INTERVIEW BY JAMES BOOTON
"I’m not just shouting into the fucking abyss anymore..."
This Friday marks the release of the debut album from one of the most exciting artists in the UK, YUNGBLUD (Dominic Harrison). In the short time we have been running this blog, he will be the first artist that we have been writing about since the very first single, 'King Charles'. Even back then, we could tell that this project would emerge as one of our favourites, and now, with his debut album only 2 days away we thought we would catch up for a chat to discuss his incredible journey.
YOUNG BLUD (THE EARLY DAYS)
As with any solo project, the process of sculpting the personal and musical identity of YUNGBLUD began in his days growing up. He told us that "I loved music as a whole as a kid but a lot of the stuff that stuck out for me was like the Arctic Monkeys – Alex was a big influence to me, just because he got inside my head and knew what I was thinking and he’s never met me. Eminem because I discovered hip-hop myself. I had The Rolling Stones, The Beatles, The Small Faces pushed on me by my family but I found hip-hop by myself. I found Eminem, Busta Rhymes and people like that myself, and that solidified everything. They spoke about real shit in their music and had that undeniable fear to say what they think" . We fell in love with his blend of solid sing-a-long chorus' and angsty, hip-hop influenced verses (best heard on 'I Love You, Will You Marry Me' below), reminiscent of Jamie T. It is refreshing to hear such a mixture of influences, but it is not surprising regarding this upbringing.
Yet, it is not just his music that is influenced by his youth. For someone to become as passionate and driven as he is, they have to have a real reason for making music. YUNGBLUD explained that his own drive comes from the early feeling of not being able to be himself, "I think I was very misunderstood growing up. I always had a lot of energy and was very opinionated - a lot of people mistook that for being naughty or different. People were suppressing my ideas when I was young...all my life in fact. My music is literally like an outburst against that, it is integral to everything". This feeling certainly comes across in lyrics such as "they tried to put me on Ritalin"and "a mistake on the painting of my family". It is this burning desire to express himself freely and reverse the feeling of a contained youth by acting in any mad way he wants to that has attracted the thousands of teenagers and young adults. Nearly all young people in the modern day have felt this feeling at some point in their lives. Thus, YUNGBLUD'S music has united those individuals who have felt unable to express themselves and provided a new worldwide family that acts as an outlet for all the 'yungblud' out there.
YUNGBLOOD ( The man behind the music )
However, there is one big reason why he has been able to do this so well, his inspiring personality. We have never seen someone that seems to enjoy making and performing music as much as this man. He simply loves speaking with fans and never takes anything for granted. If you follow him on Instagram you will see around 20 videos of him a day thanking the fans and declaring his excitement for the mad schedule he has earned himself (mainly expressed by sprinting in circles and screaming at the camera...oh and jumping...a lot of jumping). In response he receives"about 100 to 200 messages a day on social media just saying, ‘I’m connected to your music, your music is making me feel empowered’". When asked why he feels such a connection with his fans he said "I think artists can put themselves on a pedestal now, they can be like ‘I’m the fucking King or I’m the Queen and you’re fucking the little people’ whereas I want to change that. I love speaking to the people that come to my shows because that inspires me, I’m not just shouting into the fucking abyss anymore – I’m having a conversation". This infectious energy and totally humble excitement makes YUNGBLUD the perfect role model for the younger generation. With the onslaught of social pressures (conveyed in 'Psychotic Kids' below), nearly 20% of teenagers in the UK experience some form of depression. This leads to various depressive sub-cultures, often music related, which can sometimes actually worsen the situation. Therefore, an idol who understands the modern pressures, yet combats them with upbeat, care-free music is just what is needed right now!
However, it is not simply the connection with the fans that benefits from YUNGBLUD's permeating optimism, it also makes his live shows incredible. Not only Dom himself, but all three of the band simply fucking love playing. He said that "The energy that I get back is crazy! People screaming the songs back whether I’m in Australia, Holland, Seattle or London it’s just been crazy. The shows feel punk as hell, but they feel happy and positive – we’re all there for a reason". Well, after seeing him play live ourselves, we can guarantee that this is 100% true. Their upbeat, all-inclusive vibe, mixed with a whole lot of punk attitude makes for one hell of a concoction. Whether it's blasting their music in a public library, bringing a megaphone to gigs or spray painting their banner mid song, they always find some way to make their performances unforgettable. Dom felt that "For me to be providing answers for people is crazy" but we can totally understand why. With his alternative/rap blend, delivered with an infectious punk attitude, YUNGBLUD is the best live artist in the UK right now, and seeing this live experience will leave you with a renewed sense of purpose and passion for life. It is basically like having the atmosphere of a club DJ, but for people who like real, fucking raw music! You can see our videos from his sweaty Jimmy's gig below if you need evidence to back up our claim. He is playing Glasgow, Leeds, Birmingham and London this September, it would be mad not to catch him while you can! (Tickets here)
YUNGBLUD ( The debut album )
So... with all this excitement entering a crescendo, it seems the perfect time for his first album, '21st Century Liability' which will be released this Friday. From what we have heard so far, it is set to be one of the best of the year and could act as the quintessence of a generation. He himself admitted that "I’m buzzing – I’m so excited. I can’t believe it’s so soon, I’m a bit nervous but of course I am. I’m excited to see what people think. With me man, I’m less interested in whether people like it, or don’t like it. I’m more interested in people having an opinion on it. As long as they get it, that’s all I care about”. It will feature some new songs amongst many of his best previously released tracks, such as the two latest singles 'California' (below) and 'Medication'. These recent releases take the YUNGBLUD project down yet another avenue, with slower, but extremely punchy summer anthems. This versatility is something that he aims for, explaining that "Each song I put out, or each song that goes on a record I don’t want to sound like my last song. I think it’s going to shock a lot of people, because it’s an accumulation of everything" . The former is a track that comes straight from the heart, talking about when he "was first signed. It was the first time in my life someone said we want to invest in you for being yourself. People always wanted to change me, and they just went ‘we just love you for who you are.’ And that was a big moment for me. Like sick, I’m not just…an idiot” . The latter is a euphoric exploration of modern drug culture and the current attitudes towards young people. In fact, this is a common theme in the album...
All the tracks discuss the social issues of today, even the album title is named so because "that’s what I, and young people are perceived to be. We’re not just liabilities, we’re not just…wrong. If you actually listen to us and hear what we have to say, you’ll probably be surprised”. The deterioration of the music industry, the social pressures we have already mentioned, and even more sensitive issues such as rape are discussed on the record. He rightly commented that "there’s a lot going on in the world that needs to be spoken about and music is the perfect outlet to speak about them”, and by doing this he is targeting the root of of many social problems. As you can see in our videos above, the live shows are filled with moshing and primal, football esc chants that stimulate the raucous energy of the stereotypical man. Yet, when you couple this with the lyrics of "Too many blokes are getting heavy, when a girl looks unsteady...Leave it alone mate" you get hundreds of guys who are the stereotypical audience for committing the kind of mistake talked about in the song, shouting back messages of how not to treat women in this way. Thus, by making music that criticizes the behaviour of some individuals, but that also appeals to those individuals, YUNGBLUD has found the perfect way of changing social attitudes. His music is crucial at this point in time! Then again... he did say that if he was trapped on a desert island and could only eat one sandwich for the rest of his life he would go for "Ham and Cheese and a builders tea" so you can't rely on everything he says. Cheese? On a desert island? We all know warm cheese starts to get those weird droplets on...No one likes sweaty cheese mate. But oh well, even if food isn't his strong point, music is, and we can't stress how excited we are for this album so get ready for its release and pre-order it here...big things are coming!