Interview – Tord Øverland Knudsen – The Wombats

The Wombats are back with a bang with the release of their new album “Glitterbug” on the back of their first UK tour for, well, too long, and we were lucky enough to catch up with bass player and Norwegian legend Tord Øverland Knudsen from the band during their recent gig in Sheffield, so we thought we’d drag him away from his bacon sandwich and ask him a few questions about the band, the new album, and being a Norwegian superstar! 

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Photo Credit – Rosie Jones

It’s been four years since the release of “This Modern Glitch”, what’s taken you guys so long?

First of all we did a lot of touring on “This Modern Glitch”, for a year and a half, maybe two years, including going back to America. We didn’t do much writing while we were on the road so when we got back we took a month off and then started writing again. We had no plans as to a direction for the album, so maybe six months or so down the line we had a template for a sound or direction so it took a bit of time to get there, and obviously writing the lyrics takes a long time too. A lot of the lyrics are based on real events in Murph’s life, so to get the good stories you have to live them.

When we started recording we tried a few producers who didn’t work out, until we found Mark Crew who worked with Bastille and did “Greek Tragedy” which everyone got really excited about, so that was a great match, but he was really busy with other projects so we had to wait until he was free. It was really frustrating as we had all these songs recorded but couldn’t get the album finished.

How does the new album differ/compare to other Wombats albums?

Musically we perfected a lot of the stuff we learned on the second album. We found the synths on that album [This Modern Glitch] and played around with them, but didn’t really understand how they worked, but this time around we knew more about the technology and had a studio where we had more time and could get a bit geeky and perfect the sound. The new album doesn’t sound as synthy as the second album, everything is more processed and run through amps.

Lyrically it is closer to the first album, a bit more fun and uplifting. It still has a dark undertone but contains songs that are touching on younger topics, even though we are older.

You’re getting older, but you still seem to have a young audience.

It’s surprising and a little crazy I guess,  every time we come back the audience seems to be the same age as before. It’s like it’s been passed down to the next generation. At gigs we seem to have young kids at the front dancing and moshing and they get older towards the back.

You’re a band that has produced hit after hit. Does it make it harder to create new songs knowing you have such a high standard to maintain?

Yeah, obviously we are very fussy when it comes to song writing and structures. We do put pressure on ourselves in that we have to keep it interesting in every single part of the song. We’ve always been big fans of pop and that’s never going to change, so we’re never going to write an epic ten minute prog song… well, maybe on the fifth album. At the moment we write pop songs that we dress up a bit weirdly.

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It’s been two years since you played in the UK, have you missed it?

Yeah, what’s amazing in the UK is how everyone knows all the words and it’s a proper sing-a-long. People in Europe are great too, but there isn’t as much of that singing along over there. The UK is our home as a band, so it feels like a home coming and people really get us here. It’s a bit pressurised because the venues are bigger, but it’s nice to be back.

There are often Norwegian flags at your festival appearances, is that something that follows the band around?

It’s amazing whenever we play a festival and I see a Norwegian flag. I think Norwegian’s are very proud of their nationality, there aren’t that many of us, only 4.5 million I think. I think they are proud there is a Norwegian in The Wombats. We play a lot of festivals in Norway, it’s a bit nerve-racking because there are guys there I used to be in bands with, we call them “the music police”, stood at the back with arms crossed judging you a little bit. I know it’s just my paranoia, but the other guys in The Wombats find it hilarious. It’s the one place in the world I get really nervous about playing.

Speaking of playing in other countries, is there anywhere you haven’t yet played that you would really like to?

We’ve been wanting to play South America for a while. We did play Rio and Sau Paulo in Brazil, but we’d love to do a full scale tour of South America. Also South Africa, where a lot of people want us to play, so that will be on the top of the list. I’d love to go back to Japan too.

Being a band from Liverpool does the city’s rich musical heritage make it easier or harder for you? 

It helps. It’s a great city to be a band in, it has such a vibrant scene. We have this great creative building to record and rehearse in, surrounded by cafes, art galleries and cool spaces, all in the same building. There is an interesting scene in Liverpool right now and having the heritage and musical history being passed on through the generations makes it such a great place to be.

You’ve played a lot of huge gigs, but what is the smallest crowd you’ve ever played to? 

We once played a gig in Leeds, at The Basement, to literally just the sound guy and the bar staff, and the support band. Nobody came to see us.

Did you ever question what you were doing after gigs like that?

No, never. We just loved playing, we were on a mission to keep gigging, to keep playing. Even if we only played to five or ten people we wanted to make sure those five or ten people had a great time.

What drives you guys to keep going, generally?

Just a love of music I guess, that we all had from a young age. We weren’t very good at anything else, this is what we want to do. You need to have a hunger and a willingness to work really hard on any level, whether it’s starting up, or maintaining what we’ve already achieved and then grow from that point. So the hunger is still very much there, so we’re excited about that.

“Glitterbug” is out now and The Wombats will be appearing at this year’s Reading and Leeds Festivals on August 28th to 30th.