DMA's Don't Even Like Oasis...

24 February 2016 | 2:13 pm | Brynn Davies

"We never listened to them, we never even liked them, and now we're in a band that people say we try and rip them off!"

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Johnny Took and Matt Mason of the DMA's wear outfits that don't match their music, period — if one can judge a band's genre by their fashion choices.

"People think that we're rappers and shit," says Johnny Took with a shrug. "We don't really think about it. We used to dress the same when we were in bluegrass bands."

Their absent lead singer, Tommy O'Dell, consistently appears on stage in shiny windbreakers zipped up to the neck, baggy jeans, sneakers and a cap peaked high — the latter all three seem to wear consistently. Think Manchester chavs with a laidback attitude.

"I don't know how he wears that stuff," says Took. Matt Mason cuts in: "He doesn't sweat… He just doesn't sweat."

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The interview seems to run less like a tennis match — back and forth between Took and Mason — and more like a one-on-one with Took, who is enthusiastic and eloquent. Mason, who is prone to observing his surroundings as we sit at a cafe on Jones Street in Sydney's Ultimo, sometimes interjects with a line or two. But he has this unexpected tendency to randomly grab a topic and go off on an energetic tangent.

"We had one row of people looking at the other row of people, sitting there staring at each other for ten hours at a time."

Their debut album Hills End is flooded with nostalgic, fuzzy Britpop, acoustic ballads and slow burners that go out with a rocky bang — definitely no rap in sight. And that style of music has garnered them a booming following that has grown steadily over a few short years. It's all thanks to a high rotation on triple j, including scoring a spot on the Hottest 100 two years running. It also comes down to nabbing coveted positions on festival line-ups both here and overseas, culminating at Coachella in January.

Took said in an interview back in 2014 that he was scared DMA's would end up being merely a hype band because they were "thrown in people's faces", but a few weeks out from the drop of their debut, he seems confident. "I think we've 100 percent broken out of that now, which I'm really glad about. People know more about us… and there's heaps more information out there [on the internet] for people to talk about."

According to said internet, DMA's originated from a number of bluegrass bands, with Took and O'Dell playing in the rock outfit Underlights before finding Mason "just kinda 'round the Newtown area" and jamming together until they officially created the band in 2013. "We were more a recording band than a live thing," says Took, who never imagined the group as anything more than a studio outfit. "I still prefer doing stuff in the studio, but it doesn't work like that. But that's alright, I'm enjoying travelling a lot. We did about eight months [of touring] last year and…"

"In a coupla months we're going to do it all again," Mason grumbles jokingly. 

Whether they like it or not, DMA's have now hit certified rock star status, with a few fired managers, messy parties and a trashed tour bus to boot. Do they name the bus a la Almost Famous? "Nah, we just trash it," says Mason, as Took gives him a look. "It does get pretty messy actually, people flying around the bus and shit," Took concedes. "Tommy fell out of the van one time when we stopped off and nearly concussed himself," continues Mason. "Oh yeah, he did get a concussion!" remembers Took with a laugh, "he had to play the next coupla gigs with like a plum gaffa-taped to his head!"

But it's not all shits and giggles on tour. "One time we had this bus with a table in the middle — that's what you don't want on a tour bus, a fucking table — and we had one row of people looking at the other row of people, sitting there staring at each other for ten hours at a time. You're just looking at their faces, and I don't know why, but you're just thinking 'You're infuriating me right now, just the look of your head.'"

They both seem to think that after their year spent touring the UK and America, their fan base has shifted overseas. "It seems like Australia isn't our biggest market anymore. We feel like even in the Netherlands we seem bigger there," says Took. Mason interjects a mumbled "Yeah, it's weird."

"He got me evicted from my fucking apartment, the prick, a few months ago."

"They played us on Dutch radio — you literally just need one DJ to dig it and the whole country jumps on board… I think it's like the Triple M of Holland," Took laughs. "In America, the city where we sold out first is called Columbus, in Ohio, and we'd never even heard of it, but it was selling the best out of anywhere. It's just because the local DJs dug it and played it a lot."

The conversation goes a little weird here, with Mason and Took jumping from arguing about the Dutch's weird sense of humour — "The Dutch like to laugh at people… But we need to be nice to the Dutch" — to discussing their stature: "They're just so tall, man… I asked some dude and he said it's because they eat lots of cheese." Then $5 blows off the table and Mason runs up the street after it, throwing us into fits of laughter.

We calm down and get back to some of the deeper subject matter on the album, and how it all came together while recording in Took's apartment. "The difference in sound of an amazing sound to a bedroom, to us it doesn't really matter. We kinda like that it sounds a bit shit. We like that it's got a DIY vibe," says Took, who mostly produced the album. He subsequently lost the apartment, mostly due to O'Dell on the drums: "He got me evicted from my fucking apartment, the prick, a few months ago. I had to move back with the folks, but that's alright because I've only got a few weeks before I have to bail."

When we get to the songs themselves, Mason throws Took in the deep end: "Johnny writes all the lyrics. There are a lot of metaphors." 

"I think of it as like a transitional kind of thing, especially when you are moving on from a relationship and all that kind of bullshit — getting your heart broken for the first time," Took elaborates. Did that happen? "Yeah, I think that happens to everyone which is why people relate to it. I like to write things that every day people relate to in the simplest form." More personally: "I'm pretty much over it now, ready to get my heart broken again, ready to be miserable again."

And then comes the question that just had to be asked. The DMA's have notoriously been compared to Oasis (by the way: "That just sort of happened... We never listened to them, we never even liked them, and now we're in a band that people say we try and rip them off!") but when Oasis frontman Noel Gallagher was asked by The Music some months ago about what he thought of the young band from Oz, he came back with "I'll have to watch them from side of stage and boo them," when both bands were set to play at the Governors Ball Festival in NYC. So… did he?

"None of it happened. He's not going to… That's just stupid. It was a stupid thing to say, I guess," says Took. "It was a stupid thing to ask," Mason mumbles.