The Used’s Bert McCracken: “This Music Still Has The Ability To Save Lives”

With a brilliant new song out in the world, and big plans ahead of them, we catch up with The Used’s Bert McCracken and discuss the incredible power of alternative music in 2022.

The Used have just returned with a brand new track, and it’s a big old statement.

It’s called ‘Fuck You’, and says exactly what it says on the tin. A direct and deliriously catchy middle finger to all those who stand in your way, it’s an incredible first step on a new leg of the band’s journey.

To find out a bit more about it, what we can expect as we look towards 2023 and discuss the power of alternative music in times like this, we had a catch up with vocalist Bert McCracken…

So, where did making new music come into the last couple of years for you guys? Where does ‘Fuck You’ fit into that?

“We did a tour with Coheed and Cambria last Summer, and after that, we went into the studio for 11 days and made 11 songs. It was pretty rushed, and I was in a really bad place, so the record we ended up making felt very negative. That’s something that everybody who had a hard time during the pandemic will be able to cling onto.

“‘Fuck You’ is one of those songs, and it’s very much about me. It’s about my depression, personified. When I was writing the lyrics to this song, it also became so obvious how every human has at least one person they want to say ‘Fuck you’ too, so it makes perfect sense to sing about that as well. But as much as it is about these parts of me that are so horrible and inhuman, it’s about me saying, ‘Fuck off’ to those things as well. That’s something that feels really fucking good. That helped lift me up a little bit as well.”

It’s a very different place to where you guys were on ‘Heartwork’, but that is to be expected because the world is very different place to where you were whilst making that album…

“Yeah, most of ‘Heartwork’ was written in 2019. I think we all were in the best place of our lives. For one, I was fitter than ever, and we found ourselves practising much more than before. So that record ended up being really positive, and that became something really nice for people to have during the pandemic. Something to hold onto. And in us getting through the pandemic as a band, we can now only write what we know from the place we are at. This record is going to capture all of those negative and horrible feelings. There are a few songs that are, as always, love songs, but it is mostly about getting from where we were during those two years.”

Much like you have always done when it comes to The Used, it is not a case of hiding away from the realities and the ugly parts of life. It is about facing them head-on and showing off that we can battle the dark as much as enjoy the light…

“We can’t help but write exactly what we are feeling. That’s been the same since the very first record. That is what makes all of this sort of music so special. Before us, grunge was pretty negative. Then you get this 00’s sound that is full of hope as much as sadness, but also an urgency and ability to be happy and content whilst knowing that life is going to be up and down. There are going to be really awful and shitty parts of life, but there are also going to be great and exciting parts of life as well.”

To be able to still step into the studio and know that you are able to do that must feel pretty special as well…

“Yeah, incredibly. Like 11 songs in 11 days. John Feldmann is a wizard. But for me, it was about showing up. The fact that I could make it to the session was a success for me, and then everything afterwards was an extra.”

And having somebody like John still there with you on the other side of that studio door saying, “So what are we doing today then?” is just as priceless. Someone who wants to keep on pulling the finest art out of you, no matter what form it may be in…

“He is a facilitator, man. He has a really good way of following a vibe. He can read the room, and he knows where we are all at. It’s nice to be in a room with the whole band as well, and everybody is giving their full input on everything. Everybody has ideas for drums, bass, guitar, and lyrics. It’s new to be like that, all sitting together in that room working at once. Usually, I would take the song home and work on it in my own space, but having that day where we put it all out there together and get it done as one is so nice. The song is then the mark for what we captured in that one day. It’s really cool.”

So right now, with one of these songs out and the prospect of the rest coming out as a new record to look forward to, how do you feel about what this collection of tracks represent as a part of The Used’s story?

“Really good, to be honest. It’s a therapeutic process when it comes to music, either making it or listening to it, and that’s the way it has always been for me. When I hear a song, read a book, or see a film, it always feels like they created that art just for me. Most humans share similar struggles, so knowing we can provide that feeling for others is really important.”

So how does it feel to be back out on the road after such a forced period of inactivity?

“The pandemic hit us all pretty hard, as we know, especially musicians who live for touring. It was hard getting back into the mode of doing it after just a long time of not having it be there. But we feel fortunate to have been a band for 22 years and still be able to come out and do our thing in the way we do. That sort of thing doesn’t happen very often, so we don’t take it for granted. We’re stoked to be in this position and to be able to play music together in the way that we do.”

What was it like seeing that in action at When We Were Young?

“When We Were Young was insane. To not be able to see the back of the crowd is something else. So many friends in one place as well, it was like one big horrible reunion. There’s just something about this style of music. It’s so heartfelt that you connect with it, and having so much of it in this one place felt like somewhere that people could be safe and understood. This music still has the ability to save lives, and that’s really special.”

The way that shows have come back is how there are people who weren’t around when bands like The Used, and all of your peers, were coming up, but are discovering and grasping onto you now. What has that been like to watch from your perspective?

“This resurgence involves so many different ages and types of people. Some people have been with us since the early 00’s, and now they have kids and are bringing their kids to the shows. We are all those kids once again at a Used show, which is very special. It’s beyond cool to be here and still see those reactions from a crowd every night. From the diehard fans losing their minds to the new people, we do feel so fortunate to still be here after all these years and be a part of that. We never took a break, never broke up, and we are still doing it.”

So what does that mean to you right now, then? To be in a place where the band is still such a huge part of your life as we look to the future?

“It feels really safe. I have a band that loves me. I have a producer who loves me and is ready to do anything and bring to life any idea that we want to put out there. I feel protected within that. Before we go on stage, we give each other a big hug and tell each other, ‘I love you’, which is all sincere and real. This is a space where I feel a great sense of relief from everything else that I may be feeling during the rest of the day. And when you get to play a show, you are just consumed by the adrenaline and the love of the crowd. No matter where you are in your life, a rock show, either watching or performing, can change your life. You can leave inspired, and that inspiration can last for weeks. Once again, it’s the cool thing about emo. It is about reaching out and touching people’s hearts and making their day that little bit better. Making somebody smile, even just for a moment.”

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