Our Editors-in-Chief Hailie and Lucy caught up with Johnny Took of the DMAs in the run-up to their long-awaited return to the UK
Johnny Took, Tommy O’Dell, and Matt Mason make up the Sydney-based three-piece band that is DMA’s. Known for their Britpop vibe and having previously supported Liam Gallagher in 2019, the band are unsurprisingly popular this side of the hemisphere too. At long last, with their surprise EP I Love You Unconditionally, Sure Am Going to Miss You, the band are returning to UK shores this September, with dates in Edinburgh and Greenock. Choosing to play gigs in Dunfermline and Lockerbie over heartland hotspots in the past, the band have a soft spot for Scotland, noting TRNSMT as one of their favourite festivals. Our Editors-in-Chief, Lucy and Hailie, sat down with Johnny to discuss the upcoming tour, how they coped during lockdown, and, most importantly: why Greenock?
GG: Morning! Or, evening, for you? It’s half eight in the morning here.
JT: [laughing] Yeah, it’s five thirty in the afternoon here. Thanks for getting up!
GG: Thanks for chatting with us! You’re no stranger to Scotland, are you?
JT: I actually lived in Edinburgh for like 10 months? It was meant to be a year, but I had a tour in Australia near the end of it, so I thought I might as well just move back home. I’m super excited to get back, though; I had a really cool time in Edinburgh, and I’ve got a few mates in Glasgow as well that I’ve not seen in a while thanks to the pandemic. And a lot’s happened since then: we’ve released a record since, which has been really great considering the obstacles of the last 18 months. It just feels weird we haven’t played these songs in Scotland yet.
GG: Yeah, the last time you played in Scotland was when you played TRNSMT in 2019, wasn’t it?
JT: Wow. Yeah. I think it was. That was one of our favourite gigs, like ever. I still watch videos of it online sometimes; it was very nostalgic.
GG: So what’s your favourite city then, Edinburgh or Glasgow? Choose wisely…
JT: Oh, definitely Glasgow. Definitely for doing stuff, nightlife, music, all that kind of thing. But when I’d had a big night in Glasgow and would be getting the train back to Edinburgh, there was a part of me that was like “oh Edinburgh, it’s so quaint and beautiful”…
GG: How’s it been being stuck in the studio over the pandemic?
JT: Oh, I’ve been spending all my time here. It’s been a bit hard; we’re in lockdown at the moment, so I’ve been recording stuff in Melbourne and sending stuff up to them in Sydney. We had a lot of momentum in the UK prior to The Glow, and though the whole world has stopped – it’s not just us – we’re just trying to keep that momentum snowballing now I guess, and get music out.
GG: You’ve got such a huge fan base over here; it must be weird being away from them for so long?
JT: Yeah, yeah, well it’s crazy: The Glow went number one in Scotland! And we haven’t been back over there yet, so that makes it particularly exciting for us.
GG: We saw that your first tour date is actually in Greenock, which is a… bizarre… location. Have you ever been to Greenock before?
JT: No, I haven’t actually. What’s it like?
GG: [laughing] It’s… an interesting place. You’ll definitely experience a whole other subculture of Scotland, but it’ll be a good time.
JT: It looks pretty cool, like near the water and stuff? We’re playing the town hall there. We’ve always played alternative places. Our biggest show, at the time, was when we played Motherwell, and then we also played Dunfermline. That’s how we got a name in the UK, we went to so many towns and cities we hadn’t heard of, you know, being from Sydney. We put in the time and the effort to go not just to all the big cities, but peoples’ hometowns as well. I think people appreciate that. And they realise it’s a bit unique as well, to go and travel to towns you wouldn’t usually.
GG: My cousin is self-declared as one of your biggest fans, and would kill me if I didn’t name drop his band, Easy Days. What advice would you give him, or anyone else, to get things moving, from your experience?
JT: I guess what I would say is: make sure there’s someone in the band who’s pretty much writing songs every day. From my experience, the reason that DMA’s was successful from the start was because of our momentum. We wrote something like 60 songs at the start. Some people think that because you’ve written nine songs, you’re ready to play a gig. Maybe that works for some, but it doesn’t for me. I know that if I’ve written nine songs, maybe two of them are good, and others were just alright, you know? But when you’ve got 60 songs, and then you pick nine out of that, all of a sudden every song is pretty fuckin’ good. Then when people come and watch you, the first song gets played and they’re like “hmm, I really like this”, and then the next song comes along and they go “shit, this is pretty good”, and then at every song, they’re like “woah, that’s crazy”… Then they tell their friends, and their friends come and see the gig. And then they have the same experience, and then it goes on and on.
GG: You supported Liam Gallagher in 2019… What’s he like?
JT: Yeah, it was crazy. Liam’s probably like one of my favourite people I’ve ever met. Not because he’s that famous – although I’m not saying it wasn’t daunting meeting him – but he was so cool, and so funny, and just loves music. It was just a super nice experience meeting someone like that. And obviously we’re Oasis fans, and there’s a small crossover with our fan base, so playing with him in front of that audience was just great.