Crowds gather in anticipation on the steps of Usher Hall hours before DMA’s are due to take the stage. Tucked away in a mirror-lined dressing room in one of Edinburgh’s most decadent venues, I meet lead singer Tommy O’Dell ahead of the show, and talk to him about touring the UK, what’s currently in his playlist and the possibility of an electronica album.
Opening with ‘For Now,’ one of the most prominent tracks from 2018’s album, DMA’s set the tone for the evening. Tommy’s stage presence is subtle, and somewhat reminiscent of the confident stride of 1990s Britpop front-men. It is almost impossible to believe that DMA’s never intended to become a live band; “we were happy to make it a studio thing, we recorded heaps of music before we even started thinking about [playing live].” The process by which their music is written means that touring requires double the amount of band members, as Tommy describes how recording Hill’s End was a lot of layering instruments up, something they’ve looked to mature on with their latest effort. “We kind of wanted to focus a little more on not layering everything up with a million instruments, and focus on choosing five or six instruments or parts and making them sound the best we can… we’ve tried to be a bit more mature.” In terms of songwriting, each of the three brings something to the table; “everyone bringing ideas together, and kind of chop and changing it, kind of make a song around ideas which were not necessarily written for the specific song. Songs end up going somewhere which might not be as predictable.”
I was warned by security for the gig that there was a “high risk” of flares and smoke bombs that night, and within minutes of DMA’s taking the stage, the room was engulfed in varying hues of smoke. The energy of the night never wavered, even during their stripped-back acoustic version of ‘The End,’ which turned the crowd into a choir, singing along to every note. Asking about the difference between their shows in the UK and Australia, he reveals he finds crowds more passionate in the UK; “it doesn’t really matter what day of the week it is.” This sentiment is certainly seen on this Tuesday night in Edinburgh, with a relentless crowd with an unparalleled level of energy. Asking after his favourite tracks from the new album, Tommy points to ‘Time and Money’ and ‘Tape Deck Sick.’ He finds that playing songs live changes his perspective; “you get to learn and like songs in a different way when you play them live, and you see people reacting to them.
“My musical foundations lie with that English thing” confesses Tommy, whose British influence is not to be downplayed. He cites his major influences as bands such as The Beatles, Oasis, The Stone Roses and The Verve. “It comes across in the vocals I think.” he refers to the comparison between DMA’s sound and that of Manchester bands of the 1990s. “I guess when you’re the singer, it’s what people hear straight away.” Sharing the contents of DMA’s tour bus playlist, Tommy reveals he’s been listening to Hatchie, the Rolling Blackouts and has finally rolled around to the new Arctic Monkeys album. “It took me ages to get around to listening to it…I’ve got my head in my own music at the moment, working on the next record, and when you’re in that headspace you don’t really listen to other people’s music as much as you should.”
Speaking to the future of DMA’s, Tommy teases a return to their older sound; “the next record, we’ll probably go towards back where we started, the electronic thing. When we first started, we were a little bit more electronic… it was only me and Johnny, we didn’t have all the gear […] we used a lot of drum machines and stuff.” Looking to such humble beginnings, it is incredible to behold their live prowess, over 10,000 miles away from Sydney they couldn’t look more at home performing at the Usher Hall. Their momentum has not slowed since the release of ‘For Now,’ having a backlog of songs which are likely to make their way onto the third album; “we’ve got songs that we’ll probably release on the next record that we’d written back when we started.” They give the impression of a band who we are only likely to see climb higher in the future.
Image: Erin May Kelly