FunnyOrDie.com It's been 10 years since the Postal Service released their…
- Posted on Dec 30th 2010 4:00PM by Tabassum Siddiqui
Tom Mosenfelder, Getty Images
With so much going on, it's no surprise it took the band nearly a decade to get around to making a new record, but the spirited 'Majesty Shredding' has been warmly welcomed by fans new and old alike. Spinner caught up with McCaughan as he wound down a banner year that included not only the comeback of his own band, but also saw his label release one of the biggest albums of 2010, Arcade Fire's 'The Suburbs.'
How does it feel to put out a new album almost a decade after your last release?
It feels good that people are actually listening to it and liking it. One of the reasons we made another record is that over the years we've been playing a few shows here and there, and at a certain point, if you're still playing shows, you want new songs to play. So it's also been awesome to have songs from the new record to pad into our set. And they seem to blend well with our old songs, so it's worked out really well.
The new album has that classic bouncy Superchunk sound but also sounds really fresh and current at the same time. Do you feel your sound has evolved in any specific way over the years?
Hopefully it's evolved, in the sense that you don't want to do the same thing over and over again. And I don't think our new record really sounds like any of our other records, though I think musically it's maybe more similar to some of our earlier records than the last couple things that we did. I think each record we make is a little bit of a reaction to the one we made before.
The last album we made, 'Here's to Shutting Up', and the one before that, 'Come Pick Me Up', were both maybe on the poppier side, and we were doing more with strings and horns and more complicated arrangements. But I think this time around we were ready to kind of strip it down a little bit. I mean, it's not as stripped-down as our first few records -- there's certainly a bit more going on -- but I think that it's just a little bit more direct than the last couple records we made.
Was there a deliberate move to try something new?
It was -- and it was both deliberate and also logistical. In other words, the last couple albums we made, it was all four of us writing songs together over the course of weeks and months all together in a room. And when you're writing that way, you can kind of work over ideas endlessly, the four of you, and find all kinds of stuff. And that's good, but it also means you can end up with some pretty wacky ideas that are maybe hard to pull off live, but work great in the studio.
No one had the time to write that way this time -- Jon was living in New York, and everybody's been really busy, so this time around, it was more like me writing the songs, making demos and sending them around, which is kind of the way that we used to do it. Writing them by myself on acoustic or electric guitar means that they're just naturally going to be a little bit more straightforward.
But as far as it being deliberate, we wanted some new songs to play live -- songs that would be really fun to play, songs that we could just plug in and play and not worry about, 'Oh, do we have this keyboard?' or 'Do we have to play this other part?', so it was both deliberate and also just a function of where everybody's at in terms of how we could write songs.
Watch This Exclusive Spinner Interview With Mac McCaughan About 'Majesty Shredding'
Superchunk is also touring again for the first time in years. How has it been being back on the road?
It's been good! One of our goals in both making the record and touring after it came out was that nobody has to do this -- it's not our main job anymore, so let's do it in a way that's fun for everybody and is not going to drive us crazy. We've kept the runs of dates pretty short, which is different than it used to be. But it's also just so you're not away from home as long, and it just kind of works for what everybody wants to do now. But the shows have been really fun -- the crowds have been great, and the reaction to the new songs has been really good, so it's been awesome.
Now that Superchunk is a going concern again, do you think it will be tricky juggling your duties at Merge with being in the band?
I don't think that Superchunk is ever going to be in the mode where we're touring for five or six months in the year like we were at one point, so the balance is always going to tilt towards Merge. But it's really fun to be able to be somewhat active like we have been lately.
Merge Records celebrated its 20th anniversary last year, what has it meant to you, knowing the label's done so well in an industry not always known for longevity?
It's kind of crazy -- in some ways, it makes you feel old, knowing it has been that long [laughs]. We did a book about Merge called 'Our Noise', going through all the photos and flyers and all that stuff ... That book was really great, but it's definitely like, wow -- looking at yourself at 19, seeing how different everybody looks, can definitely make you feel your age, you know? But it's awesome.
For us, it's really satisfying that we get to work with a lot of artists we first started out with, like Lambchop and Polvo, as well as working with new bands. To me, frankly, Arcade Fire still seems like a new band to us, even though they've been on the label for six years at this point. So the whole journey has been really great.
What's it been like for Merge to have had a hand in the incredible success of Arcade Fire, and the release of 'The Suburbs' this year?
It's been awesome. Really, for a band that's out there as much as the Arcade Fire is, they're doing so much hard work touring and supporting their record that a lot of their success can be pinned on the band. They really bust their ass to get the word out there about the music and to play their music all over the world. There are a lot of people that want them all the time -- that's not an easy thing to face every time you put out a record, to have it be the most anticipated record of whatever year it's coming out. I mean, that's a lot of weight, you know? But they seem to handle it really well -- they're a special group.
And it's that time of year again, when everyone's counting down their favourite albums of the year. Were there any records that really stood out for you?
I'm in the midst of making a list, actually ... For me, [Broken Social Scene's] 'Forgiveness Rock Record' is one of the albums I listened to a lot this year. I really like the new album by Parting Gifts -- it's the side project of Greg Cartwright, who's in Reigning Sound. I really like the Wild Nothing album, the new Edwyn Collins record, and the New Pornographers record is one of my favourites of the year.
When I think about the records that are my favourites, I can't really mention the Merge records, which are the ones I've actually listened to the most. But if I start naming two or three, I'll forget all the other records we put out [laughs]. I can't start playing favourites, because I really do love them all. So those are some of the non-Merge releases that I've listened to and loved this year.