DMA'S Many Tour Dreams
“The set’s a really good mix, really free flowing, really high energy and we couldn’t be more proud of it.” - Johnny Took, DMA’S
Image credit: Kalpesh Lathigra
DMA’S are having a very dreamy 2023 indeed. Multiple tours of their second home of the UK, scoring the #1 spot on triple j’s Like A Version Hottest 100 with their iconic take on Cher’s Believe, releasing their fourth album How Many Dreams to critical and, more importantly, fan acclaim, and now having just been nominated for five ARIA Awards.
As we enter the twilight of the year, the Aussie trio are showing no signs of slowing down, with their biggest headline Australia tour kicking off this month as the guys play 20 huge shows across 16 cities and towns, with some incredible, handpicked support acts joining the band at a range of different locations (full lineup below).
Ahead of the tour, we jumped on the line with guitarist Johnny Took to chat how the new album’s been received, labouring over setlists, surviving long flights, the band’s creative process and more!
I guess to start off with, because it’s been about six months since the new album How Many Dreams? came out, so how’s it feeling for you guys now the album’s had some room to breathe?
It feels great. So there’s a couple of things when you release a new record. It’s funny when you go touring, because sometimes you do a tour like the week the album’s out to promote it and people have listened to it as much as they can and are trying to know the lyrics and all the new songs. But the really special moments are about six to eight months later when people have really had time to build memories with the songs and incorporate them into facets of their life and all that kind of stuff. Like when someone's been on a summer holiday with someone and there was that one song they played, all those kinds of moments, falling in love during the winter and they’ve listened to that song. That’s when they really make those memories and that’s when it makes it more special, the live show, so that’s the stuff I like to see.
So far we’ve been incorporating the songs of the album, which is kind of an extension of 'The Glow', which is like DMA’S with a more modern context rather than just being a throwback nineties band. What’s ended up happening now is it’s just made the live show really, really solid and dynamic. We’ve got these big, kind of ‘Delete’, ‘Silver’ sing along ballad kind of things, then we’ve got the ‘Fading Like A Picture’, ‘Lay Down’ and ‘Feels Like 37’ rock & roll vibes. Then we’ve got ‘Everybody's Saying Thursday's The Weekend’, ‘Something We Are Overcoming’ and ‘Life Is a Game of Changing’, more the dance-rock stuff, so it’s just a really nice mix.
Yeah sick, and we’ll talk about the upcoming tour a bit more later cos I’m curious about planning setlists and stuff with four albums now, but that’s a really interesting point about touring six to eight months after a release when people have heard the album and you’ve had a chance to play the songs live. Does playing the new stuff live to crowds fuel you guys, like to sharpen and hone the live shows even more?
Yeah, it does, and that’s a really lucky thing because when you get to your fourth album, it’s harder to write the setlist because you’ve got more songs. If you wanted to just play the songs that got radio love or playlisting and stuff like that, you can do a really strong set, so we’re constantly just tweaking the set. You can get the songs to their best state - like when the album came out in March, the songs were pretty good, but it takes 20 gigs to gig them to that point where they’re truly refined. We’ve got six people on stage, so just having six people really working together and all the nuances in the sounds and tones and stuff, that’s where we’re at now, so it’s really exciting going into this Australian tour.
Awesome, no doubt this tour’s going to be amazing, cos you have been playing heaps lately, especially in the UK which is basically a second home - is that fair to say at this point?
Yeah, that’s right. I think we’ve been three times already since March and we’re going again in December. I think we’ve worked out that’s over 200 hours of flying this year, like eight days or something.
Yeah jeez, what’s your number one tip for surviving long flights?
You’ve just gotta be prepared. You’ve gotta have pre-downloaded albums - a nice relaxing country record or Brian Eno or something just relaxing. Then a couple of other records that you won’t listen to, you gotta have some podcasts and when you get bored of them, you move on to audiobooks. Then when you get bored of that, you’ve got to have pre-downloaded Netflix and stuff right, because when you keep getting bored, you’ve got to change up the medium. Then your airpods run out of charge so you just watch a couple of things on the normal plane system, but by the time that’s done you can go again.
*laughs* I like that order as well, it’s going from almost like least stimulating to most, and a bit of Music For Airports on a plane feels appropriate! So what about shows in the UK, is there any difference between there and the UK?
Not really, to be honest. There are some songs, like maybe some of the dancier songs go better in Australia sometimes, even though Britain has a huge history of dance music and all types of music, but up in the north particularly they love a good indie, jangly guitar kind of song. But yeah, really, we play the same set. It’s really funny because our Believe cover got a lot of love on the triple j hottest 100 like a version, so we thought it was just an Australian thing for a while. Then we started playing it at festivals in the UK and it was kind of going crazy over there.
Dope - and just out of curiosity, while we’re talking UK stuff, cos you guys have those awesome football jerseys as merch, and I say football meaning real football, not AFL… but yeah, they look so good, do you guys have other ideas for DMA’S merch that maybe isn’t just throwing the logo on a shirt - not that there’s anything wrong with that!
Yeah, we’re always changing up. We’re working with a really great designer, this guy Roman who’s got a bunch of labels and stuff, and he’s been doing our stuff lately. I think we ‘ve done four jerseys at the moment - we did a home and away one, and we did one with Ultra Football, then we did one with Admiral which has been one of the most popular ones for the new record. Now we have a new one - we haven’t announced it yet but we’ve got a new one coming out, I’ve actually just been getting all the test printings for it and it looks amazing, we based it off a 1996 Celtic jersey.
As much as I want to hear more about the colourway and design, I’ll just have to wait til it’s ready…
Yeah, the Celtic jersey wasn’t because of the club, it was just because the cut is like an old vintage one that has a cool colour and a nice cut, cos we didn’t want that 90s kind of long sleeve look. I feel like it’s a good look on the punters as well as the players, cos sometimes the real sporty ones, like even the new Chelsea jersey and stuff look really good on a high class athlete, but for the average punter it looks a bit like they’re going to the gym or something.
And if you’re not in the best shape like me, it makes you look a bit curvier and like you’re wearing a rashie or something… So anyway, you’ve got the massive Aussie tour coming up, nearly six weeks, so many shows - we touched on setlists, so what can peeps expect? Plenty of the new album?
It’s a pretty good mix - obviously when you’re on cycle for an album you want to play and promote the new music, but at the same time we’re not psychos and we know that the set is better when we put in the fan favourites from previous records. The set’s a really good mix, really free flowing, really high energy and we couldn’t be more proud of it.
So you should be! So finally Johnny, what’s on the horizon for DMA’S after this tour? Are you guys working on any new ideas or anything?
I’d like to say we’re always writing. We were lucky enough that when we started out and before our first record, we had about 70 demos, and then when we went through the process for this fourth album, we still had 70 demos, which is really great. I’ve been in bands before where you write like nine songs, and you go and play your live show and maybe three of the nine songs are good. Your mates come to the first show, and by the fourth show no one’s there, and you’ve got no songs left. So using that collection of songs over the years, we’ve just slowly added to it so we’re ahead of the curve. Even for this latest record, there’s some really brilliant songs that didn’t make the record for one reason or another that we’re looking forward to working on.
Amazing, I’m sure most bands wish they had that sort of output… Well congrats again on the album and all the best for the upcoming Aussie and UK tours!
Awesome, thank you man, appreciate it.
DMA'S new album How Many Dreams? is out now via I OH YOU