Sounds like: Ambitious guitar riffs bolstered by gigantic synths and McKenna’s wickedly smart songwriting
For fans of: Bob Dylan, Jake Bugg, Blossoms
As millennials get shafted by Brexit, will likely live in the wake of whatever catastrophe President Trump causes and are given little chance to change either – it’s high time that they speak up and rebel. Declan McKenna, the 17-year-old singer songwriter is seemingly leading the charge. “The younger generation are always being snubbed and portrayed as pretentious; I’m trying to give an impression that is genuinely representative of us,” he says.
His music certainly reflects that idea. Song topics include a sobering assessment of how transgender people are treated (‘Paracetamol’), a searing critique of organised religion (‘Bethlehem’), and media xenophobia and police brutality (‘Isombard’).
2016 has been a landmark year for the Hertfordshire upstart. He’s supported Blossoms on tour, performed solo on primetime US TV chat show Conan, and returned to Glastonbury Festival – where he won the Emerging Talent Competition in 2015 – for a majestic homecoming, of sorts.
Attention now turns to his debut album which has been produced by James Ford (Arctic Monkeys, Foals) and is pencilled in for a spring release. The clock is ticking – and he’s fine with that: “it’s been the most intense year, but I think I like the pressure. If there wasn’t anyone pushing me, I’d wonder why nobody cared.”
Though he’s wise beyond his years, he’s very much still a teenager and thus full of the optimism that he and his peers are going to change the world: “it seems gloomy with Brexit and fascist world leaders coming up but we’re against that. Things are actually going to change because we’re going to be the future. That’s something to be hopeful about.” Smells like teen spirit, that. Thomas Smith
My goal for 2017 is: “I’m bad at the whole plan thing. My goal is to do whatever 2017 says and enjoy it.”
The one thing you need to know about me is: “I played the lead snowflake in my year one Christmas play, dressed in tight white leggings and fluffy cotton. That was a pivotal moment. It was life-changing and I got some big reviews.”
See them live: Tunbridge Wells Forum (December 20), Harlow The Square (21), Norwich Waterfront (January 23)
Essential track: ‘Isombard’