Interview Declan McKenna: “It’s the most exciting thing that’s happened in fucking ages!”

Returning to Reading & Leeds with second album ‘Zeros’ still freshly in tow, Declan talks chaotic festivals past, curiously specific new skills and what’s behind latest release, ‘My House’.

Pack your wellies, get the silent disco squad assembled, and hope you don’t lose your love of Strongbow Dark Fruits after drinking it for the fourth day in a row, because Reading & Leeds festival is back!

With headline sets coming from the likes of Stormzy, Post Malone, Liam Gallagher, and Wolf Alice, the weekend is set up to be a stunner, so we had a catch-up festival fave (and main stage performer) Declan McKenna to get us in the mood.

How was it to be back in a festival field at Latitude last month?
It was just so immersive! It really felt like nothing existed but the festival site. I’d been excited for it for weeks and was so anxious it would slip away but I think, like many people there, it added a sense of unity and excitement that this was real for even a few days. It was nice to just feel excited to be in that environment like it was the first time. The idea of a festival wasn’t just going through the motions as a musician after the past year - it’s the most exciting thing that’s happened in fucking ages! Running around and engaging in pure nonsense to live music for three days, it was its own alien spaceship. Our gig was class too, so nice to see people losing their minds to songs that we’ve never played before. I didn’t really take it in ’til after, but it was epic.

You’ve not long released new track ‘My House’. What can you tell us about it?
It came about from me just trying to entertain myself in March last year. It’s simple and direct and was largely recorded at home. I think I like the idea, moving forward, about engaging further with all the quirks that make up the way I make music at home and this was an example of that that just felt perfect to drop this summer. It still makes me so happy hearing it. The message is just about finding ways to feel and share love in distanced or isolated times; it’s familiar for me, and it just kind of sits as a reminder to find someone to talk to every day and find ways to keep positive and excited even just a little bit.

…and where did the inspiration for the video come from?
I’ve been talking with Jake Passmore about making a video for a long time, he’s a long-standing collaborator artist-musician-director who wrote ‘You Better Believe’ with me for my album ‘Zeros’ and also has featured in music videos with me before. We wanted to have me alone sailing at sea and connecting with and embracing the challenges of it all, and eventually making some friends. We wanted to make something where we could utilise Jake’s talent for creating and designing creatures and we had an amazing team of his friends help put it all together. It was a really lovely and intimate way to go about making a video which can be hard to convince the powers that be to let you do, but we were all so happy with it.

"[I] can now juggle four bottles of Buckfast whilst roundhouse kicking a can of Lilt off my own mum’s head."

Is it the first element of something more to come, or standalone?
I have no idea, probably standalone, I like standalone stuff right now. I have so many ideas. I think my next album will probably come about from me just realising I’ve written an album and taking about a month to just finish it off, there’s so much already there that’s already halfway produced from just digging in at home.

What else have you spent the last 18 months or so spending your time doing? Any new hobbies or habits we should know about?
I got back into football majorly, watching and playing, when possible. I just used to play and watch football at least every other day when I was younger, there’s something about competitive sport that’s just so important for my sanity. It’s a way to get angry and get your head fully engaged in something, but at the end you just leave and that’s it. I’ve also taken a particular interest in juggling and can now juggle four bottles of Buckfast whilst roundhouse kicking a can of Lilt off my own mum’s head.

It sort of felt like there was no end of summer last year with no Reading & Leeds - do you have any particularly strong memories of the event?
Absolutely losing my tiny mind to Foals and Disclosure a few years ago; having only 17 songs saved on my laptop for my silent disco set vs Blaenavon and playing ‘You Can Call Me Al’ twice; crowdsurfing in my Shrek sack dress on the Radio 1 stage at Reading - this is NOT safe to do - and getting told off for climbing the rail on stage at Leeds - there’s never a dull moment.

What would be your ultimate thing to happen during your Reading & Leeds set?
Lewis Capaldi to come on and sing ‘Brazil’.

Tags: Declan McKenna, Reading & Leeds, Festivals, From The Magazine, Features, Interviews

As featured in the August 2021 issue of DIY, out now.

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