“The live experience is the most important thing.” As DMA’s make their return with their fourth studio album How Many Dreams, we sat down with guitarist Matt Mason to chat about the recording process, armadillos, and what it means to “do a shoey.”
As DMA’s make their return with their fourth studio album How Many Dreams, we sat down with guitarist Matt Mason to chat about the recording process, armadillos, and what it means to “do a shoey.”
DMA’s have had a very successful couple of years - off the back of selling out tours both in the UK and Australia, and in the wake of a triumphant summer of main stage slots at festivals such as Reading and Leeds, alongside supporting Kasabian on their UK tour comes the production of How Many Dreams described as a love letter to the fans who continue to shape and define the DMA’s experience.
How Many Dreams is the band’s first album since The Glow, released into a world rocked by the midst of the pandemic. The theme of The Glow was centred around “how people are always looking for something better.” Which is why DMA’s have been insistent on creating an album inspired by the vibe of their live shows this time around, an experience delayed following the release of The Glow. “Fans come together with one thing in common - the love for a particular band, and that forms a community, which created really special moments that we took for granted before the pandemic” Mason explains. “Now that shows are back, people are so grateful to be here! So, we just thought f*ck it, let’s write an album, and focus it around the live experience, because that is the most important thing.”
Mason connects to the call from the other side of the world, it’s 7pm in Australia and musical instruments are dotted around his room. I ask about his cello in the corner, and he explains his passion for string instruments elaborating that he tries to acquire as many rare finds as he can. “I love violins and cellos. I recently bought an Irish Bouzouki in Dublin, and I’m looking at buying a Dota, which is a Persian variation.” After inquiring about his rarest find in his collection he pauses and briefly goes offscreen to return with what looks like the head of the guitar and the body of the ukulele. “This is a Charango.” He flips it over to reveal the casing of a hollowed-out armadillo. “I feel kind of bad for the armadillos, it feels unnecessary.” I ask him if the charango featured on the new record and he laughs, confirming that no armadillos were harmed in the making of this album.
Mason’s love for all things string showed an influence throughout the album, with tracks such as Fading Like a Picture and Get Ravey showcasing the electro affiliation collaboration DMA’s are synonymous for. How Many Dreams is formed from inspiration of around to 70 variations of early DMA’s demos, taking inspiration from their past to concoct their present. Going back to the band’s roots was a goal for this record within the band, with Mason going on to state that that DMA’s have been “revisiting a lot of their inspirations and own music from back in the day”, seen in tracks like 21 Year Vacancy’s evolution from a forgotten sample of a charity shop vinyl score, while Something We’re Overcoming and De Carle heeds influence from carefree abandon of classic 90’s rave, according to guitarist Johnny Took.
But DMA’s are so much more than one or two influences, and How Many Dreams showcases that through their unique hybrid of electro trance and guitar variations to create a genre spanning record with everything from songs to rave to and songs to cry to packed into 11 tracks. “Moments of stress and moments of euphoria” comments Mason on the album recording process, but the statement could be so easily applied to the final production. The album was recorded over three different continents for several months with everything including COVID getting in the way of completion. “Usually, we can go into a studio and smash out an album in about two weeks but was an epic saga that we didn’t really know when we would finish.”
DMA’s have made clear that the biggest inspiration for this album was the fan reception, with listeners at the heart of everything they create. Upon asking Mason his favourite song from the album is, he explains why fan reactions feeds the reason he can’t choose. “What other people think of the album really shapes how I perceive it. I prefer the slow, less hectic songs as they don’t weigh you down as much in the studio” he continues, in reference to artistic burnout. “But it does depend on what other people think.” This is where DMA’s really shine through as fan oriented, with 5 record store meet and greets planned, including one in Vinilo in Bournemouth, before they take to the stage of the O2 Academy, alongside 12 other headline shows across the country. Mason is an advocate for interacting with fans the old-fashioned way. “It’s nice to have everyone on the internet but it’s even nicer when people meet up in real life” he concurs.
With the territory of being an artist in the 2020’s comes the side request of the odd trend in the form of apps such as TikTok. “It’s nice to have everyone on the internet, but at the risk of sounding old, we don’t really understand the content creation side of online things. It confuses me, makes me feel a little bit out of touch, but then I go online, and I see people a little older killing it! I do love social media, but I also hate it, and I think everyone has something similar where they like seeing what their friends are up to but would also like to take a break from it for a month. If people have that response to something, it can’t be that good. But I do understand it is a good tool, so maybe this is the year we get on TikTok”
Platforms such as TikTok have brought attention to various time-honoured Aussie traditions, especially with artists such as Harry Styles touring Australia, and introducing the world to “doing a shoey” or doing a shot of alcohol out of a shoe. I bring this up to Mason to see if DMA’s have any plans to bring this to the UK. “No. I’ve never even done a shoey, we aren’t shoey people. I’m assuming you would get sick, wouldn’t you?”
Health is very important to DMA’s Mason explains. “Getting sick on tour is bad, you’ve got to do all these gigs and meet all these people, you want to stay healthy. So maybe I’ll do (a shoey) at the end of the tour, so I don’t get sick. Also, I’m not drinking during tours so I wouldn’t want a sparkling water shoey!”
On his decision not to drink Mason elaborates that keeping a clear head while on tour is important. “It’s dangerous, everyone wants to party with you all night and you’re trying to chill and get to bed early but in every new city there’s someone you’ve not seen in so long, so it is really hard, but I am ready for the challenge. So, lots of sparkling water and fruit, and any local produce we can find.”
DMA’s will be playing in O2 Academy Bournemouth on Friday, April 7 after a signing at Vinilo Bournemouth at 1pm earlier in the day.