“I used to have to say I was happy,” admits SUPER WHATEVR frontman Skyler McKee. “But now I actually am.”
It’s taken the Orange County-based songwriter a long time to get to this place. When his parents’ marriage unraveled, the cascading effects permeated virtually every piece of McKee’s psyche, resulting in one of the darkest periods of his life. At times, the personal and spiritual growth ultimately found on Super Whatevr’s sophomore LP don’t you wanna be glad?(due out February 2020 on Hopeless Records) seemed completely out of reach.
But despite the hard times that inspired it, don’t you wanna be glad? isn’t awash in sorrow. Rather, Super Whatevr’s new spin on soaring alternative pop (“I want to explore the genre in new ways,” McKee says) deftly juxtaposes the singer’s introspective soul-searching with a pastel-hued bright sheen: Songs like the R&B-infused trop-pop “sober.” and stomping “yours truly” are among the most buoyant Super Whatevr songs to date, boasting an undeniable vibrancy that implores listeners to dance away life’s dark days, while the album’s more industrial moments–“life (i want u).” and “wesleepwedream.” –mark bold new entries into the band’s musical playbook.
Produced by Courtney Ballard (Good Charlotte, Waterparks), the 12-song set follows the band’s 2017’sGood Luck EP and 2018’s Never Nothing in both in time and theme. Composed as a linear narrative tracing McKee’s path from unrest to inner peace, don’t you wanna be glad? calls back lyrical elements from Super Whatevr’s previous albums to create as cohesive and deeply personal record as the duo–McKee and drummer Chase Vernon–have ever made.
Since releasing Never Nothing, Super Whatevr has been a constant on the road, and large-scale touring with the likes of Sum 41 and The Wonder Years and spots at Riot Fest and So What?! Music Festival have taught McKee key lessons about the value of authenticity, especially when it comes to connecting with audiences on a personal level.
Right on cue, don’t you wanna be glad? projects outward in a more universal way than anything he’s written in the past. There’s an innately relatable quality to songs like “so am i.” and “i wanna be cool.” (ft. Lost Boy), a shared pain and longing that let us know we’re not alone–and, more importantly, that we ourselves have the power to change our life’s trajectory.
“This album is about the pursuit of joy” McKee says. “I had to spend time deconstructing what it is that makes me glad.”
He found it in therapy, in God, in creating healthy boundaries and learning to love himself–things he admits now seem like easy solutions but nevertheless took a while to actually reach. This slow climb to self-fulfillment is front and center on first single “better.”, with a music video prominently featuring American Sign Language and members of the LGBTQ+ community as part of McKee’s continued quest to elevate historically underrepresented groups.
“That song is me saying, ‘OK, I’ve cut out the people from my life who are disrespectful. I’m doing things that are progressing my relationships. Why am I not happy?’” he asks. “I thought I was doing this to be happy. Why aren’t these things giving me joy?”
The answer arrives on the album’s closing track, the ’80s-drenched “melancholyism.”–an ode to McKee’s now-wife that proves his journey to find joy was ultimately worth the struggle. “I tend to be more of an introvert, and I’ve always wanted someone I could be alone with,” he says. “Now I’ve got my wife and my plants. So many plants.”
Just as importantly, he learned he wasn’t actually looking for happiness at all throughout everything he went through. Because, at its core, happiness isn’t a state of being–rather a temporary emotion that’s all too fleeting. Instead, McKee has found something way better: a new perspective that’s served as his steadying force through this next chapter of his life.
“I used to think I wanted to pursue happiness, but I realized that was kind of selfish,” he says. “Contentment is what changed my life. In the end, I’ve found joy being content with the things I have.” XX