Sometimes, being a fish out of water offers a more comprehensive view of the outside world. For the past two years, the Used's frontman, Bert McCracken, has been living in Los Angeles, and while he hasn't exactly been enamored with the city of artifice and entertainment, he has found the environment creatively inspiring.
"I've had a good look at how people think in comparison to almost the whole rest of the world and it's so ridiculous, it's given me tons of song ideas," the Utah native said. "I don't even feel like a fish out of water here, I feel like something that doesn't belong in the water, like a polar bear swimming for safety. I don't know why everyone thinks Los Angeles is a dream come true."
McCracken's contempt for Tinseltown and its surroundings triggered the lyrics for songs like "Pretty Handsome Awkward" and "Liar, Liar," which will appear on the Used's still-untitled new record. That effort is due in March, about a month after the release of their live CD/DVD package, Berth. For the studio LP, the singer is also planning to tackle hypocritical politicians, the general insincerity of mankind, and greed and backbiting within the music business.
"If I wasn't in the music industry, I wouldn't be so upset with the state of honesty in the world today, I don't imagine," McCracken reasoned. "If I worked at Subway, I think I'd be pretty stoked about just making people's sandwiches because I'm sure people wouldn't say, 'Heyyyyyyy,' and tell a big fat lie about how great their sandwich is."
In addition to being lyrically abrasive, McCracken says the album will also be the band's heaviest offering. "There's more screaming on this record than past records," he said. "I think you could also say it's a different type of aggression. Instead of asking somebody if they want to see something, [we're] just shoving it in their face and letting them have a good look."
From everything McCracken has said, fans could be forgiven for assuming the new disc will be another blazing dose of screamo, but the singer insisted that's not even close. In fact, emo, screamo and metalcore are three styles specifically excluded from the eclectic album.
"We wanted to say [no] to the genre of music that's eating us all alive right now — emotional screamo," McCracken said. "We want to establish ourselves as something brighter than just this dimly lit singled-out genre that's going to fade away in a couple years. We're just rock kids. We can't help what we've been influenced by, but we can help create something new and keep music fun and not take ourselves so seriously with all sorts of concept ideas. So this is just a good rocking record with tons of licking guitar riffs and tons of good lyrics encompassing everything from what's going on in the world to these sh--ty remake movies that we're seeing."
For someone who seems so anti-Hollywood, McCracken has been spending a fair amount of time trying to break into the film industry. He hopes to play at least a bit part in a movie after the Used finish this year's Taste of Chaos tour, which runs from February 15 in Everett, Washington, to April 6 in Calgary, Alberta. The bill also features 30 Seconds to Mars, Senses Fail, Aiden, Saosin, Evaline and Chiodos.
"I was actually offered a role in that [Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor] movie 'Crank,' " McCracken said of his early efforts to land a movie role. "But I was in Australia and couldn't do it, so [Linkin Park singer] Chester Bennington got my part, which I think is freaking hysterical."
Even when he is on the road, McCracken will continue to work on a screenplay about the best friend he had while growing up in Orem, Utah. He hopes to have it finished and submitted to various outlets by year's end.
"It should be hilarious and grotesque," he said. "The dude's name is Bubba, and he's had the craziest life of all time. For example, we were hiking in American Fort Canyon and we came across a rattlesnake, so we shot it and killed it. We took it home and then he milked the venom out of the snake with a rubber glove and a mason jar and Bubba sliced his arm open and took a Q-tip and put the venom from the snake in his arm to try to trip out. He's like, 'If I start to die, take me to the hospital.' ... This kid should have been dead 50 times but he's still alive."