Dear Chester, I only realised a few days ago that it’s nearly been a year …
If there’s one name that’s floored the music industry more than any other in the past 18 months, it’s Yungblud.
The 19-year-old Doncaster, England native (real name Dominic Harrison) rose to prominence Down Under in mid-2017 with his breakthrough single: the bright, brash and banging I Love You, Will You Marry Me. Channelling a lackadasical Wombats vibe with a sharp hook, Yungblud became a staple on triple j and Spotify playlists en masse the country over.
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And while Australia was quick to the punch, his wit and wisdom spread universally with follow-up singles Tin Pan Boy and the polarising Polygraph Eyes—the latter of which directly addressing the issue of sexual assault rampant amongst his target audience.
It’s been a steady climb to the top for Yungblud, and the past year-or-so of hype, chart domination and hot-tempered live shows have culminated in what might be one of the most jaw-dropping debut albums in recent memory: 21st Century Liability. Its cover art is simple yet all-telling, our hero pulling a face in battered cheeks, his hair matted and arms restrained by his straitjacket (feet cuffed for good measure).
Such psychopathic aesthetics translate notably throughout the record, Yungblud juggling heavy social commentary with caustic inner-rage. It’s a pop record through and through, but with such a reckless flavour to it that an immediate comparison is drawn to the bratty, no-fucks-given roots that punk rose to the mainstream in with his fellow Brits like The Clash and the Sex Pistols.
In anticipation of Yungblud’s live debut in Australia (which kicks off next weekend), we gave the bloke a call to vibe on his climb to fame, touring and why rock ‘n’ roll is in dire need of a shake-up.
You only kicked off last year with the Yungblud project, but already, you’re doing these sold out shows all around the world, you’ve got this album out on Geffen records, and all this other crazy shit going on… When you think about all the success you’re having, what goes through your mind?
I just can’t believe it, man! It’s just been a fucking explosion. I think I released my first song in April last year, it’s just crazy and amazing how quickly everything has happened since them. But more than any of that hype, the most exciting thing for me is the connection that I’m having with my fans. The DMs that I get on Instagram and Twitter, and all the conversations I have with them at the shows… Like, they feel empowered and they feel like they’re being provided with the answers in my music, and that’s just so fucking exciting for me because that’s exactly what I wanted to do, y’know? That’s exactly what artists did for me when I was a kid—they provided me with the answers! It’s the best feeling in the world.
You occupy a bit of a weird space in the music scene: you’ve got a foot in the rock world, an elbow in the pop world and, like, a knee in the hip-hop world. Where do you think you most belong?
That’s a hard one! I think my heart belongs in rock ’n’ roll, but the problem with that is that I’m so fucking bored of how it’s turning out, y’know? I need to reinvent it. Rock ’n’ roll is on life support right now, because all it is at the moment is four idiots onstage in leather jackets singing about nothing. It’s representing nothing. I look at some pop artists now and they give me the same fire in my belly that The Clash did.
I like that comparison, because I’ve seen people say you’re almost revolutionising punk in a sense, too, especially with the way you compose yourself aesthetically.
100 percent, that’s exactly what I want to do. I want to revive punk, but in a way that my version of punk doesn’t divide or segregate. That’s an old way of thinking, y’know? It’s not just young kids fighting against the establishment, because that’s naive and that’s old—we’re much more intelligent than that! We want to unite people for one greater future and one greater cause, and that’s exciting to me. And it’s gotta contain the energy and the excitement of punk, but also be about something. And that’s why I love doing it.
To me, punk isn’t just getting up onstage and bashing the shit out of your instruments. It’s what you represent and it’s what you are at your core. To me, Rosa Parks is fucking rock ’n’ roll, y’know? “Fuck you white man, I’m not gonna stand up because society says I should!”
People look at others like they’re psychopaths because they’re a man wanting to marry a man or a woman wanting to marry a woman, or they want to abort the kid in their belly that’s going to fuck up their future.
You’ve got this very eccentric and psychopathic aesthetic going on, and that’s something I feel bleeds into your lyrics as well. Would you say that’s indicative of what you’re like as a person behind the spotlight?
Yeah, 100 percent man. All my life, I’ve been misunderstood because I’ve had an edgy opinion. It reflects on the young people today, battling against people being blinded by the cataracts of old ideologies. People look at others like they’re psychopaths because they’re a man wanting to marry a man or a woman wanting to marry a woman, or they want to abort the kid in their belly that’s going to fuck up their future. And again, all my life, my energy has been misunderstood. They said I was nuts but I wasn’t, I was just different. I didn’t belong in their boxes.
Is it important for you, as a successful musician, to spread a message of positivity and use your platform to incite change?
That’s it, man! That’s exactly what I’m about. I don’t want to tell people what to think because I don’t have all the answers, y’know? I just want people to say what they think, and feel like they’re empowered and like they can be themselves. This album is an outlet for people who feel like they can’t be themselves, or feel like their voice isn’t important. Because their voice is important, y’know?
Were you raised on the beliefs you embody in your music, or did you sort of take it upon yourself to establish this worldview?
My mum and dad were always very supportive of me expressing myself. It’s weird, because it’s always the other way around—it’s always like your mum and dad didn’t support you and someone around you did, however it was always people in positions of power that tried to dilute me when I was younger. And I think it was because people don’t like to be confronted, especially by someone younger than them.
I’m excited to see how your eccentricity translates to the stage. How are you going to make these upcoming Australian shows a little different than the standard concert experience?
At the end of the day, man, these shows are just going to be so energetic. I want to leave a part of my soul on that stage every night. That’s kind of been the one rule for me, y’know? I want everyone that comes to my shows to leave fucking exhausted. I want people to be like, “Oh, let’s go get a cup of tea,” or, “Let’s have a fucking meal” after it. I want people to go, “Fuck me, I need to go to bed!” It’s just going to be one big mess of energy, passion and anger, wrapped up in a ball of solidarity.
This lad mentality has been so vastly accepted in society that a lot of young males don’t understand that what they’re doing is wrong.
Are you going to be playing these shows with a full band?
Full band, baby! It’s myself, a drummer and my guitar player, and then we’ve got, like, 808s and shit. It’s crazy. We’re going to be running around and losing our minds, we’ve got megaphones—everything.
One of your most popular—and I think objectively most important— songs is Polygraph Eyes. I don’t know what it’s like in the UK, but in Australia, there’s been a lot of controversy about incidences of sexual assault happening at live music events. There’s this ongoing narrative of what measures we can take to circumvent that, and having written that song—which I think acts as an anthem for men to think twice about their actions—I wanted to ask you… Y’know, short of telling a woman to keep her wits about her, which I think is a bullshit narrative anyway because people should be allowed to enjoy their nights without the fear of something going down—what do you think festivals, and even musicians can do to ensure the safety of their punters?
Obviously, you need to be aware of what’s happening around you; you need to be on the lookout all the time. I think you need to speak to your team and you need to make sure that the gig is a happy environment. At my shows, it’s amazing because everything feels happy. I don’t think anybody would fucking dare to do something like that at my show because I’d call them straight out and have them thrown to the curb. It’s a hard thing because right now, we’re living in such… This lad mentality has been so vastly accepted in society that a lot of young males don’t understand that what they’re doing is wrong. So I think more music like this needs to be written—music that creates conversation in order to educate people, and in order to make them realise that it’s fucking wrong, y’know?
Positivity influences positivity.
Exactly, man! If you tackle negativity with negativity, you just get more negativity.
Let’s wrap it up on a positive note: outside of these shows, what are you most excited to get up to when you hit Australia?
I’m just excited to be back, man! You guys hold a special place in my heart because you discovered my music early and you accepted my music early. I feel like Australia has become a little bit of a second home for me. Also, chicken salt—fuck me! Chicken salt.
21st Century Liability is out now via Universal.
Yungblud is also touring across Australia this month. Catch him at the following dates:
Saturday July 21st – Corner Hotel, Melbourne
Sunday July 22nd – Splendour In The Grass, Byron Bay
Tuesday July 24th – Oxford Art Factory, Sydney
Tickets are on sale now via secretsounds.com