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News April 17, 2023

I Oh You’s Johann Ponniah Talks ‘Inspiring’ DMA’S U.K. Campaign

Senior Journalist, B2B
I Oh You’s Johann Ponniah Talks ‘Inspiring’ DMA’S U.K. Campaign

If and when your pub quizmaster asks the name of Australia’s biggest band right now, you’ll get points for citing DMA’S.

The Australian indie-rock trio are ‘90s revivalists, without the nostalgia. A Britpop channeling outfit, whose frontman Tommy O’Dell has better pipes than anyone from the old-school, and whose latest album How Many Dreams? captures moments from sweaty, back-in-the-day raves.

And this month, they’re podium finishers on the U.K. chart.

How Many Dreams? blasted to No. 3 on the Official U.K. Albums Chart, published April 7. That’s a career-high, a notch above 2020’s The Glow, which hit No. 4 and could have gone higher if the lads, like the rest of us, weren’t forced to stay at home until the pandemic passed.

If success has many parents, and failure is indeed an orphan, then Johann Ponniah is DMA’S favourite uncle.

The I Oh You chief nurtured and signed DMA’S to his label at the very beginning of their journey.

That ride has recently included back-to-the-roots touring of the U.K., which brought the band in-store, on English soccer TV slots, and into regions rarely visited by top-shelf international acts.

How Many Dreams? is a Mushroom Group release internationally, handled via the independent music giant’s new partnership with Virgin, struck in 2022.

Through that deal, The Music Network reported at the time, in certain situations where both parties agree on a project, Mushroom artist releases will be uploaded into UMG’s label network. DMA’S was one of those situations. 

I Oh You is the reigning, three-time AIR independent label of the year, and a division of Mushroom Group.

TMN caught up with Ponniah for a glimpse at the DMA’S export story.

Johann Ponniah

The pandemic took the wind out of the band’s sails like it did with everyone else. But, after all that, to go in at No. 3 in the U.K. is pretty special.

We’ve been coming out here since 2014, and touring hard. And when I say touring, I’m not just talking about going to London, Manchester, Liverpool, Leeds. All great markets, but you know, the ones that most people go to.

The other night, they played in Aylesbury. Before that Cambridge, Wolverhampton, Exeter. We’re going to these markets and doing it for years now, building up this really solid fanbase off what is truly great records.

That has been an important factor.

The top three (chart position) is really a reflection of just how strong their audience is here. People feel so passionately about DMA’S in the U.K. In Australia, it’s great as well, but when you come over here, it’s just a different level. A passion. 

Obviously the touring has provided a great opportunity but in terms of the work we’ve been doing with Virgin Music here, it’s been massive. It’s hard to overstate their impact and what we’ve been able to build out in the marketing side. 

The different press teams and television teams we brought in, the guys did Soccer AM twice on this album campaign, which is basically unheard of.

They performed on Sunday Brunch, so we’re going into very mainstream television.

Radio stations XFM, Absolute, Virgin, Jack Saunders at Radio 1. It’s been comprehensive, across the board.

I can’t speak highly enough of the Virgin team and their guidance across marketing, international, retail and obviously the work they’ve done at DSPs. It’s always tricky when you go into situations like that, because you never know how it’s going to work. This is the first thing we’ve managed to sink our teeth into. It’s been really good.

It’s nice working on a campaign when everything is firing on all cylinders. It doesn’t happen often but we managed to get it to happen on this one.

It’s been the sum of many parts, not just one thing.

You know who else has reached No. 3 on the U.K. albums chart? Tame Impala. And remember, they won a Brit Award for best international act in 2016. So, DMA’S are in good company.

Yeah, I’ll take that.

What’s happening next?

It’s touring over here until the end of April. They’re also going into mainland Europe.

The songs are getting daytime radio adds across Brussels and whatnot.

The campaign is as much about us solidifying our position in Australia and in the U.K., and hopefully expanding on that, but also trying to break into some other markets, including mainland Europe.

So they’re out here, touring until the end of the month then come home for a few weeks, and they’re back again to the U.K. doing a bunch of festivals. They’re also hitting Germany.

The Australian touring is not until September, October. 

It’s been interesting being over here (in the U.K.) because we can feel the support from back home, but we can’t see it yet. So, we’re looking forward to getting back to Australia and playing these new songs for people.

You rode a bus around the U.K. What was that experience like?

There were about six of us traveling around in the van, which we used for a few intimate shows and in store performances.

It was really rewarding.

What originally looked like it was going to be really grueling actually ended up being incredibly sort of inspiring, invigorating, just getting up close with those fans, getting to chat to them and hear what the band means to them and also give people a bit of a different experience.

When you go and see DMA’S play a show, a headline show, it’s the lighting, the production, the full band — a really fleshed out performance. These shows were more of an opportunity for people to get up close and personal with the band and hear the songs in another light as well.

With this new record, they were able to strip the songs back and present them in a new light to audiences here, around the album release. It was just a really great experience.

I Oh You is kicking goals with a bunch of acts, including Confidence Man and Jack River. It would appear that you’re having a pretty damn good time.

The Confidence Man stuff is really exciting.

Off the back of that last record (TILT), and just seeing what they were able to do in Australia and take a step up, especially in the U.K. I mean, a few steps up.

In October, selling 6,000 tickets in London, 3,000 in Manchester. It’s definitely an exciting time for those guys. There’s going to be a few singles coming out this year and they’re working on a new record.

Jack River, that record (Endless Summer) is great. It’s coming June 16. I’m so excited to share that with everyone.

Jack River

Jack River

Also, we just started managing Fazerdaze from New Zealand. We started managing her late last year, and we’re working to build that record out with. She’s signed to a label for Section1, part of the Partisan Records family.

So yeah, some exciting things coming for her this year as well, both locally in New Zealand in Australia, and also internationally.

Sometimes, working in music it can come in ups and downs, but we certainly feel like, this year and probably into next, we’ve got some really, really exciting stuff.

We have things that we hope will do well domestically, but also give us more opportunities to branch out internationally.

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