Dead Wildlife's Braden McCall on Playing SXSW and Scottsdale Sluts
29-year-old local musician Braden McCall "feels too much," and while he might humbly admit this is, well, a rather annoying personality trait, it certainly hasn't hurt his ability to write and record music.
As a Valley native, McCall has used his time and talents wisely, spending the majority of his late teens as one of the key members of former Phoenix-based emo-core band, Before Braille, before moving on to a project in 2007 with cousin Sean McCall (and former member of The Format) called "Alcoholiday," once described by Spin Magazine as "electro-clash upstarts".
His latest project,Dead Wildlife, is a danceable, drum heavy electro-pop project that McCall has been proud to pour his heart and some serious musical man-power into. We caught up with McCall to learn more about his nearest and dearest band baby, his upcoming slot at SXSW, and you know, other stuff he feels too much about.
Up On the Sun: Tell us a little about your past band involvements, namely emo-core band Before Braille. Back in the early 2000s, you dudes made it pretty big, landing a record deal and sharing the stage with big name bands like Jimmy Eat World, The Used, and Cursive. Was it the Mormon bandmates, record label suits, or Alcohol(iday) that promoted your departure from the band, or none of the above and I just sound like an asshole?
Braden McCall: Well, I was 16 when we started Before Braille and I was a weird kid. Like... A really weird kid. I played guitar, I wrote songs, I held down some vocals, but I didn't communicate well and had some pretty heavy anxieties (I didn't get along with anyone). Signed a record deal, the label came in and took control of nearly everything, I couldn't stand any of it anymore, so I bailed. I did commit to making the record so I tracked the full length and split. They went on to do some really great things, but I feel I made the right decision. I consider myself friends with those guys now. Dave and Hans are both in really sweet bands at the moment, Dave is in Loyal Wife here in Arizona and Hans is in a band called Regal Beast in Salt Lake City. Love those guys.
What's the story behind the latest project, Dead Wildlife?
Excluding Before Braille, all of my bands have started as solo projects. I've always done my best work alone. So naturally I wrote, recorded, and mixed Dead Wildlife's EP myself. I took pre-orders, had it pressed, and put it out under my own label. I put most of my energy (and spare time) into this band. Writing alone is good for me because I have a vision of these songs and it's my responsibility to get them to that point-- no band politics, no arguing with co-writers -- just my own accountability.
I am however, constantly trying to steal band members from other local talented acts. Bryon from Super Stereo plays drums when he can and Jason Hardy from Ember Coast is playing bass. I actually scooped up my cousin, Sean McCall, from The Format to play drums in the beginning. He is a serious talent, but he's also a really busy drum tech. He's toured with everyone from Alkaline Trio to Killswitch Engage, and it just doesn't leave him much time to play drums for such a young project like Dead Wildlife. Perhaps someday, though.
Listening to your first EP, Golden Feathers, it's clear the direction of the music is completely different than prior gigs. There's a lot of great mixing going on and you're singing (nice pair of pipes you've been holding out on us, by the way) and not playing the guitar. How would you describe Dead Wildlife's sound?
Too kind, thank you. I try to distance myself from the "guitar rock" thing completely. In fact, I recorded guitar on every track on my EP, then ended up scratching nearly all of it. That instrument is just so uninspiring to me. Guitar is so overused in music today and I can't seem to find a way to make it sound original. Maybe I'm just not a great guitar player, but I can write with bass, drums, synths and electronics all day long. As far as my sound goes, I feel like it's danceable. I hear a lot of people refer to it as "electro punk", whatever that is...I just want to make music that sounds sexy and romantic. Sexy music? Yeah.
I'm digging the first song on Golden Feathers EP, "Tsk Tsk," especially after reading the lyrics and assuming we're on the same page about Scottsdale sluts. Please, elaborate on this mutual hatred.
Ha! So, one night some friends dragged me to one of those "clubs" for reasons unexplained. It was pretty atrocious-- the place was crawling with a few foxy girls, but it was also swarming with Axe body spray, too much make up, and what I could imagine was a fair amount of STDs [laughs]. I literally went home that night and wrote some of the lyrics to "Tsk Tsk". Think about how many spots have silly names for their night like, "Thirsty Thursdays"? Is that necessary? I guess I just felt compelled to write a song about the absurdity surrounding that kind of Jersey Shore-esque lifestyle.
How about our mutual love for Thom Yorke, and this remixed cover you did of "Hearing Damage".
Thom is godlike... No one's cover could possibly top the work of Thom and/or Radiohead, so why even attempt? I was six months completely sober, so you can imagine my boredom. I had just remixed "Hearing Damage" so I shot a live take in my apartment and tried to do it justice.
Knowing you're a huge fan of dubstep. I however, am not. What would you argue is the appeal of this style of music? Any misconceptions? Go on, try to change, er, open my mind. I dare you.
I just love the technicality of dubstep. I've been a fan of IDM (intelligent dance music) since the late '90s and my affection for dubstep probably stems from that. I actually just remixed my friend's Tiffe Fermaint and Keith Walker's track, and it was my first attempt at a dubstep remix. It's pretty fun stuff.
Dubstep isn't just wobbling bass samples and half-time dance grooves; there are some impressive artists out there. You just have to forget that guitar exists and listen with an open mind [laughs].
"Tsk Tsk," McCall, but I'll award you a point for this remix. You grew up Mormon. How do you think this has shaped you musically?
If anything, it's probably responsible for my extreme efforts to differ from the ordinary. I dislike any typical ambition to "fit in." Even as a boy, I don't ever recall wanting to be like anyone else in my surroundings. This may have been why I was such a weirdo growing up.
Thoughts on Brandon Flowers?
Besides the fact that he's a good-looking son of a bitch?
'Nuff said. Lastly, what's the future behold for Dead Wildlife? Any EP's or shows we can look out for?
Aside from some local performances scheduled for the Spring, I'm excited to announce that my latest efforts to secure a last minute SXSW performance in Austin on the 16th, have indeed, been confirmed.
I'm releasing a second EP titled "I Just Wanted To Disappear for Awhile," set for digital release in March. In the meantime, people can search Dead Wildlife on Grooveshark and hear demos of songs, "Love Can Buy," "Anti-Trust Me," and "Get Hurt," that appear on the next EP. You can also check em out at DeadWildlife.com.
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