WHEN developing his latest album, Declan McKenna did what most Brits threaten to do every time the drizzle strikes, he took himself off to sunnier lands.

And the Los Angeles sunshine permeates through his third offering – What Happened To The Beach?

This stateside period coincided with an era of personal growth for the 25-year-old singer from Hertfordshire, as he allowed himself to be more fluid this time around.

The shift was symptomatic of the record first taking shape in his family home during the Covid pandemic.

“I think the whole ethos behind the album really came from working at home”, he reflects.

“Working in a really natural environment for me and going back to how I started out almost.”

With less pressure from studio sessions and record labels on his shoulders, he could be more experimental with his sound and approach.

“This album particularly, I really didn’t make with any commercial success in mind, I just wanted to do something for myself, for my fans, to keep moving forward and try out new things and keep progressing”, he explains.

McKenna first caught the attention of labels at age 15 after he released his breakthrough track Brazil, which tackled corruption in FIFA.

Its catchy indie hooks earned him a coveted performance slot at Glastonbury after he entered the song into the festival’s Emerging Talent Competition, and won.

Somerset County Gazette: Declan McKenna won the Emerging Talent Competition in 2015.Declan McKenna won the Emerging Talent Competition in 2015. (Image: Rick Findler/PA Wire)

The singer continued to delve into heavy subject matters within his 2017 debut album, What Do You Think About the Car?, with his follow-up single Paracetamol addressing the misrepresentation of transgender teenagers in the media.

He later criticised British foreign policy with his track British Bombs, which featured on his second album, Zeros, in 2020.

In his third record, he veers away from taking on the imperfect world around him and is more introspective with his lyrics.

“I think previously I’m known for creating a really followable story, almost with a timeline and the songs progress like that,” he says on shifting his creative focus.

“Some songs have that, obviously, it’s still me writing them, but there’s a lot more of a view to just create a feeling and an atmosphere and being able to sit with it.

“And I think it’s the LA sunshine creeping in, just making something that feels good and let it rest there.

“For me, I need that kind of music. And working that way and maybe focusing less on those sort of stories, there’s lyrics that talk about all sorts of different shit, really.

“But I’m not trying to really hammer them home every time, some of the messages are just softly sprinkled in there and songs are just playing up the emotions of themselves.”

McKenna says he has enjoyed exploring this change of style, which he feels came from losing control of his plans when he released his second album in 2020.

“I think having a point where you just had no idea what was going to be happening and how your life was going to be in the coming weeks, just waiting for the world to give you a break, it does shift your perspective massively”, he says.

“So it’s come out of quite an emotional time and wound up with some wonky beauty out of it.

“And I think part of that is accepting the slightly raw takes that I’ve used on the album, the slightly more scratchy, less heavy production.

“Letting the mistakes be and accepting them for what they are has been a big part of part of it.

“The music, the lyrics, it’s all relaxed a little bit and I love that because a lot of the music I listen to has a lot of rough edges and it’s quite cathartic to let go of over-producing and over-working.”

The lightly psychedelic sounds imbued within the album are reminiscent of indie titans Tame Impala, who McKenna avidly listened to growing up, alongside Kiwi psychedelic rock band Unknown Mortal Orchestra.

However, he takes inspiration from a wide spectrum of genres having grown up absorbing the music tastes of his five older siblings and parents, who would be tuning into bands like The Beatles and Wishbone Ash.

While he may only be in his mid-20s, he now has three albums under his belt and around a decade of experience within the industry. As he looks back, he feels this experience has been invaluable in shaping him as a person and who he wants to be as an artist.

“I got into the industry very young and you’re just saying yes to everything because you’re living the dream at that point”, he says.

“But then I was able to have a bit of time to think about it all, and really just try and shape the kind of artist that I want to be as a mid-20-year-old as opposed to a 16-year-old.

“You get a bit of a perspective in that time of what it is you really want to be.

“And, again, you can’t control it completely, I can’t be a prince, I can’t be someone else. I can only be myself and that’s what has created this new world.”

He also feels “very lucky” to have gotten into the industry when he did as up-and-coming artists often have to establish themselves on social media to cut through.

“Back then it was like ‘Oh we’ll do a post on Instagram every evening’ and that was all you needed to do”, he recalls.

“You could just put a picture up and now the shit that people are doing is just…

“And I’m like ‘How do you find time to make music?’

“I’ve leant into it at times but if I’m in the studio or really working on stuff or even just on tour, it really is secondary to me.

“I don’t know how important it really is for new artists to be active on TikTok and all of this stuff, but I do think if (you’re) putting more energy into social media, then the songs aren’t going to last…

“I know we’re in a different time but if you look back, it’s the tunes that stick around. It’s none of the other business.”

Kicking off on March 23 at Cardiff University, his upcoming UK tour will travel through cities including Belfast, Manchester and Glasgow.

Towards the end, he will play his biggest headline show to date at Alexandra Palace in London, which he hails as a “cathedral for music”.

“I think it’s going to be great”, he says with enthusiasm as he looks ahead to his next chapter.

“It’s exciting to get out with a new album and to be able to do things in a fresh way, that’s always so exciting.”

By Naomi Clarke, PA senior entertainment reporter