The independent student newspaper at the University of Illinois since 1871

The Daily Illini

The independent student newspaper at the University of Illinois since 1871

The Daily Illini

The independent student newspaper at the University of Illinois since 1871

The Daily Illini

Declan McKenna talks new album, life on the road in the US

James Hoeck
Declan McKenna hangs out at the press lounge before his concert set later in the day.

Alternative artist Declan McKenna will be taking the Bacardi stage at 6:30p.m. for a 45-minute set on Friday.

The British artist is best known for his debut single “Brazil,” which centers around corruption within the 2014 FIFA world cup. Since then, McKenna has released two albums and is working on a third.

The DI sat down to talk with McKenna before his Lollapalooza set about adjusting to life on the road in the United States and the feel of his new music.

This interview has been slightly edited for length and clarity.


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    DI: How are you doing today?

    McKenna: Yeah, I’m alright! We had a bit of a rush getting here on time, but we’re here now, and excited to be at Lollapalooza. I’m just looking at all the little random tents and things around, I think it’s going to be an interesting time. I was here like six or seven years ago and got a bunch of cool free stuff…I was just thinking about that today.


    DI: Is there anything really different from the last time you were here?

    McKenna: A little bit, I mean it’s a similar thing, I remember having the skyscrapers around and stuff. But I don’t know, I guess the gig’s going to be different because we were basically opening the stage when we did it before, and this time we’re playing like 6:30…It’s gonna hopefully just be a really cool gig, and I’m actually getting to stay for pretty much the whole weekend this time.


    DI: Is there anyone in particular you’re looking forward to seeing?

    McKenna: Lil Yachty. I just think it’s so interesting what he did, so I’m really keen to see that show…I’d love to catch a bit of Kendrick, I saw him headlining Glastonbury and that was just unbelievable. There’s a lot of good music, but we’re just here for a good time. We’re at the end of a tour, so we’re all kind of tired, just gonna take it easy, not rush around too much trying to catch up, but I’m definitely going to catch them. 


    DI: Coming off the end of a tour, how’s that going? Are you taking care of yourself, making sure you don’t burn out?

    McKenna: I’ve been feeling a bit burnt out. We’ve got like, a little Airbnb in town, that’s been nice to just be settled for a few days…I’ve been working on new music stuff, so it’s just like, lots and lots of stuff all the time, lots of moving parts.


    DI: How’s it been coming to the USA? It’s quite a trip coming over from Britain.

    McKenna: I’ve heard it’s really wet and windy back home, I mean I haven’t been there for a month, so it was alright when I left but apparently it’s super cold. This is completely different. The festival season, the festivals, everything is completely different, the crowds are different. It’s nice because America just keeps going. Like, there were so many places on this tour I’ve never been…I’d much rather be traveling and seeing the world than not, and any opportunity to do that, you know, within reason, I’m kind of up for. That’s kind of the lifestyle I’ve chosen. It has its ups and downs, but you know, who wouldn’t want to be at Lollapalooza?


    DI: You just had your new single Sympathy come out. Want to talk us through that?

    McKenna: I was actually in America working on music when I wrote that…I’d just landed in California, it was January, which is really really bad weather back home, but it was really really nice in California, like perfect weather. I just arrived, the sun was shining, and I was just forming this new relationship working on music. I had a few ideas for the album, a lot of stuff already written, but just kind of like, went in and made this song quite quickly. It summed up a new direction for me, I didn’t want to take this album too seriously. It definitely has its serious moments and like, stuff that feels very personal. But a lot of what makes this album feel very intimate and personal to me is the lack of inhibition, the lack of really thinking about it too hard. It’s more about me just putting down ideas as they come and trying to use the demos, or the first inspiration on the record as much as possible. Sympathy is a good demonstration of the ethos behind it, because it’s so feel good, it’s so relaxed. There’s a lot of different vibes coming on this album, but it revolves around this idea of freedom and letting go. 


    DI: You’ve written about a lot of heavier topics, things like corruption within FIFA, trans rights, British politics. How has it been changing to a lighter focus? Has it been heavy carrying those topics in the past? 

    McKenna: It has been. I find a release for these things sometimes in my songs, and it’s not me trying to do something goofy and happy is rejecting that, but at the same time, I can’t say the same things over and over again. It does get super heavy, and it’s almost like you find a release for these emotions with music. A lot of musicians talk about similar things, whether it’s political or personal, you put this release, which can be kind of deep sometimes, into your music, and then you have to relive it and talk about it over and over again. Sometimes, that can be really tough…part of my expression is about sticking it to the man, and making a point of like, things that need to be put right in the world. You also have to have that release, and that chance to let go, which is what I found in my live shows and things like that. It’s just this opportunity for everyone to just let go and just send it, have a good time. I really see myself as an artist carrying both those things in equal measure really, like something more introspective and something that is just goofy and fun. I don’t mind being the goofy guy up on stage, you know. So that’s my balance.

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    About the Contributors
    Maaike Niekerk, Assistant buzz Editor
    My name is Maaike Niekerk, and I am a sophomore majoring in English with minors in music and journalism. I began working for The Daily Illini last year as a staff writer for the buzz section. As a Champaign local, I spent the past summer working as an editor here on campus before moving my current position of assistant buzz editor. I love bringing live event coverage to you from Champaign-Urbana’s vibrant music scene and sharing stories of local artists and musicians. Outside of The Daily Illini, you’ll find me performing at every football game with the Marching Illini (the best band in the land) or running for the University’s club track team.
    James Hoeck, Photo Editor
    Heyo! I am James Hoeck, a third-year undergraduate student in photography with a minor in media. I have been a part of Illini Media for two years, starting back in fall 2021. I hold the position of Photo Editor here at The Daily Illini. I also work as Photo Editor for Illini Media’s Illio Yearbook. There is a good chance you will see me out and about on campus taking photos for my personal work or for The DI and/or Illio! If you want to check out more of my work, visit my socials linked below.