Grave McKagan doesn’t write about boys, just Satan
Grave McKagan has come a long way since she was discovered singing acoustic covers with a girlfriend on YouTube.
On her 16th birthday, she released her first album with her band the Pink Slips. That was the album that introduced everyone to their punky, synthy, New Wave sound.
Nearly four years later and now just shy of 20, she says being 16 feels like decades ago and she doesn’t make music like that anymore.
She has now changed up her sound, solidified the official members of her band and is recording her sophomore album. Peep our interview with the singer (who’s also this writer’s BFF) below.
So, you recently made your debut as DJ at our Galore X GRINDR pool party at Coachella, can you tell us a little bit about that?
Yeah, I was super excited when price and Jacob asked me to DJ, I’ve always wanted to be a DJ. I have been telling my manager Brian about wanting to DJ and I finally got to do It!
I got to play music that I really love, I didn’t want to do just the classic dubstep or hip-hop, so I played a lot of rock n’ roll, some French music, and electronic music. I had a huge compilation of music and the environment was incredible — a bunch of girls and fabulous gay guys.
You and your band the Pink Slips are touring right now, how’s the tour going so far?
It’s going well, we’re mainly playing shows in LA right now. We’re playing a lot of local venues, and some clubs. I just recently solidified who my band members are and I’m so happy with them and how the band is turning out.
We have Keenan Bevans on drums, he’s been in the band since the beginning. Keenan lives in Seattle but he comes down often, and he lives with me most of the time.
My keyboard player, Trent Peltz, is a senior at Stanford University so it’s super easy for him to come down to LA for these upcoming shows.
My guitar and bass player are both still in high school. My bass player, Charlie Anastasis, and guitar player, Desi Scagilone — they are amazing. I’m super thrilled with my new guitar player Desi, he is an insane guitar player. He’s been playing music since he was 6. Desi has his own style of things and he just fits in perfectly.
Now that I have my band set, it makes everything much more fun, it gives us all more motivation to play shows and make more music. We’re going through our metamorphosis process, it’s been great evolving and growing with our sound.
You just released your new song “Danger,” can you tell us the inspiration behind that track?
I started writing “Danger” months ago. I left it as a demo because my writing partner, Isaac Carpenter, and I didn’t really know what to do with it. We both thought the song was cool, but it wasn’t all the way there yet.
The chorus was so different. It was louder, it just wasn’t really what I wanted. And then, recently, we went back to it and Issac just told me to sing over it and to just have fun with it, and we made this super dope ending that just loops. The ending is super rock n’ roll and sexy but also modern at the same time. It’s very me, and a reflection of the music I like.
The song is just about sex haha, if you wanna know the truth. It’s about doing the dirty. “Danger” is a song about sex and the anticipation of sex — that feeling when you like someone and it’s obviously dangerous, but exciting and liberating.
I think rock n’ roll is like sex in many aspects, it starts off slow, it’s passionate, it’s raw, it’s real, but then as the chorus come around, it gets faster and faster, it climaxes. I think one should nurture rock n’ roll how they would nurture sex. Take care of it, be gentle, but be ruthless. “Danger” illustrates that idea.
Do men have a lot of influence on your music?
I mean yes and no, I don’t really like to write about love because I feel like it super cliché, and you have to be super personal and different from a bunch of other songs that are out there. I like my songs to be tongue-in-cheek.
For example, my song “Hello Heaven” is not based on a true story, but it’s about this girl who finds out her boyfriend is cheating on her so she gets the gun and murders him. My song “Satan’s Home” is about dirty sex, but I wouldn’t really say my songs are about boys. My songs could be about relationships but I try to stay away from that, I try to sing about being a badass female rather than men.
What’s the biggest progress your band has made since releasing your first album “Say L’or Venus” to your newer music?
I would say there is a huge difference because I wrote the songs for “Say L’or Venus” when I was 15 and 16 and now I’m almost 20. Even though it’s only been a few years, I feel like being a teenager you grow so much, every year is like a decade when it comes to change.
The main difference is that we all have matured, and become way more serious about the band. Us not being in high school anymore has made it easier for us to focus all our time on our sound and playing music. We have gotten tighter, closer as friends, and we are constantly talking about what we want for the future of the band, our goals, and now we all work together to finalize shows.
We’re one big force, we’re together, and every person plays their different part.
How do you want people to feel when they listen to your music?
I want people to feel sexy, badass, super inspired and, free — most importantly free. I want people to lose themselves in the music, and dance! Let your hair down, and DANCE!
You grew up in LA, how does it feel to be a young female musician in a cutthroat town and being surrounded by so many people who have the same dreams as you?
I think it’s amazing that I was able to grow up in Los Angeles (shout out to the Great One Eight!). I really love being surrounded by musicians because there are so many music scenes you can dive into.
For instance, there is the DIY scene, the hip-hop scene, the electronic scene, there is the punk rock scene, the poser punk rock scene. SO many different types of musicians out there, you can see which one’s music you like vs the music that you don’t really vibe with, you become allies with different bands and you start to work together. And then you also meet bands and you don’t like the way they treat you.
I think growing up in LA has had such an advantage on me because I’ve seen so much music and I have so many opportunities to go to tons of shows and festivals. Going away to Seattle for a year made me realize the appreciation I have for Los Angeles’ music scene.
What scene do you say your music falls under?
I wouldn’t say that we’re in a scene, honestly, I think we are outcasts. I was never really involved in a scene. I’ve been friends with bands, but I was never in their world 100%. My category for music is modern punk-rock, pop, dance, rock n’roll.
What artists or bands do you see changing the music industry?
I always say this but, Charlie XCX. I saw her play in Seattle two years ago, and though she is a pop star, she came out on stage with her middle fingers in the air, super badass, and super punk rock.
I always love The Kills, they have been changing the game for forever now. I recently saw this guy called open for Homeshake named Mozart Sister and he literally brought me to tears. He was amazing, so passionate, he went up by himself on stage with his keyboard and laptop. It takes a lot of courage to do that, I was so inspired.
What’s your funniest tour story?
Right when I graduated high school my band and I booked our first music festival in London. We went out to England with the sole purpose of playing this festival, it was a huge festival. Muse and Marilyn Manson were performing. We had been practicing for weeks.
So, we go into the festival and it’s raining hard, everyone is wearing their rain boots. So, we’re about a song and a half in and then my keyboard player Trent, his keys blow out, it was because he didn’t have the right adaptor for the UK plugs. But, he was amazing he just started doing these crazy background dances and sang backup. But, it was a horror story because he practiced so much and then his keys went out!
What turns you on?
The song “Closer” by Nine Inch Nails really gets me going. Also, confidence, humor, style. All things ladies like.
Tell us about the first time you ever performed?
I had always done musical theater growing up. When I was in sixth grade I got to sing “Wild Horses” by The Rolling Stones with my dad and Clem Burke from Blondie at this benefit at my school, but I was so young I don’t remember.
But the first time I really performed was I got to play the CBGB music festival in New York with my other bandmate at the time. It was just the two of us and we would do covers on YouTube of Death Cab for Cutie. People from the CBGB festival saw them and they asked us to play and it was crazy because they flew us out in a helicopter and had us stay at this nice ass hotel and my parents said to me, “Do not get use to this because this is not how it is.”
It was so exciting. We played this venue called Pianos. I was so fucking nervous, it was kinda packed. It was at a bar and I was 16.
What do you think about when you’re alone in your car?
You know, I always tell people that if you really like a song you will listen to it when you’re alone in your car, because you have the ultimate power. I kinda just think about what I have to do that day. I’m a Virgo so I’m very organized and I love having a plan.
I call people a lot in the car and smoke cigs, haha.
What we’re you like in high school?
Well, I did newspaper in high school. I was not popular in high school so I was the newspaper girl.
I went to a super athletic-based high school. I wasn’t a loser, I was just with my three close girlfriends. We were just kinda middle of the pack. I played a lot of shows in high school, and I was really focused on that. I didn’t have a real social life until senior year.
How would your best friends describe you?
I mean, you are my best friend haha so I feel like you guys would say that I’m crazy, fun, loyal, sweet, and fashionable.
What’s something that no one knows about you?
I mean I feel like I’m a pretty open book. I guess something people don’t know about me is that I fucking love Skrillex. My friends and I just started listening to Skrillex about a month ago as a joke but then I realized that his beats are amazing haha.
Oh also, onstage I’m super raw and confrontational, but in real life I hate confrontation. It scares the shit out of me. So, onstage I put it all out there.
What’s an average Friday night for you and your girl gang?
We’re always together on Friday nights, no question. Fridays we go out, and Saturdays are our chill days. We try to find a party on Fridays. I’m always with my best friends on Fridays.
What would your autobiography be called?
“Inside the Grave.”
What would your perfect murder weapon be?
My bare hands haha.
What’s your funniest Uber story?
I have a funny ass limo story, so my friends all planned me a surprise party that I knew all about. So, they got me this limo, and usually in the limo you have to stay cool, calm and collected. But the driver let us smoke and pop champagne bottles, it was so fun.
What do you worry about the most and why?
I worry about plans the most. Making sure my shows are on schedule.
Who has inspired you the most in your life?
My parents have inspired me to be a good and whole-hearted person. Musically, David Bowie and Iggy Pop. My friends all inspire me in different ways, my friend Happy Hinds is such a humorous person. She inspires me every day.
What is your favorite song that you have written?
“Hello Heaven” is my favorite song. I feel like it’s an underrated song cause it’s on my Soundcloud. Only the diehard fans will know this song.
What’s next for you?
Right now, I’m just playing a lot of shows and working on my new album, and some secret stuff that I can’t talk about but is super exciting.
Photos by: Duff McKagan