We had the good fortune of connecting with Meghan McDonald and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Meghan, what’s something about your industry that outsiders are probably unaware of?
I think it’s pretty common knowledge that the music industry is not very fair to musicians, but folks would probably be surprised to hear just how bad it is. I also work in film and have been able to get gigs that pay — sometimes pretty well. But with music, that is far less often the case. I’m generalizing, but it seems to be that folks either have to have contacts in the industry or be independently wealthy (or, at the very least, stable) to become successful earlier. And considering how streaming services are also kind of a scam, it can be discouraging. So it’s a pretty steady, slow climb becoming a professional musician — you have to be somewhat of a masochist and really in love with your craft to stick with it for longer than a few years.
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
I am the lead in the band Queen Frequency & The Twats. I also work with visuals and film. I especially love when I get to work with a combination of music AND film. A lot of my art is camp-y and DIY in spirit — I love the innovation and know-how required to make projects on a small budget look professional. As far as what I’m most proud of, Queen Frequency’s first album “Observations of a Lonely Planet, Part I” was an extremely challenging feat. Our sound is symphonic-rock style, which is hard to accomplish on a small budget. But it was made possible through collaborating with amazing artists/producers/engineers and being obsessive about the details. The album tells a cute story of the demise of Earth from the perspective of a classroom studying some of our present issues in the future. The project is a very strange one — and it’s meant to take listeners/viewers by surprise. Part II expands even more — and there sure is a lot to write about after 2020. I tend to prefer projects that form slowly; it feels more satisfying to see the end result, to me, when each piece has been carefully considered and not rushed.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
I always try to take folks to Downtown Los Angeles. DTLA is one of the most interesting, vibrant places in Los Angeles (in my opinion), but I think a lot of folks seem to avoid DTLA because of the uncomfortable aspects, like homelessness. I don’t like to sugarcoat LA to visitors — homelessness is a huge issue we need to solve as a city. And if folks are going to visit LA, I think it’s better to give the full picture. Besides DTLA, I love taking folks to wander around Topanga Canyon, to see the skateboarders in Venice Beach, out to eat at Jitlada and Sage, The Last Bookstore and FOLD Gallery, to a dispensary (or five), a farmers market, concerts and Moonlight Rollerway.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
I think musicians and songwriters themselves need more credit and recognition. Music is such a crucial part of our culture, and it has become corporatized. The opportunities are given to a few, perhaps board-selected individuals. It’s not diverse enough; and when an industry is controlled by marketers, the innovation goes down because they want what’s safe — not what is original. Independent musicians shouldn’t have to (metaphorically speaking) walk 300 miles, trudge through a swamp, climb four mountains, swim across the ocean, go through the Earth’s core and build a tunnel to make a living off of such an essential cultural outlet. It takes so much effort and resources to even make music, and folks treat it as if people listening is thanks enough. Musicians deserve to get paid for their music. And they deserve a more diplomatic approach of getting a turn for their music to be listened to than these mysterious playlist curators that play this godlike role on who is “good enough” or not.
Photos by Michael Bagnato and Meghan McDonald