MUSIC INTERVIEW: McFly – “This Album Has Given Us That Feeling Again”

Photo Credit: Haris Nukem 

Nearly 20 years after their debut Room on the 3rd Floor and three years since their last album, 2020’s Young Dumb Thrills, McFly are back and feeling rejuvenated as they gear up to release the newly announced Power To Play. We caught up with Harry Judd, Dougie Poynter and Danny Jones to discuss their new material, cassette tapes and the first single off the album, Where Did All The Guitars Go?.

Hey guys, great to talk to you today. Let’s chat the opening single Where Did All The Guitars Go? It feels like a declaration of your new sound, it’s a massive contrast from your last record’s (Young Dumb Thrills) opening single Happiness. The opening riffs immediately tell us, ‘this is not a soft pop record’. Was the intention to throw the cards on table with this statement song?

Harry: Yeah there was a lot of chat about what to go with first and we felt like this song, as you said, is a statement with the lyrics and that opening riff, when the drums kick in is like a real statement. We wanted to have that impact to let people know this is a new sound and when we first started, making day one of this recording, we all kind of sat around with our producer and guess kind of had what could have been a tough conversation about what  this band really is. What are we about? Why do we enjoy being this band? How do each of us see this band? And the overriding theme was just like, our instruments, playing live – how we’ve always wanted people to hear us on our records and see us live. I think our last album, as your said, is a big contrast to that. It was the first bit of writing we’d done together in about, honestly? For McFly…about five years! And I think there were a few like moments of treading on egg shells and not knowing what kind of band we were in 2020, because we’d had quite a long break from writing together. It was back in 2013 when we we’d really written our last album and I think as I said, everyone was kind of treading on egg shells, didn’t know what sound we wanted to go for. We’re still proud of that album, but it was not the definitive album and this time it was like right, I think we’re ready to have those difficult conversations and really figure out who we wanna be as a band in 2022/23. Y’know, after that conversation Tom [Fletcher] came back y’know the next day and had written this song. Literally this song and the lyrics and it summarised what we’d been talking about the day before. So, it really encapsulates the intentions I guess.

We guess its kind of difficult when you’ve had a certain sound for a long time, then you kinda come in with something that maybe you’ve been wanting to do for a long time and its maybe quite different to what you’ve done before. 

Harry: Yeah this time we were like fuck it! 

Dougie: I mean, it doesn’t really feel like that different or that alien as Harry was saying, a lot of it is how we’ve sounded live anyway. Like, we’d sometimes take a different approach to recording and album or the singles to what we knew it was gonna sound like live urm, so, it didn’t massively feel like, “oh wow! This is crazy for us.” All of us have always, obviously playing the instruments that we play – we love music. Even the first album, the first McFly album, sounded completely different live. It was always just a lot rockier, just naturally… oh! And just to add, Tom wrote this song, on the way to the studio on his steering wheel…He wrote the entire, the entire fucking song on his steering wheel, got to the studio and said “guys I’ve got this song, I’ve never played it before where’s my guitar.” And started playing it, never played it before and yeah had pretty much all the lyrics and everything as well. And I remember being pretty impressed by that.

It seems super literal, the actual lyrics are like a literal process.

Harry: Yeah, that’s what I love about it! The fact that the first verse is so impactful and then after a couple of lines they’re really literal but fun to follow the story, and then it just boshes into the chorus and then is really hard hitting. I think we just kinda allowed ourselves this time to say like fuck it, y’know. I think we’ve been our own worst enemies in the past in that we…y’know, overthinking things, following sounds. It’s quite difficult when you’re five/six albums deep and you know what you should be and you kind of want to evolve, and you know some great artists out there have evolved but…

Danny: ‘Cuz, we’ve always had the pressure haven’t we, sitting right in the middle of y’know. We’re in the pop world, but we function like a rock band and you’ve got this constant grey cloud of oh, but we need to get played on radio and then we’re like…

Harry: Yeah…

Danny: But like, we also need to be the band that like…The most fun we ever have is on tour, and the music we play on tour and the way we adapt those songs. Like Shine A Light was a radio hit, but live it’s got the guitars in it and that could have easily sat on this album if it was guitared up and 80’s upped. Five Colours… is now a different beast from what it was and the fans love that and I feel like this album is just thinking…its just, switch the focus to that rather than thinking how is this gunna be. The more you think, “We need a single, we need to get on radio”, the more you fuck it up. The more you think, how are we gunna excite those fans at the front and make ‘em jump and make ’em bounce, and get kids to play guitars and pick it up and go, I wanna do that Dad, I wanna do that Mum…This is the album!

Harry: Also we’re sometimes your biggest successes can be the things that hold you back the most, because you’ll be there thinking should we be trying to do another All About You. Why do people like McFly? Shouldn’t we just be doing this? So it can be quite confusing and so our biggest hits that have given us our most success, y’know. Like Five Colours In Her Hair, obviously sometimes holds you back and that’s all people see you as. I think we’ve been at our best when recording the way we’ve done our last album, because we’ve pretty much been in the studio guitars kicking about, people just writing riffs, writing songs – acoustic, electric – going straight into a live set up, literally just playing there and then, and then if things are just sounding great we literally just go in and record it. Personally I had by far the most fun, as it was the most creative processes as a drummer and I’m sure the guys would agree, I much prefer listening to our music. The melodies are always good and the lyrics are always good. It’s fun listening to their guitar parts, their bass parts, it adds an element to…

Danny: I gotta go!! But just to add, that all comes from owning our own studio doesn’t it Harry?! B-bye, bye!

Thanks for your time!

Harry: Already seeing our fans reacting to the teasers we’ve put out – people being so happy that we’ve got the guitars out and that really excites me y’know. That feels like we have our identity again. It makes me really excited to be in a band.

Clarity. You’ve been saying it’s exciting to play that live music for people, we know from working with bands – how different the live version can sound from the studio version and how it can completely transform a song. So, how excited are you to get out there and perform? We know you’ve got a couple dates in the UK this summer, but we’re guessing off the back of an album you’re gunna wanna tour and y’know, therefore hoping to play older material in that aspect?

Dougie: I think the old stuff will fit in well. It’s how it’s always sounded there isn’t anything…too different. I think anything that’s maybe different sound-wise live is there, it’s a lot of 80’s buzzy synths. But like Five Colours…, the way we play it live and the way we always have will totally fit in with, Where Did All The Guitars Go? and Star Girl and stuff, they’re not a million miles away from this music. At the end of the day it’s just guitar music!

Harry: Some of the last album we struggled to see how it was gunna work live as it’s quite…a lot of it’s quite mid-tempo and melancholy. We weren’t inspired to play that much of it live, whereas this album, we can’t wait to play loads of it and when we tour, I’m quite keen to finally be that band that plays a whole bunch of new stuff and fans be like “I want old stuff.” Well, tough shit [laughing] you’re gunna have to get this album then as we’re gunna be playing a lot of it!

Dougie: Yeah I think as well because all of us collectively love all 11 songs on this album I can’t see us really, not play a song? When it comes to putting a setlist together there’s gunna be a lot of arguing over what we’re gunna play, so let’s just play fucking all of it!

Just do what Panic! At The Disco did and chuck an entire album in the middle of a set list.

Dougie: Is that what they did?! I dunno structure wise how we’re gunna do it, I still want people to be engaged throughout the entire thing. It’ll be more fun to mix it up and see how or when you put in the older stuff.

Harry: The way I see it as well is that we’re doing slightly smaller venues, we’re not gunna go into arenas maybe with this album and you’d like to think the people who’ll come to that have got the new album. I don’t think we’re ever gunna be that band that plays the new album just back-to-back, then play a couple hits. I’d very much like to play 60/70% this and then songs that don’t get played get played in the future.

Because you guys seem super stoked about the release, it seems you’re super excited for the song and for people to hear it, what is a release day like for you? Because you’ve been in the business for such a long, long time, is it still that ‘Christmas Eve’ feeling waiting for the song to drop at midnight?

Dougie: No! It’s terrifying! I hate it. It’s like you have all these little babies and this is the day you’re gunna let them leave the nest. Some of them are gunna drown, some of them are gunna fly. It’s exciting, but we’ve been sat on these songs for so long each and every one of them means something.

Harry: It’s so true. It’s terrifying but it’s exciting. I really want people to hear them. I just really want people to hear them.

Dougie: Most importantly, I want people to have the same feeling we have towards the album. That would be a mega triumph. If people feel what we’re trying to make them feel with this album, which is like driving in the sunshine listening to 80’s rock music having an awesome time with your friends.

When we were checking out promo material on your socials we noticed the use of a Gameboy Colour. We were wondering if this was a nod to childhood nostalgia and whether this was something you’re trying to put into the image of this era, for like the artwork and the visuals for live shows etc?

Dougie: Certainly for the teasers campaign, it’s lent into the 8-bit retro gaming stuff. A lot of the artwork was inspired by a video game called The Artful Escape and one of the artists on the video game did the art for the album. The front cover is heavily Thor-inspired, that over the top 80’s hair, metal fun kinda shit that I really hope that we can recreate something stage-wise to take on tour. I dunno what that will be yet, whether that’s the more par can lights or just ridiculous amounts of LEDS, but because it so fun it just lends itself to going all out, whereas if we’d made a bit more of a sort of like, earthy serious album like, shit what do you do live with that? So the more gung ho you are the more fun you can have with it.

Kinda sticking with that vibe, vinyl is super, super popular. It’s had a massive resurgence, but seeing the single cover with the cassette tape its giving us PTSD of having to try and wind the tape back in with a pencil. If we’re heading down the nostalgia route, it only seems fair for your younger fans to have to experience the torment? But in all seriousness, is that something you might be looking at in regards to a physical output of this album?

Dougie: Yeah! There is a tape format, infact its available in all formats. So if you really wanna do that [laughing] you can. The tape that we had made has been all relic-ed up so it looks like it vintage.

Alright guys, we know you’re busy so we’ve had a really nice chat with you and we’ll wrap it up with a question about the future, which might seem crazy as you’ve just started this new era. As a band, this sound, this direction that you’re heading in, where you’re really allowed to be yourselves, do you think its all part of the process? Is it a natural thing you want to explore, new avenues etc?

Harry: Yeah!

Dougie: Yeah!

Harry: I mean also, it’s difficult being in this band now with three of us having kids and other projects in life happening, that actually it’s really helpful the approach we took to making this album, as it’s the most productive way. Just being able to use our instruments and not being caught up in production, because it’s a never ending web of opportunities. When you’re making and producing stuff, sometimes it can spread the creativity too wide and can dilute everything too much. Whereas if we just focus on what we’re good and, obviously we have people in this band who can write great melodies and stuff, when we’re all on the same page I think it’s the most exciting time to be in this band. I hope that its just more of the same, the next album…just yeah, we’ve been saying it for years, the main reason we all joined the band was because we all loved music. I got into the music as I wanted to play the drums like rock bands, American rock bands, thinking I wanna do that, that’s so exciting, and this album has given us that feeling again.

Dougie: Which essentially we do, we get, when we play live, but I don’t think we were getting that from our last few recordings.

We think that wraps up pretty much everything we had to ask as you gave us some lovely long answers that tied into the other questions we had! Really appreciate your time today guys, its been really nice to talk to you!

Dougie: You too!

Good luck with the release!

Stream or purchase Where Did All The Guitars Go? HERE. 

McFly‘s new album Power To Play will be released on 9th June 2023 via BMG, available to pre-order HERE

Tags : McFly