Fix Yourself, Not the World

The Wombats

Fix Yourself, Not the World

When it came to making The Wombats’ fifth album, it was all about tapping into the resurgent energy of 2018’s Beautiful People Will Ruin Your Life. That record saw the trio re-establish themselves as one of the UK’s biggest bands with a riot of giddy indie-disco anthems and quirky pop sing-alongs. “We were all extremely happy with how the fourth album turned out and the reactions it got,” frontman Matthew “Murph” Murphy tells Apple Music. “There was a decent amount of pressure, and it was great that we came out of it in the way that we did. I used the energy from that and wanted to bring it into the next one. That’s what I had in my head.”
The resultant record, Fix Yourself, Not the World, combines their trademark hooks and rhythmic interplay with funk-punk grooves—a love of LCD Soundsystem and Talking Heads comes to the fore. It began in a room together but was mainly crafted during lockdown from different locations across the globe—Murphy in Los Angeles, bassist Tord Øverland Knudsen in Oslo, and drummer Dan Haggis in London. For Murphy, it marked a point of self-evaluation and reflection. “I feel like lyrically there’s a theme of letting go all the way through this album,” he says. “Letting go of things and being a bit more present. I feel like I’m a bit stronger and more positive.” Murphy, Knudsen, and Haggis guide us through Fix Yourself, Not the World, track by track.
“Flip Me Upside Down” Matthew Murphy: “I just thought it was so energetic and fun and different. It’s nice to start with a bang. In my head, I always definitely wanted to open the album with that.” Tord Øverland Knudsen: “It just felt like an opener, the way it starts and the intensity and the energy as well—it just sets you right off.” Dan Haggis: “I remember the first time hearing that song, just being like, ‘Whoa, fuck!’ It’s just such an energetic burst of sound.”
“This Car Drives All by Itself” MM: “Someone said to me, ‘We row, but the universe steers.’ And that is kind of a theme throughout the album. But I was searching for a slightly more fun, contemporary way of saying that phrase. I was walking my dogs and I turned around and there was this electric car, and I couldn’t see anyone in the driver’s seat. I felt like that was the perfect twist to the original idea. It’s just a very energetic, uptempo, meaningful pop song. The writing of it was one of those songs where you’re just like a passive spectator in the process. I feel like that’s where all the best songs come from—when they just fucking happen.” DH: “Which is ironic, because the song is kind of about that!”
“If You Ever Leave, I’m Coming With You” MM: “This isn’t really the kind of song that I thought was going to be on this album—like that synth lead doesn’t really fit in with the other ideas that we had going. But it was just like a really great song. The lyric is a fourth-album lyric that was just stuck in my notes, and I was just happy to give it a good home. It’s a pretty strange song, how it kind of starts off sounding a bit like The Weeknd and then ends up full ‘Burn the Witch’ by Radiohead at the end, whilst talking about Radiohead at the start. It definitely has an arc to it. I’d say that was one of the more testing ones to get right.”
“Ready for the High” DH: “This is one of the first songs we did, the three of us when we were over in Murph’s little studio that he’s got attached to his house. We just went in on the first day, started noodling around, and Murph was like, ‘Ooh, what’s that little riff there? Cool. That’s a starting point.’ By the end of the day, everything had just kind of fallen into place and we had this song from start to finish that we were all really excited about.”
“Method to the Madness” MM: “I wanted to push it and do something a bit different, and then this upright piano riff kind of came. Again, it all just kind of seemed to happen. It’s such a fun song that just keeps on getting crazier and bigger and better.” TØK: “It’s almost like a concept song in a Wombats sort of world. Just before we started making the backing track and the beats, we were listening to some lo-fi hip-hop. It was like that kind of vibe. It was just totally not sounding anything like what Wombats usually sound like and that was really exciting. It felt like we did something special.”
“People Don’t Change People, Time Does” MM: “This was another lyric or title that I liked for a long time. It’s a story about how brutal LA is on young, optimistic artists. I had this idea of this young actress coming into the city for the first time with all these hopes and then them just being slowly crushed one by one as time went on.” DH: “You hear that a lot in LA. You get in an Uber, and someone will be like, ‘Oh, yeah, I’m a film producer’ or ‘I’m an actor.’ You hear those stories left, right, and center. It’s a city that oozes that.”
“Everything I Love Is Going to Die” MM: “This is one of those songs that I always thought was pretty good, but it seemed like the team around us really loved it. I guess maybe I love it as much now. I was not a passive spectator in this one; it came with quite a few challenges. The chorus was just the same three chords all the time and then, by accident, when I was recording some stuff for the demo, I played the wrong chord and it completely opened everything up. It’s quite a happy, liberating song…apart from the title.”
“Work Is Easy, Life Is Hard” MM: “This is the closest I’ve come to a truly political song. It was a time a year ago where I just felt like the world was just shitting the bed all over social media and I was trying to piece everything together and understand it. It’s got a fun, ’90s, Ian Brown-y, maybe with a bit of Smashing Pumpkins, vibe to it.” DH: “We did it with a different producer, Paul Meany, and you’re never sure how it’s going to go in a creative sense, working with someone. He was brilliant—so much energy, so positive. It’s such a fun song to play on the drums.”
“Wildfire” TØK: “We were staying in an Airbnb down the hill from where Murph lives and we were driving and ‘This Must Be the Place’ by Talking Heads came on the radio. And I don’t know if we actually wanted to make something that sounded like Talking Heads, but it was in the back of our heads when we started creating something that day. It feels like us channeling that side of us and what we love about Talking Heads.” MM: “After the idea of having brass and trumpet on ‘Ready for the High,’ we were always searching for which of the songs we could slap some of those on, and ‘Wildfire’ was a prime candidate for that. It just made it more David Byrne-y.”
“Don’t Poke the Bear” MM: “This is about knowing when to back off and leave people alone.” DH: “We’d seen the Stones recently and there was, like, a bit of a Stones-y kind of guitar thing going on.” TØK: “I remember Murph was referencing Soundtrack of Our Lives, as well.” DH: “Often, in terms of what we think it sounds like in our heads and what it ends up sounding like, no one would ever get the reference that we are on about because it gets morphed into something completely different.”
“Worry” MM: “This is a fun, slightly mad song more about OCD than it is about worrying too much. I notice myself getting into these places where if I’m turning the TV up, everything has to be a multiple of three. I start to get into these kinds of OCD patterns in my life. Now, I kind of recognize them and go, ‘OK, well we know where that leads, so we’re going to back off a little bit.’” It was wide open for trumpets. We had the guy from The War on Drugs [Jon Natchez] come and play up at Jacknife Lee’s studio. He was great; he just went wild for three hours.”
“Fix Yourself, Then the World (Reach Beyond Your Fingers)” MM: “This was a really random hour in the studio where we just went with an idea that we weren’t really sure what the hell it was. Tord made it sound very My Bloody Valentine—epic and huge. The title was important to end the album as well, to detract from any potential dodginess of the actual album title itself. It throws a bit of extra confusion in there, which I think is always good.” TØK: “It’s a live performance. I’m not sure if I’m allowed to talk about how we were feeling at the time, but we were quite delirious, put it that way. And it was really fun, and we were all just really feeling it.”

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