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February 2021

DMA'S: "Growing up in the public eye is quite a scary thing"

Gearing up to release their third album, DMA’S are at the forefront of a new wave of festival headliners - and, global pandemic aside, they show no signs of slowing down.
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Published: 1:38 pm, July 08, 2020Words: Jamie Muir.
DMA'S: "Growing up in the public eye is quite a scary thing"

It's a Friday night in London, 6th March to be precise, and DMA'S are about to step on stage at Brixton Academy. It's a sell-out night, tickets snapped up in a matter of moments, and arguably one of their most significant points to date. The years of grafting away, playing every festival they could and jumping at any opportunity to get back on the road has led to this. What's even more remarkable is that this isn't the end of album crowning but only the beginning, the first mark in the sand for what's to come. They'll step on stage and across nearly an hour and a half, put on one of their greatest shows to date to over 5,000 die-hard fans screaming along with every note - even recent releases such as 'Silver' and the barely week-old 'Life Is A Game Of Changing'. It's a night they and everyone gathered will talk about for a long time… but with an added significance that nobody could see coming.

"It was amazing," reflects guitarist Johnny Took, sitting in his Melbourne home and casting his mind back to that night. "It was just before this complete anarchy kicked in, and just was a really special show for us, particularly because it was in London too. We've always had an amazing reaction in the north of the UK but to see that in London was a completely different beast.

"We've had a lot of messages saying that was the last night a lot of people went out…"

While the world has stopped, its timing seemed a particular spanner into a year that was shaping up to be DMA'S most transformative. Their return to headline a string of festivals at the start of May (including Live At Leeds) has been scuppered, but that doesn't put a dimmer on 'The Glow' - their bold third studio album that doesn't so much as cement their place as a band carving their own path, but establishes DMA'S as a band continuing to rise and rise to the very top. A complete record that elevates in every way on their previous two records, it's a confident reach for stadium-sized glory. The results speak for themselves, and as the sun opens up once again - it's one that takes on a whole new meaning.

Johnny ponders: "Y'know, we'd done the indie-guitar jangly-pop kinda thing quite a bit, and we didn't want to just do that again. When we first came out, we never hid the fact that we love 90s Britpop music but at the same time… that was a cool place to start, but it's not like we want to be doing that for the rest of our lives! Obviously, there are still elements of that in there, in our songwriting and whatnot, but we didn't want to make that record again. We love pop music, and we love dance production and those electronic elements, and it's important for us to keep pushing ourselves. It can all be quite scary sometimes because you're really, realistically, growing up in the public eye. That's quite a scary thing."

From the first rings of debut offerings 'Feels Like 37' and their self-titled EP bow, DMA'S seemed born with that untouchable ability to unite thousands in one mass moment. A soaring knack for making you want to grab the nearest person and sing your lungs out. The rest of the story seemed inevitable, blossoming not only in Australia but particularly in the UK - feeling like a long-lost favourite from a time where guitar music ruled the charts and airwaves. DMA'S were practically welcomed as one of the UK's own, honorary Brits if that ever was a term to be bandied about.

"The whole journey has been pretty amazing, especially not being from the UK and how much Britain has kinda taken us under their wing," notes Johnny. "We kinda feel like we are in that tier of bands now going around the festival circuit that people have embraced and it's kinda inspiring, y' know? That's what particularly makes the release of this album so exciting… like with the first EP and album, some of those songs are some of the most important songs we've ever written, but I guess maybe we didn't have that following for word to go round as much as we do now."

"We're a bunch of guys from the inner-west of Sydney, and now we've just played a sold-out Brixton Academy, with Alexandra Palace hopefully in October too"

'The Glow' doesn't try to hide its ambition in any way. An amalgamation of everything DMA'S have done so far with an added shot of something bigger, it's a band growing in front of people's eyes. Of wanting to be that band performing to tens of thousands in festival fields and arenas around the globe. "I think our songs have always had a bit of [ambition] to them, but this album is something different and unique for us," lays out Johnny.

Taking things to new levels can be found squarely in the creative process around 'The Glow'. With a near-constant work ethic that finds the trio working on songs wherever they go, whether together, apart or with producer Scott Horscroft on tracks like the epic 'Silver' and 'Round And Around', they found themselves teaming up with renowned producer to the stars Stuart Price on a large portion of the record - adding new dynamics to sounds they previously would never have thought of. "Y'know, he's worked with the likes of Madonna, Pet Shop Boys, New Order, The Killers - the list goes on," laughs Johnny. "He's immensely hands-on and a bit of a musical genius, which was good for us because we like working with people who are that hands-on and know their music. We had that 10% of leeway when going into the studio, to just see where we could take things, and we'd all sit around the room bouncing ideas off each other and going through our phones with different like memos and voice recordings."

Setting up the studio in a way that reminded the band of their debut album 'Hill's End' and its bedroom recording beginnings with a sofa front and centre and amps scattered around - they were free to take in and experiment in any way they chose fit, with everything in arms reach.' Life Is A Game Of Changing', a spinning highlight from 'The Glow', went from a track partly written across a number of years and cities to a synth-filled guitar world that echoes late-night club emotion. "We were just free to try things out, Stuart suggesting things and us going with it all. Stuff like that just took the songs to the next level that we wouldn't have thought about before.

"It was all really new to us, some of the things we were trying out in the studio, and from that, I think that songs shone more because of it. No idea was stupid. No idea was dumb. Stuart would explore every idea that anyone brought in - and would explore it to the very end. It's funny because when you think of working with like a big scary producer that it would be the opposite but he was really the most chilled person I've ever worked with in the studio."

That growth and development all comes from what is engrained in DMA'S DNA. Being the type of band where thousands of fans flock to their every show and sings as loud as they can throughout. At their core, it's that ability to write peerless indie anthems for a new generation - and their potential for something even greater than that. "One thing that really stood out and was great when talking to Stuart before the album was just… he really believed in the songs. He could hear that we were a bunch of kids who kinda write indie-pop songs, but I think he saw a vision of what we could really be. I think he saw it in Tommy's voice, that it could be bigger than that, y'know?"

"We never hid the fact that we love 90s Britpop - that was a cool place to start"

Amplified to new levels, there's a fresh pop sensibility to DMA'S swagger this time around. 'Criminals' is a chopping cut of stuttering electro and smooth pop, 'Strangers' and its prowling darkness is both chilling and emphatic while the punchy 'Hello Girlfriend', 'Round And Around' and 'Never Before' is practically inviting pandemonium once gigs return to the fore. 'Appointment' is a blissful ode and on the other side, album closer 'Cobracaine' is their most enticing release to date - a Pet Shop Boys track born again in DMA'S image. Their most complete album to date, it's one without compromise.

Many bands end up stuck in a rut on album number three. Instead, DMA'S growth is just getting started. "That's what I love about DMA'S," opens up Johnny. "We've never felt, y' know, pressured into being anything that we're not and we've kinda grown with our own sound. I think our fans have grown with us as well. I remember releasing 'In The Air' and 'The End' and people being a bit sceptical at the time because it wasn't 'Lay Down' or 'Play It Out', but those songs ended up becoming people's favourite songs, and I think there are tracks on this album that will do the same thing."

An exciting invitation into what comes next, 'The Glow' is the album DMA'S have been primed to make for a number of years. Unexpected in parts, exhilarating throughout and taking that unstoppable core to amplified surround-sound screens - it's a dazzling next step for a band only just getting started. "It's pretty incredible, man. We've got to pinch ourselves," cracks Johnny. Their next step after 'The Glow' is to celebrate it all at London's Alexandra Palace - a huge night for a band with a fresh album born for that very moment.

It's set to be a coronation and gives Johnny a moment to take a look back at what's led them to now. Even if he doesn't like thinking squarely of the past. "Y'know, we make an effort to stop and smell the roses a bit because I think it's easy to rush through life and not pat yourself on the back a bit and say 'hey, like… fuck!' We're a bunch of guys from the inner-west of Sydney, and now we've just played a sold-out Brixton Academy, with Alexandra Palace hopefully in October too. It's… It's…"

There's a pause. "Not many people get to do that in life, especially to do that on the other side of the world, so we're pretty humbled and excited."

"I'm lucky I guess, I don't really look back. You can look back on certain moments or performances and wish things were better but y' know what - it was all part of this journey, and it's real. I kinda like that."

Until then, DMA'S are taking this time to write and create - already plotting in the back of their minds what comes next. There's no slowing them down now. "Right now it's a scary time, but it's important for us that the album comes out and we'll be ready to go. It is what it is, and we're lucky that we have this record finished and it's something we're really proud of."

Pigeonhole DMA'S at your peril, theirs is a glow only getting brighter and brighter.

Taken from the July issue of Dork. DMA'S album 'The Glow' is out 10th July.

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