Patrick McGuire’s dream-pop act Straight White Teeth excels in creating hazy, synth-driven shoegaze music with crisp delivery. Having put out a handful of well-received releases over the past year, the ex-Denver musician is in the middle of a creative hot streak.
After his former band, Flashbulb Fires, unexpectedly disintegrated in 2014, McGuire and his girlfriend went through a series of relocations around North America: Philly, New York, Toronto, Michigan, back to Denver, then the West Coast, back to Philly briefly, then finally New Mexico, where they have settled. He also had a nasty bike accident that resulted in a broken elbow and two surgeries. Naturally, he spent some time in creative flux, pondering what was next for him as a musician.
Upon getting over what he describes as “feeling sorry for himself,” McGuire found his way back to his synth, ready to record under the new band name Straight White Teeth in 2015; he eventually added a bandmate, Paige Pfleger.
The constant movement around North America deeply affected McGuire’s music, creating an air of uncertainty in his songs. With the new material and changes in his life, McGuire has embraced a creative groove and has decided to “ride the wave of that uncertainty and get the good out of it.”
Straight White Teeth has released three singles as part of a series that McGuire has dubbed "Physical Truth," which details his time moving around North America. The new music has provided an opportunity for him to explore his boundaries as a songwriter and what he can accomplish as a producer.
With at least two more singles ready to drop, the series is still going strong.
As a way to keep up with the voracious hunger for new music, McGuire has mostly stopped releasing full-length albums over multiple years and instead drops smaller works on a more regular basis, thus keeping his music relevant for listeners.
“I decided to encapsulate the last year of traveling and living this crazy lifestyle through this living playlist," he explains. "It’s this open-ended idea, where every few months I release one single that I wrote last year. It’s almost like, why would you wait to put out a new album every few years with the amount of music that comes out each day? It’s going to get buried, and people are going to forget about you in that time.”
After the 2017 single “Lifetime” blew up on the L.A.-based radio station KCRW, McGuire tasked himself with making the most of his swelling popularity by rolling out the new singles and thoughtfully planning what’s next for Straight White Teeth.
Aesthetically, he would be hard-pressed to find a better landscape for his sound than New Mexico's. However, music isn’t the only reason he moved. It was as much a personal decision as a creative one.
“We chose Taos because it’s gorgeous, has amazing history, is really quiet, really safe, and close to Denver, where our families are. For me, I tried the East Coast thing, being like, 'I’m going to be a serious musician' and giving my music career the best chance I can give it. But it ended up with me working all the time and putting out multiple fires just to be able to be there.”
Many things have triggered the change in McGuire’s career arc, including the moving around, breaking his elbow and meeting Pfleger. However, perhaps the most meaningful change came from McGuire initially pursing autonomy and control as an artist.
“When Flashbulb Fires broke up, one of my big things was that I had kept saying, 'Hey, we need to be writing new music. We need to be less safe. We don’t need to tour with this same album for two years. We need to put out more music and be more fearless and exploratory,'" he says.
“I’ve gotten everything that I’ve wanted in terms of autonomy and freedom with Straight White Teeth, but kind of never in a way that I had imagined," he adds.
The new perspective on creating has pushed McGuire into areas of music-making that he’s excited about. He’s eager to make more music, and is contemplating releasing an EP or full-length album in the future.
As he continues to maintain a new appreciation for simply being able to bend his arm enough to play that new music, McGuire has also found peace with where he is physically and in his music career.
“Doing anything in music is fucking heartbreaking. It’s hard. Even if you’ve had any amount of success, it’s hard. It’s easy to blame your scene, other bands, or another band that made it when you didn’t," he notes. "But at the end of the day, all you can do is make music, try your very best and say something meaningful with it.”
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