(out now through I OH YOU)

1. For Now
2. Dawning
3. Time & Money
4. In The Air
5. The End
6. Warsaw
7. Do I Need You Now?
8. Break Me
9. Lazy Love
10. Tape Deck Sick
11. Health
12. Emily Whyte

We catch DMA’S where it feels like we should catch them: in the pub, on an Australian summer’s evening. It’s a moment of calm at the start of 2018 for a young band who are about to find themselves spending months on the road, pulled around the world, again, by an album of beautifully honed, passionately emotive rock’n’roll songs. Raise a glass and prime your ears – not to mention your heart – for DMA’S gloriously uplifting second album, For Now.

The Sydney trio’s 2016 debut Hills End was a Top 10 smash in Australia and a word-of-mouth hit in the UK – one that took them to Coachella, Lollapalooza, Glastonbury, Latitude, two Reading/Leeds Festivals, and multiple gig points in between. It minted their winning way with a golden melody and a feelgood, all-together-now vibe.

Or, as Q’s rave review of the album put it: ‘There is much to savour, be it a spread of heroic melodies (‘So We Know’ bristles with them); the begrudgingly psychedelic guitars that Dinosaur Jr almost scored with on ‘Too Soon’.’

It was a success that took Tommy O’Dell (vocals), Johnny Took (guitars) and Matt Mason (guitarist and backing vocalist) by surprise.

“The public think things happened quite quickly for us – our first EP in Australia went well, so people jumped on board fast. But we’d all been writing for years before we got together in DMA’S,” reflects Took of a band blessed with three songwriters. “Then we toured a lot overseas. So by the time we went into record the first album we were still learning how to record as a band.”

Being on the road so much, handily, was a great education, albeit occasionally of the school of hard knocks.

“I remember the first gig in Manchester at Night and Day – we’d sold ten tickets!” recalls O’Dell. “That was difficult! But 18 months later we did the Ritz – I don’t know how many that was, but it was certainly a jump up.”

“We played festivals all around the world,” adds Took. “And the jump from when we played Reading and Leeds the first time to the second time was incredible. Seeing how it had grown in that year was amazing. But even that first time was a great experience for a young band. And as we toured, we met and heard all these other bands, listened to a lot of music in the car and on the bus, had all these great experiences… And all that fed into the second album.”

‘Dawning’, the lead single from For Now, an O’Dell/Mason co-write, is a case in point. Euphoric and uplifting, and already a live favourite, the threesome see it as a progression from where they started.

“Production-wise it’s a bit more advanced than stuff on Hills End,” says O’Dell, “but still not too far away from the first album. It’s a rock’n’roll tune, but it’s also got a bit more depth. So we thought it would be a nice bridging track between old stuff and the stuff that was to come.

“It certainly impacted me as a musician hugely,” acknowledges O’Dell of DMA’s two-and-half years touring. “Before the first record I wasn’t even a singer – I’d never sung in a band!” this drummer-turned-frontman says with a laugh. “So I was taking on a completely different role, standing at the front and doing the singing stuff… So as a musician I’ve completely switched roles.

“But as a person, I’d like to think I’ve stayed pretty similar. But, yeah, I’ve done so much travelling and seen heaps of the world. That always helps with your songwriting. It was weird living out of a suitcase for all that time – that was pretty different from what I was doing before, painting offices with my brother. It was a definite change of lifestyle. But I think I took all that in my stride.”

Took, however, admits that he found the sudden change in the band’s circumstances more of a challenge.

“I’d gone a bit hard on the tour – after all that time away I was at the end of my tether. So I got back home to Sydney and just had some mental things going in – it all caught up with me. Then it was quite nostalgic being back in Sydney as well, so there were a lot of things going on in my head.”

Luckily, the guitarist managed to alchemise some of that upheaval into one of For Now’s standout tracks. ‘The End’ is a plaintive, raw, emotionally candid song (“I can feel the end, is there something more?”), albeit with an irresistible dance groove.

“Yeah, it gets a bit disco!” Took laughs. “I wrote that on a piano at the family home. It was after all that touring and I wasn’t in a very good place. But I had my laptop with me and I was just getting into into dance beats and synthesisers, and came up with this song that was almost electro or techno.”

He wasn’t sure that would fit on the new album. But the album’s co-producer, Kim Moyes of Sydney electronic due The Presets, lobbied the band, their label and their management to let him work up this dancefloor-leaning song.

“Kim dialled the beat back a bit,” notes Took, “put a bit of a disco-y vibe to it, with choirboy vocals behind it.” More broadly, the enriching of O’Dell’s vocals are another breakthrough on For Now. “Working on this second album, I worked hard to bring more of a soulful element to my voice, and Kim really helped with that.” In part, the frontman was tapping into DMA’S DNA. His dad is a Scouser, and O’Dell grew up soaked in Liverpudlian musical heritage, in a house full of Beatles and Merseybeat vinyl.“He was also into a lot of Motown,” says O’Dell, “so I grew up with that more soulful stuff too, and really wanted to tap into that.”

There are other familial influences, too. His older brother and cousin had all the Britpop and Madchester albums, so he’s been marinated in The Stone Roses, Oasis and their peers from an early age. “Maybe ’cause of my family background my ears are more tuned to that kind of stuff,” he ponders, and for sure it’s a clear influence on ‘Do I Need You Now’. The song was originally recorded by Mason in his bedroom, but then lost on an old PC buried in his garage – at Moyes’ urging, the guitarist hunted for hours to dig it out, so the band could tap into the demo’s energy, freshness and magic.

“The response from UK fans has been pretty amazing to be honest,” says Took, “and I think it’s because they recognised we had a bit of that Britpop sound. A British guy came up to me when we played in Perth in Western Australia, and he was like: ‘I really love how you guys hark back to the best of the Roses and Oasis.’ Maybe a lot of young British bands are scared to do that ’cause it played such a big part of their lives. We were more ignorant of that, which I think worked out well for us.”

That “ignorance” – or, perhaps, purity – is on vivid display on the next single from For Now. ‘In The Air’ is a beautiful ballad, with sweeping production, and daydream-inducing lyrics that shine a light on the band’s much-loved talent for pop writing. 

Then there’s the surging, psych-pop title track, which opens the album. Like ‘Do I Need You Now’, Took and O’Dell wrote it while serving time in a previous band.

“We were going to play it with our band then, when Tommy was on drums and I was on bass,” remembers Took. “We were away in the bush, just playing music, and the two guitarists had a fight and went to bed. So we just stayed up drinking whiskey and writing tunes.

“We thought that band might happen, and offered ‘For Now’ to them, but they said no. But then everything kinda fizzled out for that band – and in hindsight I was glad as we still had that song.”

For sure – ‘For Now’ is the perfect, energising start to the second album from DMA’S, just as the psychedelic-tinged ‘Emily Whyte’ (a Mason composition) is a blissed out album closer. They’re a band who were accidentally successful… fronted by a singer who was, by his own happy admission, a work-in-progress frontman… who spent over two years chasing the success, much of it in the other side of the world, of an album they’d spent years crafting.

In all the best ways, they’ve made it up as they’ve gone along. And now, with For Now, DMA’S are where they want to be. “Last time round, we were still working out what kind of band we want to be, and we still are,” admits Johnny Took with the easygoing understatement that he shares with his bandmates. “We still have that jangly rock’n’roll aspect to it, but it’s also matured in other ways. The beats are bigger, and all that other shit,” he smiles. “It feels like a natural progression for the band.”

DMA’S are:
Tommy O’Dell (vocals)
Johnny Took (guitars)
Matt Mason (guitarist and backing vocalist)