INTERVIEW: Declan McKenna

They say first impressions are everything, and for Declan McKenna, he’s proved that right. After winning a slot on the stages of Glastonbury through their Emerging Talent Competition last year, Declan’s name has been thrown around a lot. This year has already seen him support the likes of Foals, Mystery Jets and Blossoms with just two singles released. Ahead of his set at Brudenell Social Club at Live At Leeds, Gigslutz caught up with him…

With it being nearly a year since his “nerve-racking” Glastonbury shows, things have only got bigger for him. “It’s not often I get very scared before playing a gig, but that was one of them,” he begins. “I think things have been progressing gradually since, but then kind of quickly to how young I am and how different things were a year ago.

“I’ve got a band now, which is good because I’ve always wanted one. I guess I’ve just been doing loads more, like recording and it’s all getting very exciting!” Even the past couple of months things have changed, with a new fifth member of his live band being showcased at this weekend’s shows in Liverpool and Leeds.

Still being a teenager at 17, the focus for many is his age. “It gets annoying when things get patronising,” he explains. “People sometimes think they know better, and sometimes they do! I’m just focusing on making tunes and enjoying myself.”

“I don’t like it when people put too much emphasis on things I’m doing wrong because of my age. If have a bad show, I’m just having a bad show! If I said something stupid in an interview, it’s just because I said something stupid! Not because of my age. It’s when people put stuff down to your age, there’s more to Declan than that!”

He might only be 17, but his music sure doesn’t sound like it’s holding him back. Currently with two singles under his belt, the London-based musician has made sure not to pinpoint his sound too much. “I just like to keep it how I want,” he says. “I’ll writing a song and go ‘cool! I’m writing an electro-pop song now!’ or ‘I’m writing a riff-rock song now!’ I’m trying to keep it fresh for me.”

“Maybe I’ll do something more conceptual for the next record but who knows? I just like to do whatever I feel like doing. I write shitloads of songs all the time, and then pick out whatever I think is the coolest!” With all four released tracks showing off a different part of his musical talent, there’s no way he’s limited himself yet.

Though they may be different sonically, both his singles hold deeper meanings. ‘Brazil’ highlights the corruption of surrounding the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil, of, whilst ‘Paracetamol’ relates to transgender experiences from the perception of the media. “I can’t say it’s completely by accident,” he says. “I’ll start writing a topic after hearing about it in the news, and then I’ll be like ‘I’ll write about this, ok!’. It develops from there, but it does depend on the song.”

With 2016 being his first year at Live At Leeds, and second metropolitan festival, Declan laughs the concept off with “it’s weird when there’s loads of bands around a city environment.”

“I always prefer playing outside, it’s something I’ve always enjoyed doing,” he says. “Though, playing in this urban environment is always cool and it can give you a bit more of a taste of the actual place you’re going to, rather than just a field where there’s loads of different kinds of people.”

“Field festivals do create their own cities, but here you get to see the places and the people from that place, which I always really appreciate!” He’s a converted city festival fan after all.

As for the future, Declan even admits he’s not good at planning, but he does give the suggestion of “an album, eventually once I record it and loads more shows.”, “I just want to try and enjoy it, and get more people into the music. I’m going to be doing a lot of cool stuff, have fun and hopefully work for some cool people!”

Becky Rogers


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