During the majority of the year you’ll find Jason McCue in his room at Seattle University working through his Environmental Studies degree which with school back in session he notes he’s “just reading big ol’ college books and using big ol’ college words while writing big ol’ college papers.”
When he’s not being studious though, he’s working on his DIY sound in that same room. A room in fact is where he recorded his latest release, this summer’s HUMANS. Far from Los Angeles he sat down to talk about the record, living between two places and much more.
Kendra: Living out in Seattle for school, what have you come to miss most about Philly?
Jason McCue: Oh man, I miss a whole lot about Philly when I’m away at school. I love both cities to death, but there are certain aspects about Philly’s culture that you can’t get anywhere else. Like the way people interact with each other is crazy unique, in that it’s very hard to feel like an outsider in the city. I also miss the DIY music scene, the food, and the history a lot.
Kendra: You had a bedroom, DIY sound because you do indeed record in your room. Do your roommates or neighbors mind the noise?
Jason: I sure hope not, I try to keep the noise checked as well as possible. I don’t want to be annoying to anyone. My old roommate Yamadou can actually be heard talking on the phone in the background of a couple of tracks off HUMANS. I don’t think he’s aware of this, though.
Kendra: Do you think moving the recording to a studio would change your sound in a way you would not be comfortable?
Jason: It would probably sound like a lot better quality, but I just really like to record alone. If there was a studio engineer or something in the mix of it all, that would increase my self-consciousness, and I’d mess up more. Also, recording on my own doesn’t involve paying anyone by the hour, so I have all the time in the world to try new things and experiment with new styles. With a studio, I’d have to know exactly what I’d want the song to sound like before going in, in order to maximize what I get for the amount I pay. Plus, recording is fun.
Kendra: In the long run, what are your goals in music?
Jason: I honestly just want to have fun. I’m not too concerned with promotion or gaining a following or making it big or anything like that, I just like to have fun. Recording is fun, playing shows is fun, meeting other musicians in the process is fun, seeing my name on awesome blogs like this one is fun. In the long run, I hope I can just keep doing what I’m doing now until it’s not fun anymore.
Kendra: Speaking of, I was listening to some of your latest record and the lyrics in “Humans” were a little, um, out there…Where is your head space when you start penning a song?
Jason: My therapist asked me the same exact thing, did she call you? (Smiley face.)
Lyrics are probably the most important part of songwriting for me. I try to put everything together as part of a project that either tells some kind of story or initiates some kind of social commentary. Most every song on the album HUMANS is supposed to be told from the point of view of a different thing: A human, a tortoise, a lizard, a giraffe, a political figure, etc. It’s all supposed to connect to each other. I guess when I start with lyrics, I have to establish who I want to be speaking, and then comes what I want them to say. Of course, there’s a little bit of me that goes into the lyrics, or else they couldn’t exist, but I like to imagine cartoon faces of people and animals with talking bubbles around what comes out.
Kendra: I also couldn’t help “Monkey Funeral.” Is that indeed about the late Harambe of the Cincinnati Zoo?
Jason: Ehhhhh possibly. To a certain point, it couldn’t really be anyone else. A huge theme of HUMANS is the perceived dominance that humans have acquired over animals, and that particular incident in Cincinnati is the most famous representation of this concept in recent history. It isn’t meant to be a protest song, and the album is nowhere near meant to be anti-zoo, despite all the controversy lately. I just worked at a zoo over the summer, and I left with nothing but good things to say. What I don’t dig so much is the entitlement that people feel around animals which, at the risk of sounding hypocritical because I’m guilty as well, might be the cause of that perceived dominance. I wanted “Monkey Funeral” to be told by a giraffe who’s afraid for his daughter’s well being after seeing something horrible.
Kendra: What’s coming up for you as far as music’s concerned? Are you going to play shows with the latest release?
Jason: Well, school will start up again in a couple weeks, so I won’t have as much time to record, but I’m going to get some concerts together in Seattle. I have one booked at Stone Way Cafe in November, but that’s pretty far down the line. I’ll try to assemble some house shows too. My buddy Joe founded this awesome organization called Friends and Friends of Friends which throws house concerts and promotes the creativity of a whole lot of people, mostly based at Seattle University, so I’m excited to get back to that.
Kendra: Since we got to know one another based on a mutual contact – are there any other up and coming artists you’ve come to love via mutual music-friends?
Jason: The first band that comes to mind is this sick Philly group called Line Leader. There’s also a great Seattle-based psych-rock band called The Rainy Day Splish Splosh Band that I’d totally encourage people to check out. Alex G used to be up-and-coming, but I think he’s gotten there. He’s one of my favorite new artists out now. You guys did a great review of my friend Brian’s (A Day Without Love) new album Solace. I think that album is fantastic. It’s super dynamic, and reaches into his eclectic range of influences.