DMA’s Have Just Released The Wildest Album Of Their Career
"If people don't like the music, I'm comfortable enough now to be cool with that. I try not to go too far into the comments and all that shit."
Earlier this year, in the Before Time, when the novel coronavirus was but a whisper in the margins of the mainstream press, DMA’s played a show at the Brixton Academy.
It was one of their most acclaimed shows to date, a rollicking set packed with their biggest hits. And in a perfect world, they would have kept that momentum going with the release of their newest record, The Glow, a collection of electro and indie pop-inspired hits.
But then, a few weeks after they waved goodbye to their English crowd, the world shut down. The coronavirus pandemic broke down international touring; sent the economy of most countries into freefall; and created a mood of fear and anxiety. So the band delayed The Glow, just like that.
“It didn’t feel right to release music at the time,” the band’s Tommy O’Dell says over the phone, months later, after the album’s delayed release. “Part of me did just want to put it out there, and give it to fans, through a tricky time. But another part of me thought it might be better to put out a record when things feel more normal.”
In the interim, following the delay, the band dealt with the impact of the pandemic in disparate ways. “Johnny has been pumping out heaps of stuff,” O’Dell explains of his DMA’s band member, Johnny Took. “He’s been really getting into the dancey production stuff. He’s been super creative. Mason too.”
“Me? I haven’t really been as creative, to be honest. I don’t know why. I guess there’s other things going on at the moment. And also trying to stay connected with fans around this time, and trying to do acoustic performances online and stuff, that can take up a bit of your creative space. Through that real hectic time, a few months ago, I just didn’t feel like making music.”
Slowly, as the weeks went on, that began to change. For the first time in their history, the band drip-released the record through a slew of singles, rather than just one or two, and doing so kept O’Dell connected to the people that he makes music for.
Not, however, that he stays too on top of what he’s being said about his music. He used to, once upon a time, but these days he keeps an arm’s length.
“For the first record, I read a lot, and on the second record, I did too. But now I don’t need the reassurance that much. And if people don’t like the music, I’m comfortable enough now to be cool with that. I try not to go too far into the comments and all that shit.”
“If people don’t like the music, I’m comfortable enough now to be cool with that.”
That relaxed, unfussy attitude was also present throughout the writing of The Glow. As O’Dell tells it, the group rarely plan out what their records will sound like ahead of time. Instead, they like to play it by ear, writing and recording only when the urge takes them.
“We try to take each song as it comes, and deal with each songs individually, and see what each song needs,” O’Dell explains. “We don’t try to relate each song to each other. We just go for it, and see what happens.
“When you’ve been in a band with the same guys for so long, you know where you’re at without having to talk about it. It just comes through naturally. The demos that we send each other, the music that we’re into at the time… It’s not like we sit down and have a big discussion. We don’t really talk about it that much. We just work on the songs on an intuitive basis. If there’s a good vibe in the room, we might come up with three song ideas in a row really quickly. Or we might not write a song together for ages.”
“Being creative is something you just have to live with.”
Perhaps some might find such a stop-start approach to songwriting somewhat disturbing. But if O’Dell ever did, he certainly doesn’t anymore. “I think being creative is something you just have to live with,” he says. “It happens in spurts. And it can leave you for a little while. Worrying about that can be quite dangerous, as a musician. If I’m not making music, I’m lucky enough to have two other songwriters in the band as well. So that kind of carries things along.”
The Glow reflects that confidence. O’Dell describes it as “upbeat rocky dancey stuff”, but the album is even more chaotic and strange than that descriptor makes it sound. The title track is the loudest, biggest thing the band have ever released, while the dense ‘Hello Girlfriend’ sees them push their usual style in strange new directions.
It is a disparate, unusual record for a disparate, unusual new world. And O’Dell hopes that it might do a little good in raising the mood of the band’s fans, even if only for a little while.
“It’s a big part of what our job is,” he says. “That’s comforting in itself. That what we’re doing as our job is helping people get through shitty, shitty times.”
DMA’s The Glow is out now via I Oh You.
Joseph Earp is a staff writer at Music Junkee. He tweets @Joseph_O_Earp.
The Glow is out now.