A Chat With Mike McFadden Of Animal Years Discussing The Band’s New Anthemic Single ‘What I’m Fighting For’, & More

For four minutes and three seconds, Music City indie pop-rock band Animal Years provides an uplifting, soul-filling anthem in their latest single “What I’m Fighting For.”

It has every element that makes for a feel-good, inspiring song: strong rhythm, contagious groove, and a resounding chorus that makes your heart soar with hope and fervor.

The single comes in anticipation of their first full-length album since 2014, This is An Album Called Animal Years, which will be released in two parts each containing five songs. “What I’m Fighting For” will appear on the first half, and the full album will include two brand new songs that weren’t on either EP, which is set to drop June 18th.

The band has already seen much success with their previous hit “Caroline,” which has amassed over seven million streams on Spotify. Since “What I’m Fighting For” contains comparable traits of positivity, catchiness, and general likeability, it seems destined to garner a similar response from fans.

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And the sky seems to be the limit for the group. With the same sort of encouraging messages and infectious sounds as fellow rock band The Score, who historically have been featured in many advertisements and televised sports games, Animal Years could potentially exploit those kinds of avenues to take their exposure to new heights. Some of lead singer and guitarist Mike McFadden’s early solo work has already been used in commercials, so the foundations have been set for prosperity.

Strong work ethic, honest music, and a forward-looking attitude has helped the band stay not only afloat but ahead of the curve. From jumping between cities to playing shows nonstop, putting the listeners first has earned them a steadily-growing following attracted to their groundedness.

McFadden took the time to give us insight into their history, their upcoming album, and what making music means for them, including what they hope for their fans to get out of enjoying it.

So I was hoping you could give us a brief intro to how the band came together?

Sure! I was writing music under my own name in my hometown of Baltimore when Anthony Saladino (bass) hit me up and started to convince me to move to Brooklyn where he was living. I knew Anthony through a mutual friend, and we had played some music together a couple years earlier. I finally decided to move up in 2012 and we quickly found Anthony Spinnato (drums) through another mutual friend and the band was formed quickly thereafter. 

What prompted the move from Brooklyn to Nashville?

We fell in love with Nashville when we recorded here for the entire month of February in 2019. We worked with producer Paul Moak and ended up working almost every day to craft these 12 songs. Afterward, we had a talk and Saladino and I decided we wanted a change of scenery and lifestyle. Spinnato has been in NYC for 10 years and decided to stay put for the time being. 

I see where you say you will “always be louder than the other bands on the bill.” Might this be seen as a challenge to other acts you (eventually) will be playing with?

Haha! I hope not. We don’t try to be that way, but it just turns out that way. Spinnato is a monster on the drums, usually breaking or knocking something over when he’s really feeling a specific tune. My amp only sounds good loud and I’ve got a loud voice. I just thinks the music comes through best with some heavy volume behind it!

And your new single, “What I’m Fighting For,” just dropped. What’s the story or inspiration behind this song?

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I remember just being in one of those places where l was hyper-focused on where l was in my career, where l thought l should be, how many more years could l do this, and so on. I had been doubting myself on whether l could keep it going, and eventually l got fed up and wrote this song, essentially talking to myself, and telling myself that l can’t ever give this thing up. I got into music because l wanted to be creative and l wanted to do that for a living. This song just reminds me and anyone else who’s listening to not give up when the road to your dreams gets hard.

Of course songs have different energies that can be used to fuel different activities. What can you envision fans doing while listening to this track? 

This song is meant to apply to everyone. A person training for a 100-mile race or someone who is literally just trying to get up in the morning and make it through their day. I hope anyone who is struggling or trying to reach a goal can get fired up from this song. 

What stood out about this song to you that made you want to release it as a single as opposed to others?

The universal message. In a time of so much uncertainty and especially as a band that can’t tour and can’t do much besides sit at home and wait for things to get better; l thought it would be a bold statement after a year since our last live show to release this song and let everyone know we’re still here and still standing throughout this whole crisis. 

What made you decide to release your newest album in two parts before combining them for the full-length collection?

We were touring so much during our last album cycle, we never actually sat down and wrote a new album all at once. Instead, we took random songs from the past and some new ones from recent months and years and tried to put together something special. We’re trying to make it very clear that these songs span years of writing and genre influences. We decided to split it up into smaller groups of songs that made sense sonically.

Can you tell us how the songwriting process works within the band, including how writing on the road differs from when you’re home?

I usually record a very rough demo of a song (vocals, guitar, programmed drums, bass) and then bring it to the band. From there we flesh it out together and the guys add their own flavor to the song which helps make it unique and sounding like us. Not much writing goes on on the road, but when I’m feeling extra inspired we will set up a small recording rig in a hotel room and work on some new songs in the same way.

You mentioned that the music scene in Brooklyn suited you more than the one in Baltimore. How is Nashville different from both of these cities, and do you feel like you fit the mold here the same way you did in New York?

Nashville is a country-based city with a strong emphasis on songwriting. I certainly feel like we fit the mold here well because of our rock and alt-country comparisons we get. New York definitely entertains more genres but after finding our sound we knew we would have no problem fitting in here.

What can fans look forward to from Animal Years as we trudge into 2021?

Lots of new music! Some new content including music videos directed by Anthony Saladino. Hopefully, some touring but there are no guarantees.

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