After releasing his debut album ‘What Do You Think About The Car?’ back in July 2017, Declan McKenna is back and he’s not fucking about. ‘British Bombs’ comes as another pre-cursor to his second album which he’s currently busy working on in a Nashville studio. While Declan’s music has always been fizzing with ideas and colour, the lyrics in this new airing raise vital questions about Britain’s involvement with the sale of arms. In many ways, it’s a straight up anti-war song from the indie dreamboat. We picked up the phone to chat about the track and discuss how his new space cowboy record is shaping up.
Hey Declan! How’s Nashville treating you then?
It’s been really cool, I’ve really fallen in love with it. It seems like one of my favourite places in America actually. I really like it here and have been enjoying recording, it’s been relaxed but super-hot as well. I’ve got my whole band out here and we’ve been having a really great time making a record. It feels like such a tried-and-tested thing coming to Nashville and making an album. It’s funny because I’ve spent the last six months just twiddling my thumbs waiting to record this thing and figure out where I’m actually going to do it. Now I’m here it’s all systems go and we’ve made some great progress. It’s all come quite naturally.
The politically charged new single ‘British Bombs’ drops today, what’s the idea there?
The concept really just started from discussing war and realising Britain’s prevalence in war. The whole time I’ve been alive we’ve been engaged in the selling of arms and that industry side of war, and we’ve impacted lives all around the world because of it. So, I got into that headspace and it’s strange because there’s a bit of a difference between how people feel versus the reality of it. It doesn’t feel like we’re at war but in the modern world you don’t need to feel like somethings happening for it to be going on somewhere else in the world. I think that’s the point I want to get across with it.
Would you say there’s very much a punk rock message behind the track?
I’ve grown up being into a lot of British punk bands and I wanted to go for that sort of energy but maybe to make a track that felt a bit more modern. I wanted to do it in my vein of doing things and to make it a pop song. I think it’s important because that helps people engage with the music if it’s infectious. That’s one thing that The Clash did very well was to mix their brand of punk and their ideas with the pop of the time. They channelled the sounds that were on the radio with their message and it was a beautiful combination. I guess I’ve tried to do that in a way. I’ve tried to make something that’s both lyrically and musically of the present. I feel like ‘British Bombs’ is a song that could almost only be coming out in this little gap since Boris Johnston has become Prime Miniser.
Have you always been on your agenda to write something of an anti-war song?
I’ve always had the idea to write songs that represent a belief system and a desire to change. Even when I wasn’t thinking about it, when I was writing songs as a thirteen year old I was doing that in some form, perhaps in a smaller way than I’m attempting now. I guess I had written little nuggets of anti-war tunes over the years so it’s always been there but I never really got one that I felt was good enough. It’s the right time for this one and I feel like it’s tasteful. It’s important when you’re tackling something like this that it doesn’t come across a certain way. It’s bold but it also understands the situation and doesn’t overstep a certain line. It’s about that balance of getting a song that people are going to want to hear musically and making it engaging. I guess I’ve always wanted to do something like this. My subject matters come when they come though, whether I’m writing about a pair of shoes that I like or the whole world. I’m not trying to be this voice that talks about everything going on in the world because that isn’t what I do.
All of the proceeds go to charity from this single, where do you see those funds going?
I want to see them help people who are impacted by what I’m talking about. I think it’s important to be as engaged as possible and if there is something there that can help people then that’s brilliant. Ultimately that’s what it’s all about and if I’m not attempting that then I don’t think I’m doing it right. It’s a simple as that really. I think war and the sales of arms around the world is such a big thing that we don’t even see the impact of. So hopefully we can help some people that have been affected by these issues.
Did you go into this second album with any big ideas then?
It’s actually a little bit space cowboy, I think that’s part of my inspiration for coming to Nashville but it’s far from a country record. It feels like a big story really, I love writing in stories and I think I’ve had some time to link things up in my head with this album. I’ve had the time to consider the beast that I’m making. I felt like I wanted to step away from the indie world a little bit, not that I know what that means anymore. I remember Paul McCartney talking about ‘Rubber Soul’ and saying that they wanted to get weird but do it a little bit at a time. Then they did ‘Revolver’ and ‘Sgt. Pepper’ and by then it was super weird. I think that sentiment stuck with me and I like the idea of things getting gradually strange. This album is a step in that direction, it’s my ‘Rubber Soul’.
So is Nashville living up to your expectations in terms of creativity?
Nashville is a fun place and you get those classic elements on the strip and everything. In the studio though, we could kind of be anywhere. It doesn’t feel weird or any different from recording with a great group of people back home. It’s a really comforting environment and I’m working with people who are really excited about what we’re doing. It just feels good, it’s hard to explain while I’m in it but I’ll probably look back at Nashville and understand on a deeper level how it impacted me. It just feels great at the minute though which is what I want, we’re recording music, and everyone is into it, so it feels perfect.
What’s the plan for the rest of the year then?
I’m hoping to play some shows this year really. I can’t say much at this point in time, but I think once I’m done with the recording and the album that’s what I’m looking forward to. I’m excited about reminding people that I exist. Touring is really draining but I do really miss it. There’s something about it that makes you feel alive, I feel like I’m in a film saying that but it’s true. For all of its hardships, how knackering it is and how far away it takes you from the real world, there is just something amazing about it. I’m really buzzing to get back and play some shows and do all the messing around that comes with touring, looking at new places and just having a good time.
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