The boys are back with their first album in three years. Beautiful People Will Ruin Your Life is the sound of a band who know exactly who they are and what they want to say.
“The subject that I know the most about is dealing with anxiety, what a fucking depressive episode looks like, and to a certain degree – what addiction looks like.”
Matthew “Murph” Murphy, frontman of The Wombats explains. These “very common things” still very much need alerting but over the years, he’s figured out a way to deal with them. It’s to laugh at them.
“This is so LA but I do this weird meditation where you do this heavy breathing pattern and it puts so much oxygen in your blood stream that your hands cramp up and your mouth tightens up and during all of this, [the teacher] makes you scream and laugh and then you just stop and breathe through your nose.” Murph tells me, having no qualms living up to the clichés associated to the place that he calls home with his wife and dog. “I find that when I laugh at how dark some of the shit that goes down or I think or I do is, I find it hilarious and within that hilarity I get this objectiveness about it which makes me see in a much more simplified light.”
It’s this objectiveness that defines The Wombats. Whether they’re talking about schoolboy crushes or insomnia, sexual tension or relationship anxiety, the three piece never fail to find new ways to say the everyday things that define our lives but we are tired of hearing. “I think with most songwriters we’re barking up the same tree but just trying to figure out new and exciting and fresh ways to say things.”
Murph explains, the first two albums – filled with staple drunken anthems of the Indie Tuesday club floor, were great dives into storytelling. Glitterbug, the record that fizzed and either tickled a listener or left a bittersweet taste, told the personal story of Murph’s great descend into adulthood. Now, Beautiful People Will Ruin Your Life is hard for the band to describe, they struggle to put their fingers on it. “The songs aren’t necessarily boy meets girl and this happens and then it’s the end. It’s just flashing images that make up one big story like a David Lynch story.”
Lead single, ‘Lemon To A Knife Fight’ packs a punch and throws you in to a repetitive argument with a loved one, that you know you’d never win. Whilst, ‘I Don’t Know Why I Like You But I Do’ is a slow burning crooner. There’s no denying that if it Tumblr were still a relevant thing, the song titles would be in every URL and the lyrics reblogged on to everybody’s profile. These are songs that when unravelled collide poetic lyricism of self doubt with swelling instrumentation celebration.
A Wombats lyric can be recognised from afar. As an only child with a “perverted love of cuddly toys,” Murph filled his childhood longing for a sibling’s company. The stuffed animals that became his friends now feed in to the music that he makes. “Maybe animals just embody a lot of human characteristics.” He shrugs, laughing “Maybe it links to some sort of longing for childhood security.” Whatever it is, in a strange David Attenborough / Matthew Murphy collision, a Wombats song observes humans through observing animal and in turn creates an exciting perspective.
“There’s a choice that I’ve always made to not write something that is universal because whenever I try and do that it just comes across shit.” He says, “It doesn’t really do much for me. But if I just objectively twist something that is universal but say it in a weird way, I think that’s maybe what is the trick. Certain phrases and words just connect with me and others I find really boring, there is no in between.”
Overall, the creative process has gotten easier as the band have gotten older. Split across the world, Murph has learnt to separate his quiet space in the States from the madness of European cities where the boys could write together in time, rather than rushing things. “Musically I’ve learnt to be more open. On the first couple of albums I was properly greedy and feeding my ego a little bit.
“Personally I’ve learnt not to freak out too much about things in the studio, like we can get lost for a week on something that nobody else is going to think about.” He says with slight exasperation. “It’s important to make sure that I can pull myself out of these rabbit holes both musically, professionally and in my adult life. But I still get pulled down real fast.”
Whilst being pulled down helps to craft bright and bold songs that connect with people whether they’re aged 16 or 64, just like their songs there is a dark side that stops you in your tracks. The contrast hits like the sour taste that follows a sickly lemon drop. “I think there’s a happy medium where I can get pulled down them enough to get great songs and then there’s the reality where I do pull myself down them so far that it’s completely counterproductive.”
Beautiful People Will Ruin Your Life is the next chapter for The Wombats. As a band who have built their legacy on awkward truths told confidently with sincerity, they’re just as adored for their dedication to the synth and stories that when unwrapped in a time portal – will just be as relevant then.
Words by Tanyel Gumushan