Declan McKenna Exclusive Covershoot and Interview


Photography: Joseph Sinclair
Styling: Krishan Parmar
Grooming: Jackie Tyson

Interview: Miles Holder


It’s been three years since the release of Declan Mckeena’s ‘What Do You Think About the Car?’ and with the release of new album Zeros, audiences are once again reminded of what a great talent he is.

Leaning further into his ‘out of this world’ aesthetic, Zeros is full of the excitable otherworldly sounds we’ve come to love. The album invites us into his fictitious dystopian galaxy with tales of destruction, loss and hardship which is an exciting escape while sometimes feeling unsettlingly familiar to the world around us.

We caught up with Declan for a digital cover shoot and interview to find out more about the album, his process and of course, his FAULTs.


Full look: King & Tuckfield

‘You Better Believe!!!’ as a starting track was a bold choice, were you intending to start with such a bang?

Declan McKenna: I think in this day and age, the best way to approach stuff is to throw people right in it. That’s the best way to grab my attention anyway. You Better Believe!!! is quite a world-building song too, and the world of the album is quite aggressive.


What was the inspiration behind it?

Declan McKenna: I wrote You Better Believe!!! with my friend, Jake Passmore. I’d been playing him some of the album, and he was really interested in the space side of things. We just started spouting out spacey ideas and little phrases, and I wanted to make something like The Velvet Underground. We got into the groove, and I just started shouting things to put something down on paper, so it was straightforward in its incarnation. Like with anything, we didn’t know what we were doing while we were doing it, we tried to push each other to do something weird.


On the track, Emily, what perspective are you singing from? Are you Emily talking to herself, is the audience Emily, etc.?

Declan McKenna: The interesting thing on the record is shifting perspectives. Sometimes I’m singing to one character, but it’s not necessarily me sometimes it’s a mother’s voice. For Emily I don’t really know, I’m trying to convey the feeling of pretending everything’s fine when it’s really toxic and terrible. There are bits which it’s someone speaking to Emily and other times she’s singing back, but it’s definitely someone attempting to look after Emily and finding out that they’re doing more harm than good…It’s very ambiguous.

Declan McKenna
Full look: King & Tuckfield

The whole album is otherworldly but is it an anthology of short stories or is there a narrative string that runs throughout?

Declan McKenna: I was definitely working on the songs individually to behind with because I had many different ideas in mind. I think the future, destruction and the end of the world was a big theme throughout, but it wasn’t until we got out of the studio that it fully clicked how it was going to flow.


What was the most challenging song to write on the album?

Declan McKenna: There were a few songs that didn’t make the cut that were just so close but so far. For ‘Beautiful Faces’ I wrote a whole new verse in the studio and ended up sticking with the original. I think the new verse was actually better, but it didn’t flow as well into the chorus. It seems like one of the more straightforward songs, but it’s just a weird chord progression and awkward rhythm.


Because your music is so experimental, do you ever worry about people ascribing new meanings that differ from your original intentions?

Declan McKenna: I like it when they do; I’ve found it frustrating in the past when people oversimplify my music. I almost prefer to hear other people’s descriptions; sometimes when people tell me what they think a song is about, they know more about it than I did! It’s interesting to find things I didn’t even know were there in my music. That discussion humanises the music – that’s what enjoying and embracing art should be about.

Full look: King & Tuckfield

What’s the most significant change you’ve seen in yourself as a musician since your debut?

Declan McKenna: I think I’m more direct, expansive, considered, but still fun. I wanted to expand on my music but also keep the fun because I’m still 21 and going through this stage in my life. It’s more of a rock record than my first record too, and my voice is more metal.


What’s the most challenging aspect of releasing this record?

Declan McKenna: I was really stressed the whole time, just writing and never feeling like it was never enough. Also getting to a point where I could record the thing was hard. It’s been three years since my debut came out and half of that time has just been me waiting to record it.

Declan McKenna
Full look: King & Tuckfield

In 50 years, when you look back on your career, what do you want it to have said?

Declan McKenna: I’m assuming in the not too distant future we’ll be in a burning hellscape so hopefully, it’ll show that a couple of us were trying to do something of good while the explosions go off and the rivers remain poisoned!! I don’t know; I just hope to look back and see that my music provided something positive that people couldn’t get elsewhere.


Would you rather spend 24 hours, 100 years in the past or 100 years in the future?

Declan McKenna: I’ve seen history so I think I’d like to see what’s in the future. I’ll look up what were the hit songs of 2021 and 2021 and record them first! I could also maybe save the world by learning about all the upcoming wars and stop them.

What is your FAULT?

Declan McKenna: Indecisiveness, I’m often caught between different ideas. Also, sometimes I don’t fully react to my surrounding to shield myself from confronting how I really feel about situations.