Sheffield Music: The Wombats bassist Tord Øverland Knudsen talks to The Star ahead of their show at The Leadmill
and live on Freeview channel 276
“It’s great when a piece of music or like an album can bring you back in your mind to a certain time of your life, or a certain place. That’s the beauty of music isn’t it?”
And time is definitely something that has passed since the formation of this English indie rock band who were formed at university in Liverpool way back in 2003, nineteen years in the making and still not showing any signs of slowing down, The Wombats have embarked on another UK-wide (and European) tour following the release of their latest album, ‘Fix Yourself, Not The World’, earlier this year.
A chart-topping performance from the band’s fifth album firmly put any doubts about their relevance out to pasture, while also delivering a funk-pop collection of music that delivered yet more of those familiar yet catchy songs that we have found ourselves attributing to the band for nearly two whole decades now. The Wombats’ bassist and founding member, Tord Øverland Knudsen took some time out of his hectic schedule to talk to The Star ahead of the band’s upcoming show at the O2 Academy in Sheffield on October 21, 2022, or this week for those of you not in the know… but who’s counting anymore?
From the mid-00s indie anthem Let's Dance to Joy Division to Moving to New York all the way through to If You Ever Leave, I'm Coming with You, the band have done what so many of their peers from that era have failed to do and that's persevere while also staying true to themselves as their creative arc took them almost twenty years down the line. The Guardian’s Alex Petridis alluded to this himself in his review of ‘Fix Yourself, Not The World’, when highlighting that The Wombats unlike some of their mid 00s peers who were cruelly lauded as being ‘landfill indie’ had somehow managed to overcome the ignominy of being forgotten, while also outliving the final days of the once-loved – and much missed – print publication of the NME. Not only that but inexplicably - to some - they seemed to have only gotten bigger, with a broader and oft-younger fanbase all while retaining the sort of musical relevance, ardour, following and sustained prevalence that so many failed in their quest to attain.
That’s the thing about The Wombats, although they still perform the anthemic post-punk guitars of Let’s Dance to Joy Division or Moving to New York there’s no denying that the unlike some bands who shirk change they embraced change and incorporated their catchy indie tunes into a pop-infused evolution of their sound.
It has been mentioned in multiple interviews that they recorded much of the album remotely, while the world was in the grip of a series of continental lockdowns and, at least in the band’s case, access into different countries.
Tord discussed the experience of producing at least part of this album in such a strange way:
"It was a bit of a challenge in terms of logistics, obviously Murph living in LA and kind of being stuck there. I somehow managed to get to the UK, just before the second lockdown and we recorded throughout.”
"There were no distractions, everything was closed anyway. So there was just us in the studio and in full focus on just the album and nothing else.”
"We felt like it really summed up what everyone was experiencing at the time — you know, with the pandemic. Everyone has a responsibility to contribute in their own way in order for the world to be a good place. There was also quite a bit about mental health as well, especially with people struggling and dealing with that sort of disconnect”
Track 11 on the album, ‘Worry’, really delves into struggles with anxiety, OCD and the impact of a global lockdown on people. While also alluding to difficult moments experienced by the bands vocalist Matthew Murphy, who bravely opened up on his struggles as a means of disempowering the stigmas around mental health. Something Tord pointed out as being the inspiration behind the album’s title.
“One of the best things about humanity is our ability to forget bad things”
While we’re seeing a resurgence of indie bands as part of a nostalgic trend, The Wombats have somehow harnessed the minds of Generation X, being propelled further into the trendy subconscious of a younger following that perhaps didn’t even exist through the likes of TikTok. Their single Greek Tragedy was one of those songs that captured the minds of many, as the song featuring in multiple memes on the burgeoning social platform that inherently encourages perpetual scrolling… resulting in their light shining ever brighter.
That 00s era of indie may well have ended but this trio have more than enough to say and lots yet to do… except in this instance they have plenty more willing to listen and follow their journey onwards.
The Wombats will be performing at the O2 Academy on Friday, October 21, 2022. You can buy tickets here: https://www.academymusicgroup.com/o2academysheffield/events/1363556/wombats-tickets
Fix Yourself, Not The World is out now from all good record stores and also on all streaming platforms.
If you’d like to listen to the interview in full, check out this week’s episode of the Chris Talks Music podcast here: https://anchor.fm/chris-talks-music