Eamon McGrath shares “Sparkle and Bleed,” follows the September 29th release of McGrath’s latest book, “Here Goes Nothing”

With over 300 songs written and recorded, album of the year credits, and multiple continent-spanning tours, Eamon McGrath has developed a body of work that could rival that of any artist 15 years his senior. This is the house that punk rock built: a fierce DIY attitude and constantly-changing style has guided McGrath across the globe on countless tours, stories from which have been cultivated in innumerable journal entries and song lyrics.

New single, “Sparkle and Bleed,” follows the September 29th release of McGrath’s latest book, Here Goes Nothing, and features guest vocals from longtime friend, collaborator, colleague and bandmate, Julie Doiron. “Sparkle and Bleed” is taken from an upcoming full-length album that will be McGrath’s first release since 2019’s critically acclaimed Guts.

Can you talk to us about the inspiration behind your single, “Sparkle And Bleed”?

It was a grey and dismal spring. The lockdown was in full effect, we were about three weeks into it. Snow was still falling and there was a general feeling of dismality and confusion as people tried to figure out what to do with their time. Shops and bars were going out of business on every block and there’s no real better way to put it other than feeling like the city you loved was crumbling in front of your very eyes. Streetcars would tumble past you, completely empty. It had been weeks since I’d seen anyone standing at a train station. To pass the time I’d made a point of writing and recording a song a day, and I approached Julie Doiron, Darrek Anderson and Connor Ellinger about working on a few things together, and there was a really magical afternoon where all of us were recording simultaneously across Canada thousands of miles apart. That became “Sparkle & Bleed”, an attempt to try and harness the strange energy circulating within everyone’s lives at the same second, in real time. 

How do you think your community has contributed to your success?

I have been fortunate to have the chance to spend the better part of 15 years cultivating an international network of musicians, talent buyers, music lovers, poets, booking agents, managers, label heads, venue owners, bartenders; across every genre from folk and country, to metal and hardcore, to experimental electronic ambient music, to German techno. All of these people have been involved in this ongoing journey across the world, from the west to east coasts of Canada, to the mountains of Jalisco, Mexico, to Tokyo, Japan, to the Balearic Islands. I owe these people everything: from the punk rock cliches of sleeping on couches and floors, to a devoted belief and commitment to the music I’m making, to buying a shirt or a record or a book, to taking a chance and booking the band on a Tuesday night in Schaffhausen. These people all form these microscopic, incremental tiny moving parts to a bigger whole, and all of them are equally as important as the other. I have an immeasurable amount of gratitude to everyone that’s been on the road along the way, and I hope that I’ve been able to give back somehow by contributing to someone else’s story.

What was the first thing that got you interested in music?

I started playing guitar at the age of nine. My grandma bought me a guitar from a garage sale in Edmonton and brought it over to my house in a pillowcase on my ninth birthday. My parents didn’t want to buy me any picks until I proved that I was serious about it so I stole bread tags from the kitchen and got myself to the point where I could play power chords and from there on in, it was lifelong devotion. I played my first show as a band when I was eleven and that was a life changing moment for me.

Describe to our audience your music-making process.

There are three components to being a professional working musician: writing, touring, and recording. Each one in a lot of ways is its own respective artform. Sometimes these processes overlap completely. For example, we recorded The Long Hard Road live off the floor while on tour in Europe last fall and released it this past spring. The act of touring informs the writing by providing you with an endless supply of inspiration. The writing informs the recording by giving you ammunition to bring into the studio battlefield with you. The recording informs the touring by giving you a reason to go on the road. This is an infinitely interlocking system and you can’t have one aspect of musicianship without the other, and I try to think of the artistic process of being a musician as these three interlocking things constantly moving forward, like a well-oiled vehicle, or an army marching, or an object hurtling through space with unstoppable momentum. As long as you are always doing one of these three things with the utmost focus and commitment, each other one will inevitably follow. It’s just a matter of always capitalizing on whatever aspect of musicianship you’re able to do at the time.

What advice would you give other musicians?

This is the perfect follow-up to the last question. My advice is to always be ready to have one of those components ready to go at an arms’ length whenever you can. So, if you’re home from the road for two weeks, try to make sure you have some studio time booked, or a writing session, or a rehearsal, or something that will sort of push the metaphorical stone down the hill, so that you’re always ten steps ahead of yourself and are always prepared at a moment’s notice when a good opportunity comes along. Always be writing, always be developing, always be moving forward, never stall out or stand still. The key to a career in music is momentum, and the minute you’re not working on something that’s going to be impactful on the other components of the machine, it’s just that much harder to start moving again. 

How did it feel when you released this new music?

It felt strange, to be honest. This is by far the longest I’ve ever gone without playing live since I’ve been eleven years old, but the other aspects of releasing a record — like this interview, for example — have remained relatively the same, just without live performance to serve as the light at the end of the tunnel. It’s weird putting a song on the internet, and just kind of putting up your hands and going “well, that’s that;” and just kind of seeing what comes of it, because in this line of work, there’s a really direct, 1:1 ration of input/output. What you put in, is what you’ll get out, and just because of the circumstances, that doesn’t necessarily apply these days. So it’s been a really interesting exercise in fatalism, or maybe just throwin’ shit at the wall just to see what sticks.

And finally, if you could collaborate with any musician/band, who would it be? And why?
I’ve always felt a pretty deep connection with the music of Greg Dulli and Mark Lanegan, I think we’d come up with some pretty interesting songs. They have a similar trajectory in that they’re songwriters who, despite their roots in punk rock or heavier guitar music, both opened themselves up to a vast and diverse amount of musical styles. On my turntable, Nina Simone easily flows into Black Flag, which easily flows into Fela Kuti, which easily flows into Matthew Dear, which easily flows into Joni Mitchell, which easily flows into Alice Coltrane, which easily flows into Discharge. No music is ever off limits at any time. So having said that, it’s also really good to work with people that might otherwise be outside of your musical wheelhouse: I love collaborating with DJs, or people who play metal, or anyone whose process might be totally different from mine. I just finished a record with Holzkopf, who’s an internationally renowned experimental electronic musician from Vancouver. I think it’s pretty artistically irresponsible to not be open to anything.


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