My Music DNA: Popcorn Fiend

Distance is the long-awaited debut album from Scottish musician Popcorn Fiend, and follows the recent release of the single Bear on Bear.

The album, released on September 18, is the culmination of a journey that started in Aberdeen in 2003 with Popcorn Fiend’s ahead-of-its-time debut EP Subliminal Messages Will Mess With Your Mind.

A product of Michael MacLennan’s relocation to Glasgow and eight years in the making, 2011’s PF/EP similarly stretched in several musical directions but veered into a starker, raw sound, reflecting the formation of a full band for live performance.

MacLennan left Glasgow for Manchester, then London, and then to Salzburg in Austria. All the while continuing to create music, sonically influenced by these differing locations from fist-pumping maximalist electroclash bangers to disquieting instrumentals which would jitter seamlessly into swelling crescendos.

Distance was built up over the course of 2019 with this narrative and thematic spine in place. MacLennan brought in CHVRCHES engineer David R Simpson, to co-produce, mix, and master the album.  A meditation on what is lost and gained through long periods of isolation from friends, family, and loved ones, no one involved in the recording could never have imagined how relevant the central themes of Distance – an album 17 years in the making – would be to the events of 2020. 

Here, Andy Howells discovers the music that has inspired Michael MacLennan

What was the first song that made an impact on you?

Thanks to my mum the first act that had an impact on me was definitely Queen, but one of my earliest memories was listening to We All Stand Together by Paul McCartney and the Frog Chorus – not the hippest choice I know! – it was the first time I realised the transformative effect music had and how happy it could make me.

What was the first single you bought?

Getting into alternative and rock music as a teenager I remember getting Ashes to Ashes by Faith No More after an amazing performance on TFI Friday. The vocal range of Mike Patton was – and continues to be – absolutely astounding.

What was the first album you owned?

Parklife by Blur was the first album I owned, and the guitar playing of Graham Coxon is still a massive inspiration. I loved the complexity of the arrangements as well as the melancholy and darkness lurking under the more obviously poppy Britpop veneer.

What’s your constant go to track?

For the past few years it’s been Dean Town by Vulfpeck, which such a ridiculously catchy bass hook and joyous momentum to it – I was lucky to see them live a couple of years ago and hearing a crowd of thousands singing an entire song’s bass line was ridiculous and utterly wonderful.

What’s your constant go to album?

Can I choose a few? A Night At The Opera by Queen has been a favourite since young for its outrageous variety and vivacity, Happy Birthday! By Modeselektor is a sublime eclectic dance classic, and since it came out in 2015 I have adored Howl by Rival Consoles which is evocative electronic excellence.

Who’s your latest music discovery?

A friend recommended The Pipe Factory by John Mulhearn which is a brilliantly produced meditative record. As a lapsed bagpiper I’m aware how divisive it can be as an instrument, but he employs them in a way that is unexpectedly moving and deserving of a far wider audience.

What’s your own track that best defines you as an artist?

When I wrote A Virtue it felt like a defining moment for what became the latest album: it encompassed both the more organic and electronic elements and was reflective of looking at home from afar, taking in both the highs and lows.

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