If you’re expecting a simple explanation of the Used’s new record, The Canyon, you’re probably better off asking anyone other than lead singer Bert McCracken. For him, the group’s seventh studio album is effectively his first attempt at a high-concept novel set to the music created by his bandmates — and it comes from a much deeper place than even the grandest of canyons.
“There’s the idea of a canyon being the Yin and Yang of slow times during the blink of an eye that we have here on this planet,” McCracken says. “I think it’s really hard for humans to think about long amounts of time, like what it would take to carve a canyon with water. Also, the canyon that I grew up next to, Provo Canyon, is where I made a lot of really heartwarming childhood memories with my family. It’s also where a good friend of mine took his life last year — in the same canyon where I found freedom from the beliefs that I was indoctrinated with growing up and really discovered music and lyrics.”
With the first half of the record documenting McCracken’s late friend’s story and the rest covering the songwriter’s reflections on the events, The Canyon is an exercise in healing as much as it is in storytelling. But with all of the complexity in the ideas behind the tracks, the process of creating the record itself was actually far simpler than many of the other albums in the Used’s catalog. Although it’s a progression for them both musically and thematically, McCracken was excited to take things back to how they were done before the digital age.
“It’s a nice feeling to know that we’ve followed our passions and stayed true to what we believe is the artistry in these words and vibrations,” McCracken says. “It follows the timeline of music from the early 2000s as well in its actuality, because the computer was introduced to music around the time when we first started recording music. Modern music has all followed this similar-sounding idea, and I think what’s becoming popular now is to let the art speak for itself and no longer use the computer to manipulate the expression of the art.”
Recently, the Used kicked off a nationwide tour in LA which continues through Southern California this week, including a stop at Observatory Dec. 4. During their last SoCal stop they were joined by the amazing post-hardcore icons Glassjaw.
“When I think back to when music was most exciting in my life — well, it stayed pretty exciting — but I remember seeing Glassjaw live during our first Warped Tour and before that and just seeing how explosive live music was for the first time since I’d actually been a part of it,” McCracken says. “I just remember that tormented anxiety of excitement, and I think that still has a place in music. I’m really looking forward to seeing the new and improved Glassjaw and the new and improved Used together. I’m so glad that fans are still around from that time, because it just says so much about how important art is.”
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Though their stop at the Observatory is a solo venture this time around, the somewhat-LA-based Used are prepared to bring even more than their standard level of electricity to the Hollywood Palladium on on Saturday night. The high-volume theatrical rockers are excited to crank out their latest tunes the way they were meant to be performed — live and for an excited crowd.
“The Used has always been a great live band, and we always think of a show as an opportunity to live our lives to the fullest for that night,” McCracken says. “With this record, not only are you hearing the songs as we recorded them in the studio, but you’re hearing them with an added bonus of all the extra emotion that comes from the crowd. It’s an exciting experience for everybody.”
The Used performs at the Observatory, 3503 S. Harbor, Santa Ana, (714) 957-0600, www.observatoryoc.com, Mon. Dec. 4 8 p.m., $36. All ages.