DMA’s Interview: Indie heroes take us on a journey of escapism ‘Live at Brixton’

Gemma Cockrell

On the horizon of the forthcoming live album, Live at Brixton, set for release on March 5th, Matt Mason of Aussie indie trio DMA’s discusses the venue’s importance to the band, post-pandemic touring plans, and his impassioned boredom for their hit track Delete.

Unsurprisingly, the current state of the world and the severe absence of gigging has inspired DMA’s to release a live record. “We recorded our last gig before Covid, it’s a weird coincidence really. If we hadn’t, then we wouldn’t have had anything to give people for a long time. It’s lucky that we, by chance, decided to record that show,” mused the band’s jovial guitarist, Matt Mason. “We were always going to make a live record and film it, but we pushed it out faster because we felt bad that we couldn’t get over to the UK.”

However, across the pond, Australia seems to be coping very differently with the pandemic. “We did thirty gigs in Australia last year – sit-down, acoustic, socially distanced Covid-safe gigs.” Even though this may seem disheartening to hear midst the UK’s third national lockdown, the situation may not be as dire as it seems. “I think the UK is going to be vaccinated before Australia! There are no vaccines happening here. You’re going to be one of the first countries to have tours again, to be honest. I think we’ll tour the UK before Australia,” Mason predicts.

“The UK is very special to us. It’s funny that we did our best gig to date at the venue where we first played.”

He is optimistic that DMA’s will be returning to the UK soon, even if their upcoming tour is likely to be postponed or canceled. “There are gigs booked in April for the UK that I don’t see happening, I’d like them to happen, but it’s not up to us. If we were allowed to and it was safe, we would. We can’t do anything until we’re given the green light, but we want to, and we’re ready. Whenever we’re allowed to, we’ll be straight over there!” he affirms optimistically. “I don’t know how you guys are dealing with it. UK fans are the most passionate of anyone in the world. The next UK DMA’s show is going to be scary, dude!” Mason laughs.

The reaction to Live at Brixton was suitably frenzied: “Fans were begging for it beforehand!” he laughs. “We livestreamed it, and then uploaded one or two songs to YouTube. We were getting so many messages saying ‘When are you going to release it?’ and so we did! Hopefully, it will scratch any itch that you have as a fan until we get to the UK.”

The O2 Academy Brixton serves as a landmark venue for DMA’s: “It’s the first venue we ever played in the UK. Liam from The Courteeners asked if we could support, so we flew over and played with them at Brixton,” the singer reminisces. “It’s meaningful for us. The UK is very special to us. It’s funny that we did our best gig to date at the venue where we first played. It took us a while to grow appreciation in the South of the UK,” he reflects on DMA’s rise of popularity. “London was a slow burn. It was nice to get that validation, even though I think 70% of the people at Brixton were Northerners!”

Fans’ first taste of the album was colourful lead single, Lay Down. “When you release a live record, you want to emphasize the fact that it’s live. On Lay Down, the crowd is screaming, it has a very live feel to it.” The track was released with an accompanying music video, leaving fans hungry for more video footage of the gig. “Everyone keeps asking us to release a DVD. Those people must be 40+. We love our older fans, but no one buys DVDs anymore. Who even has a DVD player?” he throws his head back with a laugh. “I think we’ll upload everything eventually. But we definitely aren’t releasing a DVD!”

“I’m glad [Silver] has taken the throne as our most-loved live song, because we’re getting quite sick of Delete!”

Alternatively, Live at Brixton will be pressed on a bold and suitably extravagant pink vinyl. “I like the packaging. Someone had the idea to make the vinyl look like flares – you know the pink smoke?” he asks, which I confirm with a gleeful nod. “Our friend from Australia took the photo of the venue on the front cover. There was a photo from inside the venue when a flare was going off while we were playing Lay Down, but the venue said we couldn’t use it because it promoted dangerous behaviour.”

Second single, Silver, with its thrashing drums and hands-in-the-air chorus is perhaps the most popular track from DMA’s most recent record, The Glow (2020). “Our biggest song live used to be Delete, but now it’s Silver. The first time we noticed that was Brixton. We actually played it on tour with Liam Gallagher in November 2019, but didn’t like how it sounded,” Mason confesses. “For Brixton, we took the strings from the album, and that plays alongside while we play. It sounds more epic now, and I’m glad it’s taken the throne as the most-loved song in our set, because we’re getting quite sick of Delete, to be honest!”

Mason speaks further of the band’s contempt for Delete, which hails from DMA’s debut record, Hills End (2016). “Its five-year anniversary is coming up!” he calculates incredulously. “When Delete was first released, we traveled to every radio station in the UK and Australia, and played it acoustically, so many times! Last year, we didn’t play it once, and people actually got angry!” he laughs. “We did a video for Radio X a couple of days ago and they asked us to play Delete and we realized that we hadn’t played it since Brixton, which is almost a year ago. Afterward, Tommy was like ‘I actually really love that song.’ It made us appreciate it a bit more!” 

The positive reaction to their early music helps DMA’s craft their setlists. Mason confirms that they started their setlist with Feels Like 37, a track from their first EP, “just for the fans,” despite it not being one of their personal favourites. “The fans lose it, they throw their beers and start fighting, it’s great. Everyone knows it. Some people who come to the show might not have heard newer stuff.” The band also closed with a song from their first EP, despite this not being their original intention. “We weren’t supposed to finish Your Low, we were supposed to finish with Lay Down. That was a mistake!” he laughs. “Our drummer skipped a song. But Johnny really likes that song, and it’s another fan-favourite. It’s just guitars, it’s a bit silly. We hadn’t played it since 2016. That song is lucky it made that gig!”

“On The Glow, we did a few things that we always wanted to do, but never had the budget.”

When the band visit the UK again, Mason promises that they will play more songs from The Glow. “We’ll probably play Appointment, Cobracaine… It’s kind of up to Tommy, he’s the boss, he’s got to sing it. He’s not some kind of dictator or anything like that!” he laughs. He admits to preferring their newer material. “With The Glow, we did a few things that we always wanted to do, but never had the budget.” He cites this as the source of the evolution for most band’s sound: “They’ve always wanted to do that, but they were broke. They could only afford a guitar before. But that’s what their dream was from the beginning! With The Glow, there’s more going on on-stage, more equipment, more things to play with. It’s bigger, more fun.”

The most heartfelt moment on Live at Brixton is undoubtedly In The Air, which the band dedicated to the late Lesley Harris, the wife of Mark who co-runs the ‘DMANIA’ Facebook page. “They’re a fan-group on Facebook that do a lot of good things for charity. Mark is one of the administrators and his wife passed away,” Mason explains with a heavy heart. “I’m not on the group but my mum is, and she told me a few hours before the show that Lesley liked the song – they played it at her funeral. She said, ‘Why don’t you dedicate it to her?’, she seemed like a really good person.” On the topic of the song, however, Mason confesses his unsurety about its origins. “I don’t know what the song is about!” he admits sheepishly. “It’s certainly sad though, Johnny wrote it. I don’t pay much attention to lyrics, to be honest, the emotions I feel from music comes from the melody.”

Live at Brixton has had such a good response,” Mason smiles. “We’ll definitely do another live album, but I doubt any gig we play will be as good as that, it was perfect! I can’t see how we’d pull that off.” However, despite his certainty, this statement seems unlikely. Even though their UK tour scheduled for April probably won’t go ahead, they were booked for Alexandra Palace, a venue with twice the capacity of Brixton. He finishes with a boyish grin: “Brixton is a special venue for us, but I think we’ll move onto bigger and better things now.”

Gemma Cockrell

Featured image courtesy of DMA’s via Ian Cheek Press.  No changes were made to this image. Images granted to Impact by their owners.

Article image courtesy of DMA’s via Facebook. No changes were made to this image. Image license found here

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