Closer To How I Feel: An Interview with American Wrestlers
Following his work with the band Working for a Nuclear Free City, Gary McClure founded American Wrestlers, which despite being only a few years old, the project is now on a headlining tour around the country with support from Chicago rock outfit Ne-Hi. Goodbye Terrible Youth, the band’s latest album, delves deep into thought-provoking lyrics, polished melodies and memorable rhythms. Prior to the band’s set at The Secret Group on Friday, January 13, Free Press Houston spoke with McClure to talk about the tour, the new record, and the importance of wrestling on the band.
Free Press Houston: You have recently finished your first leg of your tour. Before you begin on your second one, are you planning on approaching it differently than your first?
Gary McClure: I’m doing a lot of writing right now. I’m trying to finish a record so I can put it out this year. I really want to get one out this year. When we start the tour again, I think we are going to change up a few songs. We haven’t been to the west coast yet, or the south even, so we’re so going to play some songs that most people haven’t heard before. Like the East Coast - we’ve been there a few times, so we are going to avoid playing the same set, but we are going to return to some songs, you know?
FPH: Your band is still relatively new, so are you surprised that you are already on a headlining tour around the country?
McClure: This is my ninth album, I think, through my various projects. I feel like I’ve been doing it for so long. But maybe. I think I’m not sure how many records bands usually put out before they headline a tour.
FPH: This record came shortly after the first one, which was released in. Are you planning on releasing a record a year?
McClure: Yeah, I’d like to. My goal is to put one out each year until I die. It doesn’t seem like enough if I don’t put out at least one thing a year. In order to get one out next year, it would have to be finished by March or April, I think. I’m putting pressure on myself to get something done.
FPH: How do you think bands do it, when they release multiple a year?
McClure: I think you need to think less, hit record, and hope that it works out, I guess. A lot of people will sit on a song for a long time and really think, “Is that good? Is that park good?” I don’t know if it comes out better, by the way. Sometimes it works out for people and sometimes it doesn’t. It depends if the entire band is writing; if the whole band writes — with different ideas — maybe it’s quicker. If you can jam a lot maybe it will help you out. It’s easier if you’re writing with a band, you get to have the mentality of “if this fucks up, it’s not me.”
FPH: Could you talk about the revival of shoegaze and the impact it has had on American Wrestlers, especially coming from you former band, Working For a Nuclear Free City?
McClure: I grew up on alternative rock and grunge and all of that stuff. [Grunge] is a horrible word. But that was the stuff I got into. A lot later on I found out about bands like Ride, Slowdive, My Bloody Valentine, and all of that stuff. My old band did a lot of that stuff. It just sounds nice, two guitars through delay. It seems like every few years people say shoegaze is back. I’m not sure it ever goes away. I think I’ve been hearing Shoegaze and Smiths-esq songs for 20 years now, you know? A basic form of indie rock is shoegaze and dangly guitars. I don’t listen to [shoegaze] too much anymore, really. I haven’t listened to it in a long time, actually. If there’s a bit of shoegaze in the music, I guess it’s by accident. It’s an influence somewhere.
FPH: So when you got older, and growing up the U.K., did labels like Creation had a big impact on you?
McClure: Yeah, I think there were a lot of great bands on Creation. I was really young when I was in Scotland, so I was actually in Manchester when I heard all of that. Last year I actually listened to a lot of Oasis, because I haven’t heard it in a while. I think Oasis got a bit of a bad rep. They were criticized for writing simple songs, but they actually had a lot of chord progression in them. They actually wrote in a more sophisticated way than most people did at the time. It’s difficult to write catchy songs like that. But yeah, I always loved Primal Scream and other bands on the label.
FPH: You are now on Fat Possum Records; was that also an influential label to you? Also, how did signing to them happen?
McClure: Our first album was recorded on a cassette, and I just assumed that it would never be heard, so I ended up sending it to blogs across the country with very little information [written on it]. We just asked them what they thought of it. It was mostly local blogs. The week after we sent them out, like, nine record labels got in touch. I mean, I didn’t even get in touch with them first. The best one was Fat Possum. There were a lot of good ones, but Fat Possum was the best. I really respected their catalog of artists, you know? I didn’t think it was a wise investment at times, because I didn’t have a band to play with live at the time. [Fat Possum] is really into music, they really like music, and they go for that first and foremost. It’s great.
FPH: When you release new material, is it a matter of “topping” the last one or more of an ongoing story? As in, what is the driving force, to you, for releasing music?
McClure: It is a lot of things and ideas to to form any material. Obviously you’re aware of the progression from the last thing, but you start to get closer to something each time, I think. Like, you don’t know what it is that you’re getting closer to, but with each one, you’re more like “okay, that’s a bit more closer to what I wanted to do.” That’s the way it has felt, because each one feels like I’m getting closer to what I should be making. But yeah, I think it is very dangerous to start thinking about what you’re actually doing when you are making a record. You should only do the most natural thing, and the natural thing is usually what has the best results, rather than trying to put together a formula. Clever is never really clever at all.
FPH: With that being said, do you think you did top your previous?
McClure: I don’t know. I don’t think it was any better, I just think it’s - I mean, there were things I thought about doing years ago and never did. Sometimes I listen back to this one and - I avoid listening to it too much - was [impressed]. Sometimes I think about it and say, “This is the best one,” but I don’t know. I don’t know if I ever make anything that’s better. It just felt closer to how I feel. It feels more like me, I think. I probably thought I’d never make the same thing years ago.
FPH: The release date of the record, “Goodbye Terrible Youth,” was november 4th, so was the title of the record and the release date an intentional decision?
McClure: Oh, shit. Haha. Fat Possum set the release date. I gave them the record and it was all done. They told me that they were going to put it our November 4th. I don’t know if it was a good or bad thing. The title of album - I don’t know what it means - is just a bit sarcastic, talking about an upbringing. A lot of the songs that are on it are the right sounds and melodies I never really know what any of them mean, I suppose.
FPH: What about the name of the band? Being from Scotland, though now residing in the States, was the name of the band intentional?
McClure: A friend of mine thought of the name. He told me “that’s a good name for a band.” When I was trying to think of a name - which is a torturous hell, I fucking hate it - I remembered it and thought that it would stick, it’s easy to remember. Even the abbreviations, the ‘A’ and ‘W.’ It was really a simple marketing thing. Later on, I realized that it was a connotation on what’s real in the entertainment world.
FPH: To conclude, for anyone not aware, you play Houston on January 13th. For the ones without a ticket, why should they come see and your opener?
McClure: It’s going to be loud and some of the set is going to be heavy. Like, fuzzed guitars, wah pedals, and synthesizers. It’s going to be good.
American Wrestlers performs at The Secret Group on Friday, January 13 alongside Ne-Hi. Tickets are $12 with doors at 6:30 pm.