Interview: Tord Øverland-Knudsen of the Wombats

By on Monday, 7th November 2011 at 11:00 am

Before their show at the 9:30 Club last month, the incredibly nice bass and synth player of the Wombats, Tord, gave me a ‘tour’ of their home away from home and we talked about instruments and a funny thing about the ‘Tokyo (Vampires and Wolves)’ video…

Many thanks for Caroline and Sarah for sorting this interview out for us.

Hello Tord. How are you today?
It’s all good. [smiles]
Congratulations on your new album, ‘This Modern Glitch’, which was released here earlier this year. What was it like writing and recording this album compared to the last one?
How I would compare it? Hmmm…let’s see. I think a lot of the energy and a lot of the songwriting is quite similar to what was going on on the first record, but I think we got slightly bored of using the same instrumentation. Guitars, bass, drums….there’s only so much you can do with those three instruments, and we needed to do something new and refreshing for ourselves. And also we’re not like…I’m just not a bass player, I play other instruments, and the same with Dan [Haggis], he’s not just a drummer. We needed to have other elements and that’s when we started playing around with keyboards and synths. And with new programming with synths, all that lot. There was obviously moments that made us do those decisions but we’ve always be into electronic music, even before we did the first record. But this was the first time as a band we wanted to put those instruments into our music, and you can hear a lot of that in the (new) record, with an electro influence. But it’s still guitar-y and indie.

The cover of the album is very unusual. What can you tell me about it?
Yeah, we got sent through a load of ideas that we really didn’t love. We liked some of them but we didn’t love them. We’ve been fans of Storm Thorgerson and his artwork. He’s done a lot of things we liked, like Pink Floyd’s ‘Dark Side of the Moon’, Led Zeppelin…he did all the Muse artwork, Biffy Clyro’s artwork, Biffy’s labelmates of ours…that’s how we got the link, that’s how the label pulled it off to get him to do our artwork.

So I know you as the bass player of the Wombats. When did you start playing bass?
I was 13, I think, when I started playing bass. I came from a classical background: I started playing cello when I was about 6. I come from a musical family; my dad is a music professor. We had a piano in our house, and he could play anything, he’s like a multi-instrumentalist. At the time I was listening to so many bands, skate punk and grunge around when I was 12, 13 when I decided, yeah, I wanted to give it a go so I could play the kind of music I liked listening to. Got an opportunity to do a course in high school to play bass there. Some friends of mine played in a band, one of them played guitar, this other guy had drums…they had already played for a while but they didn’t have a bass player, so that’s where I came in. And I’ve been in loads of bands since, really.
So what other instruments do you play, to varying degrees of mastery?
There are a lot of instruments I play, even though I don’t really know how to play them! [laughs] Then there are instruments that I play that I actually know how to play and can play. Cello, and bass, obviously. We all sing. But that’s not really an instrument, is it?
Now did you play the strings on ‘Anti-D’?
I didn’t actually, because it was recorded in the States. There were talks about doing it at Abbey Road at some point and I thought, “I have to be involved!” and there were talks about me getting into the string section and doing it, but it was cheaper to do it out here and the arrangements as well. But yeah, I also play keyboards…and piano. Guitar, bass…
How did you get to playing bass, was it one of those things where you played guitar and then a band needed a bass player so you switched to bass because of peer pressure?
No, I started with bass and went the other way. I played guitar in a load of bands before the Wombats, so I’ve been through both (situations). Oh! And drums is one of the instruments that I’d like to…I try to play but I can’t say I play drums. I know all the beats but I can’t really play them.
That’s okay! Cello, bass, guitar…that’s a lot already!

The single ‘Tokyo (Vampire and Wolves)’ has a crazy video that looks like it was a lot of fun to shoot. Was it actually filmed in Japan?
[deadpan] No. [Editor’s note: I was honestly fooled because I assumed it was filmed somewhere in Japan so I really need to take a closer look at this…] It was a lot of fun. If you look closely, you can see the road signs and you can see it was done in LA. So if you look closely, you can see it’s in LA. We didn’t fool anyone in Japan, they’re all “nahhh”…but it was a kind of a joke, it wasn’t “let’s fool people and pretend that we’re in Japan”. It’s very cool and very LA-esque, so…and the only really Japanese place that we filmed in was that restaurant/bar, because that was actually a Japanese restaurant. But yeah, that was a lot of fun. We filmed it over 2 days. The first day were all fresh-faced and like “yeah!” [smiles broadly] That night we did exactly what happens in the video [editor’s note: watch the video below, I won’t have to explain it] and we woke up feeling awful. We didn’t even have to act to look bored or tired because we actually felt bad and hungover at the time. The last shot, when the manager put us into the van, we were actually asleep, more or less. [laughs]
So no acting required there, then?
No, not really.


Speaking of Japan, what’s it like touring outside the UK? Do you love it? Do you hate it?
I love it. I love going to places, seeing places I’ve never been. It’s nice to meet new people, see new places. I’m a traveller, definitely. I like being in the bubble. Being on tour, being with the crew and the band.
Are you getting any time to do any sightseeing on this tour?
Sometimes. We get a day off here and there. But mostly it’s this lot [points to camper van we are sitting in], hotel and venue. I really want to see the White House but I guess that’s for another time.

You just came back from Australia. Were you playing music festivals or playing your own shows?
No, they were our own shows. We did five shows, the biggest shows we’ve done yet in Australia. It’s quite different to America, over there it’s small arenas, basically. Play to 5, 6,000 people every day and with full production, it’s a lot more polished because we have screens and lasers, so it’s a visually different show than what we’re doing tonight, but musically it’s not going to be different.

You also just finished off an entirely sold out tour of the UK. How did that feel, finding out that every single date of that tour had sold out?
It’s always a relief, because we did that with the first record. With the way everything’s going with the new record, everything has been positive and going the right direction. It’s very hard to sell tickets these days, even bands that are doing all right…with the recession, I think people think twice before (buying tickets) before going to see a band. We feel very privileged to have sold out so many shows and we have fans that are really into us and are really genuine (about us).

Final question, courtesy of the album: girls or fast cars?
Eh…girls! Girls, definitely! I’m not a car person. I haven’t even got a car!

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