Interview: DMA’S (AUS) on THE GLOW, live shows and ibises


DMA’S are Australia’s token Britpop band, having amassed an incredible following on home turf and through the UK. The four times ARIA-nominated Sydney trio have sold out London’s 02 Academy Brixton and were all set to be touring through the UK this month before the world went into lockdown.

With their highly anticipated third studio album THE GLOW released today, DMA’S have announced a string of Unplugged and Intimate shows at Sydney’s Factory Theatre for local fans to enjoy. These gigs will undoubtably be the smallest capacities DMA’S have played to in a while, as they continue to be a festival headline act, making these an incredibly hot ticket.

We caught up with lead singer Tommy O’Dell to chat about their latest record, their stripped back performances, producing and ibises.

It’s been a massive 24 hours for the DMA’S. You guys had “Criminals” debut last night and you’ve also announced a string of shows off the back of your new album THE GLOW. That’s pretty exciting!

Yeah, I mean it’s definitely exciting to establish and release some gigs. I didn’t think that was going to happen, but it’s nice to even have that on the horizon.

Was it a really quick piece together or did you have this planned in the background for a while?

On my end it was pretty quick. I’m sure there was other people working towards the show. It was all quite new to me, it’s cool.

Is there an unreleased song from THE GLOW that you’re most excited for fans to hear at these live gigs?

Well I was really excited to hear what people thought of “Criminals”. But it got played yesterday, so I guess it’s not unreleased, technically. There’s a tune on the record called “Cobracaine”, which is like, we kind of went all out with it as far as production. So yeah, I’m interested to see what people think of that one as well.

That one’s a lot more ravey and electronic for you guys – it’s a bit different! What’s the oldest song on the album? When you start an album, do you start afresh or do you go back into your archives and pull out old songs?

Yeah, no. We have a SoundCloud link and whenever we write a tune or a demo or whatever, we put it into the SoundCloud link and the whenever it’s time to record an album we’ll just assess what kind of songs we have there. “Silver” had been in that SoundCloud link from the first album. So, yeah, that’s probably the oldest song.

I mean it’s come a long way since then and we wrote new parts for it and stuff. But, whenever we kind of get our head around making a new record, we look at what songs we have and see what songs are ready and take it from there. But, yeah, there’s a couple of older songs on the album, “Silver”, “The Glow” and “Strangers”, they’re all written around Hills End‘s time. Most of the bones of the song were written around then.

That’s one valuable SoundCloud link!

Yeah, we try to add to it every few weeks. There’s some songs that don’t even kind of get noticed until years later. Some songs that might not feel ready to release then and by the time you kind of get round to it, they take on a new life form and then they sneak out at you.

I also guess sometimes you’ll be working on something and it’s just not hitting right. Then you revisit it years down the track and suddenly something’s changed and it’s like a puzzle piece.

Yeah, that’s true. Also, because the producer for this record was very much kind of based in an electronic-dance kind of headspace.

Is this Stuart Price we’re talking about?

Yeah, Stuart Price. Some of those old songs, we knew we weren’t ready to kind of achieve what we wanted to achieve in the song.  “Cobracaine”, that used to be kind of a rocky emo song, but we always wanted it to be a dance electronic emo tune. When we worked with Stuart, we knew that we could achieve that. It just depends the time and place for different songs you have.

But yeah, touching on Stuart Price as far as a producer, we all felt so lucky to be able to work with someone so fucking good. It just created such an awesome relaxed atmosphere in the studio as well. Even though we recorded overseas, and it was way more serious than recording in our bedroom like we did on the previous record, it still felt relaxed. I think you can hear it in the album, particularly through the vocals. You can hear that it’s definitely coming from a relaxed, good space.

I think that’s a very important part of Australian music as well, we are such a relaxed culture. If you were to produce it overseas and have that stripped away, you’d be losing a lot of your home roots in that sense.

Well yeah. In saying home roots, Stuart Price goes: “Well how do you guys like to record?” Or, “How do you feel comfortable?” We’re like: “Well, in our bedroom.” So he recreated our bedroom set out in a crazy studio in LA. It was kind of like walking into your studio and then walking into a bit of a movie set, portraying our bedroom. That was kind of funny. He had a coffee table, couches.

They wouldn’t do that for every artist, that’s pretty special.

Yeah. That was cool. It was kind of a bit messy. But, it felt like we were just at home in Newtown, except we had millions of dollars worth of gear to make it sound really fucking good.

Hey, one day that will be home. You will have homes with millions of dollars worth of gear.

Yeah. Johnny’s been collecting gear for a while now. He’s getting his shit sorted as far as the studio, but it’s not really my thing, recording. I kind of like the process of recording and the process of production, but as far as actually operating all the equipment, it’s not really my thing.

You just leave that up to someone else?

Yeah. I tend to make lots of mistakes and sort of backtrack the whole process.

You’d do so much better than I would, I wouldn’t trust me at all.

Speaking of home roots, I want to ask about the ibis motif that you guys have got going on. Matt’s got an ibis tattoo and then, for your DMA’S EP there was an ibis. Then you’ve obviously got an ibis on THE GLOW, what’s the go there?

Well, I mean, as you say, it was our original EP emblem and we thought that we’d, over the years, kind of plastered ourselves across our covers and posters a lot, just our faces. We were kind of thinking maybe we don’t have to do that anymore. Maybe people know that DMA’S are who we are. We thought we’d kind of do the full circle and go back to our original kind of artwork, just with a newer twist on it with the colours and stuff.

It’s been really cool. In a way, if you’re from Sydney, you do know that the ibis is definitely symbolic in a way, particularly if you live where we live around the Inner West and stuff. Yeah. We just thought it was kind of a nice way to not put ourselves on the cover of something for once, but also kind of know that it was still touching on some of our older artwork kind of thing.

Why in the first EP did you chose an ibis? Was it around that phase that bin chickens were big? Or was it kind of you just liked the idea of ibises?

Why did we choose it? I don’t know, I don’t know why we chose it. I guess it was, in a way, symbolic of where we were from and it looks like … you kind of have to know. People from England wouldn’t know that ibis bird is really. I think it’s a kind of beautiful bird as well.

You often see it in the environment that it’s kind of not meant to be in, and that it doesn’t fit so well. But, once you do see it when it’s doing it’s thing out in the dams and shit, it’s actually quite beautiful. That was, I don’t know, we were younger back then and we were just a bit … I don’t know. I don’t know what we were thinking. Anyway, we came back to it and I think it’s a cool cover now.

Yeah, I’m about it. It’s a weird displaced prehistoric looking bird. Looping back around to your unplugged and intimate shows, do you have an opening act or are you guys going straight on?

I don’t know yet. I want to have a support band for sure. We definitely should take this opportunity to get as many people to play as we can and kind of give an entertaining evening to the people that are paying to go. I’m not sure exactly who it’s going to be yet.

What does a DMA’S pre show ritual look like?

Well, funny. We probably don’t really start really talking to each other properly until about an hour before. Everyone’s doing their own thing. Once an hour before the show comes I usually go to the green room, sit there and have a beer and play some music.

We usually play the same music each time, play Groove Armada, play lots of different stuff. We play heaps of Paul Kelly. There’s a few songs that you hear, particularly at festivals at stuff when you know, okay, it’s getting to twenty minutes before you play and you start kind of getting into the zone. [Matt] Mason likes to play some hectic heavy metal screamo shit.

Do you have a wind down playlist? What do you listen post-show?

No, no. No post show, that’s just whatever, yeah.

What can people expect from these live shows? Give me a sell!

The live show. Two sessions a night. Stripping it back and all that. It should just be nice to be able to play in a room again and not feel weird. Well hopefully it doesn’t feel weird.

Yeah, will audiences be sitting?

I heard they’ll be sitting; which is fine because people sat for our MTV Unplugged gig and that was really nice. You know when you’re watching an acoustic … well, not acoustic, but a stripped back show and sometimes when you’re sitting it’s just a bit more comfortable and you can kind of just absorb the music more, and not feel like you have to-

Bop along?

Yeah. I went to see Noel Gallagher play an acoustic gig and it was seated. Then I’ve seen him play other stuff and it was kind of standing. I definitely enjoyed it more sitting down, just being able to chill.

The DMA’S as we’ve never seen them before!

Yeah. We’re going to play lots of our new album. I think, to be honest, we write all our music on an acoustic guitar or a piano, so to see us play in this setting, really stripped back, is probably the truest way you’ll see our music kind of played. I think that’s important as well if you’re a fan of the band, to see how the music was first written.

All the way back to the beginning like the ibis. Tommy, thank you so much for chatting to me and fingers crossed I’m quick enough to nab a ticket to one of your shows and good luck with the release. It’s amazing!


30 July | Factory Theatre | Sydney, NSW | 6:30pm & 9:00pm

31 July | Factory Theatre | Sydney, NSW | 6:30pm & 9:00pm

1 August | Factory Theatre | Sydney, NSW | 6:30pm & 9:00pm

Tickets on sale through Ticketek.

Presented by Frontier Touring, I OH YOU and Secret Sounds

THE GLOW is out now. Check it out through the DMA’S official website. You can read our review of the album HERE.

Header Image: Andy Cotterlil

Tait McGregor