Declan McKenna w/ Chappell Roan$15.00
“Declan McKenna writes about a much bigger world than you or I might expect from a singer who only recently turned 18.” – Bob Boilen, NPR Music
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”
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.
During early 2015, 16-year-old Chappell Roan found herself in New York City a thousand miles away from her hometown of Willard, MO. She traveled to the Big Apple in order to showcase for multiple major labels. Hailing from a city of just 5,000, she stood at a crossroads.
“It was a crazy moment,” she admits. “I couldn’t believe where I was, but I knew I wanted this. When I sing, I want people to feel every emotion. I hope they get a better understanding of me as a human being and not just as a singer. I want them to know who I am.”
This kind of honesty defines conversations with the songstress as well as her music, eschewing any and all pretense. Playing the piano with passion and penning lyrics about loss, love, and heartbreak, Chappell sings with a world-weary wisdom that belies her 19 years. Think of her as a teenage girl with the mystique and vision of Sia and powerful pipes a la Lana Del Rey, and you’re on the right track…
It’s no surprise that she unassumingly took the first step on this journey while still in grade school. At 12-years-old, the singer and songwriter began taking piano lessons. Devouring records from Fleetwood Mac and Bob Dylan, she taught herself to play by ear. She went from performing in the school choir to winning an eighth grade talent show. Recognizing her ability, mom encouraged her to play around her hometown area. Growing a buzz, her confessional and captivating style began to resonate with listeners everywhere as she posted music online. As that sound caught on, she signed to Atlantic Records even before finishing her junior year of high school.
Her first single “Good Hurt” immediately intoxicates with its darkly blissful pop fused melodies, illuminating her dynamic voice and vivid lyricism.
Ultimately, Chappell’s music stays close to her heart, and it resonates for that very reason. “I’m not trying to be anything I’m not,” she leaves off. “I just want to be seen as a real person.”