Declan McKenna has had a brief but incredibly fruitful history since last year with each of the singles he has unleashed, which often have premises rooted in taking an engaged and critical look at the social issues he wants to bring into light through his music. His releases have mostly come in singles, each of which have had great substance and an interesting style combining psychedelic guitar melodies with interesting synth work to create some poppy hits that are intellectually driven, both from a musical and lyrical perspective.
His vision has reached resounding international reception, and just a week ago he performed at the SXSW festival. McKenna spoke with Baeble recently regarding his experiences thus far after making a really big emergence into the international indie pop limelight.
Given your repertoire of songs which deal with addressing highly contentious global and social issues in a way that takes a sharp and critical perspective, were there any musicians or activist-minded people that pushed you in the direction of creating music with these sorts of goals rather than making music for its own sake or for other reasons?
I tend to make music primarily because it's fun; it's just always been something I enjoy doing. But along with that, it's a good way to express your thoughts in a way that people actually want to hear them, which is a pretty nice thing in itself.
On your Youtube channel, I read that the FBI got in contact with you in the wake of your release of "Brazil." How did it feel to know that your music's impact on the public sphere was helping with that kind of response?
Yeh that was a joke, but like hey, 15 year old musician makes song about Sep Blatter, and Sep Blatter nearly leaving FIFA, within a matter of months?!?! Coincidence? I think not.
There's a lot of spaciness and a sort of air of old-school styled guitar work to the timbre of your songs that's really hard to pinpoint or attribute an influence to. What sorts of musicians inspired your sound to make it so distinguished and able to cut through the noise in a new way?
So so many people...Jeff Buckley, St Vincent, The Beatles, The Kinks, David Bowie, Vampire Weekend, Blur...all sorts of different bands and artists have influenced me in some way or another; there's too many to really attribute a select few.
While many seem to pander to your being a young musician undertaking very socially-conscious approaches to music, do you think the community surrounding your music, from an industry or touring perspective, has been a receptive and good environment for you so far?
Yeah, absolutely. I've been surrounded by great people and had an amazing time so far. It's crazy having so much support so early on and just being able to enjoy what I do.
Out of all the touring you've done so far, who has been your favorite band or musician to tour with?
That's tough' I've loved it all. I guess I'd have to say Mystery Jets, just because I've been a fan of them longer than any band I can think of. It's genuinely been something I've wanted to be able to do since I started making music. They're one of many reasons I started making music. Along with that it was just an incredible run of shows and I had a great time, lovely lads.
??The storytelling behind the song "Paracetamol" takes a really sort of morbid perspective in terms of viewing the tragic circumstances surrounding a transgender girl who took her own life. Do you feel that the song was motivated by a degree of cynicism or even hopelessness?
I wouldn't say that, no. It's more about trying to make something positive. The lyrics are quite negative, I suppose, but the song is all about hope and changing things for the better, if anything I'd like to think it's the opposite of cynical.
Are there any new sorts of influences or issues, or even ideas you're tinkering with, that you foresee yourself incorporating into future songwriting at the moment?
I don't know, like yeah there will be loads of issues that will get into my songs but I can't really pre plan the topics before writing a song; I can just never make anything good that way.
Are there any musicians out there that you'd be most excited to collaborate with?
I'd love to work with Flying Lotus. He's just always doing really cool weird shit; I'd love to see what he could do with one of my tracks.
How do you feel about working on music as a solo act, in regards to the benefits and drawbacks?
I'm a pretty independent songwriter to be honest. I've not done much collaborating in the past, so I guess doing most of the creative process on my own just works for me. Obviously there's less people so less ideas but too many ideas often ends up with a lot of compromise and disagreement. I think I like being completely in charge of the stuff I make. Not that I wouldn't co write with anyone, but generally I just choose not to.