Declan McKenna Unveils Empowering Video For New Track
“The Kids Don’t Wanna Come Home”
(Columbia Records; New York, NY, January 23, 2017)Declan McKenna has unveiled the video for his new song, “The Kids Don’t Wanna Come Home.” The video was directed by Bunny Kinney and filmed in Barnet, North London. It features a range of teenagers who are all engaged, motivated and active in trying to make a difference for their collective futures. While the teenagers have smart phones and social media apps, they are also alert, responsive and interact with the world around them. The video is interspersed with old stock footage of teenagers from past generations, equally as motivated to campaign and act for a better future. It’s a timely and inspiring watch.
Watch “The Kids Don’t Wanna Come Home” here: http://smarturl.it/DeclanKidsVid
Says Declan, “The video is about highlighting the genuine concerns of young people, and so in that light, it’s not all about convicting acting performances, but merely letting them talk. It’s something the human race has shied away from doing to its young people throughout history.”
“The Kids Don’t Wanna Come Home” will feature on his as-yet-untitled debut album, due for release this spring through Columbia Records. The new track follows Declan’s inclusion on the BBC’s Sound of 2017 poll, a recent performance at Radio 1’s Future Festival, his NPR Tiny Desk feature, a newly announced performance at the forthcoming Coachella and a healthy trail of media support throughout 2016 including performances on Conan and The Late Show with Stephen Colbert.
In a very short period of time, the recently turned 18 years old Declan McKenna has become synonymous with wrapping his alt-pop songs in smart lyrical content. It’s been a timely arrival for this young British musician who doesn’t proclaim to have all the answers, but believes it his duty to at least pose a few pertinent questions. Declan’s activism does not come at the expense of his ear for a melody, with “The Kids Don’t Wanna Come Home” as a prime example.
“The Kids Don’t Wanna Come Home” draws on Declan’s personal experience, partially inspired by the attack that took place in Paris on November 13th. Upon leaving Paris in the early hours of the morning, Declan realised that he had just experienced first-hand what he’d tried to express before in the song – the powerlessness of a young person in today’s world, experiencing the shock and the terror, and helplessly watching those in positions of power cause so much uncertainty for the future. The song is Declan’s rally against the widespread assumption that the younger generation are self-obsessed and merely glued to their mobile phones. Despite those very real frustrations, “The Kids Don’t Wanna Come Home” is a song that elicits a feeling of hope, and how ultimately the youth want to positively fight for change through both art and conversation.
Fans wishing to see Declan live can catch him at Coachella on April 15th and April 22, 2017.
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, that’s hardly surprising. But this waif-like dreamer’s issue with being told 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 year’s football World Cup, debut single ‘Brazil’ sank its teeth that December. Its brazen sentiment and crisp riffing swiftly alerted the world to McKenna’s 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 I’d recorded properly and the best I’d 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. I’ll make that clear.”
In between those management meetings and television appearances, Declan sent off an entry to Glastonbury’s 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 Farm’s far reaches. He dressed up, got pissed and was offered a threesome. He declined. “It sounds like a cliché but Glastonbury was crazy,” he remembers. Cliched, perhaps, but at 16 years of age it’s a rite of passage.
Declan’s gigs came thicker and faster after Glastonbury and, hankering after a bigger sound, he recruited a guitarist, bassist and drummer. Although he’d 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, two Bs, two Cs and two Ds if you’re asking) but says he “just couldn’t be arsed to be there anymore.”
“All I wanted to do was go home and play guitar,” he continues. Looking at him – he’s wearing a shirt with tiny orange birds printed all over it, an oversized granddad jumper, skintight jeans, mucky Converse and chipped turquoise nail polish – it’s not hard to see why. He looks like a pop misfit in training.
The taste of Brazil’s 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 based on media misrepresentation of transgender culture) in its crosshairs. Produced by Neil Comber (Django Django, M.I.A., Patrick Wolf) it swaps Brazil’s 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 don’t 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 a niggling 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. “It’s a morbid topic but it’s not meant to be depressing,” he explains. “I’ve heard similar stories about parents who aren’t 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 don’t even understand what a transgender person is. I wanted to speak as the media, from the bad guy’s perspective and ask why we’re treating people this way.”
By the time he’s finished his fingers are knotted in frustration, but moments later he’s 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 I’ve not got much bad personal stuff to write about. Humans are gonna destroy the planet to the extent they can’t live here anymore and I think we might be around to see that,” he says. Even so, he insists he’s not a crusading songwriter: “Fun is most important. I don’t think I have a responsibility to address anything, it’s good if people start thinking about something because of my songs but I’m 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 he’s trying to be nothing other than a 17-year-old: “My music isn’t meant to be mature, I’m young. I’ve had comments like ‘D’you reckon he’ll be as good when he turns into a man?’ As if huge balls will suddenly drop through my trousers! I don’t 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 Don’t 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 who’s an absolute dickhead”).
He’s 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. “It’s gonna be very much a first album, all over the place with lots of ideas,” McKenna finishes. “I don’t see that as a bad thing, Bowie did it. I’m creating something you couldn’t put in a genre, it’s difficult but I’ve definitely got enough songs.”
It looks like this kid’s gonna be alright.