Unvarnished truths told in a thick Yorkshire accent, YUNGBLUD’s sophomore record Weird! is the voice of a generation. It’s about sex, identity, depression, drugs, heartbreak and everything in between. In the 23-year-old Dominic Harrison’s own words, it’s a no bollocks coming-of-age record about life.
On his 2018 debut 21st Century Liability, YUNGBLUD flipped the bird to a world that labelled him an outcast. Since then, he has found a home in his legion of fans who he affectionately refers to as the Black Hearts Club. A proud pack of misfit kindred spirits, they’re an overwhelming source of inspiration and purpose. After meeting so many and hearing their stories on the road, YUNGBLUD has created a record that’s equal parts verses ripped from his mind and the pages of their lives.
He contemplates his complicated understanding of romance and childhood memories of his parents fighting on ‘love song’. On ‘god save me, but don’t drown me out’ he unleashes a lifetime of pent up emotion, pressure and insecurities. The heartbreaking ‘mars’ shares the story of a trans girl who he met in Maryland, whose parents couldn’t understand that she’d always been their baby girl. The record’s closer ‘The Freak Show’ is a call to arms to be yourself with a creepy carnival beat and anthemic chorus. It’s honest, it’s irreverent and it’s hopeful.
Weird! is as multifaceted musically as it is lyrically. It opens with the acoustic lullaby-cross-ballad ‘Teresa’. It then slinks into the sexually-charged ode to free love ‘cotton candy’ and the gritty, lustful pop punk banger ‘strawberry lipstick’. Meanwhile, the record’s title track sounds like Depeche Mode, The 1975 and early ’00s emo thrown into a blender and recorded on an iPhone.
The record was due to blare through headphones everywhere from 13 November, but pandemic restrictions pushed the release back to 4 December. Fans have had a chance to hear it early as YUNGBLUD rocks out in bedrooms across the globe on his ‘Weird Time Of Life’ virtual tour, which is due to hit Sydney at 8pm AEDT on 7 December. It won’t be too long until we can see him in the flesh either. Last week he announced that he’s bringing the ‘life on mars’ tour down under in September 2021. Tickets are up for grabs from 7 December and he’ll be tearing up stages across Melbourne, Brisbane, Adelaide and Sydney.
Music Feeds caught up with YUNGBLUD over Zoom to chat Weird!, forging connections in the chaos of 2020 and the madness we can expect from his ‘life on mars’ tour.
Music Feeds: ‘Weird!’ is almost here. Are you just dying to get it out there?
YUNGBLUD: I am buzzing my tits off, man. I’ve literally not slept in days just out of excitement. I’m literally just in bed like shaky leg as fuck. I’m proper excited (laughs). I just can’t wait for everyone to hear it.
MF: You must feel like this every time you’re about to release something new but is it even more intense this time because of the delay and everything that’s going on in the world?
YB: Yes! It’s just such a world for people to fall into, especially right now. And I don’t know. I just wanted to write an album for the weirdest years of our lives. Like even forget about if there was a pandemic going on right now. It’s an album about sex and sexuality and gender and identity and depression, love, heartbreak. Just fucking life, man. Do you know what I mean? Neat whiskey, burn the back of your throat, story about fucking life. No bollocks.
I think music has got such an agenda right now. It’s all based on fucking metrics and maths. I don’t get excited by maths. That’s why I did music. And it seems like it’s got such a motive and I don’t want to write music for a motive. I want to write music for a reason. I want this album to just focus on telling the truth, all the truth and nothing but the truth. So help me God.
MF: Yeah, were you really conscious of making a record that sounds like a full body of work rather than a bunch of singles made to feed an algorithm?
YB: Yeah, that’s exactly it. It’s so funny. They expect you on your second album to go a bit more commercial and a bit more friendly. I don’t give a fuck about that. I care about my fans. That’s it. Without them, these people around me advising me wouldn’t even be there in the first place.
The second album should be more commercial and more “mainstream, dude” [he says in a mocking American accent]. I kinda just went the opposite way. This album’s louder, it’s gonna be punkier, more experimental. It’s gonna be more in your face. It’s gonna be more fucking rowdy, it’s gonna be more loud. It’s gonna be more naughty. Because, fuck it. That’s what YUNGBLUD is. YUNGBLUD is something to kick against. YUNGBLUD is the thing that kicks against the fucking bullshit.
MF: You’re a few dates into the ‘Weird Time of Life’ virtual tour, so the world has had a little taste of ‘Weird!’. What have the shows been like and have you been happy with the fans’ reactions so far?
YB: It has been fucking mad. Like, the amount of people coming to a virtual tour, which is well cute, just seeing them like mosh in their room. I just want to make people happy. There’s such a sense of belonging in this fan base. And when I found them for the first time… When you find somewhere to belong it’s like you’ve got fucking lungs for the first time. You’re like, “Oh, well, I can breathe”. Or like a baby putting glasses on for the first time and being like (gasps) seeing their mum and dad. It’s legitimately like that. And I just wanted people to watch that and be like, “I feel like I’m home”. And I feel like I’m less lonely. And I feel like I’m a part of something. And I feel like I’m with my mates that I can’t see right now. I think that there’s such a power to live music about shit like that, you know?
MF: Yeah, fully. Live music has often been a safe place for people but we’ve been robbed of that in 2020 so this helps make up for that. You’ve always been super close with your community online but has this connection only deepened now that we’re all sharing this experience together?
YB: I’ve never felt more connected to my fan base than I do right now. We’ve got to radiate the idea that just because we can’t touch each other, it doesn’t mean we can’t feel each other. I can feel them in me fucking water, as me mum would say. They’re with me.
I think that’s why this record has such an optimism to it. Because of them. I went to every continent and met every kid of every shape and every size, every colour, every point of view, of every sexuality, every fucking emotional capacity, and I fell in love with them. It completely changed my life in terms of a whole perspective on what my life is. And I feel so lucky to have them. I’m never gonna let them down. So I need to write albums that tell the truth. Because I’m the only one that will do it. That’s why they’re there. There’s so much bullshit being fed to us right now.
MF: Yeah, I read that a lot of the songs were inspired by conversations you’ve had with fans on the road. Did those experiences massively shape how you approached writing this record compared to ‘21st Century Liability’?
YB: Oh, one hundred percent. ‘21st Century Liability’ was beautifully angry and slightly naive. I was just saying every fucking thing that came to my head and saying it proudly for the first time I did it and I didn’t give a shit about like anything other than “Is there anyone out there like me?”. And it turns out there’s a lot of fucking people out there like me. And meeting these people out there everyday was so inspiring. And the stories, and [they are] so defiant to be anything else apart from exactly what they are. That gave me a drive. It’s so crazy.
One example of it is what ‘mars’ is about. And ‘mars’ is the most important song off this album, I think. It tells the story of a young trans girl I met in Maryland. And she walked up to me and for the life of me, I can’t remember what her face looked like. I try to remember everyday but I remember she had green lipstick on and a green matching duffle coat. It was cool as fuck. And she said to me that her parents just couldn’t understand that she had always been their daughter, their baby girl. They thought it was some mad alienistick, attention-seeking strange phase that she was going through and her mates couldn’t get her pronouns right. And no one really got it.
To show them, she said “I wanted to try and get my friends to a YUNGBLUD show because my parents might see other people like me, and be provided with a little bit more context”. So she saved up the cash, and she got good grades, so her parents had no excuse but to come. They came to the show, saw other people like her, saw their simple reluctance to be anything other than what they are. And they accepted her as the baby girl. And that shit just resembles this community and those kind of stories shape you as a human being and just fucking completely reinvent every feeling you’ve ever felt.
MF: You can really hear those different voices across the record. It almost shape-shifts lyrically and sonically from song to song. Who were your musical influences while making the record?
YB: Yeah, completely. That’s it. It’s literally an album about people. I’m sick of writing shit to be on in the background. I don’t want to write music for the fucking gym. I want to write music that’s gonna fucking make people think. Make people talk and make people perceive things differently. If I look at artists, I want to be like Gaga or Bowie or Alex Turner. I’m not interested in anything else. When I went to America I got surrounded by so much hype and bollocks. It just meant nothing to me.
MF: I think you’ve achieved that. You don’t shy away from those dark moments on ‘mars’ and ‘love song’, but there’s a sense of hope on tracks like ‘god save me, but don’t drown me out’. Was that intentional or did it all just spew out?
YB: Oh, dude. I fucking loved that, man. I loved it. That was the last song written off Weird!. Final one. The closing chapter. I remember, we were in the studio and it was about 3am and everyone was just fucking knackered and we were delivering the album to the label the next day. And I felt this fucking thing coming up my back. You know when you feel like you’re just about to like release eight months of emotion that you’ve bottled up? And you’re like “Fuck! Not now. Not in front of me mates” (laughs).
I remember being like “Yo! I need someone to pour me a cup of coffee now.” Everyone was like “No, Dom. Please. It’s 3am.” I was like, “I gotta go to the fucking label tomorrow! You lot can fucking sleep in. We’re staying!” It kinda gave everyone a second wind because when I go like “Oh, stay” everyone’s like “No.” But when I’m like “Everyone needs to stay right the fuck now” everyone’s like “Ok, it’s about the happen” because they just know me.
Then I just remember going into the booth. It was just fucking magic, man. I just said to the guitar player, play “ding ding ding” [mimics guitar riff] and I was like play bass with me, because I could hear this shit in my head. And I just started crying me eyes out and I grew up two years in two minutes. And that vocal is legitimately me crying. I think you can hear it, like screaming just to get this shit out. And I remember, there’s a little bit before I sing “Before I sleep” on the first verse. The mic tripped out. And everyone’s like do you want to re-record it? And I was like, “No, because I’ll never be able to get that feeling as it was back again.”
MF: I’m so excited for everyone to hear it with the rest of the record. You also recently announced that you’re returning to Australia for a tour in 2021 and everyone lost their shit online. How excited are you to get back on the road?
YB: Yes, I am! It has been a pretty mental reaction. So excited!
MF: Surely you’ve got something fucking mental planned for these shows?
YB: I’ve had a year to fucking plan and I have ADHD. Do you think I’ve sat here and played Xbox? [laughs] I’ve been off my fucking nuts. It’s gonna be mental. We’re playing fucking an arena. Wha-? I’m just like what the fuck, bruv? It’s mental.
MF: Ok, you’ve set my expectations very high now. I’m imagining an Elton John-level extravaganza.
YB: Oh, yeah! The whole shebang.
‘Weird!’ is out this Friday December 4th. Catch YUNGBLUD’s 2021 Australian tour dates below.
YUNGBLUD 2021 ‘Life on Mars’ Australian Tour
Thursday 2nd September
Melbourne, Margaret Court Arena
Saturday 4th September
Brisbane, Fortitude Music Hall
Sunday 5th September
Adelaide, Thebarton Theatre
Wednesday 8th September
Sydney, Hordern Pavilion
To purchase tickets to all tour dates visit secretsounds.com