“All the information is out there but it takes a little bit of effort to kind of get involved… You have to step away from your Instagram for a second.”
After a rocky start to the year having to cancel their UK & Europe tour back in February followed by another line-up change, The Used finally made a welcome return to our shores for a series of dates last month. Their schedule saw them spend the weekend at Reading & Leeds Festival in between their Europe and UK dates, which was where we were able to catch up with lead singer Bert McCracken for a chat about how much he loved playing in the UK, amongst other things. Sporting a light grey hoodie with the word ‘Christiania’ emblazoned across the front, which Bert keenly informed us was “an anarchist commune in Copenhagen”, The Used frontman seemed relaxed and in a jovial mood as we chatted; happy to joke around.
“These are always the most fun shows,” he enthused about the band’s run of UK dates. “Where it’s like a house party. 300 kids and everybody’s just having a good time. If you come out to the show, you’re there because you love it absolutely”
Things seem to be settling in well with new guitarist Joey Bradford too, whom Bert assured us was “a humble and badass player” and “a really good fit” which led to the all-important question of when the band might start thinking about recording again. “We are gonna start writing,” Bert confirmed. “[We’ll] get into some writing sessions in January, so hopefully there’ll be some new music out next summer.”
It seems we won’t have to wait too long for a follow up to 2017’s ‘The Canyon’ then, which is pretty exciting but not altogether that surprising considering The Used are very much a band who don’t rest on their laurels and rarely take time off. Even when they’re not writing and recording, they’re nearly always constantly on the road, and although they may have taken some time to themselves in February following the tour cancellation, that didn’t last long, throwing themselves into further US tour dates and a significant run on the final Warped Tour.
“It was bittersweet,” reflected Bert of the band’s appearance on the final run of the Warped Tour. “We grew up on the Warped Tour and it was always a place where I went during the summer to watch 40 bands in one day. It’s sad that it’s over but it was such an amazing tour while it happened. The problem with Warped Tour was it’s kind of overwhelmed lately and it was a little bit harder for bands to come up from it. It’s changed enough to where it’s a nice thing that it’s ending, and we’re trying to work on something to fill the void for next summer.”
Discussing the possible plans to fill that Warped Tour shaped void in their lives next year, Bert jokes that the “up and coming My Chemical Romance/The Used tour is gonna be awesome” before going on to say they’d be doing some shows in South East Asia, Mexico and Australia then take time off for writing and “get back on the road in summer.” That gives eager fans of the band something to look forward to and is further proof of their keen work ethic. When asked if The Used are going to be one of those bands that keeps gigging well into their sixties and seventies like the Rolling Stones, Bert laughs before saying, “that’s the dream, just keep playing.”
With any consistent touring schedule though, it must be hard to find moments to relax and have downtime, but for that, Bert has his books. “Books are my saviour on the road,” he readily admitted. “I can disappear and be in a different place.” It’s the one item he wouldn’t go on the road without, but these days it’s less about physical books than digital copies. “Digital books are crazy, so I have like 1400 books in my pocket right now…just on my phone. I’m just finishing Les Miserables again. Victor Hugo. It’s one of the most incredible books, a great story, and half [of it is] a political treatise on egalitarianism.”
To hear that McCracken reads digital books might come as a bit of a surprise from the guy who’s been known to offer cash rewards to fans deleting their social media accounts in front of him, but when confronted with his misnomer, he laughed and held his hands up in defence. “I never said I was averse to technology. It is a waste of everybody’s time but there’s a place for everything, I think. I try not to be a fucking curmudgeon. I don’t have any social media, not because I’m better than social media, it all depends on how you’re using things. Just for me in my own personal life, I’m trying to be an example for my daughters…there’s a big world out there. We read a lot of Shakespeare, y’know? We look at Shakespeare, not Instagram.”
The Used’s Shakespeare circle pits have become something of a phenomenon since their debut on Warped Tour – a dozen or so excitable punk kids (and adults) leaping around while Bert recites a soliloquy off by heart. Most punk bands use their platform to push their political viewpoints; Bert pushes Shakespeare, and a little bit of the former too. The band have certainly never been averse to saying where they stand on political and social issues. “That’s the purpose of punk music,” Bert spoke passionately on the subject. “It was never to brand and capitalize, it was to shape the world that we live in. If there wasn’t [that connection] it wouldn’t be punk but I think it’s also up to the individual. The consciousness is everybody’s individual duty, right? All the information is out there but it takes a little bit of effort to kind of get involved and realise what’s going on. You have to step away from your Instagram for a second.”
Shakespeare, Instagram and politics aside, it seems there’s a lot to look forward to in The Used calendar over the next twelve months – new music, new tours, looks like the band are back on the right track and in a good place.
‘The Canyon’ by The Used is out now on Hopeless Records.
Words by Becton Simpson (@swallowmyeyes).