I chatted to Matt Mason from Aussie band DMA’s on the horizon of their forthcoming live album, Live at Brixton, which is set for release on March 5th. The album features the live set from their O2 Academy Brixton show from the 6 March 2020, to a sold-out audience. Matt Mason discusses the venue’s importance, how Covid has effected touring plans and how the Aussie trio feel like a British band.
We’re here to chat about your new live album – ‘Live at Brixton’ which has been hailed as one of the highlights of your career so far. The gig was part of the promo for your third album ‘The Glow’ which was released three months late due to covid. It shows a lot of musical progression and seems to break free from the Britpop box that you kinda got put into, was that intentional?
We didn’t mind being labelled as Britpop, because there’s nothing wrong with that. It’s a genre that we all love, it’s just that there’s so many other genres of music we love and are inspired by. I feel like we’re getting compared to that world less and less, which I like, because we’re not British! There’s a lot more going on over here that we relate to. We have made small efforts over the years, not to break out of it, but to make room for other influences to be recognised.
You all have different influences that you bring to the band. What do you bring personally?
I like a lot of country and bluegrass music.
Do you think you’ll ever bring that into DMA’s or are you going down the more electronic dance route?
I dunno, we’ve written a lot of music on banjos and stuff. But I think in the composing element, we’ll never release a DMA’s bluegrass album, no haha. I don’t think anyone’s asking for that.
On that note, were you worried about the fact that the new album wasn’t as guitar-laced, and was more dance heavy?
I wasn’t worried about that, no. I was happy there were no guitars going on because I didn’t have to go into the studio. We did some in LA and some in London, and there was a big heatwave in the UK at the time, so it just meant that I could go out and enjoy the sunshine.
Your first ever show in the UK was at Brixton Academy supporting The Courteeners. How did it feel to come back and headline the same venue?
It was crazy. We were walking around the venue and our drummer was like “Have we been here before? It’s ringing a bell.” I don’t think I ever told him though, I just thought it was funny. It was a bit of a moment though to be playing our own headline show there. That’s the one thing when you support someone, you think “Will this one day be our show?” so it’s quite a nice thing when it does happen. We supported Kasabian at the Edinburgh Castle Gardens and we were due to headline there too. The show didn’t go ahead but that was another bucket list thing. I suppose you wouldn’t put every venue you play onto a bucket list, but it’s nice to see that kind of progression.
How do you prepare for a gig like that?
My friend Jodie lives in London, a really old friend of ours when we were growing up. So we caught up, and she took me shopping in Camden and showed me a shop that sells leather jackets. I’ve always wanted a leather jacket but they’re kind of hard to find in Australia because it doesn’t get that cold here, and Australian people aren’t that stylish, so there’s no reason for there to be leather jackets here. But in the UK it’s colder and everyone dresses really well, so there’s a lot more cool jackets and stuff. So I went out with her and I bought one. Then after the gig I had it on backstage and Liam Gallagher complimented it, I dunno, that just made me really happy. But that’s what I did. I was a bit late to soundcheck because Camden is quite far from Brixton, but I’m glad I went. That’s pretty much all I remember from it.
Does it feel strange that DMA’s biggest show was in the UK and not in your home city?
That’s a good question, there’s a lot more people in the UK, like Australia is a third of the size population. For a while our biggest headline show was in Sydney, and then Manchester and then this one. I think a lot of people in the UK still think we’re from there, I’ll meet people after shows sometimes and they’ll ask if I’m from Australia and I’ll be like “we’re all from Australia!” and they’ll be like “No!”. So I think that it is home turf in a way.
I was taken aback because when I’ve met you before as you all seem so British, but then speak with an Australian accent.
We get that a lot, and we’ve been so embraced over there, and when I think about it I don’t see us as an Australian band. When we have meetings it’s always quite UK centric and about how we’re going to do stuff over there. It used to be that Australia was the main focus, but now whenever we have phone calls, our UK management are making most of the decisions now. So to answer your question I don’t think it’s strange, because we feel like a UK band.
Is the music scene in Sydney completely different to the UK scene?
I haven’t spent enough time in the UK to really comment on the local scene, but when I go to shows in Sydney (distracted by cockatoos outside) can you hear that? They’re these Australian birds that are so fuckin loud at this time of day. Anyway, I go to a lot of shows in Sydney with friends and that’s my experience of music there, and my experience of UK music is through supporting bigger bands. So I can’t really compare the two. I know the crowds are a lot crazier in the UK. I think there’s a common belief that our shows are crazy. But everyone who thinks that is wrong. In the UK it’s often scary, we’ll be on stage looking at each other like “Fuck! I’m so glad I’m up here and not down there.” I think they’re getting wilder. The more North you go the crazier they get, Scotland’s crazy. Well in Scotland they bring in metal detectors for every gig we play, sort of like at the airport, which you’d never see in Australia. I’ve never been to local gigs in the UK, I’m just here for work and when I’m finished I head straight back. If I ever spend more time in the UK I’ll get down to some local shows definitely.
No plans to move here then?
Well, we get asked all the time to do it because it makes more sense financially than flying six people over there. I think in 2019 we flew to the UK and back 5 times. That’s 300 hours of just being on a plane. There’s that element to it. But I’ve just got so many friends over here. I think we’re starting to get into songwriting a bit more, and we’re getting into writing songs for other people. If that takes off some more then I would consider it, because you could get asked at any time to go into a songwriting session. But at the minute I’m happy flying over, because I just can’t stand the cold. When we tour I don’t mind it, but not if I experienced it for 2 months non stop. Also, it’s winter over here during summer in Australia, so I’d be looking at photos of all my friends on the beach and it would just drive me fucking crazy. I don’t think I could do it for more than a couple months.
Have you got any personal highlights from Brixton?
Walking out on stage was pretty crazy, also I mentioned that Liam Gallagher was there with his family and friends. He just stopped me at the side of the stage and said ‘good luck man’ which freaked me out because I didn’t expect it. I couldn’t stop thinking that he was there. Our drummer played the song we were gonna play last, second to last. He must’ve misread the order of the setlist. So on the album we’ve printed out a setlist that doesn’t match with the setlist on the back of the album, which was his fuck up. But it’s quite memorable now because of that.
You must of felt elated to see the fans reaction to the songs?
Seeing the reaction to ‘Silver’ in the crowd was nice. The biggest response we used to get was ‘Delete’, and I didn’t think we’d be able to get bigger than that. So that’s cool that there’s a new song that gets that response. The first time I noticed that was Brixton. At a bigger venue like Brixton, you can see more and take in the crowd more. I like that there were only one or two flares. It freaks us out when that happens and it’s indoors. I sometimes struggle to breathe. I was happy that trouble was kept to a minimum. Everything went smoothly apart from the setlist mishap which was fine. There was minimal beer being thrown at us. I appreciate it from the punters perspective, but I hear about people throwing piss around and I just really hope it doesn’t land on a keyboard or something. I think Southerners don’t do that as much. The afterparty was great and it was just a sick night. No gig will ever be as exciting as that. We spent a lot of time trying to play a few songs as closely to the record as we could, so we hired a guy called Jon Skourleto from Melbourne and spent a week or two making things sound really big. We always wanted to do something like that, and we really nailed it with this new equipment. Jon actually flew from Melbourne to London for the show too.
The video you released to celebrate the live album was ‘Lay Down’ which was off Hill’s End, why did you choose this track over one off of The Glow?
I just get told that kind of thing, I’m guessing it was a management decision. I like that song so I’m like “Yeah sure, whatever.” I think they picked it because you can hear the crowd going crazy in it, it’s a big song too. For many fans it was the final show before it all stopped, but at least they have this live album.
Are you planning to release it on DVD?
We get asked that a lot. I asked our management and he was like “who buys DVD’s these days? When was the last time you bought a DVD?” and to be fair I don’t even have a DVD Player. I don’t think they’re gonna release it. Maybe it’ll get uploaded onto youtube.
The impact of Covid on your plans must be very frustrating, have you had any news about what’s happening?
I just dunno. The way that the booking agents are approaching it is to just say that it’s happening, until it’s definitely not happening. But I haven’t seen any flights for April so I’ve no idea if it’ll be happening so soon. The UK won’t be vaccinated before June, so anything before that is very optimistic. It’s up to the government. I’m really disappointed because this year was gonna be our biggest year, and we were finally gonna make some coin. It’s fine though, because I actually had quite a good year, because it really fucks you up going on tour. Every city is a party, and they don’t realise that you’ve been doing it every night for the past two weeks, so you’re not that keen. You can’t really say no a lot of the time, because it’s great to meet fans so you end up in this crazy spiral, and by the end of it you’ve been away from home and haven’t eaten that well. As much as I look forward to touring, it’s also good not to tour. Some people tour really hard and I don’t know how they do it. It was a bit of blessing. My body and brain is grateful.
What does the future hold for DMA’s? Are you doing a lot of writing or treating this as some down time?
I’m just in my studio everyday. I’m helping a lot of musicians out with their songwriting at the minute. We’re gonna start getting into that. We’re writing a lot for ourselves and other people. It’s so much fun to write a song and then get someone like Tommy to sing it, because he’s such an amazing singer. It’s very satisfying. I can sing, but not for DMA’s. If I sang for DMA’s I don’t think anyone would want to be interviewing us. It’s nice to work with other singers too.
Is it too early to ask about another album?
There’s a lot going on in the works that I can’t speak about. I’m sworn to secrecy, but there’s videos on our Instagram of us in the studio. So we’ve not slowed down our songwriting because of Covid, if anything we’ve been doing it more than ever.
The new album Live at Brixton is out 5th March. Pre-order and pre-save now: https://dmas.lnk.to/brixtonalbumID
YOU TUBE: https://www.youtube.com/c/DMASmusic/
APPLE MUSIC: https://music.apple.com/gb/artist/dmas/815672978/