Imagine being just months away from your first fully produced album, at just 18.
Imagine being too young to vote against Brexit, but still having more political intelligence than most.
Imagine being 18 and hearing your own song on FIFA.
These aren’t alternative lyrics to a certain John Lennon song; these are the realities of Declan McKenna.
From listening to a variety of ABBA, to Mystery Jets, to MF Doom, Declan has begun to find his place in the indie scene, sort of, if you call ‘pop with cool guitars’ a genre. In reality, at 18 years old, Declan is happy to produce what comes to mind, and what feels right, saying, “I don’t really consider myself stuck on one genre, it often gets labelled in indie but I feel like recently I’ve stepped away from that a little bit especially with some of the unreleased tracks.”
So what of these unreleased tracks?
They’re all found on Declan’s up-and-coming album What Do You Think About The Car?, set to be released on the 21st of July this year. It’s produced by James Ford, the same man who’s worked on albums with Arctic Monkeys and the aforementioned Mystery Jets.
“James is very good at being very much a part of the creative process not in an aggressive way, but in a very helpful way which means I come out with something that I think is better than what I started with.”
However, unlike most of the artist James has worked with, Declan McKenna is very much a newbie to album-construction, but embraced this with open arms.
“The bulk of the album was written pretty much when I was 16 and sort of around then like 15 or 17 as well. So it was a very kind of confusing point in my life because there was a lot of stuff happening in terms of my music and my life had changed quite drastically; from being permanently in school to very solidly touring and making music.”
Being at that point in his life, has influenced the album as he explains; “I guess I wanted the album to be fun and I wanted it to be enjoyable in a quite upbeat way for the most part, that was my goal, to make it an album for people to dance too
“I want people to like it but in the same breath I’m happy with it, I like the songs and I’m happy to get them out.” However, Declan then acknowledged he has a way to come, “I don’t think it’s necessarily the best record I’m ever going to produce, it’s not like a massive masterpiece but I think I’m very happy with it and I like all the songs on it, which is the only thing if anything I set out to do.”
Despite his youthfulness, this album has been a while in the making for the Declan, and the title of the album, What do you think about the car? references this.
“It comes from a home video which is sampled at the start of the album from when we got a new car and I was 4 years old, the video is quite simple. My sister goes ‘Oh Dec what do you think about the car?’, and I go ‘I think it’s really good and now I’m gunna sing my new album now”
Declan’s music taste then wasn’t quite as refined as it is now though… “I think I went on to sing a Busted song,” he chuckles, “I think my musical style has changed a little since I was four years old, I’ve definitely changed as a song writer a little bit.”
For 18, and with the opportunities he has, Declan is a grounded person, “I think it’d be really cool to do something like Kendrick,” he says, teasing leaking an EP early, “But I’d be worried I’d do it and no-one would really give a shit.” However, he did confirm “there’s definitely going to be at least another song coming out before the new album.”
Declan McKenna is more than just his music though, he cares about stuff. Genuinely.
He cares about politics, a lot.
“I was a couple of months out of voting on Brexit.” he says sadly, “I checked the TV and there was Nigel Farage with 51% written at the bottom of the screen and it was really what I didn’t need. I had a great day and a great weekend but it wasn’t the best start, because I wasn’t exactly in support,”
‘The kids don’t wanna come home’, one of Declan’s flag-flying singles, discussing the issues that young people face in this day and age. “There’s a lot of threatening things at this point in time like Brexit and recently I’ve been talking a lot about young people, especially getting a vote for young people and getting more young people to want to vote.” He explains.
“One problem with a party in power that benefits from less young people voting is that there is no noticeable massive effort to get young people to vote… I think it’s important for influencers and artists such as me to try and counter that as much as possible.”
However, Declan is a big believer that change is coming, and seems forever optimistic; “A lot of people think chances for Labour are very slim but anything can happen as we saw with Trump, the president of America for example.
“Oops, I didn’t mean to drop the T bomb.”
I then asked if Declan could ever see himself becoming a politician, surprisingly, I was met with a firm “absolutely not.”
Justifying, “I’m too much of an artiste, I’d struggle not getting really pissed off all the time.”
Guess he’ll just have to stick to making ‘pop with cool guitars’.
What, a, shame.
*Sarcasm still very much implied.
Declan’s album ‘What Do You Think About The Car?’ is out on July 21st, and he’s touring from right now until the end of August.
Words by Alex Slater