What’s Your Type? Greg McLeod Mixes Music and Personality Theory

It’s been around a century since Carl Jung first proposed that personalities could fit certain archetypes, and it was a good half century after when someone was daring enough to try and prove it. The result was the Myers-Briggs test, a psychological examination designed to categorize people into 16 distinct personalities—all with their own strengths, weaknesses, and ways of perceiving the world. Since the test came out, there have been oodles of papers written on it; some praiseful, some calling it pseudoscience. Some corporations use it to cast their potential hires; others dismiss it completely. There’s been a lot done with the Myers-Briggs, but we’d put a lot of money down to say that Greg McLeod is the first person to ever make an album out of it.

McLeod, mostly known for his work as a member of Good for Grapes, is the portrait of an odd intellectual. He first stumbled upon personality theory when inspiration struck him while he was working in a vegan restaurant in Montreal—the hive of many a creative mind. Since then, he’s recorded MB-LP, an experimental album with a song for every personality type, based off of actual testing and interviews with over 80 test subjects who Greg gently persuaded to take the test.

That’s not to say you’d know it on listening: it’s an eclectic album, to be sure, but McLeod’s multi-instrumental flair, diverse loops, and creative vocal approaches make it an album well worth a listen even if you’re not very interested in the reality of the human mind. McLeod is a vigorously creative artist (typical INTP) and the breadth of his talent really shows on MB-LP.

When I meet McLeod, it’s in a quiet Main Street coffee shop, and within 20 minutes we’ve completed our interview, remarked on the folly on thinking guitars are cooler than violins, and he’s given me a quick lesson on why passenger pigeons are now extinct. It’s clear to me now how someone has the audacity and know-how to tackle an album with so huge a concept as personality itself; if MB-LP is an experimental process, McLeod is the brilliantly mad scientist at the control panel.

So Greg, what’s been up?

I put this album out not too long ago, and now I’m working on my next album. I’ve got around 30 demos right now… it’s a completely different project, but for now we’re promoting this one.

What inspired you?

I had two waves of interest in personality theory. I was working in a vegan restaurant in Montreal, doing dishes, and I had a lot of time to think, so I wrote on a napkin “Personality = essence + experience”, and I had no idea what that meant. So I just hung it up, looked at it, and decided I should do some research into what people actually thought about the subject. It’s pretty soft science—we have theories, but we’re not able to test the theories empirically until neuroscience catches up. I made all my friends take the Myers-Briggs—everyone I knew in music. I got people’s results and then started talking to them about whether they believed in them—I was worried about it being too horoscopy and based on confirmation bias. But after I went over it with people, they had all these weird quirks and world views—everyone imagines that someone sees the world the same way that they do. Doing this project really forced me to confront the fact that people are very different, and even though we might project what we think someone successful is doing, the truth is often very different.

It’s pretty crazy that this all started at a vegan restaurant. After all that testing, did you find any results between music and personality?

There’s a bit of literature on the Myers-Briggs, but there really isn’t much on how it correlates to music. When I first started looking at it, it didn’t seem like there was a connection. It would seem like it’s something more dependent on your personal exposure and experience. But after talking to a bunch of people and looking around on internet forums and boards for information…. Genre was out, and so was artist. But what I started noticing is not the type of music that personalities were interested in, but the mood. You notice things with tempo and energy. I made copious notes and giant charts for all that stuff.

ENTJ comes on with these  really aggressive rapped lyrics—did you find that type had a predisposition to hip hop, or at least to aggressive music?

Before I did the interviews, I created a bunch of loops, and then when I was making the songs I just went about matching the loops to the music, and the rap vocals really just came out of that. But with ENTJ, they’re like the CEO type—they’re big picture people. The second verse of that song was them getting bad at someone not liking an indie band because they’ve gotten popular… ENTJs really value that sort of success, and I wanted to showcase that.

How did your work on this record differ from how you approach Good for Grapes?

I’m really a sideman on Good for Grapes—I don’t do a lot of the writing, so this was a really cool project for me. I actually haven’t tested anyone in the group yet—there are a lot of big personalities in there.

I’ve interviewed Dan twice, so I would agree on that…. You should really type them, if only for the comedy value.

Trust me, I have theories. It’s funny typing people, because you get little quick ways to type people—things like introverted versus extrovert are especially easy.

I know that the Myers-Briggs is based on a 10 point scale—what happened when people landed on the 5?

That’s a large reason why the Myers-Briggs isn’t supported by neuroscience yet—it’s like a forced choice thing. What they ask you on the quiz is “what do you prefere to do in this situation?” but then you get into what you might prefer and what you have to do, and we put on a lot of different masks and modes to do what we do everyday.

What do you think the test really comes down to, then?

I think it’s what energizes and drains us in our lives. Some people are driven by their work, and some people are drained by it as long as their social or romantic or academic life is still fuelling them.

So this album is almost about how people choose to live.

I think so, yes!

So you did all this testing for the record—do you have a psychology background?

Not really! I used to read my mom’s psychology textbook on vacations and stuff, and my mom would say “That’s not normal.” I used to tell her I hadn’t gotten to that point yet. I really wanted to explore the subject, and doing the album really forced me to do that.

You have a lot of different instruments on this record; guitar, piano, brass, not to mention a range of vocal styles. How many instruments do you play exactly?

When I’m touring from Good for Grapes, they call me a Swiss Army Knife—I’m really good at doing a lot of different things. I’m an INTP, so we’re apparently very “Jack of all trades.”  I started playing violin when I was 4, which really helped develop my ear. I then had drums, trombone in my school band, I’ve played guitar since Grade 8—I quit violin to go to guitar. It seemed like the cooler instrument at the time. I also play bass!

My favorite question now: a lot of people when they first start playing music play under some awful band names. What’s the worst name you’ve ever performed under?

Aside from Greg McLeod, I guess?

And Good for Grapes. Well, I guess you could pick that one. I think Dan might have.

No, Said the Whale were the ones who picked their own name when you interviewed them.

Wait, hold up. You did your research.

You gotta prepare yourself! I also knew you wouldn’t ask the Avengers question because I’m only one person.

Anyways, high school band name?

My band actually never even named itself for most of high school—and I was fine with that! But I was in French Immersion, and we had to do a project once where we were partnered in pairs and we had to bring in a francophone band to class and examine their lyrics. So me and my friend Steven decided to just make up a Francophone band. So we told the class that we just found a Francophone band performing at Gilford Mall, and then just put our fake mustaches on and played a song about a man who was in love with a banana. The band name was Banane Ananas—French for “Banana Pineapple”.

Sounds…eventful.

We actually wrote an album’s worth of songs for that band, too! But we named the band around the songs, so we kinda worked backwards.

So, after the dust from this record settles, what’s next?

I think we’ll be finishing the next Good for Grapes record first, but after that I have rough plans for an album based around extinction.

Check out the video for INTP (Keep on Waiting) below:

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