though it often is, it’s not difficult to understand why people are so quick to associate them with the Britpop era. There’s something nostalgic about their overtly romantic view on the spirituality of live shows, whilst their adoption of Britain as a second musical home has only proved to stoke the fires. Again, they don’t mind:
‘We love playing here – particularly up North. For me, they bring that bloody football kind of vibe to the gigs. There’s a camaraderie in the crowd which is just fucking beautiful’.
For DMA’s, this camaraderie seems like it’s only going to grow. Hills End, their stirring debut, has been positively received since its release in February, and according to Johnny, fans have had time to ‘discover the album, organically’. They have a run a hectic summer of Australian shows and festivals, before heading back over to Britain for a run of gigs throughout October.
They’re a band on the crest of a wave, and you can’t blame them for not wanting to stop. Their youthful, careless buzz and determined hunger strike a strange kind of juxtaposition, but that only serves to reinforce them as a refreshing entity entirely. Granted, they may borrow inspiration from a host of great bands, but they’re completely honest about this notion – enthusiastic, even. They’re taking that inspiration, and infusing it with something fresh and energising. Listening to DMA’s is like putting on an old record and realising that you’ve only ever heard one side of it; what you thought you already knew feels exciting again.
With everything instore for them, you begin to fear for their sanity. Is there any time for a breather?
‘We might have September off, actually – which is cool. I’ll do some writing back home. Just before that, we go back and do Splendour In The Grass. All my mates are going up for the weekend and spending it there, which I wanted to do so badly. But we’re gonna piss off the next day and do Fuji Rock in Japan. I’m gonna go and have a week of Thailand and then piss around Europe. It’ll be fun.’
Photography by Jack Alexander
Words by Niall Flynn