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Pop Ten Interview With Chris McKay Of The Critical Darlings
July 22, 2009
1. Why play music?
Itís funny that you should ask me that question as I was about to ask you the same thing. Iíve always wondered. The basic truth seems to be that I donít have a choice. Iím compelled to do it. I tried to stop. I had a great, fun career going for myself in music photography and I still wound up pulled back into this ďthingĒ. I canít escape. Iíve resigned to my fate. I love music but really, isnít it stupid? Thereís someone over-emoting and annunciating words in melody form that one could more efficiently just speak while other people are leaping around him or her in suitably fashionable clothing. Itís all pretty ridiculous. And donít get me started about dancing. That may be the only thing sillier than music. But still, can we stop? It sure doesnít seem like we can. Weíre hard-wired for music, rhythm and melody. Thereís no escaping it. Iíve given in to its hold.
2. Who are your influences?
Well, thereís nothing clever in that answer. My influences are the usual prime suspects. Yes, Iím a Beatle freak. I also love The Rolling Stones, The Who, David Bowie, Led Zeppelin, The Kinks and Pink Floyd. Add in some Prince, Queen, Willie Nelson, Electric Light Orchestra, Jellyfish and way too many more to mention and Iím happy. In fact, if you add in everyone, Iím happiest. Iím more or less influenced by everything Iíve ever heard. Iíve certainly stolen good bits from artists and songs I donít even like.
3. What is success?
Success is what you believe it is. In an ideal world, success would be me being able to support myself financially by playing music. So far, that hasnít happened, although it is constantly improving in those respects. So I choose to define success as being proud of the songs and albums that Iíve released and that even if my life ends today, those songs will still be there and the messages Iíve tried to send in each of them will be waiting for the right ears. I also define success as knowing that we put on the best possible live show that we can. I define success to be when the headliner comes up to us after we open for them and says, ďI donít know how we can follow thatĒ. I define success as having people use our lyrics for their Facebook statuses. Success is the outcome of many failures.
4. Why should people buy your music?
If they donít like it, they shouldnít. If they do, then it depends. Is what theyíre potentially stealing vs. buying enough for them? If so, go with your conscience. However, if someone wants the band to be able to go back into a studio and make more music for them and us, then we need their support by showing us. The main way is by buying the album. This is how we know if people like what weíve done. Itís simple math. Unlike most bands, we are still making albums. Itís not just a collection of songs. A record like Satisfactionista is painstakingly put together and should be a journey that will take you to several interesting stops along the way and leave you in the place you started, but hopefully with a different understanding of that place. Iím not saying we succeeded at that, but weíve made the effort.
5. Who do you love?
I love my wife. I love my family and my friends. I love people who do the right thing even when itís the hardest thing for them to do.
6. What do you hope to achieve with your music?
Well, the truth is hokey. I hope to affect people in a positive way. I want them to not feel alone, whether or not any of us actually are. Music is about feeling. I want them to feel joy from certain songs. I want them to feel a connection, a relation. I want them to want to move their bodies. I want them to feel motivated and to believe in something, whatever it is.
7. Who comes to your gigs?
It depends on the city. Weíve played plenty of places recently that weíve never been and itís surprised me to see the local media covering us and people showing up. Itís been an interesting cross-section. We have enough music-nerd appeal for fellow geeks to come out and hear what weíre up to, while at the same time, we put on a big rock show. We give it all we have and weíre not afraid of being on stage. We own the stage if weíre on it. There arenít many bands like that these days, or at least not enough. And we may not be The Who or Led Zeppelin or Queen but when we perform, thatís the kind of show weíre aiming to do. I love the fact that we many fans too young to get into the clubs we often play and many more who have ďretiredĒ from going out to the same clubs but make the effort just to come and see us.
8. What is your favorite album?
My favorites are, again, relatively clichť but Iím honest about it. Besides, thereís a reason theyíve become clichťs. My all time favorite album is Dark Side Of The Moon, because it is perfect. There is not a note, a lyric or a sound thatís out of place. There is nothing that couldíve been improved, added or subtracted. It was surely a fluke in some way. They got lucky that they achieved something so pristine. Design doesnít get you that far. Whatever magic there is in the universe will occasionally come together and sometimes it gets recorded. There is magic on that album. I can hear it and I know it when I hear it. Itís just perfect.
9. What is your favorite song?
My favorite song of all-time is ďStrawberry Fields ForeverĒ. Iíve heard it thousands of times and every time, it effects me in a slightly different way. When I first heard it as a child, it was like a shock to my system. I didnít know what the sounds were or what the guy was saying. It was like hearing something from another planet. It was only later that I realized that apparently, I was also from that same planet. As I got older, I thought the lyrics were a bit artsy and abstract. At this point, I find them totally straight forward and completely linear. Itís strange. The song is still evolving for me. That is the beauty of it. That song is the song. I canít imagine ever having a different ďall-time favoriteĒ but if ďStrawberry FieldsĒ gets replaced, I canít wait to hear the song that might replace it as it will certainly be positively life-altering.
10. How did you get here?
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