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      Declan McKenna in Colorado Springs

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      March 17, 2018

      Saturday   7:00 PM

      2106 East Platte Avenue
      Colorado Springs, Colorado 80909

      Declan McKenna

      with Chappell Roan
      Declan McKenna has a problem with authority. For a suburban, Bowie-worshipping 17 year old who dropped out of school to record his debut album and slog round the country in a tour van, thats hardly surprising. But this waif-like dreamers issue with beingtold what to do extends further than mere rebellion: his songs are gunning for the people who misuse power for the purposes of corruption and oppression. Set to melodies that evoke fond moments of The Strokes and Tom Vek, his messages bite hard.Written in the summer of 2014 about suspended FIFA President Sepp Blatter and the corruption swirling around that years football World Cup, debut single Brazil sank its teeth that December. Its brazen sentiment and crisp riffing swiftly alerted the world to McKennas presence and kick-started his career. People say no one writes songs about Sepp Blatter, McKenna says, But this was based on him, a greedy character who manipulates the environment. It was the first tune Id recorded properly and the best Id released... it prompted a shitload of emails.A shedload of meetings mostly conducted at a roadside cafe near his home in Cheshunt, Hertfordshire followed, and McKenna soon joined The Vaccines and Peace on the books at Columbia and signed to Because in France. Meanwhile, over on his Bandcamp page, Brazil was taking on a life of its own, spurred on by that under-estimated ol faithful, word of mouth. As the stems of a profile were rapidly built, Declan was called for an unlikely appearance on Sky News to talk about what they called his Anti-FIFA song. While the presenters bumbled on about his Twitter profile and whether he was old enough to play gigs in pubs, McKenna, dressed in a bandana and Bart Simpson jumper, grinned and outlined how he fills his songs: With my views and what I want people to talk about. Ill make that clear.In between those management meetings and television appearances, Declan sent off an entry to Glastonburys Emerging Talent competition. He consequently won by a length and a half (plaudits from the Eavis to add to the expanding fanbase), and having completed his performing commitments on the Friday evening to a full tent of the curious and appreciative, Declan abandoned his family to explore Worthy Farms far reaches. He dressed up, got pissed and was offered a threesome. He declined. It sounds like a clich but Glastonbury was crazy, he remembers. Cliched, perhaps, but at 16 years of age its a rite of passage. Declans gigs came thicker and faster after Glastonbury and, hankering after a bigger sound, he recruited a guitarist, bassist and drummer. Although hed always found time to write songs during school, shortly after starting his A-Levels in September he decided to jack studying in. He did OK in his GCSEs (four As, twoBs, two Cs and two Ds if youre asking) but says he just couldnt be arsed to be there anymore.All I wanted to do was go home and play guitar, he continues. Looking at him hes wearing a shirt with tiny orange birds printed all over it, an oversized granddad jumper, skintight jeans, mucky Converse and chipped turquoise nail polish its not hard to see why. He looks like a pop misfit in training.The taste of Brazils success was irresistible for a wannabe who first picked up a guitar aged eight and, after immersing himself in Bowie, Jeff Buckley, The Beatles and post-millennial indie from Vampire Weekend to Hot Hot Heat, had home-recorded more than 100 songs by 16. I once tried to record an album in a day he recalls, laughing. It was pretty shit, but I did it.Whilst the tail of Brazil had only just reached the US (and continues today to build at a frightening rate on college radio), Declan soon followed it with second single, Paracetamol, which has another evil authority figure (this time basedon media misrepresentation of transgender culture) in its crosshairs. Produced by Neil Comber (Django Django, M.I.A., Patrick Wolf) it swaps Brazils guitar for a chunky keyboard part, which shrouds even darker subject matter suicide. Paracetamol was premiered by Declan through his own pirate radio station, a weekly (If I dont forget, or am not out playing a gig) digital outlet for Declan to vent and rant, and play his ever-expanding fans his favourite songs and snippets of his own.Paracetamol is aniggling gem of a song, infectious and straight from the Mac DeMarco school of the leftfield. Blogs were quick to support it, but the repeated suggestion that it was written about a misspent youth was way off.McKenna, who is straight and has many transgender and LGBT friends, was inspired to write it after trans teenager Leelah Alcorn took her own life in December 2014. Its a morbid topic but its not meant to be depressing, he explains. Ive heard similar stories about parents who arent exactly accepting. Trans culture is too common not to be talked about properly in the media and when it is, like when Channel 4 did Girls To Men, you can tell they dont even understand what a transgender person is. I wanted to speak as the media, from the bad guys perspective and ask why were treating people this way.By the time hes finished his fingers are knotted in frustration, but moments later hes laughing and calling himself the attention seeking child of his family. This is symptomatic of his personality. The youngest of six, McKenna is equal parts teenage impishness and righteous indignation, silliness and maturity. He cares deeply about the environment and worries the world is somewhat fucked.A lot of my songs are about big world problems because Ive not got much bad personal stuff to write about. Humans are gonna destroy the planet to the extent they cant live here anymore and I think we might be around to see that, he says. Even so, he insists hes not a crusading songwriter: Fun is most important. I dont think I have a responsibility to address anything, its good if people start thinking about something because of my songs but Im not trying to be Billy Bragg.Perhaps an easier parallel is Grimes: like Claire Boucher, he has the air of a troubled outsider, chanelling his fears for the future into pop music. McKenna simply says hes trying to be nothing other than a 17-year-old: My music isnt meant to be mature, Im young. Ive had comments like Dyou reckon hell be as good when he turns into a man? As if huge balls will suddenly drop through my trousers! I dont worry about that.Mature or not, McKenna is hitting the road and working on his as-yet-untitled debut. Further heavy subject matter (Isombard tackles police brutality and is inspired by Martin Luther King and The Kids Dont Wanna Come Home was written after the Paris terror attacks in November 2015) sits alongside more personal material (Why Do You Feel So Down? portrays a manipulative person whos an absolute dickhead).Hes channelling obsessions with Unknown Mortal Orchestra, St. Vincent, Tame Impala and Sufjan Stevens into songs that explore psychedelic noise, pop and shoegaze. James Ford (Arctic Monkeys, Foals, Haim) will join Neil Comber on production duties. Its gonna be very much a first album, all over the place with lots of ideas, McKenna finishes. I dont see that as a bad thing, Bowie did it. Im creating something you couldnt put in a genre, its difficult but Ive definitely got enough songs.It looks like this kids gonna be alright.

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