The Used are intense. Their lyrics are unflinching, covering breakups, depression, suicide, angst, drug abuse, mental health problems and everything in between. There's something about The Used that just screams reality. And they don't just sing-they reach out a hand to not just kids that need something to hang onto or believe in, but anybody. They'll do that in Indy on Sunday, as part of a stop on the Take Action tour, which raises awareness about teen suicide. I spoke with frontman and vocalist Bert McCracken about that tour and their label change.
NUVO: So, a lot went on in between the recording of (2009's) Artwork and (2012's) Vulnerable. You changed labels, and you guys made your own label, which is totally kick ass by the way.
McCracken: Thank you!
NUVO: Did that struggle with, and eventual release from, the label fuel some of the energy behind Vulnerable?
McCracken: Um, no, the exact opposite actually. I think that it kind of inspired us a bit more, and you know, we've wanted to put out our own records for quite a while, I think since 2006, before (2007's) Lies for the Liars. And so, with Warner, we had signed a four record deal, with Reprise and we had the option of a fifth album. When we were done with the touring cycle for Artwork, they started paying us to make the record and I think it was like six months later they dropped us, so they had to pay us out of our contract, which allowed us the freedom to kind of go off and do it on our own. I'm really stoked that we found Hopeless to distribute the record because they're just really passionate people. It's really hard for people to actually distribute their own records worldwide, so yeah, it worked out perfect for us. We couldn't be more stoked; and, for me, it just made me feel like the record was more mine, you know, it was more of an entitlement for me to work harder, something that's specifically, directly mine, and all my ideas, and nobody had any other input on it.
NUVO: Yeah, I love that artists are creating their own labels and independently releasing their albums, it seems much more, like it's between the artists and the fans, you know, like not a lot of the suits getting in.
McCracken: Yeah, it's the world that we live in with the internet and with, you know, subscriptions to stream music. But, we've always been a band that does it because we love it and we do it for the fans and we do it for the love of the music, so for us it was a perfectly amazing time.
NUVO: I heard you recorded a guest spot on Black Veil Brides' new album. What was recording and working with them like?
McCracken: They're really cool guys, man. I mean, they're a lot younger than I thought, but I never really met them before. We did a tour together in Australia for the Sound Wave tour. I just got to know them a bit and hung out with them and you know, they've got a big following, and I was, you know, very glad that I could help out on their record and the song's pretty cool.
NUVO: Would you collaborate with them again?
McCracken: Sure, cool guys. I mean, I wouldn't say that the music is definitely you know, one hundred percent something that I'm into, but I'm into every different type of music, from metal, to art jazz to electronic rock to hip hop to pop, I'm very general when it comes to what I can possibly be into, so yeah, I would definitely work with them again if it came down to it.
NUVO: I read that you had some trouble with Canadian border patrol a few months ago. Has that happened before when touring out of the country?
McCracken: Yeah, just Canada. Every time we go to Canada; it's extremely hard for Americans to get to Canada for some reason. Even more when you have a criminal record too, so. We're now not allowed back in Canada for ten years but we're trying to get that sorted out so we can hopefully make it there by the summertime.
NUVO: So it's just Canada? Not any other country outside of the U.S.?
McCracken: Nope. [Laughs] Just Canada.
NUVO: That's weird.
McCracken: I know; it's ridiculous.
NUVO: You'd expect something like, farther away, like Asia or something. Not Canada, just north of us.
McCracken: Yep, never even had half of an issue getting into Russia, or anywhere in Europe, Malaysia, the Philippines, Indonesia, man, everywhere else in the world is really chill [laughs]. It's, I don't know. Hopefully we'll get that fixed soon.
NUVO: I know Motionless in White has trouble getting into Canada.
NUVO: Yeah, they're always like, "They just won't let us in!"
McCracken: [laughs] Yep!
NUVO: Your debut album reached its tenth anniversary last year, as well as a lot of other bands', like My Chemical Romance, Maroon 5, and Finch. Does it feel like The Used are a veteran band or is it all still kind of like, fresh and new to you, even now?
McCracken: It's not fresh and new, that's for sure. Once you do something for twelve years, it kind of becomes what you do, but, I've found a new love for music and a new passion for inspiring people, and, so, it's a different world, it's a complete different atmosphere on tour. But, I'm definitely proud of all of the years of touring that we've put in and we have no plans to cease in the near future. It's all positive for The Used.
NUVO: I actually did the "Top Albums of 2012" for NUVO and Vulnerable was number four, I think I put it.
McCracken: Oh cool, that's awesome.
NUVO: Yeah, you guys are one of my favorite bands; I love all of your music.
McCracken: Oh, that's great, I appreciate that. We really decided to make something positive and something for the fans this time around.
NUVO: You guys are on the Take Action tour, which is probably one of the most positive tours out there. I know a lot of teenagers out there-I included-who have struggled with self-harm and have always found some solace in your music. Is that something you see a lot? Like, fans coming up to you and telling you that you've saved their lives or something?
McCracken: Quite a lot, yeah. And, I couldn't be more excited to be a part of someone's life and I couldn't be more humbly blessed to be able to help people just by doing what I love to do. It's really cool.
NUVO: The support acts for the Take Action tour, were you guys involved in the choosing of them or was it just the Take Action people?
McCracken: Oh yeah, we picked everything. We choose It Gets Better as our charity because we thought it was important for people to understand that, you know, however different you may be, it's no reason for people to be treated unfairly. So, yeah, it was our idea.
NUVO: Have you toured with any of the bands (We Came as Romans, Crown the Empire and Mindflow) before?
McCracken: No, this'll be our first time, so we're excited.
The Used are performing at the Egyptian Room at Old National Centre on January 20, 2013 with We Came As Romans, Mindflow, and Crown the Empire as part of the Take Action Tour 2013.