Let's Get Stupid
SYDNEY: An unrequited crush, attendant humiliation, the ensuing heartbreak – singer-songwriter Brendan Maclean lays it all out in his latest offering. Ahead of his appearance at the Blackcat Lounge, part of the Mardi Gras Festival, he speaks with Alasdair Duncan.
Brendan Maclean is a maker of sweet and wistful indie pop tunes – his latest, ‘Stupid’, delves into an unrequited crush, and the attendant humiliation, both private and public.
“The overall story is about why you should not fall in love with friends, or not stay in love with them,” he says of the inspiration behind the song.
“I seem to do that so often – on the daily. The specific of it is that it’s about falling in love with a comedian who would not only date me, but who would use me as material.”
He doesn’t say who, although the possibilities are certainly intriguing.
“I was this desperate guy who would keep asking him out,” he continues with a laugh, “and he would just keep shutting me down. I’d turn up to his gigs and I would be in the new piece that hundreds of people were laughing at. I withdrew myself and the song was the full stop … I tried to put an end to my desperation.”
The sprightly electro pop sound of ‘Stupid’ is thanks, in part, to producer Paul Mac. He and Maclean have recently been collaborating in the studio, but their friendship goes back longer than that.
“When Silverchair broke up, I posted a really snarky thing about how I’d always liked them, from when they were Nirvana In Pyjamas to when they were Paul Mac And Friends,” Maclean says. “Paul saw it, and thankfully, found it funny, so he contacted me and asked if I wanted to have a drink with him.”
They bonded over cider – proof that snark and sarcasm can sometimes be the basis for a beautiful friendship. Maclean would go on to perform with Mac and Faker singer Nathan Hudson, participating in what he calls the ‘gayest duet ever’, and when Mac heard ‘Stupid’, he knew he had to have it.
“I slipped it to Paul one day at the studio and he thought it was totally gorgeous – he demanded that I not let anyone else work on it!”
While Maclean has never set out to be a ‘funny’ artist, he sees great comic potential in his boy troubles, and as he’s gotten older, feels more comfortable expressing this.
“I like to see myself as a sort of Jens Lekman-style figure,” he says, explaining the broader inspiration behind ‘Stupid’.
“A song of his like ‘An Argument With Myself’ is proof that you can make a song funny and make people laugh, but also have it be much deeper than that.”
With a song like ‘Stupid’, the situation Maclean finds himself in is authentic and relatable – we’ve all been crapped on by love from time to time.
“It’s a story-telling song. It’s about the details of an intimate relationship. When someone makes you a hot chocolate, whether they get it right or wrong can mean nothing, or it can mean everything. People can laugh at some of the words, but they can still feel a deeper connection with what’s going on underneath.”
In the current generation of indie rockers, gay men and women seem far more relaxed about discussing their sexuality – think Kele Okereke of Bloc Party or Romy Madley Croft of The xx. The increased visibility of gay artists fills Maclean with hope for the future.
“I think we’ve opened up a whole new world for younger people in terms of accepting that you don’t always have to like Kylie,” he says.
“There’s this very narrow idea that still exists about gay music, and the pigeon-holing really bugs me. I mean, I’m proud that I can get out there and sing a song about falling in love with a guy, but for me, ultimately, it’s just about good music. My job as a musician is to write the best songs I can – if people want to find out more about me and my background, then great, but if not, they can also just listen to the songs and enjoy them. As time goes on, gay artists will have more and more chances to play at the kind of festivals and gigs where they deserve to be.”
Maclean will soon perform at Blackcat Lounge, as part of the Mardi Gras Festival.
“We have new band members, new sounds, new ways of presenting the music,” he says. “I’m bringing more keyboards and electric guitars, and the whole thing is going to cost a lot, but it’s going to be fabulous. I’ll be playing everything I have so far – the new single, a taste of the new album, and the classics. Brendan Maclean’s ‘Greatest Hits’.”
“I’ll probably throw in a Robyn cover, too. I’ve been doing a lot of her songs in the show. I did ‘Dancing On My Own’ recently … that’s such a good one."
Blackcat Lounge Presents Brendan Maclean, Friday, February 22, Factory Theatre, Marrickville. Tix $25/$20 from www.factorytheatre.com.au