Though he’s lived on the outskirts of Sydney for the better part of six years, Bert McCracken doesn’t view the land Down Under as much of a touring hotspot. “There’s a few places where Australia is lacking – you know, the unconscious racism of the people and the immigration policies – but other than that, I think that we’re almost in this kind of idyllic utopia,” he says.
Watching archival videos of McCracken lose every gram of his marbles in his earlier years, it’s hard to imagine such a visceral performer transition into this calm, otherwise ‘normal’ family man. Hell, when the 36-year-old emo icon finds out this scribe is running on three hours of sleep, he doesn’t hesitate in grilling them for going to bed too late.
But that newfound maturity is sure to unlatch when The Used hit the stage at the inaugural Good Things festival – a miniaturised throwback to the genre-bending days of Soundwave’s prime (run by much of the same team as the slain superfest), hitting Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne this December. More so than any other, the frontman is stoked to be a part of Australia’s newest celebration of all things alternative.
“I know The Offspring are headlining, which is exciting,” says McCracken. “I’ve never been a huge fan, but they’re one of those bands where I’ll see them on a poster and I’m like, ‘Yeah, okay, cool!’ Out of all the bands on the lineup, there’s not one that makes me go, ‘Oh no, that band sucks.’ But who really cares what I think? The Used is on there, and that’s my favourite band of all time.”
Sure to be tasked with a choice slot on the main stage, fans can expect a setlist of prime Used material, pulling heavily from their first stack of records. This is unexpected given they’re just a year removed from their biggest album yet (The Canyon, a movie-length concept record that debuted to critical acclaim), but as McCracken lets us know, The Used have never been a band to go full-on with the new material.
“We’ve never bombarded people with songs they don’t know,” he says. “When Imaginary Enemy first came out, we didn’t play more than one or two songs, just because it’s one of those things where we had so many great songs from the past that everyone already knew and loved. We’re a band that likes to celebrate where we’ve come from, and those songs mean just as much to us now as they ever have – if not more so. Especially for me, those old songs seem to have transcended the meaning of the time that we wrote them in. They seem to be more about what’s going on today.”
There’s another layer to why The Used haven’t properly embraced The Canyon onstage. It doesn’t take much prodding for McCracken to admit that the subject matter explored over the two-disc journey – that of heartbreak, isolation and dealing with the news that a close friend had committed suicide – is still a tad too raw to relive night after night.
“It’s a bit too soon,” says McCracken. “It’s only been a bit over a year since I lost my friend, and the way that I chose to deal with the grieving process was a little outside the realm of what people normally expect to experience when they lose someone. I’ve never so consciously put so much of myself, and my secrets – things that I would never even talk with my friends about – into a record.
“Some days I feel like I can play it, and some days I don’t. It’s one of my favourite records we’ve recorded, so when I get a bit further away from it, maybe someday, we’ll do a full Canyon tour. But until then, it just depends on the day.”
McCracken leaves us with a promise that The Used are constantly working on new material, and just as they did with The Canyon, they’ll be approaching LP8 with a keen eye for experimentation. As for when we’ll hear the fruits of their labour, McCracken says, “I’m confident that we’ll have new music out next year, for sure.”
The Used are touring Australia this December as part of Good Things festival. The Canyon is out now via Hopeless Records.