When a band like Superchunk—a band that has existed for more than two decades and is partly composed of a couple that also runs the beloved Merge Records—names their album I Hate Music, of course the assumption is that they're being ironic. They don't hate music; they are music! But singer Mac McCaughan assures me the title of their new album isn't completely a joke. "People keep saying that [the album title] is ironic, and I don't think that it is. It's a real feeling—it may be a passing feeling, it may be something that's fleeting, it's probably not a feeling that I would've said that I ever had 15 or 20 years ago, but as I get older, it's something I feel occasionally."
So instead of talking about music, because honestly, I can hate music too sometimes, I took advantage of the very rare opportunity to do a band interview and talk about something else I love very much: hockey. McCaughan is a longtime Carolina Hurricanes fan, something he often tweets about during hockey season, and I was hoping he hated the Vancouver Canucks as much as I do.
I'm really excited to talk to you because I am also a hockey fan.
Oh really, so are you a Vancouver fan? Or who's your team?
Oh, no. I hate the Canucks. I married a Nashvillian, so I'm a fan of the Nashville Predators.
You and Kurt Wagner [of Lambchop]. I text with Kurt during the hockey season about our various ups and downs.
In those moments when you are frustrated with music, or burned out, what are some of the other things you turn to? Hockey is obviously one of them.
I love hockey. It doesn't replace music for me, but since we got an NHL team [in North Carolina], that rekindled my interest in hockey that I had as a kid. I think it's awesome having the team here—I hope they stay here, even though they've had some not-great years recently. I don't know what they do in Nashville, but before the players skate out on the ice here, they start playing "Rock You Like a Hurricane" by the Scorpions, and right before that happens, someone always cranks the hurricane siren. I got to do it last season, which was pretty awesome.
That's rad! With the Predators, unfortunately, they play that "I Like It, I Love It" song. That's their goal song. Sigh.
Let's see, Scorpions or Tim McGraw... I'll take the Scorpions.
You should! When I'm at a game in Nashville, I find myself standing up when they cheer, and singing and dancing along with that song. As soon as the passion of the goal is over, I just sit down, and it's like "I don't even know myself anymore."
[Laughs] That's hilarious.
It's funny what hockey will do to you.
No, it is! I had one of my worst hockey-watching experiences in Seattle in 2006. It was game six of the finals between the Oilers and the Hurricanes, and the 'Canes were up three games to two. It was an away game in Edmonton, but I was in Seattle, I don't remember why, and I found a sports bar that had the game on, and everyone was cheering for Edmonton. I guess just because they're Western Conference or something, I don't know, but Edmonton killed us! They killed us. In retrospect, I'm glad the 'Canes lost that game, because I had tickets to game seven. But when I was flying home from Seattle, there were all these people on the plane in Oilers jerseys. I had to be in the airport and on the plane with all these Edmonton fans. But the 'Canes won game seven, and it was amazing, and I was there.
Were you wearing your 'Canes jersey on the flight?
You know, that's one thing I don't do because they're all so gigantic—I can't wear clothes that big. It's just not good for me. At that point in the play-offs, I'm sure I had the most convoluted superstition going on about what I needed to wear to that game. You know what I mean? Like, okay, I wore this Hurricanes T-shirt to game two and they won, so I need to wear that in combination with this sweatshirt. I know I had some sort of superstition thing worked out.
Did you grow a play-off beard?
I think that I did, yes, but I would need to, like, not shave for a year for it to look like a play-off beard.
I remember when Nashville made it to the finals and got kicked out by Vancouver, when Alex Burrows bit someone and then Ryan Kesler took a dive.
[Laughs] Oh my god.
I am so mad at Vancouver. It's terrible! Vancouver are bullies and they dive too much. And I don't like the Sedins brothers.
The Sedins are good, too, that's the problem.
Yeah, if they were on the Predators...
Oh yeah, you'd be so psyched.
Are there any players you have that relationship with?
I'm sure it would be someone like Zdeno Chara. The teams we play the most and have the biggest rivalries with would be Boston, Washington, and the Sabres. We've ousted the Sabres from the play-offs more than once, and there are fights in the parking lot with Buffalo fans that come down for the games. I watched a Buffalo fan punch a Carolina fan—I'm sure they were talking shit out the window of their car, but the guy just reached into the other guy's car to punch him in the face after Carolina beat the Sabres.
What if people were like that at Superchunk shows? Like what if you played with, I don't know, the Pixies or something, and some guy was like, "Whatever, Mac's guitar tone is way better than Frank Black's!" and then got punched by a Pixies fan through a car window!
[Laughs] I can't condone fan-on-fan violence.