Arizona fans give Wombats reason to visit valley
British alt-rockers The Wombats rolled into town Tuesday night for their first-ever Phoenix show on a headline tour promoting their second studio album, “This Modern Glitch.”
Perhaps unsurprisingly, bassist Tord Øverland-Knudsen’s first impression of Arizona was, “It’s ridiculously hot.”
“We were talking about this before; what made people actually move here?” Øverland-Knudsen asked the audience.
Drummer Dan Haggis was quick to jump into the discussion. “There must have been a river here,” he said. “Or I would have thought it would have been some mineral or copper or something.”
The band mates were enthusiastic to learn about their temporary home — they had only a few hours before taking the day-long drive to Austin, Texas for the Austin City Limits Music Festival — and their enthusiasm, if a bit facetious, was just as apparent when they talked about their music.
The three band mates, Haggis and Øverland-Knudsen as well as their lead singer Matthew “Murph” Murphy, met and formed the band while studying music at the Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts in England.
“It wasn’t even called The Wombats then. We were just having a bit of a fun time,” Haggis said. “But when we had six songs, we were like, we can do a gig now. We booked the gig without a name and they said, ‘What’s your name? We need something to put on the poster,’ and I went, ‘Eh, put The Wombats down for now.’ Just literally a phone call. We could’ve been called anything: the otters, the emus, the trouts.”
And when it came to the beginnings of their recording and touring careers, the band managed to retain that very same playfulness, interspersing songs with the odd wailing fit or bout of uncontrollable laughter.
“(Our music) has definitely changed, though,” said Haggis. “It’s boring to stay the same, isn’t it? Early on, it was definitely a bit more twee.”
“Yeah,” Øverland-Knudsen said, “Murph’s voice was very soft. … There’s a bit more power to it now.”
That evolution happened over a series of EPs, two studio albums and countless tours. However, no matter how extensive the band’s discography, it still can’t quite put a finger on how to describe its music.
“Technicolored indie pop,” Haggis said.
“It’s hard for us to describe it,” Øverland-Knudsen added.
“What does ‘indie’ even mean anymore? It doesn’t mean anything, does it?” Haggis said. “And pop just means it’s popular, I guess. It’s catchy. We’re quite ‘rock-y’ live as well, these days. And there’s a bit of punk.”
“Electronica, too,” Øverland-Knudsen said.
“So, just write every genre down, basically,” Haggis said. “Bit of folk in there, as well.”
Elements of every one of these genres is truly apparent in the band’s music, though the band said this is because it has been playing original music from the beginning, and this has allowed the band to pull from a wide spread of musical influences.
This tour marks the fourth U.S. tour The Wombats have taken to promote “This Modern Glitch,” and the Phoenix stop saw the band play to an exuberant crowd at the Crescent Ballroom venue. The group sang along to hits like “Techno Fan” and “Kill the Director,” the latter of which was on its debut album, “A Guide to Love, Loss & Desperation.”
Fellow Brits, the dance-rock outfit Morning Parade, which hails from Essex, England, supported the Wombats on its tour. The group played a crisp 30-minute set full of Steve Sparrow’s clean, swooping vocals and keyboardist Ben Giddings’s catchy synth interludes, to which the packed crowd responded with loud cheers and even odd dance moves.
To Phoenix fans, Haggis said, “Thanks for all of your support, and thanks for giving us a reason to come to Phoenix.”
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