INTERVIEW: Who are DMA’s? Interview with Tommy O’Dell
IS THERE A NEW OASIS ON THE HORIZON?
Imagine: lights blinding you as you’re drenched in pints of beer and other alcoholic drinks; the whole venue is chanting your name as you watch the drunken fans attempt to crowd surf but fail as they’re pulled away by security – you’re in another city for another night. That’s the daily life for DMA’s lead singer, Tommy O’Dell.
As I approach the venue, I give DMA’s tour manager, Michael, a ring. Jonny Took (the band’s guitarist) answers the phone. After a few back and forth exchanges, I’m walking through the backstage area of the O2 Academy Leicester towards the dressing rooms. I pass support acts Neon Waltz and Rosbourogh, as everyone is running around, preparing for the show that is due to start in 4 hours.
Made up of Tommy O’Dell, Jonny Took and Matthew Mason, DMA’s is an Australian based band that have shot to fame after touring with rock legends Kasabian, The Kooks and Liam Gallagher (due to tour with his brother, Noel Gallagher and the Flying Birds in June). The rock band have a distinctive sound and, in their early days, have been compared to the likes of Oasis. If you’re ready for a 90’s rock throwback, then fasten your seatbelts – DMA’s are going to take you for a ride.
In April 2018 was when DMA’s released their second studio album, For Now, following their 2016 debut album, Hills End. The band have been consistent in their release of music, informing me that “it’s not really our vibe” to be taking three years to produce and focus in on a single song.
I’m interrupted from setting up when Michael approaches me asking if I’m alright to wait until the soundcheck is over. Quickly agreeing, I find the stage and watch as the band prepares for their gig. After the soundcheck, I head back up to the dressing rooms where I’m greeted by some familiar faces come to interview the band, who are now very behind schedule.
Tommy O’Dell walks in bleary eyed and uninterested. He offers me a drink and we get chatting a bit. I point out Tom Grennan’s signature on the table in front of us as we sit down on the sofa. Tommy instantly becomes more visibly relaxed and ready to open up more.
After a few icebreaker questions like where his favourite place has been to perform on their UK tour so far (The Barrowlands, Glasgow), we get onto the conversation about creating their third album.
"We have 80% of our album ready and written"
“We have 80% of our album ready and written…we’ve just got to fine tune some things and spend some time on the lyrics and parts of it.”, Tommy informs me. Looks like we’ll be having an album sooner than expected! Quickly, the topic of conversation moves on to other artists as he leans forward, becoming much more animated with his arms. We both take a sip of our water, ready for the extent of the conversation that we both know is coming.
I hate to tell you, but Tommy thinks our attention spans are “so f****** small” and I have to say, I agree with him. “There’s so much music coming out – getting thrown in people’s faces – you need to keep up I guess.” He expresses his inner feelings about the “fine-line” between taking too much time and rushing the process of writing and releasing new music.
“We’re not going to take three years or anything, we should have something out next year (2019). We’re not too precious about it. Some bands like to zone in on things and take like three years to write a song and all. It’s not really our vibe.” I don’t think it would be your fans vibe either, Tommy. It’s clear to me that DMA’s like to keep being relevant and constantly evolve to become better and more refined. It’s really shown in the development of their music from albums Hills End to For Now.
Leaning back into the sofa, we both get a little comfier. I ask Tommy about his most memorable and enjoyable moment. His eyes light up as he remembers all of the times he’s shared with his band mates, crew and other people he’s supported. One memory in particular comes to mind and he instantly becomes more invested into our conversation.
Leicester locals, Kasabian, have been “a favourite band of mine (Tommy’s) since I was young” and the DMA’s lead singer recalls “hanging out with the Kasabian guys in Ireland…having some drinks with them after the show” as his most memorable moment. Stars in his eyes, Tommy recalls events like Finsbury Park and Reading and Leeds as some other up there moments.
After another 10 minutes discussing Ozark, Berocca and Blackouts Costal Fever, I’m ready to head off. I say a farewell and good luck to Tommy as I race to catch the bus to grab some food before heading back to the venue for the show in two and a half hours. When I return to the venue at half past seven, I manage to catch the support acts as the crowd is growing and growing until the venue is bulging at the seams: literally. Doors had to be kept open and I could barely move, shoulder to shoulder with the tall men who I could barely see over. Thankfully, I was able to leave my camera equipment in the photo pit.
5 minutes before DMA’s were due to go on stage, I headed into said photo pit. It was a relief from the crowd that I was suffocating in. As the time grew nearer, the fans were becoming restless and so was I – it was the second time today that the band had kept me waiting
The lights dimmed, spotlights were turned on and I really didn’t expect those two pints of beer to be thrown onto my head but nonetheless I leaped into action grabbing as many shots as I could. At one point, I was ushered to the side by security who were trying to get someone who had decided to crowd surf (quite magnificently may I add).
Stepping out of the photo pit gave me an even more surreal experience. Despite the little interaction from the band with the crowd, the audience were giving it their all: singing back to them, getting on people’s shoulders, dancing, throwing beer, crowd surfing and chanting. This was by far the most responsive crowd I have ever seen.
It was a phenomenal performance from the band, Jonny Took proving to be an energetic performer, Tommy O’Dell who was in his own little world and Matthew Mason who really got into playing the instruments. During songs The End and In The Air (which Tommy thinks is the best song “on the production side of things” and is a “cruisey song [which is] easy to sing”), Tommy didn’t even need to utter a word because 500 people were singing it back to him.
“DMA, DMA, DMA, DMA” was all that could be heard whenever the band stopped playing and especially when they went off stage before their encore. The band made an impression on the crowd who were very hyped when everything was over. Escaping the venue before I could get squashed between everyone trying to get out, I left feeling on a high I can imagine everyone else was on too.
DMA’s are truly and exceptional band that are raising the stakes in the music industry. The band are on a one-way street to stardom.