We chat to DMA’s guitarist Johnny Took as part of Beat’s Ferg Goes Live podcast.
DMA’s first burst onto the scene in 2014 with their debut single ‘Delete’, before releasing their debut album Hills End in 2016 and For Now two years later. The Sydney trio cemented themselves into the music zeitgeist with their viral cover of Cher’s ‘Believe’ for triple j’s Like A Version. The track placed DMA’s in a new musical bracket and thrust the voice of lead singer Tommy O’Dell in front of music fans all around the world. Britpop lovers came running and now DMA’s are a household name.
Took remembers a time before all the hype when O’Dell was a painter and sat behind the tubs before serendipitously discovering his gift of the gab that’s become DMA’s signature trait.
“In our first band I was the bass player and Tommy played drums,” says Took.
“Tommy would ask about sections of songs by singing the part, and I remember going, ‘Wow, this guy’s got a fucken cracking voice here’. Then I started getting into audio engineering so we could record our own music because it helps with songwriting and hearing your songs back. I was writing a song which we haven’t released, and I don’t know if we ever will but it’s called ‘The Tamers’.
“I’d written all the lyrics and was literally about to record them and by chance, Tommy came over to drop some drum equipment off because we had a gig the next day. He asked, ‘Can I sing this?’ So I gave him the mic, gave him the headphones, put on a stupid amount of reverb and delay as you do.
“Then he just turned to me and said, ‘Do I sound like that?’ I go, ‘Yeah mate’. Then he’s like, ‘Can we do more of this?’ and I went, ‘Yeah mate’. And that was kind of it.”
Their latest album, The Glow, brings with it a new sound for DMA’s, likely a result of legendary British producer Stuart Price (Dua Lipa, Madonna, The Killers) entering the fold to produce the record. Predominantly a guitar-driven band for so long, DMA’s seems to be morphing into a new electronic realm epitomised by tracks like ‘Life Is A Game Of Changing’ and ‘Cobracaine’.
“I’d been getting more into electronic production, I think that’s a natural progression for people wanting to be producers because you’re like, ‘Fuck I’ve been playing guitar for so many years’. Which is great. I won’t get over guitar and I’m always gonna write guitar music and whatnot. It’s still a guitar-driven album, to be fair it’s a pop album, and it’s added these electronic elements. It’s kind of got a later New Order vibe the way they incorporated noisy guitars and electronics.
“Stuart Price was amazing to work with in that regard. Making the transition from being mainly a guitar band. If we were gonna make a pop and delve into the electronic aspects of it we wanted to do it with someone who’s a wizard at it; he hit us up and it was great. Seeing how he works with synthesisers and beats opened our minds and gave us direction. You can look up heaps of shit on the internet but until you see someone do it in real life you can’t observe their little processes.”
DMA’s have made a name for themselves in the UK having supported artists like The Kooks and Liam Gallagher on tour. Their last live gig was in front of a sold-out crowd at the O2 Academy Brixton, and their social media engagement appears to be evoking predominantly British mannerisms which is a healthy sign for a band breaking into a new market. When asked if the Gallagher support tour enabled their journey into the British charts, Took responds with a smile.
“Those gigs are funny because they’re arena gigs and we haven’t done many arena tours apart from supporting The Kooks a few years ago where we got a taste for it. There’s not really any pressure on ya because everyone’s there to see Liam Gallagher, so you kinda go, ‘Ahh fuck it, I’m just gonna have a laugh and enjoy the catering’.
“In all seriousness to get an experience playing those kinds of venues ties into that natural and organic trajectory. You do those gigs and hopefully one day you can be playing your own arena shows and it’s not as overwhelming and it’s kind of been this natural growth.”
DMA’s new album, The Glow, is out now via I OH YOU.
Check out our chat with the band as part of Beat’s Ferg Goes Live podcast here. You’ll also find chats with Aunty Donna, Netflix co-founder Marc Randolph, Cub Sport and more.
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