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The Wombats on their love of Australia and creating a kaleidoscopic live show for their fans

"Sometimes you see people crying, or kissing their boyfriend or girlfriend. Those moments are why you want to make music in the first place.”

The Wombats are usually identified with party-rock anthems like ‘Let’s Dance to Joy Division’ and ‘Bee-Sting’. The Liverpudlian trio’s new album, Beautiful People Will Ruin Your Life, may be danceable, but Dan Haggis insists that it’s not just candy.
 
“It’s not just feel-good party music,” he says. “There’s always something that, once you get under the skin of the song, opens up into a bigger world. We’ve had so many people write to us saying, ‘Your music’s really helped me through these difficulties'. It’s great if people think of it as uplifting – there’s nothing wrong with that. That’s a compliment we’ll happily take.
 
“Playing those songs you’ve made in the studio and had these experiences with already, bringing them to other people and seeing their reactions – sometimes you see people crying, or kissing their boyfriend or girlfriend – those moments are why you want to make music in the first place.”
 
The Wombats are regulars in Australia, suitably enough, and toured Down Under in July. After three weeks in the US warming up crowds for Weezer and the Pixies – playing just half an hour per night – the band was ready for some heavier shows. 
 
“We got to Melbourne a bit jet-lagged, and we walked out on stage,” says Haggis. “The noise from the crowd was just unbelievable. That show just summed up our two weeks in Australia: lots of singing, lots of dancing and lots of good vibes. We’ve been really spoiled by Australia. I’m looking forward to coming back.”
 
The Wombats will return for a new tour in November, bringing along an elaborate new series of animations for each song on the setlist. These visuals will be kaleidoscopic but not psychedelic, says Haggis. Instead, audiences should expect surreal imagery along the same vein as David Lynch.
 
Haggis, whose intense, vigorous drumming provides the motor for venerable Wombats hits like ‘Let’s Dance to Joy Division’, started out singing in a cover band at age 16. A multi-instrumentalist, Haggis says playing the drums has helped him improve his rhythm and timing on guitar, and practising the piano has helped sensitise his ear as a drum-player. Dave Grohl, drummer for Nirvana and later frontman for the Foo Fighters, initially drew Haggis to drumming with his uncomplicated, hard-hitting style.
 
“It’s almost like having a punching bag,” says Haggis. “You just smash the beats and make it as hard and solid as you can. I really love that kind of thing.”
 
When a 19-year-old Haggis saw Martin Scorsese’s 1976 concert documentary The Last Waltz, he found another inspirational figure. Though the film features icons like Bob Dylan, Ringo Starr, Neil Young and Eric Clapton, Haggis’ attention was captured by Levon Helm, drummer for The Band. Helm famously complained that Scorsese’s editing sidelined him, but Haggis evidently disagrees.
 
“I remember just being like, ‘fucking hell, what an absolute dude’,” says Haggis of Helm. “It’s solid, just keeping the groove going, but with these little shuffley moments and little tiny fills that give it its own character. I love that.”
 
This principle of delivering an uncomplicated performance accentuated with personal touches can be heard on Beautiful People Will Ruin Your Life. In ‘I Don’t Know Why I Like You But I Do’, the track on which Haggis says he had the most influence, the drums begin simply keeping rhythm before falling into a dreamy cadence during the chorus.
 
“Drums often need to be just a simple thing – a beat – keeping the song going,” says Haggis. “It was always those little flourishes that add a little bit of your own personality that I’ve done instinctively.”
 
The Wombats’ November tour will include a return to Melbourne as well as a spot at Canberra’s Spilt Milk Festival, plus a leap over the Tasman for a show at The Powerstation in Auckland. There’s no word yet on whether the backup dancers in wombat suits who accompanied the band at their 2017 Sydney Opera House gig will be making a reappearance.
 
“It’s like listening to the album, but with about 20 times more energy and a lot more sweat and, hopefully, someone next to you spilling beer all over your trousers,” says Haggis. “If all of that sounds good, it’s definitely a show for you.”

The Wombats will play the Palais Theatre on Monday November 19. More info on their upcoming Australian tour available via Secret Sounds.