Sydney rockers DMA’s have been described as Britpop revivalists and 90s obsessives, but there’s more to the Aussie trio than meets the eye.
As scores of well-dressed young lads and lasses descended on Manchester’s Pretty Green store at lunchtime on Saturday 5, passers-by may have been forgiven for assuming Liam Gallagher’s designer brand was launching a new spring-summer collection.
That DMA’s attract such a clientele is evidence of the way in which they have been quickly categorised by the British music press and fans alike.
Reverbed guitars, Beatles-esque melodies, sing-along anthems and vocals from front man Tommy O’Dell which are eerily reminiscent of Gallagher in his pomp – surely the heirs apparent to Britpop’s vacant throne?
We’ve added more UK shows in April. Tickets on sale 9am Friday – https://t.co/PKEcFtSUp4
Pic: @lindsaymelbourne_ pic.twitter.com/uZoZLC22V7
— DMA’S (@dmasmusic) March 9, 2016
Sipping a Guinness, guitarist Johnny Took explained that he sees it slightly differently.
“I actually grew up listening to a lot of folk and country music,” he told MM.
“Lots of Springsteen, Dylan and Neil Young, too. I used to play in a blues brass band.
“I was about 15 or 16 when I started listening to bands like Oasis, The Stone Roses, The Jesus and Mary Chain, Primal Scream, The Happy Mondays, The La’s and all that.
“We were in a minority in Australia but we loved the melodies and the loud guitars. Just young kids getting stuck into rock music.
“[Guitarist, Matt] Mason had never even listened to Oasis or anything like that! He was more into Sonic Youth.
“But Tommy’s dad is a Scouser so he grew up with all those influences and I think you can hear that in his voice.”
Tommy’s vocals are undeniably influenced by the likes of Gallagher, Lee Mavers and an early Ian Brown but his smooth Australian twang leaves his voice sounding somewhere geographically in between – more akin to Tom Clarke of Coventry’s The Enemy, perhaps?
“You know I’ve never listened to The Enemy before but a lot of people have mentioned that!” Johnny said.
“But Tommy didn’t even know he could sing.
— DMA’S (@dmasmusic) March 10, 2016
“We’d be practising and Tommy would be on drums and he’d suggest how Mason should sing a particular chorus.
“Then he’d sing it and I would think ‘wow, get out from behind the drum kit, man!’”
It’s not only DMA’s sound which has attracted the comparisons to Britpop and classic bands from the north of England, but their image too.
In Kappa baseball caps, baggy t-shirts and black jackets, they resemble a late 90s football crowd more than a band.
As for debut album Hill’s End, who is that smoking a cigarette and idly gazing into the camera à la Chris McClure on Arctic Monkeys’ debut Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not?
“That’s me!” Johnny laughed.
“I’d never even noticed that.
“That picture was taken in my kitchen in my old apartment in Sydney.
“It was just a photo shoot, it wasn’t specifically meant to be for the album. But no I’d never thought of that.”
Manchester tonight 2100 pic.twitter.com/xbYuSqPgXH
— DMA’S (@dmasmusic) March 5, 2016
The three Australians seem to have unintentionally invited British commentators to pigeon-hole them alongside northern English indie guitar bands.
“Someone also showed me a picture of… is it The Charlatans?” Johnny mused.
“I’ve never listened to them either, are they any good? They had a really similar sort of image as well.”
“It’s definitely coincidental, we never ever thought of it like that.
“I mean, I still think it’s a good thing and I obviously love the music that’s come out of England but it was never that contrived.
“When I’m writing a song, I genuinely never think of that.
“For instance, I wrote So We Know when I was twenty and it was a folk song.
“But then all of a sudden Tommy sings it and it sounds completely different.
“If you heard the first demo of Delete with Mason singing, you probably wouldn’t make such comparisons at all.”
Rather than harking back to an era when Madchester and the Hacienda ruled the club scene and Cool Britannia ruled the waves, DMA’s consider themselves very much a product of the 21st century, with Johnny insisting their influences are global.
Our debut record ‘Hills End’ is out today! Thankyou to everyone who has supported us so far. See you soon! Bonza! pic.twitter.com/cnzv3fYPty
— DMA’S (@dmasmusic) February 26, 2016
Despite that, Johnny has nevertheless been blown away by the intimacy of Manchester’s music scene, which he first experienced when the band were invited by Liam Fray to support local heroes The Courteeners.
“We’d never been here before, so to be able to come here and play in front of three or four thousand people was amazing,” he said.
“The crowds are some of the rowdiest I’ve ever experienced.
“It was the first time we’d ever had like football chants at our gigs and things like that, but I like it! I think it’s cool.”
And when the lads were invited to appear on Saturday morning breakfast show Soccer AM in February, their status in the minds of football and music lovers started to become a little clearer – despite Johnny admitting he’d never heard of the show before.
Tommy is the football fan – he has made the commute to Goodison Park to watch his beloved Everton take on West Ham, an affiliation he inherited from his Liverpudlian father.
“Tommy’s always trying to put Everton colours into videos and posters and effects and things like that,” Johnny said.
“If anything needs changing he’ll always suggest we make it a bit more blue and white.
“He’s a cheeky bastard like that.”
— DMA’S (@dmasmusic) February 27, 2016
The band’s video for single Laced Up for example features a shot of Australian international and former Everton striker Tim Cahill scoring for the Blues at Old Trafford, something the guitarist was quick to deny was deliberate.
Not to worry, it’s going to take much more than football rivalries to deprive DMA’s of their status as unintentional heroes in the mind of Mancunian music fans – three lads from the other side of the world who could seemingly have grown up in this very city.
Their next stop was a sold out show at the Ruby Lounge, which met with rave reviews, from both sides of the fence.
“The people seem to get together a lot more here,” he said.
“There seems to be greater feeling of togetherness in crowds here. Even though there might be 800 people at the gig, it still feels intimate.
“We didn’t expect so many people to show up this lunchtime, for instance.
“You can tell that the people just love music around here. It’s probably one of the reasons there are so many great bands.”
Image courtesy of Indie Is Not A Genre, via Twitter, with thanks