Q&A: Dan Haggis of The Wombats

courtesy of The Wombats.

The Wombats are performing at the 9:30 Club tonight, so we enlisted our music correspondent Mickey McCarter to have a chat with their drummer Dan Haggis about the group’s strong sophomore album and their biggest US tour to date.

Post-punk dancesmiths The Wombats, consisting of Matthew Murphy, Dan Haggis, and Tord Øverland-Knudsen, have mounted their first major tour of the United States and they are coming to the 9:30 Club for an early show on Friday. After inviting us to dance to Joy Division on their first album, “A Guide to Love Loss & Desperation”, The Wombats want us to dance some more on their second album, “This Modern Glitch”. The strong second album demonstrates that The Wombats are here to stay; they have grown their sound while staying true to the goal of making a great dance album.

We Love DC had a chat with drummer Dan Haggis to discuss the making of the new album, what it’s like to be a band from Liverpool, and a guilty pleasures on the dancefloor.

Mickey McCarter: You are about to embark on a major tour! Three weeks in the United States and Canada. How do you feel about it? Is must be exciting.

Dan Haggis: It’s the biggest US tour we have done to date. It’s every UK band’s dream to get on the road in America and to play as many different places as possible. So we are excited to get out there and see the US in all of its splendor and also to do shows for a lot of people who haven’t heard our music before and hopefully to convince a few people to come back and see us again.

MM: Well, I think the new album is going to sell them on you! I think it’s really good. Your second album sounds to me like you’ve matured as a band but you’ve still maintained a sense of fun.

DH: We wanted to move on from the first album. We didn’t want repeat the album and play drums, bass, and guitar in the same vein. So we pushed ourselves in every sense, trying to think things through from a slightly different angle and maybe be deeper and more personal. So the music just kind of grew out of that. We introduced lots of synths on the album. We tried to think it out and not restrain ourselves in any way. We wanted to keep some of the fun and excitement that we naturally have from playing live. I think we managed to get a good balance of the natural energy of the band along with a new, more interesting sound.

MM: Is the songwriting process among the three of you pretty collaborative? Do you work up ideas together or does somebody really own that process?

DH: The songs are really written by Murph. Some of the songs start with jams or one of us will send an idea over or Murph will come up with an idea. One song we did in the studio took us a while to finish. We realized that probably wasn’t the best way to do it. It took us about three months to finish off. We rewrote the chorus in the studio, but it turned out really well. That was “1996.” Every song is different really.

MM: You guys come from Liverpool, which is a city with a great musical heritage. When I think of bands from Liverpool, I think of the Beatles and Echo and the Bunnymen. Do you feel any pressure to live up to the great bands from Liverpool before you?

DH: We’re living in the shadow! But no, those bands helped put Liverpool on the map musically. We all studied at one time or another at this music college that was founded by Sir Paul McCartney. He and his fellow Beatles have done a huge amount for the city. It’s a positive thing. The Beatles became so big that everyone is musically influenced by them in some way. They influence so many artists over the years that it’s hard to separate it really. So coming from Liverpool is a very positive thing.

MM: Who are the bands influences? Outside of the Beatles, who do you look to?

DH: It’s kind of hard to form a list of what influences you. You can be influenced by someone who doesn’t sound anything like you. On this album, the influences that seem to come out were probably more Kraftwerk and Depeche Mode. But you listen to the end of “Schumacher the Champagne,” the last song on the album, and it sounds like something Crazy Horse could have done. It is a proper Neal Young-style rockout. So we just let whatever comes out come out really without trying to be too influenced by any one type of music.

MM: So you’re going to come to the 9:30 Club and play a show on Friday, but then you are going down the block to play a DJ set afterward at DC9. What sort of stuff do you like to spin on the dancefloor?

DH: Sometimes it depends on what mood we are in. But usually, the dancier the better. We will play anything from classic Fleetwood Mac right through to the Cure and Depeche Mode. And then for some 90s stuff, we will put on some Weezer and Blur and Nirvana. Then, we could play some Strokes and some guilty pleasures like Katy Perry and Rihanna or something to spice things up if the crowd is into pop music. And we’ll play electro things like Phoenix and Justice–whatever we are feeling. We end up having an iPod battle really!

MM: It sounds like you have a similar philosophy in everything you do in that you want to make people dance.

DH: Totally, especially in our DJ sets. One of the nicest things, isn’t it, to have a few drinks, lose your inhibitions and get onto the dance floor.

MM: Are you looking forward to anything in particular while you are in the United States?

DH: We have never played or been to Washington. I think we are really looking forward to going there. It’s a really important city so hopefully we will get to walk around and look at some of the landmarks. Some of our crew have been to the 9:30 Club, but we haven’t.

MM: It’s a really great club. For a first show in DC, you guys really landed in a great place.

DH: All of our friends who have been there say it’s one of the best club gigs they ever have done. They love it. So we are really looking forward to playing there. We also have some friends there that we studied with, including one guy whose nickname, funny enough, is DC. He used to live in Liverpool and hopefully we are going to meet up with him and his family. Apart from that, we are really looking forward to the road trip!

MM: After you finish this tour, do you go back to Europe and tour there? What’s next?

DH: We’ve got a European tour straight after this. We fly from Seattle to Brussels to start a three-week tour. We finish the year in Liverpool with three homecoming gigs at the Academy there. We have Christmas off to see our families and our girlfriends a bit! We are off January as well and we might go on holiday or something.

Then next year we will have to start thinking about the third album really. We haven’t really done anything on it so far. We have been working on making our shows as good as possible, so we haven’t had much time. So after January, there will be one eye on the future.

The Wombats
w/ The Postelles and Static Jacks
@ 9:30 Club
Tonight!! – 5PM

Michael splits his free time between defending the little guy and championing the underdog. He has been haunting the concert halls, dive bars, and greasy spoons of DC for the last 16 years. His interests include live rock music, researching obscure military/political conflicts, and good hamburgers. He is a friendly grump, has wisdom beyond his years, and is on a life-long quest to attain music nirvana. Follow him on Twitter if you dare!

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