4 To Watch: The Wombats

Marsupials Invade Asia

Music Features The Wombats
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Hometown: Liverpool, England
Members: Dan Haggis (drums), Tord Knudsen (bass, vocals), Matthew Murphy (vocals, guitar, keyboards)
Fun fact: They named themselves after an Australian mammal for two reasons, Murphy drolly says: “Dan and I used to call each other ‘wombat’ as a derogatory term, plus everyone just loves a pouched marsupial.”
Why they’re worth watching: Even before their eponymous EP hit U.S. shores, The Wombats wowed SXSW, the U.K. Top 40 and even Japan’s Fuji Rock Festival. A full album is due in January.
For fans of: Art Brut, The Libertines, vintage Buzzcocks

Matthew Murphy knew he’d penned some incredibly catchy songs—sparkling punk-pop footstompers like “Kill The Director,” “Backfire At The Disco” and “Let’s Dance To Joy Division.” But it wasn’t until The Wombats singer/guitarist touched down in Asia two years ago that he fully comprehended their crowd-pleasing worth.

“Our gig in Shanghai was almost all Westerners,” recalls Murphy, who—in his black sweater, orange trousers and rainbow-hued Adidas—sort of resembles SNL’s Andy Samberg visiting Sesame Street. “And because they don’t get any bands over there, as soon as they knew we were coming, they went on our website, downloaded all our tracks and learned all the lyrics. So they were all standing there, singing along in China, 10,000 miles from my home. And no one was singing our songs in the U.K. at the time—The Wombats didn’t have a following until we flew East.”

So how did three squirrelly lads wind up wowing the exotic Orient? It all started with Murphy’s pre-college realization that he couldn’t hold a steady job. “So when I left [high] school, it was either do music or die—I didn’t really have a choice,” Murphy enrolled in the Paul McCartney-sponsored Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts (LIPA) and, at ?rst, he had delusions of guitar-god grandeur. “So I joined loads of bands and started wanking off solos,” he says. “But through that, I found out that songwriting was what I was most interested in.”

Murphy’s biggest class triumph? Knocking dead a Midi Festival audience of 20,000 in Beijing, with unsigned out?ts from around the globe. Then again, he adds, “We were the only band from England, and most of the other bands were truly horrible.”

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