Interview: Kevin McClain talks American Aquarium, Jack the Radio, Trans Am Bike Race

Music Photos
Share Tweet Submit Pin
Interview: Kevin McClain talks American Aquarium, Jack the Radio, Trans Am Bike Race

Kevin McClain has been keeping the beat behind a drum kit for nineteen years, eight of which were as the rhythmic heartbeat of Raleigh, NC's Americana juggernaut American Aquarium.  As a professional artist, Kevin's time on tour took him to Europe and through most of the continental US.  More recently, Kevin dove headfirst into cycling, bringing a bike with him as part of his tour kit for the last three years on the road.  Whenever he had the chance, Kevin would hit the pavement well before the band's van headed to the next town, cycling to the next show and arriving in time for soundcheck.  Originally from Kent, Ohio, Kevin has called Raleigh, NC home for the last 20 years of his life.  We sat down with Kevin to find out what's next.

What have you been up to since AA? What are you doing musically now?

Well, I haven't been off the road with AA for long -- it's only been a month now, and I've gone on one bike trip for a week to the Florida keys, which was awesome, but really, I've been laying low and considering what's next.  I've had multiple ideas as far as that's concerned, but I know I don't want to do the amount of touring that AA did.  I'm adamant about not wanting to quit playing music, though, which was never an option.  What I'm doing musically now is playing with a band called Jack the Radio; I've known some of the guys in that band longer than I knew the guys in AA, particularly George and Danny I've known for quite some time.  George happened to go on the last tour with AA, and JTR was in transition and needing a drummer -- I was free, and he offered a spot, and I graciously accepted.  We've got a show coming up at the end of May, which should be fun.

Tell us about the new band.

The band is based out of Raleigh, called Jack the Radio, and like I said, I've known Danny and George for a while.  The band is going through some changes, and with some transitions in members of the rhythm section, there are some big shoes to fill -- I'm looking forward to the new direction that comes out of new players being added to a band that is excited to create, play some shows, and have some fun.

What's next? Any rides?

Since I'm transitioning out of the full-time touring band lifestyle, usually with 200+ days out on the road traveling -- which can be fulfilling -- I'm looking forward to having more of a normal life.  Stay in one spot, regional tours, travel on my own time, have a better chance of maintaining a successful relationship... those are my career goals right now, while still making an effort to keep playing music.  As far as cycling life, I'm weighing the ins and out of the "long rides", but regardless, I'm always trying to spend time on the bike.  I'm actually preparing for a race across the US.

Wow! How do you prep for a race like that?

The one I'm doing is Trans Am Bike Race and is around 4,300 miles, and is self supported. There are rules about how no one can send you supplies, meet you along the route -- you've got to be pretty much self-sufficient, which is the kind of cycling I've been doing.  I recently watched a documentary called Inspired to Ride, which shows some super bad-ass cyclists doing the race at incredible pace for being self supported, sleeping outside, and pushing the limits of fatigue.  I learned a lot from that documentary about what to prepare gear wise, but mostly mental preparation of compounded fatigue.  I've been doing long rides to try to get my health in line, and the best course of action seems to be to do the race, get a feel for it, and maybe go back again in a year or two and try to do it even better.  At this point I've got nothing to lose, and lots to gain in the future. 

Tell us about your book.

It all came about by bringing a bicycle on tour with AA, which I was gracious that the guys put with with it taking up space that it did -- and occasionally bailing me out in a few situations.  I've always loved taking photos, and AA was touring so much that we never were creative musically on the road, so photography was kind of an artistic release in the context of being on the road.  The bike was a release in itself; anyone who has toured in a band knows that it's good to have some sort of healthy activities you can do like running, cycling, etc...  I would go out and ride in the morning or before a show and take pictures of anything that I saw while traveling from state to state and country to country.  People coming to our shows took notice that I was doing this, and multiple people across social media platforms suggested making a coffee table book, which was never my intent -- it was really about enjoying myself and having a way to remember the ride -- but I've always said part of the schtick of putting the bike in the picture is to see that I have this bike that I assembled, in this place that I'm in.  At the end of it all, I've got a few coffee table books which I've sold -- one completely for a charitable cause, another that started as a fundraiser for some friends, and eventually one that I sold for myself, because I'm poor.  I've done three in total.  They've been a lot of fun, and if there's a demand for them, I'll do it, and if not, I'll just keep doing what I've always done, which is to ride and take pictures.

Catch Kevin and Jack the Radio performing Saturday, May 27, 2017

Charlotte Metro Credit Union Amphitheatre,  1000 NC Music Factory Boulevard Charlotte, NC

Find Kevin's book online