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MIKE PESCA, host:

Superchunk is out with a new album - its first in nine years. Eighty Superchunk is out with a new album - its first in nine years. Eighty percent of the audience said, okay; 15 percent said, cool; and a very small percent said yes, yes, my life is complete! Superchunk, the Chapel Hill, North Carolina, band that formed in 1989, inspires that kind of passion. Their music is guitar-rific, melodic, defiant, simultaneously complex and accessible. Adjectives, who cares? Let's hear the music.

(Soundbite of song, "Digging for Something")

PESCA: That's some of the opening track, "Digging for Something," off the band's new album, "Majesty Shredding." Mac McCaughan is the guitarist, singer and songwriting force behind Superchunk. He and Superchunk's bassist, Laura Ballance, are the co-founders of the indie rock label Merge Records, which just had its first number one album: Arcade Fire's "The Suburbs."

Hey, Mac, thanks for coming on.

Mr. MAC McCAUGHAN (Superchunk): Thanks for having me.

PESCA: So nine years later - did the gap feel weird?

Mr. McCAUGHAN: The gap started to feel weird after a while, I guess. We were still semiactive. I mean, we played a few shows every year, and that was always really fun. So I think at a certain point after doing that for a while, we just figured wow, it'd be even better to keep doing these shows and have some new songs to play. So in some ways, we reverted to how things worked in the first couple of albums - where I would write songs, make demos and send them around. And then we would get together for a couple of days before recording, and learn three or four songs.

And so we did three or four sessions like that over the course of a year until we had an album. And it worked out and I think that in some ways, because we weren't working on it for such long, intensive periods of time, there's a lot of energy in the record, and there's a good feeling about it.

(Soundbite of music)

PESCA: And the title, "Majesty Shredding," I read that it's an idea for a yet-to-be-invented, kind of cool editing tool, like Autotune - except if the sound doesn't sound right, you would say oh, let's just put it through Majesty Shredding; it'll sound good in post-production, after we run it through that application?

Mr. McCAUGHAN: One of the jokes about it was that Scott Solter, who produced the record, was S- cott would be sitting in the control room saying, yeah, that sounded great, you guys. Okay, one more time. And we were doing a lot of takes. And so I guess the joke was, you know - like, come on, Scott, can't you just, like, put on the Majesty Shredding app and just like, fix all this for us, and we can stop playing this song over and over again?

But I think that making us do these songs until it was the best possible take really helped the record a lot.

PESCA: But the best possible take doesn't necessarily mean it couldn't have warts, and it couldn't have kind of jangly rough edges, right? That's not how you would define best?

Mr. McCAUGHAN: No, it's not that. I mean, there's mistakes - and just weird stuff that happens in the spur of the moment is often what makes a song memorable, or makes it different than just the best-played song. But at the same time, I think that, you know, you want it to be the best representation of that song that you can get, just meaning that it has the energy and the feeling that you want.

PESCA: Okay. So let's not get, you know, too into the deep, line reading of the lyrics. But just in terms of the feeling or one of the ideas you expressed on a song we actually referenced, which is "My Gap Feels Weird," I notice that you're kind of singing to kids, right? You're saying, here is a song for the shadows on the curb, collars up, they're saying.

(Soundbite of song, "My Gap Feels Weird")

SUPERCHUNK: (Singing) Collars up, they're saying. You don't even know us, and you never will.

PESCA: You don't even know us, and you never will. You're talking to kids. And could you just talk about being the age you are now and maybe singing to a group and - a different age group than you did years ago?

Mr. McCAUGHAN: I think that song is kind of about going to rock shows and feeling slightly alienated, looking around, not knowing anybody there mainly because they're all 20 years younger than me. But at the same time, being kind of into that, and being into how into the music the people at the club are, you know what I mean - and trying to accept, look, if this wasn't happening, then there wouldn't be anything new going on.

(Soundbite of song, "My Gap Feels Weird")

SUPERCHUNK: (Singing) Oh, my gap feels weird. Oh, my gap feels weird. Oh, my gap feels weird. Oh, my gap feels weird...

Mr. McCAUGHAN: Just to assume that like, we're the only ones that have the good music and you silly kids, you don't know what you're doing down here, you know what I mean? That's kind of like a backwards way to look at things.

PESCA: See, I kind of like that. As a man in my late 30s myself, when rock bands have put aside this idea of not trusting anyone over 35, and hope I die before I get old - I mean, why does that have to be the ethos of rock, you know?

Mr. McCAUGHAN: Yeah. I mean, look, some of the bands we work with on Merge are half my age, but a lot of the records I listen to are made by people who are 20 or more years older than me. So I think it's just all over the place in terms of where good music comes from.

PESCA: Speaking of Merge, OK Go and a couple of other bands, they've gone off-label. They want to do it themselves. I've heard OK Go in interviews talking about how a label rolls the dice on a lot of bands, and hopes one can make it huge and the other ones become loss leaders.

Mr. McCAUGHAN: I mean, that may be how a major label operates in terms of putting a bunch of money out there and hoping that something sticks. Contrary to that, what a small label can, hopefully, do is be flexible. In other words, put out a record by a band that's maybe their first record, they're only going to sell 2,000, 5,000 copies, or something like that of a record, but then be able to scale up.

If a band gets big - you know, like, Spoon or Arcade Fire or She and Him - the role of a label now is just as important as ever. You can find anything on the Internet and consequently, you can't find anything because there's just so much stuff out there. I mean, again, for me as a fan, I think labels are a useful filter.

(Soundbite of music)

PESCA: First record since 2001, is there a song on the new record that displays something that you couldn't have done nine years ago?

Mr. McCAUGHAN: I don't think that there's anything that we couldn't have done. I think that a song like "Slow Drip" or "Rope Light" are maybe songs that are much more stripped down than anything that we were coming up with as a band nine years ago.

(Soundbite of song, "Rope Light")

Mr. McCAUGHAN: As far as the last album we did, it's got a lot of stuff going on. And the new record's, I think, a lot more direct. And I think there's a lot more punk rock on the new record.

PESCA: That's Mac McCaughan, front man of the indie rock band Superchunk. Their new album is called "Majesty Shredding." He joined us from the studios of WUNC in Durham, North Carolina.

Mac, thank you.

Mr. McCAUGHAN: Thank you so much.

(Soundbite of song, "Rope Light")

PESCA: And to hear Superchunk live in concert, you can visit our website, npr.org.

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