Redd Kross survives the 'awkward' stage, readies new album
The first new album in 15 years from Redd Kross was five years in the making. It may have taken even longer had Steven McDonald not signed on for a desk job. In the summer of 2010 the Redd Kross co-founder and current member of OFF! went to work as an A&R executive for Warner Bros.
"It smoked me out of my hive," McDonald told Pop & Hiss Monday afternoon. While McDonald relished the opportunity to champion young artists, he ultimately found life behind the scenes "a little awkward."
"I had to figure out whether I wanted to go on tour and be an artist again, or if I just wanted to be chasing down other artists and trying to get 15% of their touring or merch money," he said. "Not to be too crass, but it was an eye-opening experience. When you have 10 bosses, you can believe what you’re saying, but it’s hard to pull it off when there’s so many voices that actually have more say than you do."
Having reunited in 2006, Redd Kross had been tinkering with new material long before McDonald took a day job, but plans to release a new album accelerated soon after he left the gig. The band, which had its beginnings in punk rock when an 11-year-old McDonald began playing music with his teenage brother Jeff more than 30 years ago, has now signed with celebrated North Carolina indie label Merge Records. A new 10-track album, "Researching the Blues," is due Aug. 7.
The band's last album, 1997's "Show World," was a crisp power-pop collection, one long removed from the band's far more scrappy start on 1982's "Born Innocent." The new album was largely written by Jeff and produced by his younger brother, and Steven hesitates to speculate on where it would fit in the Redd Kross canon, declaring it a "straightforward, simple collection of tunes."
"It’s certainly not as trashy and snotty as the ‘Born Innocent’ era," he said. "I don’t know how to eloquently put it. Styles have changed. With each of our records there was always at least a three-year gap and an evolution happening. When we were young it was happening much quicker. We were literally just going through puberty on record."
Now with more grown-up concerns, McDonald's professional time has been spent producing albums (he worked the boards on the debut album from fun.) and playing bass in Keith Morris' hardcore punk project OFF!. He said the other pursuits took the pressure off of what will be Redd Kross' first post-reunion album, and hopes that working with Merge will bring some late-career consistency to the band.
"In the last 10 years, some of my favorite groups are groups on Merge," McDonald said. "Records from Spoon and the Arcade Fire have been beacons of light for great songwriting. I’m not sure what kind of concern the band will be in the future, but I hope that we’ve found a home."
-- Todd Martens
Photo courtesy of Merge Records