The Daily Aztec

The Wombats find cross-continental success

Shay Pritulsky

Shay Pritulsky

by Shay Pritulsky, Contributor

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Straight out of Liverpool, the up-and-coming alternative band the Wombats recently began its fall tour across the United States, starting in California. Its new album, “Beautiful People Will Ruin Your Life,” has already hit no. 3 in the United Kingdom and has charted on the Billboard 200 album chart since its release back in February.

The band premiered at the House of Blues in San Diego along with rising English singer Barns Courtney on Friday, Sept. 28. The line to get inside the venue reached around the block, with eager fans of all ages hoping to rock out for three hours.

Wombats lead vocalist and guitar player Matthew Murphy, drummer Dan Haggis and bassist Tord Øverland Knudsen met while attending the Liverpool Institute of Performing Arts in 2003, where they formed the band. However, it wasn’t until 2007 that the band released their debut studio album “A Guide to Love, Loss, & Desperation,” which peaked at no. 11 on the U.K. albums chart. The album achieved platinum certification by the British Phonographic Industry and gold from the Australian Recording Industry Association.

Since their success with the debut album, the Wombats has gone on to release three more studio albums. “The Modern Glitch,” released in early 2011, received critical acclaim and 2015 release “Glitterbug” peaked at no. 5 on the U.S. Billboard Top 200 Independent Albums chart, establishing a new niche of fans in the United States.

In an interview with The Daily Aztec, Wombats drummer Dan Haggis acknowledged the stress of mounting success.

“Especially in the early days, being on the road for months at a time, not sleeping enough and having to perform a high energy show every night got pretty exhausting,” he said. “I ended up breaking up with my girlfriend of four years and I was pretty down.”

Combating this with a strong connection to his bandmates, Haggis would eventually work through the struggles of rising stardom and discover ways to cope with stress like yoga, exercise and drinking less.

Now a well-known band in the U.K. and expanding more in popularity through the United States via streaming platforms like Apple Music and Spotify, the new challenges that come with touring across other countries are beginning to take shape.

Haggis said he finds many similarities among the cross-continental fanbases.

“There aren’t huge differences, to be honest, but I suppose in the U.K. there is more moshing and crowd surfing,” he said. “People in the U.K., in general, lose control a little easier at our shows. I feel like the venues in the States are a little bit stricter overall so people can’t go quite as crazy as maybe they would. I don’t know, I love playing both countries so much, and they really are similar. We actually had some crowd surfing in Salt Lake City last night which was so fun.”

The Wombats continue to draw thousands of fans to venues around the world with distinctive unique sounds ranging across all genres. The blending of computer-generated background tones with intensive drum sets and guitar riffs, reflective of inspirations like drummer Dave Grohl of Nirvana and musician Neil Young, have enabled the Wombats to grow its music into a timeless artistic style.  

Even with weekly charts favoring music from the pop and rap genre, Haggis is adamant that the alternative genre will continue to be popular.

“The boundaries between genres are so fluid,” he said. “Each genre takes influences from a variety of other genres.”

A benefit of entering the alternative industry of music is the uncompromised creative control provided for all artists, Haggis said. Being able to release music with personal touches unscathed by producers is a reason why the Wombats and other bands continue to find success with diverse audiences.

“Some alternative bands will undoubtedly veer into the most popular pop trends and feed off that,” he said. “In the same way, other alternative bands will inevitably veer in completely the opposite direction to try to be as left field as possible as a knee-jerk reaction to it.”

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