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  • Ben Province

Q&A: Matt MacDonald on Latest The Classic Crime LP

The Classic Crime has released its latest studio album, "How to Be Human."

The record was released, like the band's previous project, "What Was Done, Vol. 1: A Decade Visited," through crowdfunding on Kickstarter. $99,368 was raised to fund the group's latest.

2014's "What Was Done, Vol. 1: A Decade Visited" was made up, almost entirely, of re-recorded versions of previously released songs, making "How to Be Human" the band's first completely new record since 2012.

Via email, Matt MacDonald, frontman, gave me an inside look at how the new LP came to be.

Ben Province: It had been half a decade since a new full album was released. How has the band grown during the time since "Phoenix" dropped?

Matt MacDonald: A lot has happened in the last five years. Everyone's settled down with spouses, kids are being raised, etc. I’ve been doing music pretty regularly while the other guys have their own separate businesses they manage. I think being able to focus on music projects and releases exclusively has helped me develop confidence as a writer: the means to clarify my goals, and the skills to achieve them.

BP: What does it mean to you to raise nearly $100,000 from your fans to create "How to be Human”?

MM: It means everything. It’s a cliche to say it at this point, but without the support of our fans we would have stopped a long time ago. The only reason we’re still making music today is because they keep showing up and preordering our albums before they're even made. To have even more of them show up this time is incredible. The confidence that gives us is powerful, and as long as they keep showing up to support our music, we’ll keep making it.

BP: What's the meaning behind the album's title?

MM: I think we all struggle with how to be in the world: how to see the world, what to strive for, how to act and how to negotiate paradox and change and contradictions around us. This record is about the process of deconstructing the preconceptions of a worldview, rebooting the operating system and going through the code, line by line, tearing it apart to find both profound doubt and epiphany. It’s about diving directly into suffering and not balking at challenges as they come. It’s about the necessary process of death and rebirth, and how it’s essential to being fully alive in a human sense.

BP: This is your third release that's essentially been independent. How has that freedom impacted the way you make music?

MM: We’ve always been fairly free to do what we want, but the independent freedom allows us to set our own schedule. Since we no longer rely on touring cycles and traditional deadlines, we’re able to work on music until we think it’s good, on our terms, especially when the funds are coming from our supporters, and not loaned to us by a bank [or] label.

BP: You certainly don't have the same restrictions that you may have had on Tooth & Nail Records. There's some raw language on the new record. The Classic Crime has been misclassified as a Christian band by some. Were some lyric choices a way to distance yourself from that false classification?

MM: I don’t think we were restricted by Tooth & Nail Records. I understand a lot of fans of that label have had (in years past) certain expectations from the music that the label put out, and rightly so, as T&N had sort of marketed themselves as the edgy-but-clean counter-culture underbelly of the less edgy and less original mainstream Christian market. We didn’t sign to T&N to be marketed as a Christian band. That was the last thing we wanted. But we did benefit from the built-in fan base, who seemed to resonate with our -- I’ll admit -- sometimes overtly spiritual lyrics. [It'd] be hard to sum up why I felt a conviction to leave the lines I’d written and not censor myself this time in an interview answer, so I’m pointing folks to a podcast series on How to Be Human...that I’ve recorded and been releasing weekly.

BP: You recorded guest vocals on Relient K's "If You Believe Me." What was it like working with them?

MM: It was like this -- I flew to Nashville and Matt Thiessen picked me up at the airport in his VW. Then we drove around and met people and hung out and went out to eat. The next day we went to [producer] Mark Townsend's garage for 30 minutes to yell into a microphone. Then we hung out the rest of the weekend. It was beautiful.

BP: Being from Seattle, how much has the city's rich music history impacted you as an artist?

MM: Grunge impacted me when I was 12. That’s about it. I don’t feel the weight of any music history while living or performing in Seattle. I feel disconnected from all of that. The city has changed so much and is still in a state of constant flux. The only thing that's the same is the weather.

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