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Music interview – DMA’s: ‘It is humbling to see people enjoying your music’

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DMA’s return with new album For Now this week.

Frontman Tommy O’Dell discusses the band’s influences, returning to Leeds on May 9 and what they think of the city.

You’ve never shied away from your love of British music and influences, and the new album opens with For Now, which sounds like a huge slice of Stone Roses. What have you been listening to in preparation for the album, and what other influences have you picked up on the way?

Yeah, some of the tunes draw into that 80s / 90s sound, particularly the older songs on the album like For Now, Warsaw and Break Me. The newer songs like Time & Money and Do I Need You? are influenced more by our desire to minimise the layering of instrumentation on record. We wanted to get the biggest sound we could without feeling like the tunes were overcrowded. Our producer Kim Moyes [from The Presets] helped us to do this. I’ve been listening to a lot of The Weeknd and Frank Ocean lately.

When we last spoke, we discussed your clothing and style and I was taken aback by how many of your fans have taken it as their uniform at live shows. Did that surprise you and is it humbling to see such a dedicated fan base?

Of course, it is humbling to see people enjoying your music and how you dress, especially when you’re from the other side of the world. So, yeah, it’s surprising for sure, particularly because this band was originally just a bedroom recording project.

We had better equipment and more time and could try things that I wanted to try on Hills End that didn’t quite end up working, like aiming for a more soulful and all round vocal performance and less rocky.

Tommy O’Dell

The last time you were in Leeds, it was supporting The Kooks at First Direct Arena. How was that compared to your own headline shows?

Being a support act is obviously different to playing a headline show; people don’t know all your songs, so you need make sure you keep everyone’s attention. We played more upbeat songs and obviously kept it short and sharp. It’s a great opportunity to make new fans and to road test new songs.

You return to Leeds on May 9 for a sold-out show at Leeds Beckett University. Having played the city a lot in the last two years, have you had chance to see much whilst you’re here and what has been your best gig here?

We love Leeds and we always enjoy going there. There’s a Chinese restaurant called the Crown that we like too. We had a gig above a pub called the Belgrave Music Hall. That was great; the venue wasn’t the biggest we’ve played in Leeds but it had such a great atmosphere.

The first single release from the album was In The Air, with a promo video that sees you travelling in the back of a car for the most part. What is the meaning behind the video and how much input does the band have in the creation of your videos?

I guess we wanted to capture the vibe of being lonely and traveling alone. It’s a heartfelt tune and it felt natural to have a simple concept behind it which didn’t take away from the song. We always work close with the directors and we’re careful that we don’t release anything that isn’t us.

Do you have a favourite track from the new album and which was the hardest to nail down?

My favourite track is Time & Money. The hardest track to nail down as a band, I guess, in the studio was Warsaw. Not because it’s a particularly complicated song, but capturing the right vibe and the right tempo took a little more time than others.

Do I Need You Now? seems to have a synthetic drum sound, and you appear to have been trying new techniques and styles in the studio. Was this album more enjoyable to make or was the pressure on for the ‘difficult second album’?

Definitely more enjoyable. We had better equipment and more time and could try things that I wanted to try on Hills End that didn’t quite end up working, like aiming for a more soulful and all round vocal performance and less rocky. It suited the new songs more. And also using more electronic beats, as you said. Working with a producer made this much easier to achieve.

Who is the inspiration for the closing track, Emily Whyte?

A girl that worked in the pub below our studio.

Lastly, what has the rest of the year got in store for DMA’s and which UK festivals are you playing this summer?

Lots of touring promoting the album; Leeds and Reading festival; Glasgow Summer Sessions; Finsbury Park with Liam Gallagher; Neighbourhood Weekender; and some more still to be announced.

DMA’s play at Leeds Beckett University on May 9 and Leeds Festival on August 24. dmasdmas.com