EXCLUSIVE: Listen To The Used's Brand-New Track "The Lighthouse" Featuring Blink-182's Mark Hoppus
Frontman Bert McCracken tells the Recording Academy how his band's eighth studio album 'Heartwork,' officially out on April 24, stands apart from the emo godfathers' catalog
The Used are days away from releasing Heartwork, their first album in three years, and Bert McCracken, the frontman behind the almost 20-year-old band, hasn’t been this excited since they dropped their first two records in the early 2000s.
Heartwork, the follow-up to 2017's The Canyon, sounds like a sonic trip back in time to the Utah band’s 2002 self-titled debut—an album with a powerful mesh of post- and pop-punk aesthetics that first introduced us to McCracken's emotional screams and raw emo lyricism. John Feldmann, who produced the album, is also back on Heartwork, which is set to drop on April 24. But as much as the band is going back to what McCracken calls "the basics," the new music also reflects the Used’s evolution as a band.
Home to such already-released singles as "Cathedral Bell" and "Bloody Nose," Heartwork houses big-name features with pop-punk/emo peers Blink-182 drummer Travis Barker and Mark Hoppus. The Recording Academy is exclusively premiering Hoppus' feature, "The Lighthouse," which you can watch below.
In an email to the Recording Academy, the Blink lead vocalist describes "The Lighthouse" as "one of those songs that came together very quickly, with everybody excitedly throwing ideas around... What emerged from the session is a track we’re all very proud of, and I hope everyone likes it as much as we do."
Even better, as a special thanks to essential workers on the pandemic frontlines, the Used are inviting fans to be a part of the song's forthcoming music video. They can submit videos of nurses, doctors, grocery store clerks, etc., now through April 28.
Speaking to the Recording Academy from Australia, McCracken tells us about eating vegan donuts in the studio with Hoppus, how Heartwork stands out from the rest of the group's catalog and more.
Bert, how are you?
All things considered, doing well.
You're about to release an album, and you're doing something really cool by releasing some tracks early. We're sharing "The Lighthouse" featuring Mark Hoppus today. How was it working with him? Has this been something that's been a long time coming?
Yeah, it's cool being able to tour with all sorts of different kinds of bands and we've toured with tons of big bands, Blink's one of the biggest, but they've also been one of the most generous and humble and down to earth and caring and kind. It's crazy touring with a band that would strike the entire stage for your gear, and just going out of the way to always be really, really sweet to us.
It's amazing to get to be in the studio and to experience his creative mind. He's a different kind of writer. He is really quick fire. It's really cool to watch him work like that. And yeah, he's pretty legendary, even for someone who's outside of the whole world of pop-punk it's still like, oh, huge deal. So, we're beyond excited and yeah, it was a pleasure. I think it was a long time coming, but it was an absolute pleasure. We did a couple of songs with him, so there's some unreleased stuff that will be out later on as well.
Dope. So, how did it begin? Was it a song that you started and were like, "I need Mark on this," or did you start it together?
We had a riff, but yeah, we brought him in and we just kind of sat. Feldmann's process in the studio is really quick as well. We usually kind of get a full demo a day. We had [Mark] in the studio and we ate three boxes of vegan donuts and drank all the coffee in the world. We had "The Lighthouse" by the end of the session. One of those times in the studio, you'll never forget. Magic, legendary.
I really think Heartwork is a great album. It's an reminiscent of your earlier work, but it's also you evolving as a band. And you worked with John Feldmann, who produced your debut. What was it like working with him again?
Yeah, it is a treat to be able to still have that relationship. He's an absolute wizard in the studio. There's not a person I've met who works harder and is more driven and I've met a lot of people, so just to say that John Feldmann is still part of the family. He's always had this kind of passion and love for the Used that's been so genuine from the beginning, even when we were nothing. So yeah, the way that it's all grown, it's just this kind of love and respect.
I was a lot harder to work with 10 years ago than I am now being a dad and a little bit more grown and responsible and open-minded. So, we've been a long way together. I'm just absolutely grateful that nobody burned the bridge. And we're still brothers, and yeah, he's one of my favorite people on the planet and just awesome.
When you get into the studio, do you think about sounding like past albums? How open are you to new sounds?
Yeah, we are trying to focus on, especially this record, I think it was even talked about, we wanted to make sure we kept an open mind and everybody's ideas were valid for every part of it. So, my drum ideas were just as valid as our drummer's vocal ideas. In that way we kind of wanted to get in touch with the versions of ourselves who fell deeply, deeply, passionately in love with music. And that's usually in your teenage years. So, I think it sounds like all of our teenage influences, we're just trying to write just songs that we love, which will mean we will love to play them. For me, a catchy melody and a connection to the song lyrically and poetically has always been my favorite part of music. Never a direct kind of thought process, like, yeah, let's make something that sounds like the first two records. But the feeling, that was definitely a conscious move. It was like, let's make some music that feels free. I think the first two records really felt free. It was before social media and big market monsters behind... all trappings of the music industry that make it devastating for anybody to be a part of. We wanted to kind of live outside that world and live in what music is for us. And it's our form of therapy, it's our religion, it's our church. I think it's the soul to our lives.
What was different about where you're at now that made you want to be free from all that?
That's never really been part of the Used's bigger picture. We love the creation, we love the process of getting in the studio and recording what we've created and then we love the translation to how it comes out live. It's so fun for us. It just never has ever felt like work and I think that all the other stuff, the ingenuine and insincere moments, where you're trying to sell a product, for me, those have always felt like work. I think that it was never part of our plan to be one of the biggest bands in the world, that was selling out everywhere we went. All of my favorite bands growing up, if you look at their monthly stream count numbers, is really fairly low and maybe that's just concerning the content. I think we appreciate... I guess emo music has kind of become the catchphrase and the term, but I think any music that drives to the heart of things is, that tries to get in touch with humanity is, that's the type of music I would prefer.
When I think of emo music, the 2000s sound, I definitely think of the Used. How does it feel to be going down in history as one of the favorite bands under the emo umbrella?
Well, we are not one of the bands who gets upset about the beginnings or songs that people love. We celebrate our entire catalog and we're so proud of 20 years of this band. We're humbled and grateful to be any type, any part of the music that we can be. So yeah, we celebrate all of it. But I think that, for me, it feels like a celebration of everything that I loved growing up. I think inspiration is a really nice word for ripping something off. And all of my favorite bands and all my favorite books and all my favorite art in general, just kind of make its way into our sound and what people love about the Used. I think there's a lot of people who are like, there's a bigger picture.
You've been together for awhile, and the last album you released was in 2017. How was it getting back into the studio this time around?
It was really a good feeling. The last record we made was kind of an art project for me. I'd lost someone that was really close to me and I tried to make a record that kind of put art to the test, as far as how far you can grieve just with music alone. The concern was specifically selfish last time. And I think this time around, we're kind of back to were the Used started, really come full circle. I feel like these are songs about someone that we all know and love and you find a little bit of yourself in there. And the reason why we enjoy art is because we find ourselves in it. I think that it's kind of back to the basics with the Used and these catchy songs that we love, we kind of cover all the bases of who we are.
Songwriting-wise, you've never been afraid of emotion and have always gifted us with very personal moments, like overcoming addiction and heartbreak. Other than what you've mentioned, what parts of you are you sharing with us on this album?
I think a more mature and selfless look at growing up, in loss and love and everything in between. I think the subject matter is quite similar in that any good piece of art would kind of cover all bases. But this record, I think the concern and the reason why it had to be called Heartwork is, it was a concern from the very beginning, was just to get deeply in touch with whatever type of emotion we were trying to portray, whether it's maybe a bit vengeful, or victorious, or anything, to me, the record should celebrate the feeling at all costs. Heartwork felt like the appropriate title, but that was the conscious concern, was to try to write something that gets so close to the heart that I think that everybody will find a bit of themselves in it, almost genreless.
What I think about when I hear the title, is something definitely tied to healing vibes. Did you come up with that, or was it the whole band?
I think I'm just going to give credit to [bassist] Jeph Howard, but maybe he would say that I did come up with it. We have a record called Artwork that was a really painful struggle to make, and I was in a really, really dark place. This record was the polar opposite. There was not one moment, there was never any or arguments. Everybody was crazy respectful and physically, mentally, emotionally, I haven't been in this good of a place. We're all very well.
I think you can kind of hear that in the record and that allowed us, and we're not overwhelmed by the personal struggles that we're trying to capture in the songs, I think we got a little bit closer to it in a different light.
This is a perfect album for now, because there are some songs that you can just really... they make you want to get up and just rock out and let some energy out. What are you most excited for fans to enjoy about this record?
I love the extremes, the light and the dark, and the dichotomy on this record. So far, I think it's such a colorful, the record's so all over the place, that the journey along the way is a really, really worthwhile adventure. For me, two stand-out moments, the poppiest moment in the... I think the history of the Used, which is "Clean Cut Heals." And then the heaviest moment in the Used's career so far, which is "The Lottery," with Caleb from Beartooth. Can't wait for fans to be able to feel the polarization within the record, it's so fun for me.
Was the album at all affected by COVID-19?
Yeah, I mean, technically, I would be in the U.S. right now getting ready for a bunch of really cool live stuff and art show pop-ups. And we had all these really cool plans that now obviously can't happen. But, I think that people need art and healthy escape more than ever and so it was never a question in our mind whether or not to put it out. It's done. I've been listening to it nearly twice a day for three months now. [Laughs.] So I'm ready for everybody else to kind of just come join my party. It's a cool record for now. When you listen back and having no idea what was about to happen to all humans, there's lots of really cryptic, serendipitous messages on this record. We're about to put out another song too, right before the release, it's called "Cathedral Bell." It feels like a song that was written in quarantine, which is pretty crazy.
So, is this a first album that you love to listen to over and over and over, or is that usual for you?
It's not the typical, I think there's only been... it was definitely the first two records were that kind of excitement. But yeah, it's been a long time since I've been this excited about a Used record. So it's good. It's my favorite Used record so far. That could change. I know a lot of bands say that their favorite stuff is the stuff they're just working on, but I think this record is so standout and there's just... just like "The Taste Of Ink" from 20 years ago. This record has moments that, to me, feel like they have the potential to be kind of these timeless songs you hold close to your heart and you could go back to. So, really, the record has grown on me, it'll grow on everyone else, I hope.
You're looking to put together a special tribute for the people at the front lines of the epidemic, and you're looking for fans to help you. It's a really cool idea. How did it come about?
I think everybody's just scrambling to try to help. It's incredible, the people who have been put in a situation to be the most courageous. It's just what they do, it's what they always do. My wife is a midwife, so to see just a small glimpse of what it's like from the other side and just have such a huge respect for people who are putting their lives on the line at this time. Anything we can do. We're very, very fortunate and we're so lucky to be able to just make music for a living. And I'm not discrediting the importance and the power of music, I'm just saying, we do feel very lucky and until we can get back out there, we can only hope to help out in any way we can, right.
Is there something helping you through this moment?
I think that I've leaned on all of the things I know that I love. Family's easy because I'm really lucky to have that, but I also have a love and a passion for cooking, so I've been cooking quite a bit.
Are you baking bread?
I'm not really a baker. I'm more of a cook. [Laughs.] I have experimented with all sorts of different types of bread. We do our own pizza crust too. Whatever it is, we love to cook it up, and that's the perfect place for a family to make memories, is in the kitchen. It's pretty cool.
Photo: Carlos Alvarez/Getty Images
Rosalía Announces First Solo North American Tour
El Mal Querer Tour, named after the Spanish pop star's latest album, will come to Los Angeles on April 17 in between her Coachella performances
Rosalía is set to perform at some of the most popular music festivals around the globe, including Primavera Sound in Spain, Lollapalooza (Argentina and Chile) and Coachella, but the Spanish pop star isn't stopping there when she gets to the States. Now, she has announced her first solo North American Tour with a string of dates that will bring her to select cities in the U.S. and Canada.
El Mal Querer Tour, named after her latest album, will come to Los Angeles on April 17 in between her Coachella performances. Then she'll play San Francisco on April 22, New York on April 30 and close out in Toronto on May 2.
"I’m so happy to announce my first solo North American tour dates," the singer tweeted.
Rosalía won Best Alternative Song and Best Fusion/ Urban Interpretation at the 19th Latin GRAMMY Awards in November and has been praised for bringing flamenco to the limelight with her hip-hop and pop beats. During her acceptance speech she gave a special shout-out to female artists who came before her, including Lauryn Hill and Bjork.
Rosalía has been getting some love herself lately, most notably from Alicia Keys, who gave the Spanish star a shout-out during an acceptance speech, and Madonna, who featured her on her Spotify International Women's Day Playlist.
Tickets for the tour go on sale March 22. For more tour dates, visit Rosalía's website.
Walk, Don't Run: 60 Years Of The Ventures Exhibit Will Showcase The Surf-Rock Icons' Impact On Pop Culture
The exhibit, opening Dec. 7, will feature late band member Mel Taylor's Gretsch snare drum, a 1965 Ventures model Mosrite electric guitar, the original 45 rpm of "Walk Don't Run" and more
Influential instrumental rock band The Ventures are getting their own exhibit at the GRAMMY Museum in Los Angeles that will showcase the band's impact on pop culture since the release of their massive hit "Walk, Don't Run" 60 years ago.
The Rock Hall of Fame inductees and Billboard chart-toppers have become especially iconic in the surf-rock world, known for its reverb-loaded guitar sound, for songs like "Wipeout," "Hawaii Five-O" and "Walk, Don't Run." The Walk, Don't Run: 60 Years Of The Ventures exhibit opening Dec. 7 will feature late band member Mel Taylor's Gretsch snare drum, a 1965 Ventures model Mosrite electric guitar, the original 45 rpm of "Walk Don't Run," a Fender Limited Edition Ventures Signature guitars, rare photos and other items from their career spanning six decades and 250 albums.
“It’s such an honor to have an exhibit dedicated to The Ventures at the GRAMMY Museum and be recognized for our impact on music history,” said Don Wilson, a founding member of the band, in a statement. "I like to think that, because we ‘Venturized’ the music we recorded and played, we made it instantly recognizable as being The Ventures. We continue to do that, even today."
Don Wilson, Gerry McGee, Bob Spalding, and Leon Taylor are current band members. On Jan. 9, Taylor's widow and former Fiona Taylor, Ventures associated musician Jeff "Skunk" Baxter and others will be in conversation with GRAMMY Museum Artistic Director Scott Goldman about the band's journey into becoming the most successful instrumental rock band in history at the Clive Davis Theater.
"The Ventures have inspired generations of musicians during their storied six-decade career, motivating many artists to follow in their footsteps and start their own projects," said Michael Sticka, GRAMMY Museum President. "As a music museum, we aim to shine a light on music education, and we applaud the Ventures for earning their honorary title of 'the band that launched a thousand bands.' Many thanks to the Ventures and their families for letting us feature items from this important era in music history."
The exhibit will run Dec. 7–Aug. 3, 2020 at the GRAMMY Museum.
Photo by Isabel Infantes/PA Images via Getty Images
Alicia Keys Unveils Dates For New Storytelling Series
The artist will take her upcoming 'More Myself: A Journey' biography on a four-city book tour
After performing her powerhouse piano medley at the 62nd Annual GRAMMYs, R&B superstar, GRAMMY-winning artist and former GRAMMY’s host Alicia Keys has revealed that she will set out on a four-stop book tour next month. The storytelling tour will support her forthcoming book More Myself: A Journey, which is slated for a March 31 release via Flatiron Books and is reported to feature stories and music from the book, told and performed by Alicia and her piano, according to a statement.
Part autobiography, part narrative documentary, Keys' title is dubbed in its description as an "intimate, revealing look at one artist’s journey from self-censorship to full expression." You can pre-order the title here.
The book tour will kick off with a March 31 Brooklyn stop at the Brooklyn Academy of Music. From there, Keys will visit Atlanta’s Symphony Hall on April 5 and Chicago’s Thalia Hall with Chicago Ideas the following day, April 6. The short-run will culminate on April 7 in Los Angeles at the Theatre at Ace Hotel.
Pre-sales for the tour are underway and public on-sale will begin on Friday, March 6 at 12 p.m. Eastern Time. Tickets for the intimate dates and full release dates and times are available here.
Keys won her first five career awards at the 44th Annual GRAMMYs in 2002. On the night, she received awards in the Best New Artists, Song of the Year, Best R&B Song, Best R&B Album and Best Female R&B Vocal Performance categories respectively. She has received a total of 29 nominations and 15 GRAMMYs in her career.
This year, Keys will also embark on a world tour in support of Alicia, the artist’s upcoming seventh studio album and the follow up of 2016’s Here, due out March 20 via RCA Records.
Photo: C Brandon/Redferns/Getty Images
Brittany Howard, Brandi Carlile, Leon Bridges, 2 Chainz & More Join Small Business Live Benefit Livestream
Proceeds from the event will be go toward loans to small businesses founded by people of color, with additional support to women-owned and immigrant-owned businesses, via Accion Opportunity Fund
This Saturday, June 20, artists including Brittany Howard, Brandi Carlile, Leon Bridges, 2 Chainz and more will come together for Small Business Live, a livestream fundraiser event for small businesses facing challenges from the COVID-19 pandemic.
Proceeds from the livestream will go to Accion Opportunity Fund to support small businesses founded by people of color, with additional support to women-owned and immigrant-owned businesses.
“Entrepreneurs of color are denied credit more often and charged higher rates for money they borrow to fund their businesses. We need to accelerate support to underserved businesses in order to reach our full potential,” Accion Opportunity Fund CEO Luz Urrutia said. “We have to decide what we want our Main Streets to look like when this is over, and we must act decisively to keep small businesses alive and ready to rebuild. This is a fun way to do something really important. Everyone’s support will make a huge difference to small business owners, their families and employees who have been devastated by this pandemic, the recession, and centuries of racism, xenophobia and oppression.”
Tune in for Small Business Live Saturday, June 20 from 4:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m. EDT on smallbiz.live. The site also provides a full schedule of programs and links to watch the livestream on all major digital platforms. To learn more about Accion Opportunity Fund, visit the organization's website.