Something Corporate's Andrew McMahon fights cancer. As he releases a personal new solo record, he faces the battle of his life

Everything in Transit

This wasn’t the summer he expected. Andrew McMahon, the 22-year-old lead singer and keyboardist of the emo punk band Something Corporate, was going to tour the country showcasing songs from his new solo project, Jack’s Mannequin. But then he canceled a May 26 New Jersey concert because he couldn’t seem to beat a bad case of laryngitis. His doctor, worried over his wan appearance, sent him in for blood tests. McMahon was diagnosed with acute lymphatic leukemia on the same day he completed the recording of Jack’s Mannequin’s debut album, Everything in Transit. Then, in another freakish twist of fate, his record landed in stores on Aug. 23, the same day he was set to receive a bone marrow transplant.

”The week I was diagnosed,” says McMahon, speaking on the phone from his Los Angeles hospital room days before his treatment, ”my label said, ‘Do you want us to put your record out?’ If anything, getting cancer during what was shaping up to be the pinnacle moment of my career thus far, it just didn’t seem right to stop and wait and just hope that this goes away. To me, it seemed like, somehow, this record and this disease really tied up together.”

Everything in Transit documents McMahon’s life back home in Southern California after touring nonstop for three years with Something Corporate. Shredded by a bad breakup, and unfamiliar with a layman’s life off a tour bus, he refers to that year and a half as its own kind of ”sickness.” He nursed himself through it with the distraction of good friends and the artistic release of unhurried songwriting. When McMahon went into the studio, he used his own money, spending upwards of 40 grand before Maverick Records came aboard. ”From the beginning, this hasn’t been a bureaucratic label process,” says McMahon.

His goal was to craft a record modeled after personal favorites like the Beach Boys’ Pet Sounds, Weezer’s Blue Album, and Tom Petty’s Wildflowers. ”The huge thing was to cover those dark moments,” he says about Transit‘s 11 tracks, which bring to mind Ben Folds washed over with Fall Out Boy riffs, ”but then to actually see the hope that comes out of hard times. What I’m doing now seems to mirror that experience, only in a much more physical manifestation.” He pauses to laugh. ”I think I wrote my healing record before I got sick.”

Resolutely upbeat and serene during a time that would knock an average man flat, he says that this week of twice-daily full-body radiation blasts hasn’t left him feeling all that lousy. He made himself a mixtape (evidently a passion; the anthemic ”The Mixed Tape” is the album’s first single) to listen to during the 40-minute radiation sessions: live versions of the Beach Boys’ ”In My Room” and ”Surfer Girl,” Tom Petty’s ”Time to Move On,” Cat Stevens’ ”Wild World,” Death Cab for Cutie’s ”Tiny Vessels” and ”Transatlanticism,” Bob Marley’s ”Could You Be Loved,” and the Beatles’ ”Penny Lane.” He’s got Eastern philosophy books on his hospital nightstand, along with some David Sedaris and Lance Armstrong’s It’s Not About the Bike.

On Tuesday, an IV bag full of his older sister’s stem cells will be dripped into him. If the procedure works, ”which it will,” he says, he’ll have a new immune system. He’ll spend the next few months recuperating at his parents’ house, visiting regularly with his doctor. ”And then my hope is that by Christmas, I’ll get my bone marrow biopsy back and see that I kicked cancer.”

Within the year, McMahon likes to imagine himself back on stage in front of an audience, pounding away at the piano, cancer-free at 23. ”I’ve already cried thinking about that first concert,” he says, his warm voice catching for just a second.

Everything in Transit
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