The artwork for Declan McKenna’s second album was taken at a fairground, catching captivating motion shots on the waltzer. His music videos and artwork are a fusion of great creative vision and the most exciting and individual music to surface for some time. So it’s with great anticipation that fans await his second album, Zeros. Susie Daniels talks to Declan about collaborations with music buddy Sam Fender and the fear that the end is nigh.
Beautiful Faces has traces of Bowie, Jarvis Cocker and Blur. Is that flattering and whose music has influenced you?
That’s fine. When I started out I would have had more of a problem with those comparisons. There’s no such thing as an original piece of art, we’re all influenced by something. One of the biggest influences is Bob Dylan in the sense of narrative in my songs.
You like a bit of glitter on your face and have the glam rock look in Beautiful Faces. Do you wish you’d been around during that era?
I don’t think there’s a set look I have. As a performer I want to be as expressive as possible. I guess the look is quite Bowie, T Rex, St Vincent though sometimes I want to be quite casual. It’s important when you’re performing. When you’re making art you can’t reject emotions. I have a lot of influence and am helped stylistically. I’m into stage fashion.
Most of your music videos like Brazil, Brew and British Bombs are very arty. Brew was a Girls in Film production who work with those who identify as female or non-binary. What was the reasoning behind working with them?
The opportunity came about, it sounded good and there was a budget for it. It was like an additional side project as Brew had already been released. I try and find cool people to work with. I’m not a film-maker so it’s important to collaborate with people whose work you like. With British Bombs I kind of left it to Ed Bulmer, an artist whose work I’m into. For Beautiful Faces I worked with artist Will Hooper. I’m working with him on my next music video.
What’s Rapture, a song from your latest album Zeros, about?
There’s a lot of talk about the end of the world. The way it was predicted thousands of years ago – fire, floods. Those things are happening now. I like the idea of dogmatic belief that it’s coming to an end. There is a very present anxiety. With the age of social media there is constant fear. I do worry about how humanity can adapt to the future.
The world is changing at a rate quicker than we are evolving. A lot of people my age worry about the state of everything.
You have a lot of political opinions. Do you ever see yourself as the Greta Thunberg of the political world?
I don’t see myself as the biggest talker. Something about her, she has a way with words. I have attitudes to certain things and a platform to talk about it. I can be more confident but it’s not always easy to be vulnerable with your opinions.
What’s on your mind that you’re going to transform into music?
The next record is going to get more and more personal writing about people. I like the idea of the concept record – a person in mind for three songs and tell a story. I’ve got a lot of songs written already.
Any collaborations in the pipeline?
I collaborated with Soren Bryce (American electronic indie pop musician) in Nashville. She’s an old friend of mine from touring and she does vocals and strings in Zeros. I’ve talked briefly with Trevor Horn. That would be cool working with old fella legends. I’m keen to work with Sam Fender, he’s one of my mates. I’m also keen to work with [rapper, songwriter, producer] Osquello.
A few years ago you were introduced to the music of a 13-year old artist who had written a song called Ocean Eyes. That singer was Billy Eilish. Does her meteoric rise open your mind to the possibilities in music?
You just never know what’s going to happen. I’m happy where I am now. Just enjoy the moment and not pin my hopes on any pipe dream. So many people have connected with Billy Eilish that I don’t know anyone else who could have had that approach to a record. It’s such a fresh simple way and feels really of the time and timeless.
What song/s are you most excited about in Zero?
I love Life on Earth. You take into account that people will sing along to your songs. I’ve been working on trying to mirror and reflect suburban world in the song. One that’s ever-changing.