band crush: grave

meet grace mckagan, lead singer of the pink slips

All photos by John Michael Fulton

Grace McKagan has been obsessed with music all her life, and growing up as the daughter of Guns N' Roses bassist, Duff McKagan, it kind of makes sense. But it wasn't until she hit high school that McKagan took that obsession and got proactive with it. So while the rest of her classmates were busy obsessing over the school football team, McKagan was posting fliers for her band's upcoming shows. That band is called The Pink Slips, which McKagan started when she was 15, which, three years later, are still performing their synth-y rock all over the west coast. As GRAVE—her musical alter ego—McKagan, fronts the band with ferocity and the confidence of an old pro. And she's only 18.  

How did your career get started?
I started doing musical theatre when I was a kid, and that's where I realized my love for performing on stage. I started my band, The Pink Slips, when I was 15 with a friend as an acoustic duo. The more I started writing songs and doing shows, the more I realized what direction musically I was interested in, and that's moving around a lot on stage and being loud, making a statement with my sound and visions. 

Where do you hope to be professionally in five years?
Selling out shows, touring, as well as being associated with the fashion industry. When I'm on stage, I like to wear makeup and clothes that represent my alter ego, GRAVE (an immortal synth-pop goddess who has arisen for the dead in order to reclaim her throne in modern-day pop culture), and convey her vibe through both music and visuals. 

What is your favorite driving music?
Electric Light Orchestra, specifically their album Time

Whose career would you most like to emulate?
I cherrypick from other people's careers, like Lady Gaga, David Bowie, Iggy Pop, Alice Cooper, Blondie, and so on—and I make it my own. 

If you had to live in a past time, what do you think would be the most fun era and why?
The '70s, because I find so much emotional connection to the glam-rock and punk scenes—I'm fascinated with the glitz and glamour and rawness.

What activities do most enjoy doing alone?
Watching movies that I feel have impacted my outlook on life. I always find that, for some reason, most of these movies I have discovered on my own and watched alone for the first time, like Velvet Goldmine.

How do you wind down before bed?
I always fall asleep when watching a movie, regardless of the time of day. My boyfriend can confirm this. 

What kind of person were you in high school?
Well, I only graduated two months ago, but I never really felt completely welcome by some of the people at my school. I transferred as a sophomore, and it was a private Catholic school in the Valley that emphasized its overindulgent fascination with sports, specifically football. As you can imagine, I felt a bit different and restless, and honestly, even annoyed with some of the jock-y and flat out douche-y people, both girls and boys. I did, however, find a few close friends who are into the same things as me, like art, fashion, and music. 

What’s a serious side of you that people are unlikely to know about? Either in terms of interests, hobbies, or personality?
I think a lot of my “peers” or “friends” would be surprised to know I take my music seriously. I think a lot of people in school did not take me seriously when I would put up flyers for weekend shows or even invite them. Only a few of my friends actually came out to shows we had during high school, but I do know I can't expect every person to come. I just really appreciate when people actually do show up to gigs, when I see familiar faces in the crowd, I feel gracious.