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Exclusive interview: Johnny Took on DMA’S rise from Down Under

Abigail Taylor sits down with Johnny Took from the DMA'S.

As Australia’s ‘most British band’, it is no surprise that the DMA’S are rising to fame across the nation.

An almost completely sold out U.K. tour has given Tommy, Mason and Johnny the recognition that they deserve. Their second album For Now brought us hits such as ‘In the air‘ and ‘Dawning‘ enabling the three guys to tour the world with no signs of slowing down.

 

DMA's performing live in front of an ecstatic crowd at a live show in the U.K.
DMA’S live at the Usher Hall, Edinburgh

I sat down with Johnny Took, acoustic guitarist, to discuss everything from inspirations to potential far out collaborations.

If you’ve ever been ‘backstage’ of a gig, you’ll know that it definitely was not the glitz and glam you were perhaps expecting. Too many people running through narrow corridors looking terribly busy and most noticeably under slept.

I was escorted down one of these corridors to a room marked ”Dressing Room – DMA’S”, I thought to myself, this is going to be amazing. I was wrong. A large, semi-clothed room, which was very underwhelming, met me.

I sat next to Took as he peeled an orange.

Inspiration for any band is probably the most important factor in finding their sound and look. The DMA’S have been compared to many household names such as The Courteeners and Oasis but what, specifically for them, was the turning point for the DMA’S?

We definitely do take inspiration from lots of those 90’s Brit pop era bands who have been some of mine and Tommy’s favourites. When we were kids, we listened to lots of that music. I don’t think we even realised how big it was and still is. As kids living in Sydney, we didn’t really know. We’d heard The Stone Roses and Oasis, Primal Scream bands like that – as a 15-year-old we thought wow, that was pretty cool. We have loads of vibes, Mason listens to a lot of American guitar music, we actually used to play in a Bluegrass band together which has really helped with song writing together now. One thing I like is country music and that style, the true song writing – my dad got me into the country genre. He used to do the live tech for bands, so the music has always been around me. We all love all kinds of different music; I just really like writing songs.

The band got together through the local music scene in Sydney, quite a niche environment. For the last year they’ve been touring the world, the contrast is unimaginable. The process of evolving in order to improve was something that came across as very important.

“I think the contrast happens quite naturally, we actually played in Sneaky Pete’s once and it was amazing, that was like the first time coming here in front of like 20 people but we’d never been to Edinburgh before – we were on the other side of the world, we were young and excited, but then a few years pass and you learn how to tour and how to improve your live show, its natural, it’s about thinking about how we played that show way back then and then how we play a show now, its lots of little baby steps.”

A key point in the rise of fame for the band was a 2017 cover of Cher‘s hit Believe. The cover was performed for Triple J and went viral. If you haven’t listened to it, it’s a must! Once you’ve heard it, you’ll find it hard to believe, that it was quite a last-minute idea.

“Well, we didn’t really make a decision, it wasn’t really a choice to do a cover but that’s normally what radio things want you to do. I think we were in Germany and Mason was playing it kind of as a joke but it actually sounded really good when Tommy sang along with it, I don’t think we realised how big it would be, like I was playing the wrong cords two hours before the recording, we’ve only really rehearsed it a couple of times.”

Playing shows has been a massive part of the journey so far, from intimate gigs to sold out festival crowds, he went on to say,

“I love them both but there is something incredibly special when someone pays to come and see your shows, I think you can have a different vibe at a festival, neither are better or worse, both are amazing.

“We played couple of shows with Kasabian, those guys are really lovely dudes they’re really cool, we played Summer Sessions in the park here and we did a date in Belfast and had couple of beers with them after, they were so nice to us, it was weird but awesome.”

Two albums and a couple more singles later, there are no plans to stop. Something important to note, is the difference between album number one and album number two. Often, we hear of fans complaining of too much of the same or not enough. It can either make or break an artist or band to mix it up a little.

“Yeah I think that’s really important for us we don’t want to make the same album again and again, even as a listener you can think you want the same record again because you loved the last but if it was the same it wouldn’t be progress, you want something to surprise you and it’ll then become your next favourite album.

“I don’t think anyone ever expects these things I’m really trying to just enjoy the moment I’m in, if we’ve been touring for a long time I don’t want to be thinking ‘oh I wish I was home with some Netflix’, I need to think ‘I’m here so I’m going to have a great time here on the other side of the world and it is great’. But when at home, it’s nice to cook meals at home watch some stupid series with your partner, and enjoy the moment, I’d like to keep doing that throughout my life.”

The band has even been featured in the popular video game FIFA 17 with their song ‘Play it Out‘. the passion wasn’t hard to see when talking to Johnny. It was clear that what he is doing now is something that he truly loves and that he isn’t taking anything for granted.

 

 

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