Bert McCracken Reflects on 15 Years of Keeping It Raw With The Used

The Used: 15 years as a band, but young at heart forever.EXPAND
The Used: 15 years as a band, but young at heart forever.
Derek Bremner

For the last 15 years, Bert McCracken and The Used have been the poster boys for the 2000s post-hardcore/emo/screamo scene alongside bands like Taking Back Sunday and Brand New. Unlike many of those other bands — some of which are now reuniting after taking the better part of a decade off — The Used never had a big falling out or stopped making music.

The band's seventh album came out April 1, but the Utah natives have gone a different direction with it. Live and Acoustic at the Palace is just that, a live recording of the band's acoustic performance on October 11 of last year at the Palace Theatre in downtown Los Angeles. 

"Recording it was quite possibly the most magical moment so far in The Used's career," McCracken says. "It was everything we've worked towards. Working with all of the strings players and gospel singers, we've never worked with a more professional bunch of people. In that way, we just had the freedom to explore the emotion and keep things really pure and special."

McCracken describes the acoustic performance as "raw" and "unfiltered" as he curls up in an armchair at the band's North Hollywood practice space. It's a fitting description, because while McCracken and his bandmates have changed their sound on each record — incorporating everything from strings to hip-hop into their emo/hardcore sound — their music has always retained the same unbridled emotion and almost childlike energy that thrilled their fans so much in the first place.

"The end goal for The Used is for us to all feel free and to think about our lives in a way that feels like we're not a slave to necessity in the world of music," McCracken says. "It's everything that music is all about, and it's that ability to connect and let go of all the systematic wash that we experience living in a capitalist system."

This year, The Used will be enjoying that freedom as they take their 15th anniversary tour across the country. Each stop (including sold-out shows at the Novo, formerly Club Nokia, May 27 and 28) will consist of two consecutive dates — the first to play their self-titled debut album in its entirety, and the second for their sophomore effort, In Love and Death. McCracken still remembers what it felt like to write those albums ("Being a teenager is impossibly hard"), but the now-34-year-old also sees how much the world has changed since he penned the lyrics to tracks like "Buried Myself Alive" and "The Taste of Ink."

"It's definitely going to feel different in the world we live in now," McCracken says of revisiting his band's earliest releases. "It's a world where apathy is no longer cool. It's no longer cool to not give a shit about things. It's amazing to watch the transition of meaning in these songs. When you're younger, they're about you and about finding your place in the world. As we grow older, we develop a less selfish idea of how the world works."

While McCracken, his bandmates and his fans have all seen their world views develop over the last 15 years, anniversary tours often serve as a throwback to the time when the records came out. For everyone who attends The Used's shows, it'll feel just a little bit like the early 2000s. In McCracken's eyes, the fans that have stuck with the band for well over a decade should already know what that evening will feel like, and they should already be looking forward to it.

"Just thinking about the experience and thinking about these old records, you kind of know what to expect going into it," McCracken says. "The possibility of just making a serious memory that'll last for the rest of your life is very real. As human beings, we remember three times as many negative things as positive, so to be able to create these memories for ourselves to inspire ourselves is exactly what everyone needs. What's the point of living life without those memories?"

The Used's Live and Acoustic at the Palace is out now and available in multiple formats via www.theused.net.


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